Sharni Vinson chats with INFLUX Magazine
by Jason Howard
You’re Next takes the familiar concept of a home invasion and turns it on its head with a very interesting twist. That twist comes in the form of the film’s lovely and talented star, Sharni Vinson. Her character is one of the driving forces behind making You’re Next so successful and unique. Having watched the movie, I then had a chance to chat with Sharni and get inside her head regarding her character and experience making the movie. Warning – there are some very MINOR spoilers within, but it’s absolutely nothing that is not already revealed in the trailers or that you haven’t already read in EVERYTHING that has been written thus far about the film. Basically, we talk a little bit about what has essentially been the big selling point for the movie, but I figured it’s worth a mention. Enjoy!
Jason Howard: With the long road that you and your fellow cast and crew of You’re Next, is it a relief that the release date is finally almost upon us?
Sharni Vinson: To say the least. Absolutely – relief is definitely the word. Very overwhelming as well. I’ve actually almost gotten emotional the last couple of days and I don’t even get emotional. I think we have been waiting such a long time for it that with it finally being a week away, we’re all very grateful that it’s finally happening. For awhile there, we just weren’t sure if the world was going to get the opportunity to enjoy this product that we made and thank God that they are.
JH: Absolutely – it’s a great film! What is it about the role of Erin that first attracted you?
SV: It was just, I think, initially when I read the script, I wasn’t aware of how much weight was going to fall on the actresses shoulders that would play Erin. I didn’t realize she was such a prominent part of the film, to say the least. In reading it and realizing her journey through this film and everything that she embodies, i wanted that challenge. I really want to stay busy as I possibly can when shooting a movie, and on a set, I get bored really fast if I just have to sit down and stand up every other hour, deliver a line, then sit back down. I saw how many challenges were being presented with this role and how busy I would be. With the demands that would be met on an emotional and physical level, I could not wait to dive into that.
JH: Sure. I imagine that boredom wasn’t much of an issue here considering there’s really not much of the running time that you are NOT on-screen.
SV: Yes, there was no boredom on this one!
JH: How much of the character was already in place with the script and how much were you able to flesh out with Adam (Wingard, Director) and Simon (Barrett, Writer)?
SV: Well, Simon had already penned a brilliant, brilliant script. In auditioning for the movie, he had written the role as an American. When I auditioned for the role, I went in with my best American accent and tried to fit in to the character that he had written. In the audition room, they asked me to drop the accent immediately. That threw me actually. I had completely prepared it as an American. You’d think it’d be easier to just speak in your natural voice, but it’s not if you haven’t prepared it that way. So, that threw me and I thought I had given the worst audition of my life. But, something resonated, I think, in Adam and Simon when they heard the Australian accent. They were determined to set the character as an Australian after I came in and with that, came a few tweaks within the script as far as where she had grown up and her background. As we went along each day, we were able to perfect more and more and more of the little details about the character. It became a team collaboration from start to finish. And, nobody’s suggestions went unwarranted, so we really felt like we had a lot to do with the creative process of our characters. And, everybody’s characters were hugely created in part by Simon and in part by the performances given on the day. We weren’t scared to keep rethinking it. If something wasn’t working, we’d change lines here and there as needed. And, thanks to them giving us that freedom, we were really able to step outside our comfort zones and improvise on the day and just let moments happen naturally.
JH: Did you already have any background in survivalist or combat skills? How much training did you have to go through to prepare for the movie?
SV: I had grown up a dancer for 15 years and I think with dancing comes a lot of the crossover into the physical world. I had shot a movie called Step Up 3D, which had given me so many different elements of movement and physicality that I then put into this role. I’d done Capoeira, which is this pretty amazing Brazilian martial art that’s no joke. I’d also done a lot of parkour and boxing. So, I think amongst those four fields, the physicality was quite there. It was more getting into the mental state of the character and what it would actually feel like to grow up on a survivalist compound.
JH: From what I saw, it was either incredibly seemless, or you did most, if not all of your own stunts – is that the case?
SV: Yeah, one of the reasons that I look for these types of roles is that I want to push myself to the extremes and I’m not afraid to break bones. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I always wanted to be a stuntwoman. That’s how my name came up and was recommended for the role. It was through a stuntman friend of mind. They thought, “why don’t you look at Sharni? She’ll give you anything. She’ll jump out a window. She’ll do whatever you want!” Basically, when it comes to the final product of the film, I do all my own stunts except for that one jump out the window. I actually stood there devastated on the day that they wouldn’t let me do it. I was ready to go. They brought in the stunt girl, who was fantastic, and after watching her do it, I could see that yeah, it was pretty intense. If they had offered for me to do it, I would have absolutely thrown myself out that window. I was kinda bummed that I didn’t get the chance to do it, but safety is always a concern! But, maybe next time!
