the eight legged freaks premiere

ComingSoon, July 17, 2002, 4:06 CDT

At the premiere of Eight Legged Freaks, we caught up with the film's femme fatales. First was Kari Wuhrer, who plays the town sheriff. Blasting away at mutant spiders with a shotgun, Wuhrer found her action heroine experience empowering.

"It was pretty empowering to not only play a sheriff and a hero who kicks spider butt but to play a mom," Wuhrer said. "It was a pretty great feeling, knowing that I'm not just saving this town because I'm a sheriff. I'm saving this town because I have kids that I love, which is pretty good. It's interesting for me."

Finding her maternal side required cultivating real relationships with the actors playing her kids. "It was really hard to find the mom in me, but because my character was a teenage mom - she was pregnant when she was 16 - I just built the relationship on the set with the actors who were 16 and 14, and became their friends and their big sister. I took the maternal element from being the big sister which I think is what young moms do anyway. So, the more we started working together, the more it defined itself for me. But it was a challenge for me, terrifying."

Playing her daughter was Scarlett Johansson. In a scene where she's stuck to a wall by spider goo, Johansson experienced the dirty side of Hollywood. "It was very gooey," she said. "It was cold and wet, kind of muddy, sticky."

As Eight Legged Freaks was her first special effects movie, Johansson discovered that the behind-the-scenes crew was scarier than the film's finished effects. "You'd have a PA with a stick in his hands going, 'Be really scared.' A PA trying to act is scarier than the actual effect."

Johansson was most surprised by the schizophrenic nature of her co-star, David Arquette. "David was really quiet and soft-spoken, then all of a sudden I heard him scream, 'Die you bastard!' Then he'd go back to his trailer and he was playing video games like a maniac. If you wanted to have him for rehearsal, he'd come rushing in late like 'Sorry, I was playing "Mission Impossible."'"