"Goo-JEAN-o," she says.
She is thoroughly American, yes, but when Carla Gugino gives you the correct pronunciation of her last name it's as though she is drizzling olive oil on top of a bowl of fagioli all'uccelletto. She says it again, just to make sure it's sunk in: "Goo-JEAN-o. Yeah, I know it's tricky."
Of course, people should know how to say her name by now. She is 37 and she has been onscreen for 20 years or so; she's been in gangster movies, kid movies, horror movies, and a Bon Jovi video. After playing a Wilderness Girl alongside Tori Spelling in 1989's Troop Beverly Hills, she went on to lend her brown eyes, Armistice Day curves, and roasted-coffee voice to everything from the sitcom banter of Spin City to the hard-boiled sleaze of Sin City. On Entourage she is Amanda Daniels, the tough-as-titanium Hollywood agent who marches around her hacienda in black-lace panties and who once, notoriously, gutted agent Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, with the following line: "This town's not safe for a bitch."
You'd think people would remember. Yet those Italian syllables of hers continue to get fottuto. "I think that perhaps I should do a campaign for the pronunciation of my name," she says over lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant. "Remember how with Demi Moore, people thought she was Demmi, and then all of a sudden everyone understood: Demi."
Gugino's own Demi Offensive, it seems, is already under way. This month she is costarring in Race to Witch Mountain, a Disney action flick loosely based on the spooky seventies curio Escape to Witch Mountain, and in Watchmen, Zack Snyder's cinematic unspooling of the dark and revered comic-book series. Such is the anticipation for Watchmen that last summer, when Snyder brought Gugino and her fellow cast members and a few blood-spattered snippets of footage to Comic-Con, the annual San Diego fanboy festival, Warner Bros. almost had to distribute drool cups.
In Witch Mountain Gugino plays, in her own words, "a kooky astrophysicist," while in Watchmen she is Sally Jupiter, a former Depression-era burlesque dancer who morphs into the Silk Spectre, a crime fighter with a yen for garters, high-heeled boots, and long black gloves. "Carla has that old-Hollywood quality about her—that indescribable glamour," Snyder says. "I feel like she got ripped out of the forties and put into our time."
Sally Jupiter, Snyder says, is supposed to carry around "the faded opulence of a bygone era," which is apt, since even Gugino's memories can sound like images from some Citizen Kane snow globe. She remembers how her father, an orthodontist and inventor in Florida, would fly her to Europe for the holidays. "We went for Christmas to this town in Austria," she says. "We took these big horse-drawn carriages to places where we'd have fondue." Her parents were divorced; for a while she and her free-spirited mother lived on the fog-ribboned cliffs of Big Sur in California. Gugino remembers "moon parties" on the beach to celebrate each lunar phase in the astrological calendar, and hearth-warmed breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. "We used to go every Sunday for oatmeal and hot chocolate by the fireplace," she says.