The Stunning Transformation Of Carla Gugino

In Hollywood, longevity can be tricky. But not for veteran actor Carla Gugino, a star whose film and television credits go way back to the late '80s. For this Sarasota native, achieving career longevity has been rather effortless. Perhaps, it has something to do with Gugino's ability to take on just about any role and make it her own. Not only that, but she tends to venture toward various genres and thoroughly embrace the whole on-set experience. For Gugino, it's always been about keeping things fresh. "I tend to gravitate towards very different things to what I've done before," she even told Schön! Magazine. Perhaps, unlike others in the industry, Gugino is also one Hollywood star who likes to keep her options open. "I never know what I'm going to do until it appears in front of me; until it clicks," she added.

So far, this work philosophy has worked out well for Gugino. Over the years, she has starred in countless films and series and worked with the likes of Zack Snyder, Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Ridley Scott. Gugino has also gone from a relative unknown to one of the industry's favorite actors.

As a child, Carla Gugino was a straight-A student who moved a lot

From the beginning, Carla Gugino excelled at pretty much anything she put her mind to, having been a straight-A student when she was young. Incredibly, the Sarasota, Florida, native achieved this despite having to deal with her parents' divorce at an early age. It probably helped that the split was done amicably. "They remained very good friends, so the divorce was not traumatic for me," Gugino once explained during an interview with Sasha Korbut for Sobranie Magazine.

That said, the divorce also meant that she moved around a lot as a child since her mom moved from Florida to California. Meanwhile, Gugino's father remained in Sarasota with her stepmom and Gugino enjoyed returning to her hometown to visit them. "When I get off the plane and take in that warm air and look up at the birds ... it's the sounds and smells that truly make a place home," she once told Patch. As a young girl, Gugino also traveled to Europe with her father, who is Italian-American.

Before becoming an actor, Gugino tried modeling

By the time she was in her early teens, Carla Gugino decided to move with her mom to New York to give modeling a try. And while she managed to book gigs early on, Gugino soon realized that she would rather not continue. "I very quickly decided that it wasn't for me — but I was and still am — a big fan of fashion and photography," she told Paste Magazine.

After Gugino decided to quit modeling, she and her mother made their way back to California. Around this time, she also discovered an interest in healthcare, so much so that friends started calling her "Dr. Gugino." "I have had a deep interest in health since I was a child. I'm not sure why but from a very young age, I had an instinct that preventative health care and lifestyle was the way to go. At least for me," the star said during an interview with 100 Year Lifestyle. Over the years, she also continued to learn more about the benefits of alternative medicine and chiropractic adjustments. Despite this, however, Gugino never pursued any type of medical career, likely because she got bit by the acting bug not long after that.

Her celebrity aunt encouraged her to try acting when she was 13

As it turns out, Carla Gugino is not the only celebrity in her family. Her aunt is none other than Carol Merrill, the game show model best known for her time on the popular nighttime game show "Let's Make a Deal" (the show has continued to run with Wayne Brady as host). Gugino credits Merrill for getting her into acting after suggesting that she try an acting class. "I started studying that summer and fell in love with it immediately," Gugino recalled in the Paste Magazine interview.

And while the last thing her parents may have expected was for their daughter to pursue acting, they remained incredibly supportive. In hindsight, Gugino also believes that it kept her from making bad decisions as she explored Hollywood. "It definitely saved me from being the kind of teenage actor casualty — getting into drugs or alcohol or that kind of stuff early on — because I was like 'I have to work really hard if I'm going to do this and I'm determined to do this,'" she later added. Through it all, she also had Merrill who became quite a mentor. "She's been one of my best advice-givers," Gugino once told TV Guide of her celebrity aunt.

Carla Gugino became emancipated at 16

By the time Carla Gugino was in her early teens, she was already determined to continue pursuing her acting career and become more independent. And so, she decided to become emancipated. This allowed Gugino to pursue more acting work without inconveniencing her parents or anyone else in her family. "If you're under 18, you have to have adult supervision on set and I didn't really need that," she explained in her Paste Magazine interview. "So I just got emancipated so I could go on set and not have to bug one of the adults in my life to come sit and watch for 16 hours."

During her early days in Hollywood, Gugino booked several brief acting stints, including in the popular show "Who's the Boss?" "I remember getting the job, which was a big deal. I remember Tony Danza because I got flowers in my room when I arrived," she recalled during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. In addition, Gugino also appeared in "ALF," and "Good Morning, Miss Bliss." A few years later, she landed guest roles in series like "Ferris Bueller" (the sitcom that featured Hollywood A-lister Jennifer Aniston just before her breakout role in "Friends"), "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "The Wonder Years," and "Quantum Leap."

