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KAYA SCODELARIO INTERVIEW

Interview conducted by Ryan Holloway

Kaya Scodelario is probably best known for her role as Effy Stonem in the hit TV series Skins. At just 15 it was clear she was already bursting with talent, which led to her first movie role as Eve in Duncan Jones’ sci-fi sleeper-hit Moon.

It was her role as Cathy in the 2010 adaptation of Wuthering Heights that quite rightly gained her critical acclaim and since then she has been making a steady climb onto a bigger stage with roles in blockbusters such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and the hugely popular Maze Runner series based on the young adult novels by James Dashner.

More recently Kaya has starred as Carole Ann Boone in the film based on Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, alongside Zac Efron and will soon be seen in US ice-skating drama Spinning Out coming to Netflix.

This month sees the release of her latest film Crawl, a home invasion creature feature directed by Alexandre Aja and produced by Sam Raimi. The film perfectly demonstrates the acting prowess of an actress who is not only one of the UKs best exports, but more importantly, is our latest Scream Queen recruit.

Horror DNA was lucky enough to be invited to interview Kaya on the US leg of her promotional tour for the film. Read on as we chat alligators, filming in water, and whether The Thing counts as a creature feature…?

Ryan Holloway: So now you’re officially a scream queen, was the horror genre something you always wanted to go into or was it a case of right script, right time?

Kaya Scodelario: [laughs] Definitely right script, right time. I mean I wish that I’d been able to plan out my career, but the realities of it aren’t that way and especially as a woman, for me, it all depends on what the source material is, what it says on the page, who the character is, who the filmmakers involved are. I was a bit apprehensive at first when they reached out to me about it because my experience of horror films unfortunately was mostly kind of tweeny ones where there’s a pair of tits out for no reason at some point, or someone is tripping and falling constantly. I knew that Wyck Godfrey, who reached out to me, was a producer on The Maze Runner series and now at Paramount. He just said that I know that you’re strong and I know that you’re powerful, I want you to play this character because we are trying to bring this young woman to the screen. She’s going to carry the movie and she’s relentless and we think you’d be great at that. I had a read of it and to be honest it was probably one of the most feminist scripts I’ve ever read in the last ten years. I’m not anyone’s girlfriend, I’m no ones damsel and I’m not naked, so I was really excited about it.

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RH: It certainly is a great role and a strong female character. Was your portrayal of Haley as written or did you bring some of yourself to the role?

KS: Yes, I beefed her up as much as I could. I wanted to keep her within a realistic realm, but, you know, thinking about it, she’s an athlete, she’s been training since the age of four, she’s used to putting herself through a regime. She punishes herself, she’s forceful, she’s powerful and there were moments I wanted to bring that in more. I mean, it would be scripted that she screams at the spiders [there are spiders in this film too!] and I would grunt instead and I think that’s an important shift, the idea that when I’m frustrated or afraid I’m angry about it, I’m not necessarily falling over backwards so I tried to give her a bit more of that, she’s got an underlying grunt that I think is quite important.

RH: Definitely.

KS: And other little things like kicking the shoes off, that was my idea and everyone was freaking out about it: ‘you’re going to cut your foot open’ and ‘you can’t shoot an entire movie with an actress bare foot’ and I was like no fuck it, I’m a chick, I know what it’s like to wear flip-flops in the mud, you take them off, it doesn’t work! They’re gonna be squidgy and squelchy and you just want to get rid of them, so those were some little things I tried to beef up with her.

RH: Well at least you didn’t have high heels like in other recent creature features.

KS: Exactly

RH: I literally can’t imagine anyone else playing Hayley having watched the film Is it hard to keep that kind of intensity on set or is there an amazing gag reel that is yet to be unearthed?

KS: No, I’m quite weird, I’m a bit of a weirdo in that I can switch in and out of it quite easily, so I will keep the intensity and then make a fart joke, but I wanted to keep as much as the focus as possible, it was important for that. There were days when I would go home and realise that I hadn’t switched off, that I’d stayed in it and there were times when that got too much and my mum would have to say to me, "You need to go have a shower and watch some shitty reality show or something to just go back to being you", because you are in this constant set of emotions on the surface and being focused. It was helpful to kind of be one of the only people on set. I’m used to having seven or eight people around me and everyone joking around and going in and out of it and checking their phones and all that kind of shit. There was none of that with this. Where we were in the tank, you know, you can’t check your phone, you can’t goof around, you’re in the shit along with all the crew and everyone just wants to go home, so I took no breaks. I don’t think I ever went back to my trailer for five weeks, it was all about just being there, I would walk on set in the morning and I’d be there till the end of the day. I think that really helped with the pacing of the movie.

