Tackling the vampire attack on Alaska
Actress Melissa George would never be considered a “scream queen”, unless you mention how many horror movies she’s appeared in, at which point, she’s likely to scream at you. No, not really; she’s far too nice to do that. When ShockTillYouDrop.com talked to the Aussie beauty about her vampire flick 30 Days of Night, she was surprisingly affable despite having faced hours of TV interviewers asking her many of the same questions.
In the movie based on the popular comic books, George plays Stella, estranged wife of Eben (Josh Hartnett), the town sheriff of remote Barrow, Alaska, which experiences a month of complete darkness once every year, except this time, there’s a band of vampires waiting to take advantage of the lack of sunlight for a 30-day feeding frenzy.
This was the second time we’ve talked to Ms. George–the first time was for her small part as Clive Owen’s wife in the 2005 thriller Derailed–but since we were already groggy from a very long day of interviews, we kicked things off by asking about the whole “to horror or not to horror?” debate every actor must go through.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: I know you’ve said you didn’t want to do a lot more horror after doing this movie.
Melissa George: You know, it’s not about genre, it’s about the script. You can never say “never” because every movie has, sometimes a great storyline or a genre, which everybody loves to pigeonhole things into. Could be horror, you never know.
Shock: True, even David Slade’s previous movie “Hard Candy” was considered horror, which I’m not sure is altogether accurate.
George: D’you see what I mean? People love horror. They call it a horror even if it’s not a horror. âCause it had a horrific scene in it, so it becomes a horror.
Shock: Are you a fan of the genre, because you’ve definitely been doing a lot of horror movies lately.
George: Well, lately? No, like three years ago I did “Amityville” and then this one.
Shock: And “Turistas.”
George: That’s not horror. No. It’s a precautionary tale. It’s a sexy Brazilian movie.
Shock: Oh, okay. It certainly was marketed as a horror film.
George: Of course they market it as a horror film, because that’s what they think sells, but no, I don’t think.. I’ve been doing “Music Within” which is not a horror. “Waz” is not a horror. “Stopping Power” is not a horror. “Entreatment” is not a horror. My next six jobs are not horror.
Shock: Even so, are you a fan of horror movies?
George: I like interesting films like “30 Days of Night”, yeah.
Shock: So you weren’t particularly a fan before doing the movie.
George: I’m a fan of everything. I’m not like someone that says, “I don’t like horror” or “I don’t like comedy.” It’s like saying, “I don’t like drama.”
Shock: But there are plenty of people I’ve spoken to who don’t like horror.
George: Watching it or filming it?
Shock: I mean that they like making the movies but they don’t like watching them.
George: Oh, no, I don’t like watching them. I like this movie because it’s horror-fantasy, like the graphic novel on the big screen, but I don’t like cheesy running through the bushes terrifiedâ¦ “Hostel”, “Saw”, slasher films. I think that’s just not for me.
Shock: Which is funny because that’s exactly what “Turistas” was marketed as.
George: Well, no, âcauseâ¦ have you seen “Turistas”?
Shock: Yeah, I did.
George: I mean the only part is the organ trafficking trade, which is true. I don’t know but torture chambers, are they true?
Shock: In some countries they are, just not like in those movies.
George: Yeah, and in “Turistas”, I wanted to do a really young fresh role after doing “Derailed” and in “Turistas”, it was just a young character and I wanted to be free and fun.
Shock: Okay, let’s talk about “30 Days of Night.” You said earlier that you didn’t read the graphic novel before making the movieâ¦
George: I read the graphic novel before I shot the movie but not before I auditioned. Oh my Godâ¦ I read it twenty times for research, but not before the audition. I read the script before the audition, because you have to know what you’re auditioning for, and then when they say they’ve offered you the lead, you say “Okay, let me think about this. I want to read the graphic novel to see if I like the style. Who’s directing it? Who’s starring in it? Who’s producing it?” And then you make a decision.
Shock: Were you surprised by the differences between the graphic novel and the script in terms of the relationship between Eben and Stella? In the movie they’re separated but in the book they’re a married couple deeply in love.
