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Burning Bright - Briana Evigan interview

Burning Bright

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BRIANA Evigan talks about some of the challenges of appearing in tense thriller Burning Bright, in which she finds herself trapped in a house in the middle of a hurricane with a hungry tiger.

She reveals how she never shared a scene with the tiger in question, coped with the mental challenges involved and picked up a few injuries along the way. The film will be at FrightFest this weekend in London, before making its debut on DVD in September.

Q. What was the appeal of Burning Bright for you? Kelly, your character, is a pretty feisty individual…
Briana Evigan: Yeah, she is. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the script when I first read it because I felt the character was a bit weak at first. But then we started working on her a little bit and Kelly became very strong and I wanted to sign on straight away and try the challenge of carrying an entire movie.

Q. And how did that challenge turn out for you?
Briana Evigan: I’m really pleased with the outcome. There are a couple of parts that I’m a little hard on myself, but I think I did OK and have made it bearable for people to watch me for that length of time.

Q. I gather that you never shared a scene with the actual tiger itself?
Briana Evigan: No, never [laughs]. You know, they basically filmed two movies – one with me and the other with a tiger, and then edited them together, which is kind of cool. But that was one of the biggest challenges for me, acting against nothing in all of those scenes.

Q. So, kind of like green screen but without even a tennis ball to guide you?
Briana Evigan: Exactly, I’d go and line up the house with tape and things so that I could adjust my eye-lines and give myself some idea of where I’d be looking in most of the scenes. I basically had to make up this whole scenario.

Q. Did you ever get the giggles or find yourself just not able to picture what you were supposed to be seeing in front of you?
Briana Evigan: Oh sure, there were definitely a few parts where I’d yell out to Carlos [Brooks, director] to ask where I was going or what I was doing. But he was great in providing the support I needed to get through those moments.

Q. How mentally draining is a shoot like that, when you’re constantly having to use your imagination?
Briana Evigan: Very draining… it was the most challenging part of the job and I had such a hard time winding down at night-time. It felt like I never had a break. I was at it every day, for 14 hours, for five to six weeks. I mean, it was a very physical part to play as well, so that was tiring from a body point of view, but my brain was never exhausted because it was always making something up. I’d get into bed and repeat the whole day in my head and it would keep me awake for hours. Sometimes, I’d still be lying in bed thinking about it until 4am and then having to get up at 6am to start again [laughs].

Burning Bright

Q. You mentioned the physical demands as well… did you get any injuries from all the tight spaces you have to crawl into?
Briana Evigan: I got a couple of nice little cuts and bruises but nothing too bad. In the laundry chute scene, for example, I got some pretty bad burns in my arm pits because of the wiring – I was in a harness for that.

Q. You seem to be in pretty good shape in general, but were there any special routines you took on to prepare for the physical challenge of this movie?
Briana Evigan: Not really. I was in such good shape anyway when I started this because I knew what I was getting myself into. So, I felt like I knew what I had to do to be ready and knew that I had to be in as good a shape as I could possibly be. I actually went to the gym a lot while working, which was kind of crazy, I guess, because I never had time off. But going to the gym did actually help to calm me down a bit at the end of the day.

Q. You spend a great deal of time running around in your underwear or pyjamas… I take it the house was warm?
Briana Evigan: No, and that’s so funny… In previous films that I’ve done of this nature I’m always outside, I’m always getting wet and I’m always being covered in loads of stuff with not much on. When it came to this, I thought: “Oh yeah, I’m going to be in Florida and it’s going to be warm…” But we were at the Universal lot the entire time in a studio that was freezing. And it was not warm!

Q. Did you ever actually get to meet your tiger co-stars?
Briana Evigan: I did get to meet them and see them in their huge cages, which had been specially built for them on set. But I didn’t spend too much time with them. I actually really love tigers, but they are pretty scary up when you get up close and see what’s supposed to be chasing you in the film. But getting to watch them just walking back and forth was mesmerising. You just kind of have to admire their beauty and their strength. They are such incredible creatures.

Burning Bright

Q. You also get to display some nice chemistry with your co-star, Charlie Cahan, who plays your younger, autistic brother…
Briana Evigan: Charlie’s fantastic. It’s like he has the mind of a 40-year-old inside that little body of his [laughs]. He’s such a good actor and I think he’s going to be huge. I wish him every success in his career, but I think he’ll be fine. He’s just done Charlie St Cloud with Zac Efron.

Q. Did you have much time to work on that bond that exists between you beforehand?
Briana Evigan: Yeah, we’d hang out by the pool a lot. I met his family, and we’d go swimming together. I’d throw his little sister in the pool the whole time [laughs]. So, I ended up feeling that he was just like the little brother I never had.

Q. Burning Bright is rare in that it’s not a remake. How rare is it to find a script like this nowadays?
Briana Evigan: Well, it does feel like everything’s a remake and been done before at the moment. I get a lot of stuff that I read and instantly feel like I’ve seen already and that really kind of bums be out. So, yeah, it is rare to find a script that’s willing to try something different.

Q. That said, this is your third horror film… what do you like about the genre?
Briana Evigan: I love the intensity… it’s so much fun to film them. It’s going to be crazy to go back to a normal film, in fact. But I like movies that keep you on the edge of your seat and I love popping out of corners and making people jump. A lot of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes is also really cool, with the rigs they make, the make-up they use and the way you get to see how everything is done. It makes me look at some of these movies in a completely different way.

Q. I gather you’ve just been cast in Rites of Passage? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Briana Evigan: Yeah, but it’s really complicated and I’m just trying to get my head around what I can say about it without giving too much away. It’s very different for me and it’s a very dark thriller. Val Kilmer, Christian Slater and Crispin Glover are also in it and it’s based around an Indian ritual of becoming pure again, and a drug that people take to become pure again. It’s a really interesting idea and people will be dying in the film… but it has a lot of facts to it as well. It’s been great to research and try and get my head around, so I’m looking forward to starting work on it.