Sometimes, families can be a nightmare. Whether it’s arguments over a festive game of Monopoly or the political minefield of wedding seating plans, there are no shortage of mishaps likely to plague any family gathering. But not murder... at least not usually.
Grace, protagonist of new horror film Ready or Not (in cinemas now), is not quite so lucky. When she marries into the uber-wealthy Le Domas clan, the last thing she expects is for a wedding night game of hide and seek to become a deadly nightmare in which she must fight for her life.
Aussie actress Samara Weaving is the star donning Grace’s bloodied gown in the film, helmed by filmmaking collective Radio Silence, aka Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella, although the latter is credited as executive producer rather than director.
Weaving said she loved taking on this role, but is keen to avoid being labelled as part of the ‘final girl’ archetype.
“Can we change it to final woman?” she asks Yahoo Movies UK.
“I wanted to avoid playing the quintessential damsel in distress. I wanted to make Grace make smart, logical decisions in moments of extreme panic and confusion.
“The women I know and love turn into heroes in stressful situations and I got my inspiration from all of them.”
Grace is certainly a horror movie heroine for the ages — a Final Woman to make everyone proud.
Read the full interview with Samara Weaving in which she discusses her excitement about Ready Or Not, the excitement of being praised by Stephen King and shares a few nuggets from the set of Bill and Ted Face the Music.
Yahoo Movies UK: The first question I wanted to ask actually is whether you’ve managed to wash all of that blood out of your hair yet?
Samara Weaving: Yeah, just recently. [laughs] I’ve just been rocking pink hair for a while.
You go through so much in this film. It’s such a physical performance. What was your preparation like?
I got really lucky because I had just finished filming Guns Akimbo, where I play a really talented fighter. We did three or four weeks of stunt training for that film and then I did this, so I was lucky enough to bring that skill set with me to this one.
What was it like for you to be joining the heritage of the ‘final girl’ in horror movies?
Yeah, can we change it to final woman?
I agree! I’m logging that request...
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Tyler, Matt and Chad were so collaborative with my ideas regarding Grace and her story, along with Fox Searchlight. I really owe them. I wanted to avoid playing the quintessential damsel in distress. I wanted to make her make smart, logical decisions in moments of extreme panic and confusion. The women I know and love turn into heroes in stressful situations and I got my inspiration from all of them.
I think there’s a lot of that in the costuming. You’re in a wedding dress and I love the way your character literally weaponises that dress during the story.
For me, when I read the script and Grace is talking to her mother-in-law — played by Andie MacDowell — about how she grew up in and out of foster homes, I came to the conclusion that she would’ve seen some terrible things and she probably would have been in fights before, having to rely on her survival skills. I love the surprise that the family has about her being able to hold herself. It lends itself to the comedy.
The balance is very nimble between the extreme violence and the comedy. How easy was it for you to find that balance?
I think, honestly, we would do a take where we played into the comedy more and then a take where we played it straighter. It really came down to the directors and I think they found that balance in the edit. Guy Busick and Ryan Christopher Murphy had it in their script, but the execution they did with a really gentle expertise. It was a very short and fast shoot and they made it a delightful set to be on.
That was my next question. Was it quite an intense set or was it a little bit looser and more fun?
I honestly don’t have a sour memory of this project. I truly believe that, with the preparation before we got to the set in Toronto, you could tell that everyone had done their homework and brought their A game. It went really smoothly.
These are some of the best actors and teams I have ever worked with. They were so talented and humble and ever so fun. I would do it all over again.
And one of the people you got to work with, as you mentioned earlier, was Andie MacDowell. Were you able to learn from her years of experience?
Just her presence on set! She was so professional, but so much fun. I’m such an anxious person and she, I think, could sense that so she really helped me. The entire cast was so kind and fun and generous, which is really rare to come across on set. So I really loved them all.
It’s a really good time for a film like this to come out, with this rich elite family using their privilege. Was that timely nature something that appealed to you in taking on the project?
Well, it started with the script. Guy and Ryan had me from the script and then Radio Silence, along with the producers, were so collaborative with my ideas regarding Grace and her story and that was really refreshing.
