A.J. Cook understands that, to make it in the film industry, she's probably going to have to move to Los Angeles. But she's not in any hurry to get there.
Perhaps that explains why the Canadian-born Cook finds herself in Utah. That and the fact that she recently married a Utahn, college student Nathan Andersen.
"I married a Utah boy, and I'm lucky enough to live here instead of L.A.," the 23-year old actress said a bit sheepishly. "I love it here, but Los Angeles I'm not so hot on. It's definitely much better in Utah."
Consequently, Cook finds herself commuting between the Beehive State and Southern California as she continues to seek out film and television work. And so far, she's had no trouble finding it.
She's currently co-starring in the new snowboarding comedy "Out Cold," which opened in theaters nationwide on Wednesday. "Out Cold" follows a group of friends and avid boarders who are opposing efforts to turn their tightly knit community into a glitzy resort town. Cook plays Jenny, the love interest for the film's main character, Rick Rambis (Jason London).
"It's really funny," Cook said, "and I'm not just saying that. I really think it's really got a shot to catch on with a college crowd and with some younger audiences. And besides, the snowboarding in the movie is really kick-(butt)."
Though Cook does know how to snowboard (her new husband taught her how), she admits thatprofessional board athletes are doing the actual stunts. "I'd like to be able to say that's me out on the mountain, but I'd be lying. And anyway, I think everyone's smart enough to realize that it's not," she said with a laugh.
One thing the actress looks for in prospective projects is variety. For example, "Out Cold" is Cook's 10th film, but it's her first comedy, giving her an opportunity to finally "do" humor.
"I'm Canadian, and we've got a drier sense of humor," she explained. "People don't always know when I'm kidding or when I'm being serious, so I hope I succeeded here."
However, the film also presents Cook with something of a small dilemma. On the one hand, if the film becomes a hit, it could bring her much-needed recognition. On the other hand, if it succeeds, she could be pigeon-holed as a comic actress.
That's why Cook says she's being more choosy about picking its follow-up. "I'd really like to do something more serious, to show that I've got some range," she said. "There's a lot of work to be had out there, but not all of it is good."
Surprisingly, for someone who's been in the industry for just six years, Cook has been fortunate enough to work with some of today's hottest young actors.
In "Out Cold," she starred opposite London ("Dazed and Confused"). And on the acclaimed independent feature "The Virgin Suicides," she co-starred alongside Kirsten Dunst ("Bring it On"), Josh Hartnett ("Pearl Harbor") and Hayden Christensen ("Life as a House," next year's "Star Wars" movie).
"('The Virgin Suicides') was probably the thing I'm most proud of so far," Cook said. "I think I was able to hold my own with some very good actors there, and everyone seemed to love the movie."
The film also gave Cook her first taste of media hype, as one of the more talked-about features shown at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. "It wasn't as bad as I'd heard," she said. "In fact, (Sundance) was kind of nice. Of course, maybe it depends on the film you go there with. I guess I was really fortunate there."
Cook continues to shoot down rumors of romance between herself and Hayden Christensen, rumors that began when they were filming "The Virgin Suicides," and which continued when they co-starred on the cable-television series "Higher Ground."
"You know how some people get," Cook said. "They like to create things, make up stories to make things seem more interesting than they actually are."
However, she was on the set when Christensen announced to his fellow cast members that he had won the coveted role as Anakin Skywalker in the second "Star Wars" prequel, "Attack of the Clones."
"But it wasn't like he pulled me aside, or as if I was the first person to know about it," Cook said. "I think he probably told his family and really close friends first."
Still, she's hoping that some of Christensen's good fortune — or that of some of her equally on-the-rise co-stars — will rub off on her. "I'm happy for them. I know they've worked really hard for it, but putting their careers first, ahead of their personal lives," Cook said. "As for me, I've sort of done things in reverse. But I'm patient. I can wait. I believe some day it will be my turn."
And with her husband graduating soon, Cook could wind up in Hollywood full-time. "Maybe I'll find that it's not all it's cracked up to be. But I'd like to be able to make that decision after seeing what it's like."