Palo Verde grad turned actress knocks teeth out for role (accidentally)

Robert De Niro gained 30 pounds for “Raging Bull,” and Matthew McConaughey lost 40 pounds for “Dallas Buyers Club,” but whatever — Elle McLemore knocked out two front teeth for her new movie.

McLemore, a Palo Verde High School alum, costars in “At the Top of the Pyramid,” an upbeat cheerleader-angst dramedy about social hierarchy. (It was released in New York on Wednesday.)

McLemore broke her teeth in a jaw-dropping stunt:

“They had me stand up on this big ladder and fall into a trampoline — in a pit of foam. When I hit the pit, I over-rotated my body and hit my knee into my face,” she told me.

In case you missed what she said: SHE KNEED HERSELF IN THE FACE AND KNOCKED HER TEETH OUT.

Oh, wait. There’s more sadness.

“They ended up using the double for that part,” she said. “All my own stunts were not used.” (Womp-womp.)

This was devastating, she said, but McLemore is a buoyant, upbeat talker, so she sounds more like an amused storyteller than a devastated actress.

“I had to get root canals,” she said. “I still have my natural teeth, but they have cracks in them, so I can’t bite into anything anymore.”

McLemore can see the bright side:

“My root is dead, so I don’t feel anything, and ice cream is great!”

She has fond memories of the last whole apple she could chomp on.

“I remember biting into this apple, and that was the last apple I ever had. I have this distant memory of it. I’m like, ‘I didn’t really enjoy that apple, and it was the last one,’” she told me, lost in memory, then laughed again.

“It’s the little things.”

McLemore was barely 18 when she filmed “At the Top Of the Pyramid” co-starring Dean Cain and Steve Guttenberg.

Now she’s 23, and the film is finally out after a five-year Hollywood shuffle.

“That means you’ve waited somewhere in the neighborhood of one-fifth of your life for this movie to come out,” I said.

“Wow,” she said. “That’s actually pretty scary when you put it like that.”

In the five years since her teeth trauma, she has portrayed a Holly, an Eva, and a Heather. She was Holly on the TV show “Army Wives,” Eva in “Bring It On: The Musical,” and Heather McNamara in “Heathers — The Musical.”

Right now, she’s in pre-production for “Redrum,” a Broadway-targeted musical parody of the horror classic, “The Shining.”

“It is hysterical. The writing is brilliant,” she said. “I play Danny, the little boy. It is so much fun.”

Fun fact: McLemore’s retired dancer/mother Gail VanDervoort played a wizard in “Caesars Magical Empire,” which I never saw. Her father Todd VanDervoort still does pyrotechnics for the Luxor’s “Tournament of Kings,” which I’ve seen three times (slightly inebriated?) and loved every time.

“I grew up with my parents doing weird things like being pyrotechnics and wizards,” she said. “I love Vegas so much.”

I asked her what it takes for a Vegas high school theater star to leave Las Vegas for Los Angeles and New York, to live that kind of stressful lifestyle.

She said her solid foundation with her family gave her the strength and thick skin to face audition rejections actors and actresses constantly face in show business.

Her advice to hopeful performers: Don’t change your personality to fit what you think casting people want — especially since people in show business can be open-minded to what kind of performers they’re looking for.

“If you go into anything with your foot down, being your true authentic self, and making everyone accept that, I think that’s kind of what it takes,” the effervescent young actress said.

“If not, you’ll get pushed around. And if you’re not believing in who you are, you’ll forget who you are. I think it’s just deciding who you are, sticking to that, and not letting anybody get in the way after that.

“That’s what’s worked for me. It’s being a weirdo, basically!” she said and laughed again at herself, the self-proclaimed weirdo who prefers ice cream to apples.

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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