You're Next - Sharni Vinson interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
AUSTRALIAN actress Sharni Vinson talks about the appeal of playing a tough heroine in horror movie You’re Next and why she feels more drawn to roles that combine a physical element with high drama.
She also reflects on her career to date, including her experience on Home & Away, making the leap from Australia to America, learning how to sing and dance as well as act, and why she’ll be starring alongside Charles Dance next.
Q. What was the appeal of playing Erin in You’re Next? I imagine there was a lot to like about her?
Sharni Vinson: Yeah. She’s the sole reason that I wanted to do this film. The script was fantastic but in reading it, it became very apparent that the weight of the movie was going to fall heavily on whoever portrayed this character because she’s in 96% of the film. That was a challenge that I like. It’s a heavy responsibility but I really enjoy that. I think it was just the fact that she’s normal but she’s not normal at the same time. So, it’s not like I’m portraying a superhero that has these supernatural powers or anything. She really is a normal girl that’s come from Australia. She’s had an interesting upbringing but she really seeks normality and then going into a situation that we’ve all been presented with, where you’re trying to impress the family of your partner for the first time, it’s just the most horrible thing that could ever happen and I think she’s drawing on these skills that she’s never even had to utilise before and it’s a matter of continually shocking herself as we go along. So, I tried to play her that she was almost going on the same ride as the audience, so we were always on the same page.
Q. She becomes very primal by the end…
Sharni Vinson: Right. There had to be a journey. So, I wanted to start her really super normal, relatable, so people felt that they could definitely get on board with her and feel for her because there’s nothing worse than watching people get knocked off a horror movie and not caring. So, we all tried to get as much of our individuals character traits across early on, so the audience would actually have some feeling when these people either lived or died. And there was a reason for everything to happen. I think we did that.
Q. How physically and mentally demanding was shooting the film because there were a lot of night shoots involved?
Sharni Vinson: Yeah, six night shoots a week and on the one night that you had off, you had to stay awake all night to stay on that schedule. So, yeah, it was pretty physically demanding in that sense. But in another way it wasn’t because I’d come off Step Up 3D and there was nothing more physically demanding than that role. That was a five month shoot and 14 hours a day of physical activity. So, after something like that it’s almost like a lot of the skills I learned from that became utilised in this… even though there’s no dancing in You’re Next, it’s a physical role and dancing is a physicality, so there’s a crossover there.
Q. Do you enjoy taking on physical roles. Is it something you look for?
Sharni Vinson: Definitely! I grew up such a physical person. I was in the State Swimming Team for 15 years, so I’m very, very used to getting up at 5am and jumping into a non-heated pool and just banging yourself against the wall when it comes to just how much energy can you expend in one day? I have so much… I’m just such a high energy person that it’s almost not enough to be on a set and just deliver a line every now and then. I need to be doing more. And with action roles and physical roles I get to work with stunt co-ordinators and learn skills that I’ve always wanted to learn. So, I’m more into the martial arts, like knife twirling and baton twirling. My mum was a dancer and she did a musical called Barnum, so she’s a very athletic acrobat and circus performer. So, it’s always something that I’ve wanted to do and always owned more of those skills. So, these are the type of roles that I look for because they’re challenging.
Q. Is it harder to find those kinds of roles – and good ones?
Sharni Vinson: It is because they’re either your typical action movie that’s written just for that and for the action and then there’s your high end dramas. I think it’s rare that you can combine a really good script and a good storyline where you care with the action. It’s usually one way or the other and I’m kind of looking for the balance. But at the end of the day, I come from Home & Away, which is a drama show, and I love challenging myself as an actress. But I also look to challenge myself as an athlete.
Q. Do you look back on Home & Away with affection?
Sharni Vinson: Oh, absolutely. It was some of the best times of my life. I was on the show for three years and in that three years you just form a family. You’re so tight with the whole cast and crew that by the end of it, on that last day, when you’re finishing up, it’s scary because you’ve been so secure and so set this way for such a long time and you know you’re going to leave your family. If that wasn’t enough, I moved to LA two days after my Home & Away contract, so I didn’t even have time to process the fact that that all came to an end before I started a new beginning. But I think that was almost a good thing because I didn’t have time to get scared by anything – I just did it. But very fond memories.
