Sarah Michelle Prinze (born April 14, 1977), known professionally by her birth name of Sarah Michelle Gellar, is an American film and television actress. She became widely known for her role as Buffy Summers on the WB/UPN television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which she won six Teen Choice Awards and the Saturn Award for Best Genre TV Actress and received a Golden Globe Award nomination. She originated the role of Kendall Hart on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children, winning the 1995 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series.
Her film work includes starring roles in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Cruel Intentions (1999); Scooby-Doo (2002); the American remake of Japanese horror film The Grudge (2004); and The Return (2006). Gellar also played an ex-porn star in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (2007) and was part of an ensemble cast in The Air I Breathe (2008). Gellar also stars in Veronika Decides to Die (2009).
Gellar was born in New York City, the only child of Rosellen (née Greenfield), a nursery school teacher, and Arthur Gellar, a garment worker.Both of her parents were Jewish, though Gellar’s family had a Christmas tree during the holidays while she was growing up.In 1984, her parents divorced and she was brought up by her mother on the Upper East Side. She was estranged from her father from this time until his death from liver cancer on October 9, 2001.
At the age of four, she was spotted by an agent in a restaurant in Uptown Manhattan. Two weeks later, she auditioned for a part in An Invasion of Privacy, a made-for-television film starring Valerie Harper, Carol Kane and Jeff Daniels. At the audition, Gellar read both her own lines and those of Harper, impressing the directors enough to cast her in the role. She subsequently appeared in a controversial television commercial for Burger King, in which her character criticized McDonald’s and claimed to eat only at Burger King. This led to a lawsuit by McDonald’s. As a child, Gellar modeled for magazines.
Gellar appeared in TV series such as Spenser: For Hire and Crossbow, and had minor roles in the films Funny Farm (1988) and High Stakes (1989). In 1991, she appeared as a young Jacqueline Bouvier in the TV movie A Woman Named Jackie.
Gellar’s first major break came in 1992, when she starred in the serial Swans Crossing and was subsequently cast in the soap opera All My Children, playing Kendall Hart, the long-lost daughter of character Erica Kane (Susan Lucci). In 1995, at the age of eighteen, she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series for the role. It was on the set of this soap opera that she met Michelle Trachtenberg, who would later join the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gellar also met co-star Sydney Penny, with whom she remains friends.
Gellar left All My Children in 1995. Gellar stated that she was screen tested eleven times (originally auditioning for the role of Cordelia), before she landed the lead in the 1997 TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing a teenager burdened with the responsibility of fighting a number of mystical foes, mostly vampires. The show was well received by critics and audiences alike, spawning a spin-off series (Angel), which featured three episodes in which she guest starred. Throughout its seven seasons and a total of 144 episodes, Buffy, and by extension Gellar, became cult icons in the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia, particularly as an archetype of an “empowered” woman. Gellar sang several of the songs during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More, with Feeling”, which spawned an original cast album.
Gellar has also hosted Saturday Night Live a total of three times (1998, 1999, and 2002), appearing in a number of comedy sketches. In 2000, Gellar guest appeared as Debbie in the HBO series Sex and the City episode “Escape from New York”. Gellar has lent her voice to animated TV series, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and several episodes of Robot Chicken.
Gellar built on her television fame with a motion picture career, and had intermittent commercial success. After roles in the popular thrillers I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2 (both 1997), she starred in the 1999 film Simply Irresistible, a romantic comedy. Cruel Intentions (1999), a modern-day retelling of Les Liaisons dangereuses featured a kiss between Gellar and co-star Selma Blair that won the two the “Best Kiss” award at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards. This film was a modest hit at the box office, grossing over $38 million in the United States and over $75 million worldwide, and earned several awards and nominations. Critic Roger Ebert stated that Gellar and co-star Ryan Phillippe “develop a convincing emotional charge” and that Gellar is “effective as a bright girl who knows exactly how to use her act as a tramp”.Gellar’s role showed her versatility as an actress, and many were surprised to see her playing a brunette cocaine addict with an appetite for manipulating and using people. Her performance was praised by a number of critics, including Rob Blackwelder for SPLICEDwire, who wrote about the “dazzling performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar who plunges headlong into the lascivious malevolence that makes Kathryn so delightfully wicked. (Plus she looks great in a corset.)”.