What have you made of the positive response to the film so far in the United States?
I think we’re all in shock a little bit. It wasn’t a high-budget movie and it’s a genre film, so the fact that audiences are responding in this way. I just woke up this morning and Stephen King had written about it, which is really surreal.
Read more: The World Cup of Stephen King
I just saw the King tweet and he singles out your performance specifically. What was it like to read that?
It’s insane! Stephen King knows my name? Really? Is this my life?
Would you like to carry on working in the horror genre, now that you’ve thrown yourself into this role?
It’s so interesting. My first feature film in the States was The Babysitter and I think, after that, directors and people in the industry followed that and I was lucky enough to get roles that were in a similar vein. I’d love to branch out from that, as I have been lucky enough to do in a number of roles. Fox Searchlight did Three Billboards with me and that’s what geared me into Ready or Not. I can’t watch scary movies, but making them is a blast.
Three Billboards must have been such an experience to be part of with all of the awards stuff?
Yeah, it was mental. It wasn’t surprising because Martin McDonagh is a genius and the cast was incredible. I was lucky enough to be a small part of it. They were really welcoming as well. I assume that’s why Martin works with the same actors a lot of the time, because everyone on the set was so humble and welcoming.
You’ve talked about the script a lot and, obviously, a Martin McDonagh script is very special as well. How important is the script to you in choosing which roles to take?
With this one, I just saw an opportunity to take that idea of the woman who’s been put under a lot of stress in an insane situation and sort of turn it on its head. I hadn’t played a protagonist in this genre yet either, so that was also quite enticing. It was just a cherry on top that everyone involved was just so lovely.
Horror, as a genre, can attract a lot of criticism for its violence against women, and you certainly go through a lot in the film. What’s your take on doing that sensitively?
I really wanted to draw on the fact that most women in my life, when they’re under a lot of stress or in a very anxious and distressing situation, they become heroes. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of making her a damsel in distress.
It’s interesting at the moment. I don’t know how much you’ve been following the controversy around The Hunt, which has been pulled from release. It shares some DNA with Ready Or Not in its focus on elites hunting working class people.
Oh really? I didn’t know that. I think audiences are responding to a certain catharsis of, in Ready Or Not’s case, watching a family who come from generations of dodgy deals and witnessing them slowly unravel into desperate idiots. [laughs]
This film is so focused around a character the audience really likes, so it’s a real ride from start to finish — as we cry with her and punch the air with her.
She is the audience, in a sense. She’s the only sane person!
I love how heightened the rich family is. They’re so close to being a cartoon.
I think with the cast, they really found that balance between having a lot of us play it really straight and then just having a couple of really zany characters that you desperately need just to have some sort of release. When there’s a lot of suspense, you need that comedic release and they got the perfect people for that.
Read more: Who is the deadliest horror icon?
Without spoiling anything, I thought the ending of this film was completely unexpected and brilliantly mad. What was your reaction when you first read that ending?
Honestly, I saw that when the trailers were coming out for this film, people seemed to get a little annoyed that it was giving too much away. But I was just smiling to myself because it really doesn’t give it away. There are a lot more twists and turns.
I thought the ending was brilliant and the timing of it is so well done. I can’t say too much more or I’ll give it away. [laughs]
Just before I let you get away, I wanted to ask briefly about Bill and Ted. That’s a film that everybody seems to really want to succeed. What has it been like working on that?
I can’t think about the audience’s anticipation for it too much because I get such bad anxiety. I really hope that they like it because it has been years and, with that amount of pressure, I just don’t know. I had so much fun on it and it was a blast to work with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter playing those characters again. The stakes are so high and I’m so nervous. I just hope I deliver what the fans want.
Keanu is having such a moment right now...
I don’t think he knows! I don’t think he’s aware! He’s so humble and so sweet. I don’t think he’s aware of [the moment] at all.
He’s the internet’s boyfriend and he doesn’t even know?
The internet’s boyfriend — that’s so sweet! I don’t think I’ve even seen him on a phone before. He’s such a gentleman. He’s beautiful.
Ready or Not arrives in UK cinemas from 25 September.