She lied about her age to land her first big screen role

Not long after Carla Gugino started booking her television roles, she also found her first-ever film project — the comedy "Troop Beverly Hills." Starring veteran actor Shelley Long, the film tells the story of a glamorous socialite who unexpectedly takes on the role of being a den mother of a local Girl Scout troop. For Gugino, however, there was a catch: The film was looking for a 14-year-old actor to play one of the scouts being led by Long. At the time of casting, Gugino was already 16, but she was determined to be in the movie, nonetheless. And so, she lied, telling producers that she was only 14. Gugino has made it clear that she hasn't lied about her age to get a job again since then. The actor also revealed that she eventually confessed her real age to "Troop Beverly Hills" director Jeff Kanew. 

Decades later, the film's cast got together again for a special reunion, although Gugino was unable to join her former co-stars since she was in New York. Meanwhile, there had been talk about doing a sequel to "Troop Beverly Hills" with Israeli filmmaker Oran Zegman attached to direct the film back in 2020. Since the initial announcement, however, the status of the project has been unclear.

In 1989, she also starred in a soap opera

While she booked her first big screen project, Carla Gugino also continued to pursue television roles, eventually booking her first recurring gig in the soap opera "Falcon Crest." The Emmy-winning series centered around the lives of the Gioberti family who own California's Falcon Crest Winery. Gugino joined the show during its ninth season playing Sydney St. James, the wife of opportunistic Ian St. James played by David Hunt. Throughout her time on the soap opera, Gugino's character also finds a love interest in David Sheinkopf's Danny Sharpe. It was a relationship that viewers seemed to approve of. "They liked the relationship between me and Carla Gugino. It seemed to be taken quite well by most of the fans," Sheinkopf once remarked in a 2005 interview for TJP Publications.

Years later, Gugino believes that her time on "Falcon Crest" helped prepare her for future acting roles. That said, she also knew at the time that she couldn't keep working on the show for much longer. "I think the tedious work for me is the actual work in which I write down my lines. I record stuff. I walk with it. It's not like, 'Oh, there's no big deal.' It really is," Gugino once told Collider. She continued to appear in the soap opera throughout its ninth season.

The actor started her relationship with longtime partner Sebastian Gutierrez in the late '90s

As Carla Gugino's star was on the rise, she found love after meeting filmmaker Sebastian Gutierrez. The first time they worked together was in the R-rated romantic comedy "Wedding Bell Blues" where both had a minor role. In the years that followed, Gugino went on to collaborate several times with Gutierrez, headlining his star-studded 1998 crime drama "Judas Kiss" before starring in his 2001 fantasy horror "She Creature." Years later, Gugino would also star in Gutierrez's most popular films, "Girl Walks Into a Bar" and "Elizabeth Harvest." In addition, she also starred as the titular character in Gutierrez's R-rated dramedy "Elektra Luxx."

As Gugino and Gutierrez collaborated frequently onscreen over the years, their relationship also got more serious. While Gugino had a home in New York, she mainly resided with Gutierrez and the filmmaker's two sons by 2009. At that time, however, the Hollywood star still wasn't thinking about marriage at all. "We like being boyfriend and girlfriend; there's something sexy and fun about that. We're very much about, 'There's nothing holding us here other than our desire to be together,'" she told Women's Health at the time. The couple has remained together since.

Gugino landed her breakout role in the 2001 film Spy Kids despite being too young for the part

While Carla Gugino made her film debut in "Troop Beverly Hills," it wasn't until years later that viewers truly began to notice her big screen presence. This was, in large part, due to her role as a mom/spy in Robert Rodriguez's family action-adventure film "Spy Kids." Interestingly, Gugino was too young to play Antonio Banderas' wife in the movie at that time. Back then, she was only 28 years old, and the character had supposedly already been a spy for 10 years before having two children. Despite this, however, Rodriguez was still convinced that the role belonged to Gugino. There was also a unique reason why the director didn't make a big deal about her age. "Robert [Rodriguez] kind of said, 'My mom had ten kids and if we play this right, no one will ever question it,'" Gugino recalled during an interview with Variety.

In the end, the film became a hit, earning over $140 million at the worldwide box office. That said, the success of "Spy Kids" negatively affected Gugino's career slightly. "I think it only hurt me a little because people did think I was older than I was for a period of time," she revealed. Despite this, Gugino was happy to have joined the film's cast, even reprising her role in the follow-up films "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams" and "Spy Kids 3: Game Over."

