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Many actresses have played the Final Girl in horror films,
but Elizabeth Olsen is one of the few to be the Only Girl. She portrays Sarah,
who is front and center throughout all 88 minutes of SILENT HOUSE, the
real-time chiller that hits theaters today from Open Road Films, and which
Olsen discussed with FANGORIA.
In SILENT HOUSE, a remake of the Uruguyan horror film a.k.a.
LA CASA MUDA, Sarah is helping her father John (Adam Trese) and uncle Peter (Eric
Sheffer Stevens) with an old family home they’re preparing for sale; before
long, she is trapped inside alone, pursued by a person or persons unknown as
her plight is captured as one long, unbroken take. It’s Olsen’s second straight
venture into psychological fear after her breakout turn in last year’s MARTHA
MARCY MAY MARLENE (which, like SILENT HOUSE, premiered at the 2011 Sundance
Film Festival), though as Olsen explains, the two parts were very different…
FANGORIA: Your role in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE was very
much about withholding and controlling her emotions, whereas in SILENT HOUSE,
you really let them all out.
ELIZABETH OLSEN: That was the main difference. When people
say, “Don’t they seem like the same type of thing?” I’m like, “No.” One woman is
aware of everything going on in her head but will not say a word about it, and
one girl has no idea of what’s going on in her head and is just in fear for her
FANG: On the other hand, there are some great moments of
withholding, like when you’re under the table trying not to scream because that
would alert the person stalking you. Were those moments particularly difficult?
OLSEN: You know what’s funny, I never plan for what will be
the hardest moments, or what’s going to be the pinnacle of fear or anything
like that. I plan things based on beats and trying not to repeat things. The
way I imagined everything when we were going through it was like, “How far is
the person I’m running away from?” So the closer they got, the higher the fear,
and that’s just what ended up happening on my face [laughs]. There was no
direction or description saying, “This is where she silently screams.” It was
just what happened while we were doing it.
FANG: It would seem you had one advantage over actors in
most horror films, which are shot out of sequence, making it something of a
challenge to figure out what level of fear to show in a given scene. Here, you
got to build the fear up chronologically as you went along.
OLSEN: I tried to. I had to create an arc and pacing without
editing. We had to do it while we were working, which was why we had to go back
and do reshoots after Sundance because we had to fix a couple of things. We
couldn’t just cut pieces out; we had to stitch them in seamlessly. It was a
whole other experience doing those reshoots instead of just being like, “Oh,
we’ll just take this out here, speed that up there…” We couldn’t do any of
FANG: So you and the filmmakers had to go back to the same
house location and dress it all back up the way it was?
OLSEN: Yep. And I had to put on that same exact outfit once
again. Same bloodstains everywhere, and I really did not want to. I had left
the movie like, “I need peace in my life!” and I totally unwound and it was
great. Then I was like, “What? We’re doing reshoots? I have to go back to that
mindset and that house?!” Because it was draining. But we just went and did it.
FANG: I imagine it was difficult recovering from being in
that pitched state of fear for the duration of the shoot.
OLSEN: Yeah, I became naturally more sensitive in my
day-to-day life. Right after filming the movie, I had a meeting with somebody
at NYU because they were charging me for a semester I withdrew from. And I was
like, “Wait, you can’t ask me to pay for a semester that I filled out all the
paperwork for successfully and turned them in on time! I didn’t attend one
class.” I was so confused. And instead of having a normal conversation, I just
started crying [laughs] because I was so sensitive. My muscles had been
exercised to be pushed really easily, and when continuity is based on your fear
and tears, it becomes this easily accessible thing. I was like, “I’m so sorry,
I don’t usually cry in meetings!” It was so embarrassing.
FANG: How long did it take you to come down from the whole
OLSEN: Well, we finished in November, and I think I felt
sane after the New Year. So two months.
FANG: You spent the holidays all worked up?
OLSEN: Yeah, I had anxiety in my life that I’ve never had
before. It was also, just being a young woman in my early 20s, a lot of people
deal with anxiety for the first time during that stage. It was a whole
transition in my life where I was just kind of, “Yoga, yoga, yoga…” [Laughs]
FANG: What was it like watching yourself go through all that
on the big screen for the first time?
