It’s fair to say that 2023 was a busy year for Sophie Wilde. From heading to Sundance Film Festival to fronting two TV shows, including Netflix’s Everything Now, she’s been a mainstay on our screens. However, it’s her magnetic turn as Mia in A24’s hit horror Talk to Me that stands above the rest.
The low-budget thriller from YouTubers Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou became one of the viral successes of last year, and solidified Wilde as one to watch. Yet despite its success and landing on multiple best movies of the year lists (including Total Film’s 2023 ranking), the awards recognition has been very sparing.
BAFTA is one the few who have taken note, nominating Wilde for the EE Rising Star Award, alongside stars like Jacob Elordi and Ayo Edebiri. It’s a big honor, Wilde says when she speaks to GamesRadar+, especially as the Australian actor is well aware that horror rarely gets a look-in at these ceremonies.
"I feel that's definitely a conversation that seems to be constantly going around every award season when a big horror film comes around," she says on the topic. "You think of Toni Collette in Hereditary or Mia Goth last year. I find that such an interesting thing because, especially performance wise, horror requires actors to really stretch themselves in those performances and it requires the same amount of emotional depth, heart, and talent that I'd say a lot of comedy or a drama requires."
Mia in Talk to Me is definitely one of those performances. Set in Adelaide, the horror follows a group of friends who get sucked into an addictive new game. Figuring out they can conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they get hooked on the high-stakes thrill, without realising the terrifying supernatural force that they’ve unlocked.
As a teenager dealing with the suicide of her mother, Wilde’s Mia is the lynchpin. At the same time a social outcast as well as the life of the party, she exists in polarities – and is often the one to take things too far. Speaking about the part, the actor calls her character "slightly deranged", explaining that that was a big part of what drew her to it, as well as its depiction of grief.
"It felt like a drama to me in a lot of ways," she explains. "[It’s] really exciting as an actor, to be able to play someone who gets to operate in so many different spaces as people are so multifaceted, and grief is such a multifaceted experience."
Not only this, but Wilde is emphatic about how Talk to Me depicts youth culture, and in particular Australian youth culture. "I feel like it's so real to life, it's so brutally honest," she explains. "Sometimes I don't know, when I watch things that are about teenagers, it feels so dated. They’re always on weird apps and shit that you’re like, this is not reflecting on us at all."
Wilde thinks it’s maybe the directors’ background of YouTubers that stops them from falling into the same mistakes. But whatever it is, it clearly works, with Talk to Me becoming the highest-grossing A24 horror movie. And while it may not be winning endless awards accolades, it’s certainly got the attention it deserves, with fans in The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, horror maestro Jordan Peele, and Steven Spielberg.
"It's just insane," she says of the whole experience. "It was this indie film that we made in COVID in Adelaide, and we knew that it was special and had potential but we didn't really think it was going to kind of blow up in the way that it did or even have the global reach that it did."
The moment the sheer impact of it hit was at Sundance, where the film received its premiere in January 2023. "It's just so surreal, I remember when we were at Sundance, we were there and FaceTiming Jordan Peele at one point, I was like, 'What's going on?'"
The actor’s family have been similarly in awe of it, although Wilde does admit her mom has yet to watch it. "I tried to get her to watch the trailer, she walked out of the room halfway through," she laughs. On the other side though, her grandparents hired out a whole cinema to watch it, which Wilde says was quite an experience.
"They’re from this tiny town in rural Australia and they hired out the whole cinema and invited all of their friends to come watch it," she laughs. "All of these people are like 90 years old. I said to him before I was like, 'Don’t watch this film, this is a bad idea' and they all watched it and they were all horrified."
Wilde adds: "I was just sitting in the cinema and I was like, 'Oh my God, like what have I done?'" Well, hopefully, at least tuning in for the BAFTAs will be a less spine-tingling experience.
Voting for the EE Rising Star Award is now open at ee.co.uk/BAFTA until 12pm GMT on Friday, February 16. The winner will be announced at the EE BAFTA Film Awards on Sunday February 18. The EE Rising Star Award is the only category at the EE BAFTA Film Awards to be voted for by the public.
For more, check out our list of all of the 2024 BAFTA nominations.