You’ve been acting professionally for 10 years, from your early days on Dawson’s Creek to your starring role in one of this summer’s biggest movies, Batman Begins. But let’s go back to when you were a kid in Toledo, Ohio, and wanted to become an actress. How did you get started?
When I was 16, my mom took me to this modeling and talent contest in New York. There were 2,000 contestants, and on one of the first days this manager went up to my mom and said, “I want to represent your daughter.” I went out to L.A. with my mom the following January and got The Ice Storm in the first couple of days.
Right after filming, though, you went back home to Toledo to finish high school. Why didn’t you stick around L.A. and try to pick up another movie or a TV show?
I opted not to stay in L.A. because I wanted to be a senior and do my high school musical. I’d been in the chorus for three years and I...
Wait–you got The Ice Storm before you got a speaking part in your high school plays?
Yeah. I was a dancing waiter once–that was a low point–but my senior year I got the lead in Damn Yankees. [I played] Lola. I was like, “Hollywood is always going to be there, but I can only be a senior in high school one time in my life.”
Let’s move on to Batman Begins. Who’s your character?
I play Rachel Dawes, who is a district attorney and good friends with Bruce Wayne. She’s a very strong female character, but at times a damsel in distress. She’s a do-gooder, very idealistic. And she’s very tough, a real fighter.
You’d never worked on a film of that scale before.
Our sets were out of this world. We were in airport hangars twice the size of a soundstage. I mean, they created an entire Gotham City.
They also created a new Batmobile.
It is so cool. It’s controlled almost entirely by a computer, and when it’s turned on it makes this great noise, and the lights come up, and the tires are so big, and the car is so low to the ground. I finally understood why men love cars. I was like, “Oh, god, yeah.”
So now you have a car thing?
No. I have a Batmobile thing.
Batman is so important to so many people, especially guys. Were you wary about tackling something so sacred?
No. I didn’t feel like I had much responsibility, because I wasn’t playing Batman–I played a character that’s never been played before. Sure, I was nervous to be part of a cast that strong and to be pretty much the only woman in it, but I wasn’t scared of the story. People are going to love it.
It’s a franchise movie–did you have to do any merchandising?
I was made into a doll. Everybody had to do it; we had to wear nude bodysuits–which is very embarrassing–and they photographed our entire bodies.