If you don’t know who Australian actress Sarah Snook is yet, you definitely will after watching her performance in Kevin Greutert’s horror film Jessabelle. In the movie, Snook plays Jessie, a woman whose future plans for happiness are forever destroyed when a truck crashes into her boyfriend’s car, killing him and seriously injuring her.
Devastated by what has happened, Jessie decides to travel back home to Louisiana to recover from her injuries. This reunites her with her father, whom she has not always had the best relationship with. While at the old family house, Jessie comes across a set of videotapes that her mother left for her when she turned 18, but watching them ends up releasing an evil spirit who becomes intent on returning to the real world.
A couple of weeks back, during the film’s press day, I landed an exclusive interview with Snook. During our discussion, she spoke about how she was cast in Jessabelle, the differences between working in Australian and American productions, and revealed that at one point, she up for the role of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
Kevin Greutert told me that he managed to cast you just before you left town.
Sarah Snook: It was amazing. I had gone over to the States for some other reasons and I had been in my manager’s office for about 4 hours and had not been doing anything and I went, “What am I doing here?” So I was off and suddenly as soon as I left my manager was like “one last thing” (laughs). So I went over to his (Kevin’s) place and we hit it off. I really liked Kevin.
I came into this movie not realizing that you are Australian, and your American accent sounds very natural. How long did it take for you to master the American accent and was it very difficult for you to pull off?
Sarah Snook: Yes and no. We have a lot of American TV in Australia. I grew up watching Seinfeld, The Simpsons and those prime time TV shows over the years that feature grown-ups and high school kids. We had a saturation of American voices. The accent, the sound of it, is something that I recognized, but that’s a different thing to put it together for performance. It was a different kind of American accent also. It was a North Carolina, Southern accent. I really enjoyed doing it. I love playing characters with different accents. It’s a lot of fun.
One of your biggest challenges in this movie was that you spent most of it in a wheelchair. How long did it take for you to get used to being in that wheelchair?
Sarah Snook: I’d like to say it took a really long time, but actually it doesn’t take you long to get used to it. The thing that was the hardest though was the inability to offer anything in terms of physical blocking. Usually when you start to rehearse a scene and you’re setting up the choreography of it you say, “well I’m going to go over here and I’m going to pick up this telephone” or “I’m going to go over there,” and it takes so much longer in a wheelchair. So often it’s just laborious to do that, but it offered so many interesting opportunities for the character because she’s a bit of an observer, she’s a watcher, she’s trying to works things out and so a lot of that had to be worked from a point of stillness which was nice.
There are scenes where your character is seeing things that others cannot. How tricky was it shooting those scenes?
Sarah Snook: Well the scenes that I loved shooting the most were the supernatural element scenes because you really get to dive into your own imagination. Also, working with Amber (Stevens) was so great. When she was gets into the character of the ghoul she was actually genuinely scary, so those parts were really fun. You just have to really engage with your own imagination.
This is your first American film. How does working on Australian productions differ from working on American productions?
Sarah Snook: They are not different in too many ways. The thing I really love about film is there’s a really big sense of teamwork and everyone has to do their job to the best of their ability to make the film work in the first place. The difference maybe is in terms of budget. American films usually tend to have a bigger budget, but for Jessabelle we had a smaller budget in comparison to a lot of American films. I think that kind of helps because everyone wants to tell stories and get in and do it, and I like that kind of filmmaking.
You have a great acting moment here when you watch your mother’s videotapes and we see a stream of emotions pour over your face. It says so much more than words can. What was it like shooting that particular scene?
Sarah Snook: It was kind of difficult in a way. It was difficult in that I hadn’t met Joelle (Carter who plays Jessie’s mom, Kate) properly. We hadn’t had much time together. We hadn’t actually shot any scenes where we are together, and in a way that was the same as the story. Jessie had never known her mother and she has this connection to an idea of her and an ideal. But I enjoy them because those scenes are the best scenes because you just get to react off of something and just listen, and you just watch without having to worry about yourself or what you’re doing.
Your mother on those videos uses tarot cards, and I talked to Kevin about that and we agreed that tarot card readings never seem to end well for anybody (Sarah laughs). Do you have any experience with tarot cards?
Sarah Snook: Not with tarot cards specifically. I’ve had something sort of like angel cards where you pull out an angel card that turns out like grandmother was watching over me. And I believe in some way I haven’t been brave enough to engage with tarot cards mostly because they always end on a bad note. I’m sure if I understood tarot cards more I wouldn’t be as fearful. Maybe later, but I’m not quite there yet.