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January 31, 2003
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SJP


A.J. Cook's career starting to sizzle
By LIZ BRAUN


Canadian actress A.J. Cook is on a roll. Having begun her feature film work in The Virgin Suicides in a cast that included Kirsten Dunst and Leonardo DiCaprio -- not too shabby -- the twentysomething Cook is the lead in the new teen thrillride, Final Destination 2.

Over the phone from her home in Los Angeles, Cook enthuses about the film's opening sequence, which happens to be a lengthy, terrifying and beautifully choreographed highway crash scene. Yergh.

"We'd just be there, blowing things up all day," she says, and she laughs. "On this one, I didn't mind all the waiting around."

Cook, a natural blonde, has her hair dyed black for Final Destination 2. You wouldn't recognize her. That's a good thing. "I like being a chameleon. It opens you up for so much more in this work. You don't get typecast."

She agrees that Final Destination 2 has more to it than other films in the genre. "It's not like someone's chasing me around with a knife," she says, laughing again. "You have to think about this one a little bit."

Cook, who grew up in Oshawa, is going to have to think about this one a little bit, too, because it will likely make her a star. Final Destination 2 is bound to attract a huge youth audience, and that could make Cook a household face. She shrugs that off, saying modestly, "I never go into anything with expectations. I act because I love to. If the public embraces it, that's great, but whatever happens, happens."

Actually, she admits, the celebrity thing makes her nervous.

'WAY TOO SENSITIVE'

"The pressure of being in the public eye is, well -- so many young women come in here healthy, and a year later they're stick thin. People are looking at you, all the time. Judging you. But," she adds, sighing, "I'm the one who chose to put myself out there. I guess I'm way too sensitive."

Cook -- the A.J. stands for Andrea Joy -- moved to California about six months ago with her husband, who is finishing a degree in public relations. She says her career as a performer began in childhood, with dance.

"I was always a dancer, from the age of four, but in the back of my mind I wanted to be an actor. But I was so shy. I was the shyest kid. So for me to even have that thought, about acting -- I would never express that."

Someone else did, though. At a wrap party with a girlfriend, Cook was told by a casting agent, "You have a good look. You should try acting." She did.

Not exactly a total beginner -- Cook had starred in school productions of Romeo And Juliet and You Can't Take It With You -- Cook paid her dues with small roles and TV commercials. She went off to Vancouver to co-star with Hayden Christensen in TV's Higher Ground (and also had roles in Blue Moon and In His Father's Shoes) and wound up staying in that city to take advantage of the work opportunities. And the work never stopped. She has had roles in seven feature films since The Virgin Suicides, including Ripper and Disney's Out Cold. Her next project is Living Neon Dreams, a contemporary version of Alice In Wonderland.

"It's a great role, something I can really sink my teeth into," she says with enthusiasm. "This is one of the craziest, most imaginative scripts I've ever read."

Cook often visits her family in Whitby, and says she was just there a month ago. So -- is she the pride of Oshawa?

Cook just laughs, sounding shy again. "Oh, no. I don't think so. Anyway, isn't Eric Lindros from Oshawa?

You know," she jokes, "there's always someone stealing my thunder!"


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