Photo by Brandon Mieske. All photos courtesy of Tara Reid
Once upon a time, a young actress wore a lime green bikini as she spoke to Jeff Bridges and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“I’ll suck your cock for a thousand dollars,” she whispered to Bridges in a raspy voice.
“Wonderful woman! We’re all very fond of her—very free spirited,” Hoffman replied.
The movie was the Academy Award-winning Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski, and this wonderful woman’s name was Tara Reid. Sixteen years later, Reid is the star of a less prestigious work, the Syfy channel’s Sharknado TV-movie franchise. The series about waterspouts that drop sharks on cities has become an American phenomenon: 3.9 million people watched Sharknado 2’s premiere in July. By comparison, 670,000 people watched the season three finale of Girls. The movies have also spawned merchandise, including Reid’s new perfume Shark by Tara. To many people who prefer the Coen Brothers to Syfy, Reid’s campy image means she’s no longer wonderful.
These people are wrong.
Log on to Twitter and you will find dozens of people praising the actress:
If you examine Reid’s IMDB page, you’ll understand why these people love the 38-year-old woman who once told TMZ, “I don’t think I’ve ever missed a party.” After introducing herself as a serious actress, Reid transformed into a comedic sex symbol in teen movies like American Pie and Cruel Intentions. She posed in Maxim and Playboy, but after several movies flopped, Reid became more known for her partying than for her acting or sex appeal—at least until she became a camp icon in Sharknado.
Trading in your sex appeal for a career as a camp figure is often depressing (if you don’t believe me, watch Janice Dickinson’s appearance on Botched), but Reid has embraced her campy image as she prepares to enter middle age. “I think that’s great because it shows what you can do as an actress,” Reid recently told me over the phone.
She’ll never be Meryl Streep, but she’s one of the few teen stars from the late 1990s to remain relevant. (Where’s your perfume, Buffy?) Interested in learning more about this canny actress, I called Reid to talk about her perfume, her filmography, and her horoscope sign.
VICE: What inspired you to create Shark by Tara?
Tara Reid: My friend and I came up with the concept. We were talking about starting a bikini and a perfume line. We knew Sharknado was coming, so it was perfect timing because we knew we were going to have to do all of the publicity for that, so it was kind of like a double whammer. It smells citrus-y [with] a little bit of floral, but it’s very, very light—it smells like you’re on vacation basically. Even when I went on Ryan Seacrest’s show, Ryan loved it. He was like, “Is this unisex? This smells great!” And Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter [loved it], and he got a bottle. Everyone that’s seeing it loves it. We’re in backorder right now.
You’re also launching a bikini line inspired by the movie?
We’re launching Shark by Tara bikinis. It will be super cool. Where the bikini tops are and where the breast are, it will look like shark teeth biting [the breasts]. It will be in really pretty colors, so you’ll know it’s us. One of my favorite colors is lavender—and we put some lavender in the perfume as well—and the stitching on all of the bikinis will be stitched with lavender as well. That will kind of be our trademark.
Are you a beach girl? Do you like the beach?
I’m a Scorpio, so I’m a water sign, so I love the beach. I would say one of the things about Scorpios for sure is, like, their loyalty, and I’m probably one of the most loyal friends. It’s, like, if you’re my friend, then I have your back—that’s probably one of the biggest qualities of me being a Scorpio.
You’re having a bit of a career renaissance now, in terms of TV movies and perfume. Do your recent horoscopes reflect this?
Yeah. I think everything has been better the last two years. I think, hopefully, next year will be the best year of my life. It’s been pretty good in 2014 right now. Let’s see what happens in 2015 because we know we have a lot of stuff happening and let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope to keep going.
Which actresses do you look up to?
So many! Annette Bening is one of my favorite actresses. [Elizabeth Taylor’s A Place in the Sun] is one of my favorite movies of all time. [Taylor] probably had the most successful perfume ever—she’s always been an inspiration for me. You could talk about a bunch of things and never actually do them, but I think I’ve been very proactive with my career this year and just getting things done. I’m going to do as much as I can to keep building my franchise. I’m lucky enough that I have a franchise with the Sharknado movie—and people are obsessed with sharks. I can’t even explain it to you, but people love sharks. Anything to do with sharks is, like, great.
Has it been hard to stay happy in Hollywood?
I think you have two kinds of sharks: the ones who you swim with, and then there are the sharks of Hollywood. I’ve been dealing with those sharks for a long time.
Why do you put up with Hollywood’s sharks?
I love acting because it’s my heart. I love playing characters. When I get on the set, something snaps in me, something different. It’s what I was meant to do. I love working with other actors, I love working with directors, and I love creating something. From the DP [director of photography] to the director and the actors—and even down to the catering—you know, it’s just a family.
When you first started acting, you were a serious actress. Then you became a sex symbol and now you’re 38 and in Sharknado. Is it weird how you went from being a sex symbol to becoming a camp icon?
No. That’s what an actress is. She can do a comedy, she can do a drama, she can do the horror. Even in Josie and the Pussycats, I had to learn how to play the drums. I would have never learned the drums, and now I play the drums.
You sound fond of Josie and the Pussycats. Was that one of your favorite movies?
To be honest with you, yes. I think it was ahead of its time. Before there was social media, it was giving a lot of secret messages, like red is the new black and Adidas is the new Puma—there were so many things. In the music, what [the film was] saying was [that pop music was] brainwashing people. That movie was so much fun to make—the girls playing music, learning the instruments. It was just an incredible experience.
In a weird way, your career is the best it’s been since Josie and the Pussycats. Why do you think this happened?
In life, Mitchell, timing is everything. The timing on all of this started working out, so it’s kind of like being at the right place at the right time. We’re just really enjoying it, and having fun with it, and it just keeps on going. I have another movie coming out in Australia called Charlie’s Farm. It’s a scary movie—not like Freddie Kruger, it’s even scarier. It’s really, really good. And we’re opening at the Sydney Film Festival, and it’s already sold out.
Did you expect this to happen when you agreed to star in Sharknado?
No. It’s funny in life, you do a movie and you think this is going to be the one—this is maybe going to be the chance—and then it doesn’t do anything. When I did Sharknado, I definitely didn’t think that Sharknado was going to become what it did. I had no idea it was going to become this cult phenomenon. You can never even understand what happened with that. It was just, like, unexplainable.
Follow Mitchell on Twitter.