Michelle Trachtenberg: Trades Stakes for Skates in Ice Princess
As Trachtenberg tells it, she’s been down that road briefly in real life. “Before this film, the only ice skating experience I’d had was when I was a kid. I’d watch those films and go, ‘I wanna be an ice skater!’” says the actress while laughing at her youthful exuberance. “The coolest thing is, I had this charm bracelet from when I was like 10 years old and it had these little charms on it that meant something to me, like from when I did Harriet the Spy there was a little diary/book on it and, for some reason, even though I’d given up on it, my mom put a little ice skate on it. Then, 10 years later, I’m doing this movie and there’s that little ice skate, so I guess [eventually] learning to really ice skate was meant to be.”
Although many might think that Hollywood’s usual smoke-and-mirrors techniques were on order, according to the actress, preparation for her latest offering entailed more than emoting.
“It was grueling,” Trachtenberg recollects. “I trained for about seven and a half, eight months, and while we weren’t shooting it was five hours a day and ballet every other day. It was insane … I was on the ice 20 to 22 hours a day. “Usually a workday for an adult [actor] is about 18 hours,” Trachtenberg expounds. “ I was like one of the only non-minor ice skating actors in the film. The little girls would go and work their 10 hours and just go home, but I had to stay.”
Before jumping to any conclusions about Trachtenberg’s mettle, one must consider that she was a non-skater before taking the role in Ice Princess – and this posed risks both on and off screen.
“There were a lot of cuts here and there and stuff that would be normal to an athlete, but I certainly wasn’t faking it. I worked really, really hard and definitely have the injuries to prove it,” she says. “There was one particular coach on the film [set] who said to me on my first day, ‘You’re not an ice skater, you’re an actress, and we’re going to have your double do everything.’“
Putting the physicality of actually learning to skate aside, as it turned out, even the stunt people couldn’t fill in all the sequencing gaps, so Trachtenberg had to pony up with the skills to perform the outside-edge spread eagle. “It’s a pretty difficult move and none of my doubles could actually do it on film,” she reveals, “because their bodies were built differently. It’s where your feet are pointing outward,” she goes on to explain, “and you’re skating on a backward edge and holding that line. It’s my pride and joy. There’s that shot if it in the movie and it’s just awesome!”
Trachtenberg is quite emphatic about the fact that there’s only so much editing that can be done on a film like Ice Princess and, she says, “You go over all of this stuff and at the end of the day, outside of the hard work, I had that satisfaction of [knowing] that I did it when somebody else thought I couldn’t. At the end of shooting [my skeptical coach] said, ‘You did it.’ At the beginning of filming she essentially said, ‘You are going to eat it or give up’ and I proved her wrong,” says the actress, beaming with pride. “I often wonder if she did that to me to put the drive in me.”
Ice Princess releases in theaters March 18.