As strong, female roles become more prominent in Hollywood action movies, one of the more notable performances of the lot belongs to Australian actress Sharni Vinson, in her upcoming feature You’re Next – and we had the pleasure in discussing the rise of such roles with the talented performer.
Kicking serious ass in her latest flick, the former Home & Away star Vinson discusses the allurement in taking such action orientated roles, as well as how she prepares – both physically and mentally – for such a part. She also tells us about her love for the horror genre as well as her own future behind the camera, hoping to emulate the likes of Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg, the director and co-star, respectively, on this memorable project.
So tell us about Erin – she’s quite a character.
She is awesome. I want to be Erin. How do I be here for the rest of my life? How do we make this happen? This is like the character you don’t want to see end, I didn’t want to end shooting it, and I never wanted bad to happen to her – I wanted to protect her. As soon as I read this script, I knew I had to be given the opportunity to portray a strong, female lead in a horror movie that is a protagonist that is not sexualised and just truly has qualities inside of her that given the situation, we all wish we could have in that moment, you know, to protect your family and house in such a situation. She’s not the girl running away from the fight, she is the girl standing up to the fight, and fighting back – and I just appreciated the guts in her, and that’s what I loved about the role.
It must be so refreshing for you to be offered a role such as this? A dominant, female lead.
Yes! Yes. Because it can be so hard, they say choosing your next role can be the biggest gamble of your life, because it’s so difficult to know what’s going to be good and what’s not. But really you just have to choose what reflects you and what you could reflect – and that is everything I found in this girl, it was everything I needed at the time. Something a little more action, a bad-ass girl, yet she still has a personality and you can feel for her and sympathise at the end of the day, it’s not too tough on the surface, or too one-dimensional, I feel she has got a few dimensions in there.
Would you say there has been a rise recently in strong, female leads in Hollywood?
Yup, and I think it’s just reflecting society in this day and age, that we’re all equal. Just because women are women and men are men doesn’t mean that men can’t embody feminine characteristics and women can’t embody male characteristics. I feel the beauty is that, yes this character is clearly female, but she embodies elements of a male that just make her more powerful at the end of the day. It’s kind of bringing everything together, it’s not saying that to be female and to be tough to have to be more like a dude, you’re still a woman, but who’s to say you can’t do it as well? They are writing roles that way now and it’s really interesting.
Have you always wanted to get into action orientated roles?
Yeah, I grew up through sports. Competitive swimming was my thing, and then I did horse riding – but that was more for a love of it, not competitively. Then I went through the performing arts industry and dancing, and with that there is a really beautiful, natural crossover between movement and physicality, to action. So now I am seeking the roles that are more action orientated to utilise talents that I had growing up with the dancing, that can now be moved into the action genre.
So did you have to train much for this role – or where you already in good shape for it?
I didn’t do much, though when I say not much, I mean in compared to Step Up 3D, which was 5 weeks of boot camp. 14 hours a day of dancing. This was, say, 3 hours a day for maybe 10 days before we started shooting, where I would get with the stunt coordinator and it was more martial arts, reaction time – to get your head into the mentality of a woman who has grown up in a survivalist compound, you need to be familiar with reactions and how she is a step ahead of the game in hearing things and reacting to circumstances as they’re unfolding. So it was getting that mental reaction timing, which was cool because I would stand up against the wall and they’d just throw objects at me from different directions and I just had to get out of the way. That was more the training for this one.
So what attracted you to the horror genre?
I think that, when we go to the movies, all we’re after is an experience, to escape reality and have another experience, and when it comes with horror movies you’re going in knowing that the experience you’re going to get is scary, and we love to be scared. We just do, we like to genuinely accept the challenge of – can this movie actually scare me? I have always responded well as an audience member to watching horror movies, and as an actor I have been seeking the more high-drama, high-physical action roles as well, and all of those elements fell into this one. I think people just love horror movies because they can submerge themselves into a place that isn’t a reality and go into somebody else’s world.
As for working with director Adam Wingard – he strikes me as someone always willing to test boundaries – and your co-star Joe Swanberg is the same as a director. How great was it for you to work alongside such creative filmmakers?
Right? Well at first you’re out of your league and out of your element, because all the things you’ve been taught in a specific way, here are people going, “nah – this is how we’re doing it”. It’s so much more enjoyable as an actor to be given that freedom of expression, and to work with other actors who are not just actors but directors too, so they are so familiar with the concept here and they’re nailing it more than anybody – and I learnt from them, so it was just this incredible learning experience and to be surrounded by such talent. I felt the need to raise my bar to be amongst these people and that is a good thing for me.
Have you ever had any ideas to do anything behind the camera yourself?
I mean, nothing is to far into the distance, in a sense that we can be whoever we want to be – I’m interested in this industry. Period. That involves all aspects of the industry and even going through a show like Home and Away where you’re on a set for three years, you’re cast as an actress, you’re acting. But in every spare second I had I would go into the editing room and sit with the editor and we’d chat and he’d tell me all about the editing world and I’m so in love with editing. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed, but I am. It’s just so interesting to see how everything is put together, and I would love to do that one day. I also write, I love to write poems, I’m a big poetry writer. Maybe that will either turn into songs or a film or something, but I do love to write. A director has a lot of responsibility, and I don’t know if I want that much responsibility, but you never know – and the industry is very much open for paths crossing, for sure.
You’re Next is released nationwide on August 28th.