JH: There was a subtle nuance that I may have noticed, unless I am imagining it, which I’m known to do, that not only were her fellow characters and movie going audiences surprised by Erin’s skill set, but it seems like maybe she was a little caught off guard herself by how she was able to put the skills to use. Was that a conscious effort on your part? Was it in your mind when filming those scenes?
SV: Yes, absolutely. I kind of created the backstory of the character in my mind. What I had created in my head was that she had definitely grown up on a survivalist compound and she moved to the States with her mother when she was 15. So, it was like, she was taught all these skills growing up as a child for the fear that maybe a situation would arise that she’d ever have to do it. But, I played it that she’d never ACTUALLY had to do it before. So, it was like she had learnt these skills, but never had to put them to use before. So, I really tried to start her off as normal and relatable and likeable as possible, which then provided the nice shock twist after she can kind of stand up and make the first, sort of, revenge kill. I wanted her to be just as shocked in that moment after it happened that an audience would be, but in a different, more internal way. I definitely wanted to play the intention out that, with every kill, she was shocking herself almost as much as the audience were being shocked. And, proving herself, too. That was important because, otherwise, she was superhuman, and I didn’t want to make her that. She’s normal and these things are just happening as they go. So, yeah, that was definitely a conscious choice to create more of a character arc that the audience could also join her on that journey.
JH: With all of the action and ass-kicking going on, were there any on set injuries or close calls that you can recall?
SV: (laughs) Of course! Always! But, the good news is that I didn’t break anything on this one! I usually break a bone or two in my movies because I go full-out. So, we had success in that we didn’t break anything on this shoot, however there was some serious, massive bruising going on just in how many times I had to dive through things and over things and jump. With the three-way stunt choreographed scene in the kitchen that happens towards the end, there were many elements of danger in the fact that the floor was wet, because I had to saturate one of the actors with oil. There were just many things that presented the potential risk of injury. I think the biggest one that happened was, right at the beginning when we’re shooting the big dinner table scene with the whole cast present on the set, and all the drama begins, Amy Seimetz went under the table before me. Then, I had to crawl under the table and go under her straightaway. She was in these six-inch stiletto heels and I didn’t know that she hadn’t cleared the table and gotten completely to the other side yet. So, when I flipped the table-cloth up and dove under the table, ready to begin this really fast crawl, she was right there and the edge of her stiletto went straight into the corner of my eye. It probably missed the pupil of my eye by a couple of millimeters – it was such a close call. It really, really nicked my eye to the point where we had blood, we had bruising, and my eye instantly turned black and got very swollen. But, I could have lost an eye completely, so it was actually a blessing that it was only that extent of an injury. So, for the rest of that day and the next of shooting, we couldn’t really shoot any close-ups because I was still walking around with a swollen eye. But, it’s all part of the game – it’s part of the fun of making these movies. As long as you don’t actually lose an eye, it’s a good story at the end of the day. It happens!
JH: How was it jumping in as the “new kid on the block” with a cast and crew that had largely worked together on multiple previous projects? Were you welcomed right in?
SV: I had watched A Horrible Way To Die and was familiar with these guys and the fact that they had already worked together on multiple films and were already a tight unit. What that meant was they were able to take these amazing improvisational skills and bounce back and forth off one another and create magic in the moment. Initially, it was like I was such a fish out of water and I didn’t know if we were shooting a horror or a comedy at that dinner table. It was just so hilarious and I wasn’t sure if real people would think it was funny. But, very quickly, I felt like I joined the You’re Next family. Even since then, because we’ve had such long delays waiting for the film to be released, we’ve all been present together at these festival screenings, and, you know we’re a true family unit now. The one thing that did save me was that I travelled over to Columbia, Missouri with my best friend and roommate Wendy Glenn, who plays Zee. We had been living together for four and a half years at that point in Hollywood, so I think the saving grace for me in coming into that situation as an outsider was that I had her. But, by day 2, we were all family forever. It was amazing!
JH: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell our readers about?
SV: Yeah, I also have a film coming out in October. We’re premiering it at Fantastic Fest this year. It’s called Patrick and it’s a horror/thriller. I star in that movie opposite Charles Dance and Rachel Griffiths, who are, you know, kind of like acting royalty to me. It was just an amazing experience to work with them. It’s an Australian film. It’s a remake of the 1978 movie, also called Patrick. It’s a psychological thriller. It’s pretty cool – we’re dealing with telekinesis. I haven’t seen it, but to shoot it was a blast. It’s been screening down in Australia and doing very, very well, so I’m really excited to see it. I think the first time that I do will be at Fantastic Fest. I really hope that America can get behind that movie, too, off the back of You’re Next. It might be a really good follow up, so hopefully that goes down just as well.
JH: Great! I really appreciate you taking time out to chat with me today.
16 August 2013