Sharni Vinson returned to the big screen last year as she led the cast in horror film You’re Next, a movie that saw her team up with director Adam Wingard for the first time.
We caught up with Vinson to chat about the film, playing a strong female character in the horror genre and what lies ahead.
- You're Next is just about to be released on DVD here in the UK, so can you tell me a little bit about the film?
If you haven’t seen the film, I would say go and see it because it’s a horror movie that flips it on its head. The film was marketed as this all-time horrifically, on the edge of your seat scary as hell horror movie; I am not saying that it’s not, but there are a lot of other aspects that we chose not to push forth in the marketing of the film.
I think it has such an amazing message to women. This final girl character is born in the sense of a female horror heroine: we are not use to seeing women standing up for themselves in these movies. It was so refreshing to read a script where the woman stood up and went ‘hey, I am not going to take this in my house. I am going to fight back’.
I just appreciated that Simon Barrett had written a role like that. I just wanted the opportunity to do it. I would encourage people to go and see the film because maybe you haven’t seen women stand up and fight back before in a horror movie.
I really do love the fact that we blend the elements of action, horror and comedy so well in this film. To me, maybe it is because I was in it, but it is just so funny (laughs). It is all very intentional humour. It is a really funny film for me.
You find yourself scared, then you find yourself laughing and then you find yourself cheering, and all this happens in about thirty seconds. This is a movie that is very different to what they would expect it to be, as it is not your average home invasion movie.
- You have slightly touched on my next question really. I was wondering what is was about the character of Erin and Simon Barrett's script that really appealed to you? Just how different was it from other horror scripts that you may have read?
It was completely different. I have really not read a script - or seen for that matter - a horror film where the woman fights back like that. In a sense it was sort of Home Alone meets Scream meets The Strangers. There were so many beautiful moments from iconic films in there, but they were tackled in their own individual way.
The originality was ultimately what I loved about You’re Next. It was very apparent after reading the first draft of the script that the weight of the movie was very solidly going to be falling on the lead girl.
That was a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility that I wanted the challenge of taking on. Every single piece of the film is going to have to come together, but if that role isn’t done well then it didn’t stand a chance. I wanted to be the one to bring it to fruition.
When I walked in and they wanted me to be Australian, that is when it changed. At first, the character was written like an American, and then they wanted it to Aussie, and the whole thing was born. I was very lucky.
- As you quite rightly say, we don’t see too many female characters like this in this genre. How much do you hope and think that this movie may change that and pave the way for more characters like this?
I think we are going to start seeing a real change. I think we are going to see a change in the way that horror movies are being attacked. I don’t think that the audience is going to necessarily be content and happy anymore when we see a naked girl running up the stairs to just be stabbed and die; it has been done and it is predictable.
We like to see characters that actually challenge ourselves, and so to see someone scream, run up the stairs and die is a letdown now. We almost want to see something that will show us, help us and motivate us what we could do in this situation and if someone did come into the house.
I would encourage people to go and tackle martial arts or self-defence classes: I think that that is a really great message for this movie. If other movies are made because of that reason and that is their message too, ultimately, that is why I think that this final girl aspect will continue into more horror films.
- Adam Wingard is in the director's chair for the film, so how did you find working with him? What kind of director is he?
He is unbelievable. I have so much love for him and so much respect for him, I would love to work with him again; I don’t believe our careers are over when it comes to working together. Simone Barrett as well. Adam is so easy going, so relaxed and so incredibly calm.
He is also so freeing in allowing you to make choices and letting the camera roll to see what happens and letting the scene play out. He will get the camera on his shoulder and will be sweating blood and tears of his own to make this movie work.
He is an amazing cameraman - he will say ‘get out of my way. If I hit you, I am sorry but just keep going, keep playing the scene, as you never know what you are going to get. We are just going capture amazing moments. Everyone stay in character and let’s just get some great footage.’
Then he goes away and he has this beautiful, unique and very very realistic scene. His way of doing things is, in my opinion, as an actor is perfect. It was a perfect environment he created for an actor to step on to set.
In addition, he was in pain for the entire shoot as he had pain in his tooth that was an urgent root canal. He was on painkillers the entire shoot. I don’t even know how he was doing it. He should have been the grumpiest person in the world with how much pain he was in, but he was just so not. If that was him at his worst, I can’t wait to see him at his best (laughs).
- Erin is clearly a character that is very close to your heart, you enjoyed playing and you invested a lot of time in. So collaborative a process between yourself, the director and the writer as you were bringing this character to life? Where you able to bring your own ideas to the table?