Q. It seems to be a really good breeding ground for Australian actors and actresses. What do you think makes it so special that it enables you to kick on and enjoy successful careers, often in Hollywood?
Sharni Vinson: The show is just… once you’ve been on a show like Home & Away where you are fed probably every storyline you could get under the sun within the three years you’re on there… once you come off that you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. In a sense, I’d just worked 46 weeks of a year, five to six days a week and that shows dedication. The thing that stands up with a show like Home & Away and coming from Australia and going out to America is, you know, we don’t make much money working on that show and we really do it for the love of acting and no other reason. So, to come into America, that stands up quite high – that you can say I worked 46 weeks a year for the last three years for not too much money and for the love of doing it.
Q. You come from a singing background as well. So, what made you decide to swap singing for acting?
Sharni Vinson: I don’t know if it was ever a conscious choice. I come from third generation musical theatre performers in the family, so it was our thing in our family that you wanted to be considered a triple threat of the dancing, the singing and the acting. And so I always studied equally the three fields of the performing arts industry that way and I was never really married to one specific part of the industry that I wanted to attack. Everything just sort of really unfolded really naturally and I kind of got a really good taste of all three. So, at one point in my life I’d love to do now a musical movie, where I get to utilise the singing as well. I’ve now done the dancing [Step Up 3D]. But people don’t really know that I sing, so it would be a really nice step to jump into a Chicago remake, which they’ve done, but that type of thing where we’re remaking musical movies now. I want to be in A Chorus Line. If they remake that it’ll be awesome! Or Sweet Charity or something.
Q. You’re Next was your first independent film. Do you like working more in the independent sector because it gives you more to do rather than on a studio set?
Sharni Vinson: You know, there’s goods and bads of both. The thing that’s been so incredible about the experience of You’re Next, which was my first independent film, was that you’re involved in the process from the very beginning. Sometimes, these independent movies don’t get picked up by a studio and will never see a release. But fortunately for us, we had the independent experience and now we’re with a big studio like Lionsgate, so I’ve seen the movie go from very beginning script stages, through re-writes, through shooting it, through screening it at festivals, which was a new experience in aiming to get the movie seen and distributed by a studio, and then when Lionsgate picked it up it was like: “Oh my God, we did it, we did it! We made it!” But then we just got put on the back-burner because there were so many films once they merged with Summit to distribute.
We had to all delegate when we were going to be in the theatre, which pushed the release 12 months. And we got to a point where we weren’t even sure we were going to get the release, which would have been devastating… because for the world to have not seen this product would have been a shame. So, it’s this experience with an independent film that you don’t get in studio because you’re shooting a studio movie and you know when it’s going to be released and you know all the answers are there, whereas this one is… now to get to this point and know that you were involved from the beginning, it’s more rewarding.
Q. So how much of a buzz do you get from watching it with audiences? And do you have a favourite reaction from them?
Sharni Vinson: The biggest buzz! I’ve never seen any of my films as much as I’ve seen this one and maybe that is due to the fact that I’ve had to attend a lot of these screenings, so I’ve seen it many, many more times than any of the other films. But I can’t get sick of this movie and the reason I can’t get sick of it is because every time I watch it with a new crowd and see those reactions, then that’s the pay-off… because we made this movie for the fans, so it’s really good to see them responding to it.
Q. You’re doing horror again next with Patrick?
Sharni Vinson: Patrick, yes. It’s an October release. That’s a horror-thriller. It’s nothing like You’re Next but at the same time it’s a similar sort of powerful female role that is the sort of roles that I’m looking for.
Q. And that’s with Charles Dance?
Sharni Vinson: Yes, and Rachel Griffiths.
Q. I’ve heard him be described as formidable. Would you agree?
Sharni Vinson: Yes! He’s royalty. He’s royalty is what he is.
You’re Next is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 28, 2013