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Globe and Mail

 

 

Actress putting film career back in gear after accident

by Ina Warren

 

"Cyndy Preston may have a problem most women would be delighted to have," wrote a movie critic in his review of the Canadian psychological thriller PIN. "Like Michelle Pfieffer, she is so astonishingly good looking that it might be hard for her to be taken seriously as an actress."

 

Preston, 22, is stunned by the critics observation: "How incredibly generous."

 

But no, the blue-eyed blonde with the delicate features has never lost a job because of her good looks. In fact she's just been interviewed by British director John Boorman for a role in his new movie Where the Heart Is.

 

"I'm just fortunate that I can look very pretty sometimes, but I'm also plain," the unaffected Toronto actress said in an interview. "In PIN, I went from looking very young to quite pretty, so it is amazing what you can do with hair and makeup."

 

And with determination.

 

These days, Preston is busy putting her career in gear and saying good-bye to almost a year of recovery and physiotherapy that followed a bad car accident.

 

It happened last spring as she was beginning work on Cold Comfort, a film being shot in Toronto. It was her first movie since PIN, and she had a meaty starring role playing a 16-year old so sheltered by her father hat she had the mentality of a 6-year old.

 

After her first day of work, Preston was being driven back to her hotel when the car was hit broadside by another car.

 

Preston was unconscious for 10 days and the doctors were doubtful she would live. Her pelvis was smashed and orthopedic surgeons, who placed her hips in steel splints wondered if she would walk again. The slender 106 pound actress dropped to 65 pounds.

 

Preston has recovered almost completely, although she still suffers from back pain and has nerve damage to her left leg.

 

"Before the accident, life was maybe going a little too smoothly. But that experience enriched me so much," she said. "It brought me back to the important things and important people in my life."

 

Cold Comfort went ahead and another actress was chosen for Preston's role.

 

There's little doubt that chance, both good and bad, has played an important role in Preston's life. Her acting career started on her first day of university, when the former model got a call to audition for the CBS television movie Miles to Go starring Jill Clayburgh. The producers were looking for a young actress with a fresh, girl next door look who would be convincing as the daughter of Clayburgh and Tom Skerritt. When they couldn't find anyone to fit the bill, they decided to give Preston a try after seeing her photograph in a talent agents directory.

 

Preston, who had never acted, recalls that her audition consisted of crying, because in the film Clayburgh is dying of cancer.

 

"I fell into acting," Preston said, admitting that Miles to Go spoiled me. I thought that was what filmmaking was all about." Her next film, The Dark Side, was a low budget thriller where she ended up "running around in the streets of Toronto in my underwear."

 

While that film was a downer for Preston, she has only good memories of the recently released PIN, in which she plays Ursula Linden, the meek but strong-willed sister who lovingly protects her psychotic brother Leon, played by David Hewlett of TV's The Edison Twins.

 

The youngest of six children herself, Preston got into modelling at 15 as a way of overcoming shyness. Describing herself as a "morbidly shy child" Preston said she began having anxiety attacks when she started high school.

 

"If anybody looked at me when I walked down the hall, I'd have to go to the bathroom to compose myself. I'd be hyperventilating, my heart would be beating and I'd almost cry."

 

Her mother decided that a self-improvement and modelling course was what her daughter needed to conquer her shyness. And it worked. "It gave me an interest of my own and sort of confidence-building thing."

 

Preston did catalogue and magazine work as a teenager, then at 18 was spotted by Japanese scouts and spent the next six months modelling in Japan while saving away money for her university education.