RH: The pacing is relentless! Did you draw any inspiration from past characters, or actors/actresses or did you just read this and think "I know exactly how I’m going to play this"?

KS: I kind of knew who she was off the page, I could feel a strength in her that I think I’d not been given before, which really excited me. I think she may have been Teresa in The Maze Runner had Teresa been given more to do, had she been given the opportunity to just break free from just being in the background. I wanted to just unleash her in her own way, so I don’t think I really built her out of anyone else but probably more from my own inner anger over the last years from wanting a role like this. [laughs]

RH: This question is more for our Horror DNA readers, and myself. Do you have a favourite creature feature?

KS: Does The Thing count?

RH: Oh God yeah, The Thing is one of my favourite horrors.

KS: Does it count as a creature?

RH: I think so. I mean it’s kind of multiple creatures in a way.

KS: [Pause] Yeah… that really affected me as a child. I watched The Exorcist when I was far too young. I was having a sleepover when I was eight years old and we all watched that, and that fucked me up for a good while, but in a great way, I find it so exciting.

RH: Yeah, same.

KS: Gremlins? Gremlins was one of my Mum’s favourite movies so I used to watch that quite a lot.

RH: Yeah, Gremlins is actually one of my all-time favourites, it’s so silly.

KS: Campy isn’t it?

RH: Oh God yeah. So what scares you then? I guess demons after watching The Exorcist at eight!

KS: Demons, demons are a bad one. I can’t get through [TV series] Chernobyl because I have a fear of people’s faces melting.

RH: Oh yeah, it's harrowing!

KS: I literally can’t watch it, I’ve tried three times and I can’t get through it because it scares me too much.

RH: Oh you must watch it.

KS: I know, I’m going to try in the daytime. [laughs]

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RH: So did you learn anything about alligators that you didn’t already know?

KS: Yeah, I learned quite a lot, it was important for me, working with Alex, I didn’t want to do the thing of ‘she should be dead now.’ I wanted us to find a way to make sure that every injury was justified, so I researched a lot about alligator bites and the idea that a lot of the time they are just flesh wounds, they look horrific because they will get to the muscle but it is a stretch to break bone. So that was great to know and really helpful to me because then I could sort of be walking on a leg that looked like it should have been snapped off.

RH: Yeah, that’s true, I think it was around two thirds of the way though where I thought, well, she might be able to have a swimming career still.

KS: [Laughs]

RH: And then there was one particular injury when I thought, no, that’s gotta be over.

KS: Its over, you’ll never play the violin again!

RH: Yeah, that’s that career over. Was there any prep? Like swimming, or anything like that, did you have to train?

KS: Yeah, quite intensely. I worked out with a personal trainer called George Ashwell, who works out of a gym in Knightsbridge called Twenty Two and they specialize in core strength and stamina, which is what I needed. I’m not the healthiest person in the world and I’d never really worked out before, but I wanted to feel as strong as possible. I wanted to build muscle, I didn’t want to lose weight, I wanted to bulk up, so I worked with him a lot and then did an hour a day in the pool at the London Aquatic Centre with a coach and he took me from a really terrible breast stroke to being able to do a really strong one. I started out in the kiddie’s lane with the floaty thing and being outrun by six-year-olds.

RH: How did that make you feel?

KS: Awful. Terrible. Very embarrassing, but also put me in my place, which was good, it made me work harder.

RH: These kinds of roles will hopefully come up more. Do you pick up any tips as you’re working on a film and would you like to direct one day?

KS: Yeah, I do, I wanna produce. I love the idea of telling a story from conception right through to release and Alex really brought home to me something I always kind of knew, that a director's job is so important, it’s such its own part of filmmaking as a whole; there’s so much technicality that goes into it. I think I would personally lean more towards the creative side, but I really thoroughly respect that he’s managing to choreograph tension on an 18-hour-shoot day, knowing that it's going to be an hour-and-a-half eventually. You have to have so much skill to be able to do that, to know what moments to focus on and how they’re going to fit in to the overall project. That’s something I would love to learn more about, there’s a reason he’s so great at what he does, not everyone can do it.

RH: Yeah it’s an amazing skill and the direction in this film is superb. What kind of atmosphere does Alexandre create on set for the actors?

KS: Really quite a nice friendly one. He’s very relaxed, very chilled, he’s not a screamy ‘fuck you’ director, which is great. He was in a wetsuit in the tank with us every day, which was impressive; I’ve seen directors sit on the side eating pizza, not doing any of that.

RH: We won’t name them.

KS: [Laughing]…one day. But he really gets involved and I just felt very safe with him. He respected straight away how I work and knows that my best takes are usually my first and my second, I don’t like to do things over and over again; I work very instinctively. He allowed me the time to get ready for scenes but also knew that he could rush me if he needed to. I think we worked really well together.