OLSEN: Well, the first time I saw it was at Sundance; I went
to the press screening at midnight and no one knew I was there, and it was my
first time ever seeing myself on screen. I’d never seen myself in anything
else, because MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE was the next day. So I was sitting low
in the chair, hoping no one knew I was there, and also dealing with seeing
myself for the first time on the big screen in every frame of a film, which was
But when I saw the new cut recently, which was just a month
ago, I took my best friend with me, and it was so much fun sitting next to
someone who didn’t know what was coming next. The reason I love scary movies
and seeing them with audiences is that everyone screams together and jumps together
and laughs together, or you have those people who don’t like being scared and
just nervously giggle all the time. So I had such a good time watching it
again, and I also think it’s much better than the cut we had at Sundance.
FANG: How was your experience working with your two
co-stars, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens?
OLSEN: Every time they were on set, I was so happy. I
couldn’t care less what the content was; I was just so thankful that there were
other actors with me [laughs]. Those guys are so funny and great to work with,
especially Adam, who plays my father. And Julia Taylor Ross, who plays Sophia,
is now a good friend of mine. I was just so grateful to have other people to
work with. The funny thing is that my friend, when we watched the screening
together, told me he felt such a relief when I got in the car with Peter
[played by Stevens]; he was like, “I’m so happy you had someone else to act
with!” Not because he felt some sense of relief from the tension building, but
he was glad I got to tell someone what was happening. I also think that’s a
really great moment in the film.
FANG: Did you see the original Uruguayan SILENT HOUSE?
OLSEN: I did; I was curious to see what it was like, and I
think our movie’s so different. It’s the same concept, obviously, but the way
the ending comes together is very different.
FANG: And a lot better.
OLSEN: I agree; I thought the ending of the original was
kind of confusing and not clear enough. I don’t believe ours is going to be one
of those things where you leave the theater like, “What happened?”
FANG: You have a number of little performance moments
throughout the film that give clues to your character and the story’s ultimate
resolution. Was that stuff you brought to it, or was that planned and scripted beforehand?
OLSEN: I don’t recall if it was all planned. There were
definitely moments I made a choice for and didn’t talk to anyone about,
suggesting something to the audience. I tried to layer those things in and then
forget about them. It was like, maybe somebody will notice it, maybe they
won’t, or maybe they won’t realize they notice it and it’ll be a subconscious
FANG: Were there any physical moments that were especially
tough? Did you ever get hurt in the scenes where you’re running around and
getting beaten up?
OLSEN: Yes, I actually documented my bruises throughout this
film. Because I was in tights the whole time that were colored, no one could
see what the bruises on my legs looked like. There was one long take that
started with me hiding underneath a table and then being grabbed. That’s how
the shot began; no matter how many times we got through all of it, it didn’t
matter, we attempted the whole thing 20 or 30 times. So crawling from
underneath the table, first off, was just hard on my knees with no padding, and
then bumping into the table or a chair next to me, and also having someone grab
my leg while I struggled? After we did it like 15 times, I was like, [whispers]
“Could you actually not grab me so hard next time?” because I ended up having
this humongous hand bruise on my leg. I had bruises everywhere; I looked like a
leper. The makeup lady and I loved taking pictures of them because they were so
FANG: It’s been reported that you’re going to be taking part
in Spike Lee’s OLDBOY remake.
FANG: Have you seen the original?
OLSEN: The original’s one of my favorite movies. I think
it’s one of the most perfect films; I love it.
FANG: Is there anything else you can say about that right
FANG: Anything else on the horizon genre-wise? Do you want
to take part in more horror films?
OLSEN: I’m just interested in changing things up all the
time, so my next project is a small supporting role in a great ensemble story
about Allen Ginsberg [KILL YOUR DARLINGS], set in 1940s New York. That’s gonna
be fun; I’m in five scenes. Then I’m doing a full-blown 1860s French story
[THERESE RAQUIN] with Glenn Close. I haven’t done a period piece yet, and it’s
also an affair story and I haven’t done that yet, so I’m trying to change it up
as often as possible just to keep myself interested. I know there are going to
be hits and misses along the way, so as long as I know as a person and actor
why I choose to do something and what I hope to gain from it, whether it’s a
hit or a miss, I still know I’ll receive something for doing it, so I can’t
have that taken away from me. I’m just trying to choose things right now based
on what’s the most interesting and stimulating and challenging.
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