Gellar next played a lead role in James Toback’s critically unsuccessful independent Harvard Man (2001), where she played the daughter of a mobster. The movie included two sex scenes with Gellar, helping her shed her good girl image even more after 1999’s Cruel Intentions.
During her growing film career Gellar continued work on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer; however, she decided to leave the show after the seventh season. When asked why, she explained, “This isn’t about leaving for a career in movies, or in theater – it’s more of a personal decision. I need a rest.”Shortly after the show’s end, Gellar stated that she had no interest in appearing in a Buffy feature film, but that she will consider it if the script is good enough.She did not appear in the final season of Angel, causing the intended episode (“You’re Welcome”) to be rewritten for the character of Cordelia Chase.Gellar has said that she was willing to appear in the episode, but scheduling conflicts and family problems prevented it.Another actress voiced Buffy for an animated series based on the show, which never aired, and the various Buffy video games.
In her feature in Esquire magazine Gellar expressed her pride for her work on Buffy, “I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don’t feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television.” Gellar’s likeness is used in the comic continuation of the series.
Gellar met her future husband Freddie Prinze, Jr., during filming of the 1997 teen horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer but the two did not begin dating until 2000. They were engaged in April 2001 and married in Mexico on September 1, 2002 in a ceremony officiated by Adam Shankman, a film director and choreographer with whom Gellar had worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gellar’s bridesmaid was her closest friend of many years, Lindsay Sloane. In 2007, Gellar legally changed her name to Sarah Michelle Prinze in honor of the couple’s fifth year of marriage. In 2004, while filming The Grudge in Japan, Gellar visited the famous Japanese swordsmith Shoji Yoshihara (Kuniie III) and bought a katana from him as a birthday present for her husband.Gellar learned that she needed clearance from the Japanese government to remove the sword from the country and, after eventually succeeding, stated that it was “incredibly difficult” to do.
Gellar has reflected on her choices as an actress; she frequently mentions how “proud” she is of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also been her own critic, talking about movie roles she has taken, saying, “Simply Irresistible was just a bad choice — and for that, it was a great learning experience. I wasn’t ready to make that movie. I was too young. The script was not ready. I knew in my heart before I left to make it that I should back out.”
During her 2006 interview with Marie Claire, Gellar spoke about her thoughts on the movie industry for women. She spoke about her views on the roles of women in movies saying, “You realize it’s a very tough market for women. For me it’s about getting roles where women get to do something active, not the girlfriend, not the wife. There are mainly two types of roles for us, women in-jeopardy films and romantic movies.”Gellar has been praised by fans and critics alike for being a strong role model for young girls and women. Gellar went on to speak about how the business has changed and about magazine-cover attention-seeking Hollywood-starlets. Gellar said (when the interviewer said she was shocked at how many actresses seem to ‘need’ to be on the cover of a magazine like Us Weekly), “Can I interrupt you? Do you think those actresses strive to be on those covers? Because I don’t, I think it’s people striving to get that celebrity position, but I think you’ll find that most ‘actors’ don’t want that. Because when you know too much about them, it takes away the illusion that a film creates.”
Gellar is an active advocate for various charities, including breast cancer research, Project Angel Food, Habitat for Humanity and CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, all of which she says you get to “physically do something”. She says, “I started because my mother taught me a long time ago that even when you have nothing, there’s ways to give back. And what you get in return for that is tenfold. But it was always hard because I couldn’t do a lot. I couldn’t do much more than just donate money when I was on the show because there wasn’t time. And now that I have the time, it’s amazing.”
Gellar has said in interviews that she believes in God, but does not belong to an organized religion. Gellar has said in interviews that she collects rare editions of classic children’s literature. Gellar has four tattoos. She has a symbol for integrity on her lower back; a heart, a dagger and a cherry blossom on her ankle and two dragonflies on her back.Gellar has revealed that she suffers from a phobia of being buried alive. She has said “I really fear graveyards and I have a big phobia of being buried alive. It was really hard being an ass-kicking vampire slayer when you are afraid of graves.”
Gellar and Prinze have a daughter, Charlotte Prinze, born in September 2009.