Soon after, the actor won some of her most unforgettable roles

After the release of her first "Spy Kids" film, Carla Gugino took on several other major film roles. For starters, she joined the cast of the 2005 film noir "Sin City," a star-studded crime thriller from filmmakers Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino also serving as a guest director. Not long after, Gugino joined the cast of the comedy "Night at the Museum." She quickly followed this up with Ridley Scott's crime drama biopic "American Gangster."

From there, Gugino joined the cast of Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" where she was tapped to play Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre. In the film, the star had to be aged onscreen for a part of the story using prosthetics. At the same time, with the movie being a faithful adaptation of the comic material, Gugino dealt with a heavy sexual assault scene. "That was one of the things [director] Zack [Snyder] said to me from the start: 'I really want this to be incredibly brutal. It's not a turn-on kind of story. It's bad.' It's important that we did that," she told MTV.

Meanwhile, on television, Gugino joined the cast of HBO's "Entourage" where she guest-starred as Vince's (Adrian Grenier) agent, Amanda Daniels, and hung out with the show's mostly male cast. "Sure, they're men —and good-looking men, to boot — but it's not a big testosterone fest on set. It feels like going to play, not to work," she told TV Guide.

She later reunited with Zack Snyder for the 2011 film Sucker Punch

After "Watchmen," Carla Gugino immediately worked with Zack Synder again for the 2011 fantasy action film "Sucker Punch." Since their last film collaboration, the actor had known that she wanted to do a project with Snyder again. "Zack loves women in the best way, and I think his intention from the very start was that he wanted to do a movie where these women are fully empowered," Gugino told Speakeasy (via The Wall Street Journal). She also revealed that this time around, she got to give some input on her onscreen character, Dr. Vera Gorski. "Zack and I really fleshed out that character in a way that was not initially there," Gugino explained. For instance, the character wasn't even Polish when the film was first written.

Years later, the two collaborated again with Gugino becoming the voice of Kelor in the 2013 DC Comics film "Man of Steel." She was tapped again to do more voiceover work for the DC movie franchise, this time as the ship's voice in the 2016 follow-up "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." Gugino also reprised the voice role in the 2021 released film "Zack Snyder's Justice League." Snyder himself later revealed that he would have loved to cast Gugino as Catwoman in his DC Comics films.

The actor memorably starred opposite The Rock in a 2015 action thriller

Onscreen, one of Carla Gugino's frequent collaborators is Dwayne Johnson. Over the years, the two stars have starred together in Disney's "Race to Witch Mountain" and the action crime film "Faster." Since then, Gugino and Johnson have become quite close behind the scenes. "I really love him as a human being. He is a dear friend," Gugino even said in her Sobraine interview.

Years later, the stars reunited again for the 2015 action-adventure "San Andreas" where they play ex-spouses who do everything possible to rescue their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) after a massive earthquake destroys much of California. "In this movie, we got to go further than we have ever gone in terms of our characters," Gugino explained. The film features a lot of action-packed scenes. And while the stars didn't get to perform all of it themselves, Gugino insisted on doing as many of the cool stunts as possible. "I felt like as many of the stunts as I could do and that you could feel while you're watching it and see that it is me, I think will have a different visceral response," she told Den of Geek.

Since 2017, Carla has become quite the Netflix star and Mike Flanagan's muse

The collaboration between Carla Gugino and Mike Flanagan all began with the Netflix horror drama "Gerald's Game." Based on a Stephen King novel, the film tells the story of a wife (Gugino) who is left handcuffed to a bed after her husband dies unexpectedly while they are getting intimate in an isolated lake house. Flanagan was the one who approached Gugino about the project and from the beginning, he was interested in them becoming true collaborators. "He said to me — which very few filmmakers ever do — 'I want you to take ownership of the script, this movie is as much yours as it is mine,'" she recalled during an interview with The Knockturnal. "He really kept his word."

Since then, Gugino has collaborated with Flanagan several more times. After "Gerald's Game," she joined the cast of Flanagan's Netflix horror series "The Haunting of Hill House" where she played the family matriarch Olivia Crain. She also joined the cast of his other "Haunting" series, "The Haunting of Bly Manor" before signing on to do Flanagan's "Midnight Mass." Gugino and Flanagan teamed up again just a few years later for the horror drama "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Meanwhile, Gugino went on to join the cast of the star-studded action thriller "Gunpowder Milkshake." The star has also expressed interest in returning for a sequel.