Exclusive Interview: Haley Bennett Talks The Girl On The Train


No, you don’t have to do a double-take. You did just see Haley Bennett in The Magnificent Seven, and now she’s back only a few short weeks later with another blockbuster affair, Tate Taylor’s The Girl On The Train. The Paula Hawkins adaptation also stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans, but Bennett gets to star as arguably the most important cog in Hawkins’ twisty, mysterious machine. For those of you who read the book during its best-seller run, Bennett plays the part of Megan Hipwell. You know how things go.

For those who don’t, understand that Tate Taylor’s suburban nightmare is never what it seems. The film itself has screened to some pretty rocky reviews so far, so it looks like I’m in the minority of critics who believe The Girl On The Train is a homegrown story of passion and pain worth each jarring curveball. Taylor doesn’t exactly hold his cards close to his chest, but he plays them like a winning hand anyway. That’s largely due to a handful of great performances invested in keeping intrigue alive, so manipulative of their perfect little Long Island lifestyles.

In support of her new film, Ms. Bennett sat down to talk about her participation in The Girl On The Train. I’d like to thank the actress for her time at the tail-end of an interview-loaded day, and encourage you all to give Tate Taylor’s new thriller a shot. Read on to hear why!

We Got This Covered: So, I have to start with the most obvious question – did you read The Girl On The Train before tackling the part of Megan Hipwell?

Haley Bennett: Yeah, I had read the novel. I found it on a bookshelf in Louisiana while I was shooting The Magnificent Seven. I was excited because it was a perspective of three female characters, versus working with seven guys on The Magnificent Seven. [Laughs] That was the gateway.

WGTC: When you read a novel, you’re forced to picture the characters in your head. During your own reading, how did your initial image of Meghan compare to your performance and physicality?

Haley Bennett: I put myself in the shoes of all these characters in a way. As we do, it’s a reflection. Some things are a reflection of ourselves and then we dispose of the ones that aren’t.

WGTC: The film does draw some comparisons to David Fincher’s Gone Girl, so I’m just curious if that was something that Tate Taylor and the production team were conscious of while filming?

Haley Bennett: I think the only similarities are that they’re both thrillers and that the word “girl” is in the title. [Laughs]

WGTC: Well then when you’re making a film so hinged on mystery and twists, what makes for a proper “reveal” scenario and how does The Girl On The Train work to perfect that art?

Haley Bennett: When you get lost in the characters instead of thinking about a reveal to come, that was our goal. There’s more of a reveal when you’re not expecting it, or when you’re distracted by the storylines.

Actress Haley Bennett attends "The Equalizer" premiere at Roy Thomson Hall during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

WGTC: Having already read the book, was it a distraction to your performance knowing your character’s arc?

Haley Bennett: Not really. We were conscious of it because we didn’t want to give anything away, so of course there are technicalities you think about instead of storytelling. Not to show faces or lead on.

WGTC: At the moment, you’re starring in a slew of high-profile blockbusters. The Magnificent Seven just came out, only a few weeks later you’re releasing The Girl On The Train, you have a Warren Beatty film coming out around the corner – has that experience been overwhelming at all?

Haley Bennett: There’s just more work to put in, and that’s the focus. I don’t put a focus on notoriety or anything.

WGTC: Coming from an indie background, did you face any challenges when jumping into these blockbuster odeals?

Haley Bennett: Movies are really hard to make. You put a lot of work into them, and you want people to see them. If anything, I’m just very grateful I’m getting to work on these big movies that everyone can go see.

WGTC: The cinematic resume you’ve built is quite eclectic, and I’m wondering if that’s been a conscious choice you’ve made along the way?

Haley Bennett: For any actor – not just talking about myself – but if you’ve been fortunate enough to work for a long period of time, there’s going to be different choices you’re going to make.

WGTC: Being a horror fan, my first experiences with your work were films like The Haunting Of Molly Hartley, Kristy, and The Hole – are you a genre fan by nature?

Haley Bennett: No, not at all. [Laughs] At the time, I was just starting my career, and I wanted the opportunity to explore a range of emotions rather than the divisive horror film. I was at the mercy of other people, and those seemed like the most interesting choices at the time given the opportunities I was presented.

WGTC: Hardcore Henry is of the same nature – such a stand-out film in terms of originality that you participated in. What drew you to such an ambitious role?

Haley Bennett: There hadn’t been a film told in this format before. It was a unique situation where I thought the filmmaker was a risk taker, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to experiment with a different set of challenges. It was very technical. That’s what really drove me.

WGTC: So it seems like you’re drawn to challenges. What’s your dream goal for your career at this point, then?

Haley Bennett: It could be interesting to eventually source my own material and produce something that I believed in. I don’t know how far off that is, but it could be an interesting challenge.

WGTC: You mentioned earlier that The Girl On The Train tells a story from the perspective of a few woman, where men are portrayed in a different light. Was there ever a deliberate statement the film wanted to make about gender norms we may have created in society?

Haley Bennett: No, I think all the characters manipulate each other – I don’t think it was a matter of gender. These are all strong characters, specifically speaking for my own. That’s one of Megan’s character traits, manipulation. That’s a place she feels comfortable. She manipulates men – well, actually it’s more of a challenge. I think all these characters are culpable of manipulation, and the same amount of negativity. They’re all equally flawed, men and women.

WGTC: Were you ready for the places Tate Taylor was going to take The Girl On The Train? As a horror fan, a few scenes in particular even took myself aback, but as an actress, were you ready for that level of intensity?

Haley Bennett: In my conversations with Tate, we were all going to go there. That was something we all agreed on. If we were going to go there, we were going to go all the way.

That concludes our interview, but I’d once again like to thank Haley Bennett for her time. Be sure to catch The Girl On The Train when it opens this weekend!