We had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Sara on the phone to discuss the unique feature, as she tells us what attracts her to the darker side of cinema, while also recalling one particularly awkward scene between herself and close friend Pat Healy. She also tells us how far she’d be willing to go for a quarter of million dollars – and explains exactly what it was that made everyone vomit…
So what first attracted you to getting involved in Cheap Thrills?
I was sent the script because the director had seen The Innkeepers and really liked it. After reading the script, I was terrified and mortified and I felt weird and traumatised, and I didn’t know if I wanted to do it or not, because I didn’t know if I could, the character is so dead inside and has no moral compass and that freaked me out cos I’ve never played a character like that before. But after getting over my initial shock, I realised that the story really resonated with me, and if I was thinking about it that much, even days after, and if I was that afraid, I knew it would be a big challenge and that I should take it on. Also, my friend Pat Healy called me and said ‘we should do this together’. We’re really good friends and he helped convince me. I’m really glad that he did, because it feels good to be afraid of something and then take it on and feel like you did okay.
There’s one scene in particular with Pat that must have put your friendship to the limit somewhat…
[Laughs] Yeah it totally did. Pat and I are like brothers, and we both just sit around making fart jokes, and laughing at stupid YouTube videos and stuff. Then all of a sudden we have this scene together and we thought crap, we just had to turn off that part of our brain and just power through this thing. We had to choreographed the whole scene like it was a dance, and just went for it. I love Pat but it’s so awkward. Neither of us wanted to do that scene for 12 hours, so we nailed it down, got it done and moved on, cos it was so awkward.
You’ve done a fair few dark films now, be it horrors or psychological thrillers such as this – what do you think it is that attracts you to the darker side of cinema?
Oh it’s so much fun. It’s scary at first, but you try to find something from your real life you can relate to, but it’s so hard. You think, this girl is psychotic, where is that in me? And it’s not really there. So it’s fun just being dark and totally being the opposite of yourself and doing crazy things that would not be acceptable in real life, and that I’d be arrested for. It makes me feel dangerous, like I’m living on the edge [laughs].
Violet must have been such a fun role to get your teeth into – because she’s so elusive and gives so little away. Does that give you more to play with?
Yeah I guess she’s not like in your face evil either, so that’s another challenge. That’s what is so creepy about her, you go through a huge chunk of the movie not realising what she’s all about, then you think, shit, this bitch is fucked up. You’re like, why wasn’t I watching her creepy ass in the corner? At first she just seems like a girl you’ve seen all over town, especially in LA – absorbed in their phone, so bored, and nothing excites them. Then you’re like, oh, you’re a really messed up person and I’m worried for you now.
Have you started looking at those people in a slightly different way now?
[Laughs] Yeah now I’m driving around in Beverly Hills thinking, which one of you is a psycho? No, I’ve actually always been really fascinated, because my life is so boring and I have to go to like pottery making classes and watch Golden Girls. That’s my life. That’s why I like these dangerous characters, and I like reading books on psychopaths, because I’m really a grandma in real life.
We don’t know much about Violet – did you create a backstory for her?
Totally. Normally I’m not like an actor who’s like, ‘process… woah!’ but I had to create a backstory for her because she doesn’t say a lot, but you still have to read her face and know why she’s creepy. It also helps me to understand her better if I create a little backstory. I won’t say what that was, because you’ll be like, Sara, that’s too messed up. But I had to – I mean, she enjoys watching people get tortured. That’s a fun Saturday night for her.
The film is pretty disturbing, but were you able to go home every night and switch off?
Well we shot the movie in 14 days so it was very fast-paced. When I got home at night I just collapsed and we started all over again the next day. It was intense stuff, so I didn’t have much time to notice that I was taking it home with me. But when we wrapped, I had to shake it off, I needed to go away, or go and see a happy, slapstick comedy. We all felt like that. After we finished we were like, eurgh, icky. But the film isn’t gross and gory for nothing, the theme is so dark. To go back to your first question, that’s another reason I wanted to do it, is that idea that everyone has a price – and what’s yours? That’s so sick, and so true of our culture right now. It stuck with us, I just had to go home and watch cartoons.
It’s fascinating, because even though this deals in elaborate, overstated situations – there is a lot in here that poses the question “what would I do in that situation?” There were things I would probably have done for the price quoted, which made me feel rather unsettled.
Yes. Yes! I completely agree. All I could think was, what would I do? If I was in that man situation, with a baby, a wife, close to being evicted, no money… You’re right, I was thinking the same thing. And if I wouldn’t do that, then what would I do? It freaked me out. Yeah that’s such an interesting theme right now.
Was there anything in the film you resolutely would not do for any price?
Eat the dog. You know what, I couldn’t even watch that. They were like, it’s a plate of chicken, but I couldn’t watch it. So I stood outside the door and listened for a little bit, and I heard everyone vomiting. The camera guys, everyone was vomiting. It was one interesting day of work! It’s the only time I couldn’t be in the room.
You can probably guess what the next question is going to be… What is the craziest thing you would do for 250k?
Oh my God. I don’t know. I told you, I am literally such a grandma. I can’t go on roller-coasters, I went to Disneyland recently and got nauseous on the Indiana Jones ride.
To be fair, doesn’t that go backwards?
No, it’s for toddlers. You’re in a car going through the jungle and it’s like, ‘woah, there’s Indiana Jones, and there’s a boulder, watch out…’ It’s nothing. I was like, I’ve got to take a break I’m so sick! I don’t know what I would I do. I would have to be in a pretty desperate situation to do anything crazy. I’m also terrified of bugs, and someone was telling me the other day she did a movie and she had to hold a cockroach in her mouth for a scene. I couldn’t do that for any price. So gross.
If you were sent a script, and it was the dream role, and you were completely enamoured by it, but there was a cockroach in the mouth scene… Would you do it?
[Laughs] If they were like, ‘Sara, Scorsese is on the line, he wants you bad, but there’s this one part…’ Oh God! I don’t know what I would do. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I think Scorsese would have to hold my hand and say, ‘Sara, just close your eyes, it’s going to be okay’. Eurgh. I feel like I have to say I would do it, but I dunno…
So what’s next for you? Anything lined up?
I worked on a couple of movies last year that are both sort of family comedies, so I guess Cheap Thrills was so dark for me I had to move on! Right now I’m writing and trying to develop something of my own. I’m still reading scripts and auditioning, but yeah, I feel like I want to try and create something of my own now, so I’m working on that.
Has that always been the intention? To eventually end up behind the camera?
Yeah absolutely. I feel like in this day and age, you have to be pro-active, and there are so many different mediums with the internet and Netflix and everything, and I’ve always wanted to write and direct, so I feel like, what’s stopping me? So I’m going to give it a shot.
Cheap Thrills is released on June 6th.