The Cottage - Jennifer Ellison interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JENNIFER Ellison talks about overcoming the harsh language her character uses in new horror comedy The Cottage, and why she had to apologise to her mum as a result.
She also reveals why it’s been so long since we’ve seen her in a film [since Phantom of the Opera] and the difference between appearing in the West End and in movies…
Q. Your character in The Cottage isn’t a typical scream queen – in fact she’s quite the opposite and has some choice language to offer her assailants. How did you cope with that?
Jennifer Ellison: Well, it’s funny because my mum, my nan and everyone came to a viewing in Liverpool and I had to tell them quickly: “I apologise for the language! Please understand!” And then I kind of pointed to Paul and said: “It’s his fault!” [laughs]. But it’s a part that you play and when I got the script I thought Tracey’s character was just so strong and really feisty. It’s a lot different from anything I’ve done before, like Phantom [Of The Opera], and a great opportunity for me. It’s my first lead in a film.
Q. How was the decapitation scene?
Jennifer Ellison: It was shot at 5am, it was ice cold and I had this ice-cold blood being constantly poured on me… I was constantly gagging, so it was awful. And I had my head in all this cow dung.
Q. What did you do with your severed head? Did you get to keep it?
Jennifer Ellison: I don’t know actually where the head is. But I should. When I’m feeling hungry I can just put it on… But it’s kind of weird, especially for my mum, because I took a picture of it and she saw it and screamed. It must be quite scary seeing someone that you know like that, especially having been decapitated from the jaw.
Q. Did you have to get a cast of it done?
Jennifer Ellison: I had a full body cast because they also had to pull my body away at the end of it. That was horrible. It totally covered your face and you can’t breathe. They leave you there to go off for a cup of tea and you’re like [screams with angst]. It was really uncomfortable.
Q. It’s been quite a while since Phantom and seeing you in a film. What’s been happening with you since then?
Jennifer Ellison: It’s just the business really – the film industry and getting funding. I think I’ve been cast in about eight films but if you’re not doing Hollywood films, it’s all about getting the funding. The only reason this happened, for instance, is because he [Paul Andrew Williams] went away and did London To Brighton by borrowing the money. But it won all the awards and people were more interested. There are a lot of directors out there who can’t get the funding for British films.
Q. Have you got anything else lined up?
Jennifer Ellison: I have, yes. I’ve just been called back a few times for a new film, which is an American movie, and I’ve been offered a new musical, a West End play. So we’ll see.
Q. You mentioned going back into the West End possibly, where you enjoyed tremendous success with Chicago and Boeing Boeing. Which do you prefer: theatre or film?
Jennifer Ellison: I like both really. I think it’s totally different with film in that you don’t actually see the end result for a few months, whereas with the West End it’s instant. So, you get more of an adrenaline rush and more of a buzz. As a performer there’s nothing better than going out in front of an audience really. And you can’t have another go at it either. But what’s great about this film is that we had quite a big rehearsal process where we could really develop the characters and do a bit of improvisation. It was really nice to be able to do that. Sometimes in the West End, I’m just kind of thrown in – one day’s rehearsal and off you go. So that’s a luxury really. Also, I remember on Boeing Boeing that one night it could be great with everyone contributing to the atmosphere and wetting themselves. And then the next night it could be… nothing. It’s so weird.
Q. What are your favourite horror films and why?
Jennifer Ellison: Silence of the Lambs. I just love Anthony Hopkins’ performance in that and think it’s a great film. And The Shining.
The Cottage is released in UK cinemas on Friday, March 14, 2008.