RH: That’s great. Do you ever ruminate over things? Do you, at the end of the day, ever think ‘I wish I’d done it like that?’ Is Alex reassuring?

KS: I think it’s important to just be in the moment and tell the truth of what you’re feeling in that second, I don’t ever watch the monitors; I struggle to even watch the film back at the end, I think projecting emotions and feelings are just that, they’re inconsistent and they are what they are in that moment, so I kind of give my character that and I try to build her as honestly as possible and then allow that to be what it’s gonna be.

RH: On this film, I’m assuming the alligators were mostly CG, but was there anything on set and how do you prepare for fighting with an alligator? Do you just kind of practice with a really angry dog?

KS: [Laughs] That would be horrific! No, he had some sort of imagery that we could look at so I knew what his idea for the CGI concept would be and then we did have a kind of practical dummy, if you will, of the alligators, that was kind of like a shitty art project version.

RH: Like Papier-Mâché?

KS: Yeah, exactly, and then we literally had a green pillow on a stick and then finally we had a stunt guy who was dressed head to toe in lime green lycra. That was my favourite.

RH: So was there a favourite time on set?

KS: None of it was happy [laughs]

RH: No, I can’t imagine it would be especially.

KS: The last day was kind of beautiful in that, it’s when we shot all the deep underwater sequences, so I was either in scuba gear or I was going to the bottom of a 20-foot pool and it was just really nice and silent. I didn’t have the wind machines and the rain, I was just kind of alone with Hayley one last time, which was really nice. When we shouted ‘cut’ and knew it was the end, everyone jumped off the side of the pool into the water knowing that we’d never have to get back in again,

RH: Well that sounds nice. I guess acting is the same as a lot of jobs, when you go from job to job and you learn something new every time, did you learn something new about yourself?

KS: Yeah, I definitely did. I learned that I could push myself to a really extreme place instead of feeling fragile and broken. It can kind of empower me to keep going and I wasn’t sure I would be able to. I had a lot of support around me, but there were days when I truly thought I can’t do this, I wanna go home, get in my pajamas and eat ice cream. I realised at the end when it was all over that I missed it and that I do truly love it. I love destroying myself for my art, as morbid as that sounds, I get a fucking kick out of it, I’m so lucky to do what I do and I want to do it as much as I can.

RH: Now I have to ask this, I love dogs and have one myself, I did fear for the dog a lot during this film.

KS: Yeah

[WARNING: PLOT SPOILER DISCUSSED AFTER THESE IMAGES]

[WARNING: PLOT SPOILER DISCUSSED AFTER THESE IMAGES]

[WARNING: PLOT SPOILER DISCUSSED AFTER THESE IMAGES]

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RH: Were you surprised that the dog lived?

KS: Well yeah, it was my running joke on set whenever they brought the dog on, I’d be like "Bloody hell, the dog's still here, you made it!"

RH: Well yeah exactly, as soon as the dog appeared on screen I thought, right, I know where this is going.

KS: Well there was a lot of discussion back and forth about whether the dog would make it. The dog making it was kind of a last minute decision. For a while we didn’t know if she was going to or not but I’m glad she did because she was great. Great to work with. [Laughs]

RH: Do you think you’ll work with Alexandre again?

KS: I would love to. I really respect him as a filmmaker and I really like him as a person and that’s kind of rare to find sometimes. So I would in a heartbeat.

RH: Good to hear, so this film hasn’t put you off the idea of making more horror films in the future?

KS: No, it’s just put me off going to Florida.

RH: [Laughs]

KS: [Laughing] I’m joking, I love it…everyone in Florida, please don’t hate me…

RH: So no sequel do you think?

KS: At the moment there is nothing in the pipeline but I wouldn’t be against it. I had so much fun shooting it and I really love Hayley as a character so it would be interesting to see what happens next.

RH: So, we’re out of time. Thanks so much for talking to me. Good luck with the release.

KS: Thank you so much.

CRAWL, from Paramount Pictures UK, will play on opening night of Frightfest, 22nd August, before opening across the UK 23rd August. 

About The Author
Ryan Holloway
Staff Reviewer
As far back as he can remember Ryan has always had an obsession with films, and horror in particular. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and ‘Alien’ were the first films that really stuck in the psyche and rather than scarring his tiny mind and running up a huge therapy bill, those films created a fascination with the dark side of life and art. Brought up by Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers (not literally), horror will always fascinate him no matter how absurd, dark, twisted, barmy or just plain wrong. Horror DNA gives him the opportunity, and excuse, to legitimise his macabre tastes and watch whatever strangeness comes his way.
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