Yes I was. Adam really did give us the freedom to make those choices to portray as much as ourselves as we wanted to in these characters and choose what way we wanted to go with our decision-making and our journeys for those characters. At the end of the day, when it comes to that… if you are just able to stay in the moment and create it that way, that is what will give you the best product.
The character was originally written as an American, and when I went in there, they changed it into an Aussie. All of a sudden, Erin was reborn as an Aussie, and the script was re-written a tad because the background of the character had to change from the fact that she didn’t come from army but grew up on a survivalist camp in Australia.
Sometimes things would be changed and I would be like ‘that would never happen in Australia’. I would have to change it to be more in touch with the Australian background.
Also, one of the other things that was huge for me in the collaborative aspect of making the movie, was originally Simon Barrett wrote the film from the end to the beginning and everybody died. I had a bit of an issue with that when we were shooting the movie, as I felt that so much was invested into this character, and how could you kill her?
I just thought about how disappointed the audience would be after going through her journey to just see her die. I was quite bummed out. I was like ‘why don’t we shoot two endings of the movie and give whoever buys it the choice of the ending?’ That prompted a big conversation between the producers, the writer the director and myself, and we all came together.
Therefore, we shot one ending where I was shot in the face and I die. And the other, which is the ending of the film, where I get shot in the shoulder and I live. I thought that was a really huge moment for the movie because when we screened the movie with Lionsgate we got a 96% vote from the audience for her to live. Therefore, I think we made the right decision.
That was definitely a collaborative team decision on the day. Everyone was given the equal respect on the film from the sound department, the boom guy to the cleaner; on set, there was no order of importance. Everyone was equal and that collaborative spirit really made the movie work.
- This is also a very physical role, so how much is that an aspect of making the film that you enjoyed?
That was hugely a part of the reason that I took the role. Coming off Step Up and Blue Crush, they were very physical roles with the dancing and the surfing, I got to train and really enjoyed the fact that I got to work with a trainer for these roles. I started to realise that all of the sports that I did as a kid, those skills were starting to become very useful in my acting.
For this particular role, I just thought that the physicality that I wanted to portray was everything. I got to do martial arts training, I learnt how to baton twirl. There were also a lot of boxing and self-defence skills that you would learn if you had grown up on a survivalist compound that my character did.
I really enjoyed every single part of it, and that is what I am looking for when I am walking on to a set. I don’t want to just walk on to a set, stand, deliver a line and then walk off; I like to walk off and then keep going. I think with action movies it does give you that opportunity to never sit down, never stop as you are always doing something or learning something new.
The stunt people are the most fun people to hang out with because they are mad. They make you do some really crazy things that push you out of your comfort zone - I really appreciate that. Every part of the physicality in You’re Next is what I love, and that is a huge part of why I wanted to do this role.
- I was reading that you considered going into stunt work what made you decide to go into acting instead?
There is always going to be a crossover; I am realising that everything really is becoming a crossover now. Stunt work can only come in super handy when doing an action work. The passion for that came about fifteen years ago when I met my best friend, who is a stunt co-ordinator.
He is just an amazing person, but the life that he leads with being a stunt co-ordinator I just found incredibly mesmerising and inspirations and fascinating. All the energy was just going into doing some insane things and I just wanted to learn how to make a car go in a circle and do donuts.
I remember going on to the Bad Boys 2 when I was eighteen, and that is just what awoken my eyes to cars stunts especially. I just want to do as many of my own stunts in movies as possible because it only makes it easier to shoot.
- You kicked off your acting career in television so how have you found the transition into film?
It is pretty much the same. With television, you have a long-term contract where you know you are working for a set amount of time and you have a set schedule. With that, you can plan more. With movies, because they are shorter shoots and very much spontaneous; you can book a movie and be shooting it pretty quickly.
When I booked Step Up I had to be in New York two days later and I was there for five months. However, I booked Patrick a year and a half before I shot it; I knew that it was coming I just didn’t know when.
Step Up was five months, but you usually only do two or three months and then you are done and waiting for the next phone call. So you don’t know where you next job is coming from.
Television shoots a lot faster but you can take you time on a movie set and there is a lot of sitting around. That is why I like doing the action movies because you don’t just sit there as you keep training and keep doing stuff.
- Finally, what's next for you?
The plan is there is no plan. That is a good plan. Last year was spent being very busy travelling, doing a lot of promotion for You’re Next and Patrick. I was actually in London five times last year - prior to that had never been to London in my life - I covered the UK last year.
I just did so much travelling. You have got to promote your movies with as much energy as you shoot them, but it does take you out of your home base and out of your regular schedule.
I have spent a month back in Australia just relaxing, eating and spending time with friends - I am as chilled as chilled can be. I will be heading back to L.A. this January for pilot season, and see what happens.
You’re Next is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.