If you're a British actress fired by Simon Cowell from the judge's chair of a reality talent show — after three days — you do what any British actress fired by Simon Cowell would do: You go on a long holiday.
You just don't expect that to lead to Piranha 3D.
That, in a nutshell, is the journey of Kelly Brook, the Internet sensation, Playboy cover girl and co-star in the campiest of summer movies. It's that last one where audiences across the United States will get a chance to see her in what is, by all reasonable assumptions, a first in mainstream cinema: an unclothed, underwater Sapphic love scene. In 3-D.
Brook attempts a breakout of sorts in the Alexandre Aja movie, one of her first notable film roles after a decade of parts in little-known indies such as School for Seduction and Survival Island. (Smallville devotees may also remember her as Victoria Hardwick in the show's first season.)
"I've always been branded the girl who's not that bright, the bimbo …" she says, laughing again. "All of those things in England that growing up you have to fight against. And all of a sudden I'm in a movie for me."
The actress began modeling and appearing in Maxim while still a teenager. Television and small film roles followed, but after years on the margins of Hollywood, she decided to give up on an American career. She stayed in England, where she has modeled, co-starred in the West End production of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig and competed on the reality show Strictly Come Dancing.
That is, until Cowell struck. In January 2009, the prickly producer fired Brook from Britain's Got Talent as a judge just days into the show. "I didn't quite know if I didn't flirt with him enough. The line was it was a format decision," she says, alluding to the decision to use three judges instead of four. "Whether you believe that or not."
She then took a vacation to Los Angeles and, sitting in a Santa Monica restaurant with a friend, was approached, out of the blue, by film producer Alix Taylor. Taylor was about to shoot a movie in Arizona, a remake of the Roger Corman-produced low-budget hit about killer fish, with French auteur Aja.
Brook had never heard of the film nor had she seen anything Aja had directed, but she went back to her hotel and Googled Taylor and Aja. Taylor, meanwhile, went home and did the same for Brook. "She was very sexy, but she was also wearing a sundress that day and there was something demure about her," Taylor recalls in describing why she walked up to her. Taylor wound up casting Brook in the part that would have her as a B-girl partier on the boat where much of the main action takes place. The idea was to cast Brook as a foil for adult film star Riley Steele, with whom she would do the film's show-stopping scene.
Brook's popularity is only increasing with her appearance in the September issue of Playboy ("The U.K.'s Hottest Export," the cover line says). Whether Piranha marks the beginning of a soaring film career is an open question: It's not as if the movie particularly showcases performers' acting skills.
"I'm halfway between an Oscar winner and a porn star," she says, referring to co-stars Elisabeth Shue and Steele. "I could go either way right now."