George: But with issuesâ¦ yeah, I like that though because it creates more tension when they’re reunited to discuss the love or not and try and form a bond together to save the survivors of the town, so it actually gave it a little bit more of a layer. So I read the script before the audition and read the graphic novel afterwards. And then while we were filming, the script changed a lot because we had rehearsal time.
Shock: Do you have any thoughts on why they’re separated? Josh mentioned that you worked out a lot of back story for the characters that wasn’t in the book or the script.
George: Right, a lot of back story. I think they separate, because he had issues. I think he was a very quiet man, very intuitive and internal, so I think he just didn’t talk up and I think that would have bothered Stella, and I think they had friction because she maybe wanted to have a kid but he didn’t want to be a father, maybe because he has issues with his father. There’s a lot of things, and I think they just needed a break from each other.
Shock: Do you think it would be hard to have a relationship in that environment up in Alaska?
George: I wouldn’t know because I’ve never done it, but I would imagine that all of that quiet time with very little TV would do you good.
Shock: What were your feelings about going down to New Zealand for four months?
George: I loved it, because it’s so close to Australia. My mum flew over with her friends, my brother, I got to go home every weekend. It was great.
Shock: Was it mainly night shoots?
George: We did both, but we’d go one week night, one week day, one week night, we’d go back and forth. That was hard, to transform your body clock back to day when you’re on nights.
Shock: Were they doing interiors during the daytime shoots?
George: When we were inside, we wanted to go back onto days, because it’s so dark inside anyway, and that you could afford to shoot during the day, but all the exteriors had to be night. It was also because I was shooting HBO at the same time as the movie, so I’d fly back to L.A. That was hard.
Shock: Did that weird schedule affect people on set in a similar ways to the people of Barrow?
George: Oh, the shooting? Oh, it was a rough shooting schedule but everyone just enjoyed making this movie so much. No one every complained, which was great. We all hung out together after work.
Shock: Now I understand that it actually was very cold where you were shooting, but from the movies I’ve seen, I always pictured New Zealand as being sunny with lots of mountains and fields.
George: Oh, it isâ¦ on the North Island and on the South Island when it’s not winter. But it has like vast spaces of just snow. The opening of the movie? That was New Zealand and it looked exactly like Alaska. Yeah, but that was freezing cold. I couldn’t even speak. I had to have hot tea before they called “action” to melt my lips so I could articulate the words. It was definitely cold and then it got really really hot and we still had to wear the same outfit.
Shock: Really? Oh, okay. I know they built the entire town of Barrow…
George: Four times over.
Shock: Right, because they burn a lot of it down.
George: No, they burnt it, but they painted the sets in this solution that it would light up but it wouldn’t burn through, so they’d go up on “action” and then the firemen would put it out. Take 2, burn it again, it was so good.
Shock: Were you actually on set while they were doing that?
George: Oh, really close. The whole town was on fire when we were shooting, and it was really really hot. I had to call “cut” at one point because I was burnin’ up.
Shock: When you read the graphic novel, were you at all nervous about what you might end up having to do?
George: No, âcause I read the script and the stunts I know were a bit horrifying but as far as the love story, I was really looking forward to that, and reading the graphic novel, I was excited about some of the shots like the finale scene. I was just blown away by the way that David chose to direct that.
Shock: Did you end up doing a lot more stunts than you expected?
George: Oh, a lot more than we expected, like the tipping of the car, I had no idea it was going to be like that.
Shock: Was that more your choice to do those yourself or David’s?
George: I think that Josh wanted to do them, and I wanted to do them as well, and also the director always wants to use the real actor just in case you get a glimpse of the person.
Shock: I’m sure the producers weren’t into the idea.
George: No, they were all for it.
Shock: Oh, right, Sam Raimi produced it, and I know he put his own actresses through their paces for the “Spider-Man” movies.
George: Yeah, yeah. “Go for it. Make it look real.” Of course, it’s safe. We had the best stunt director. And De Bont too, for this movie I’m going to shoot. He loves to put the actors through the action sequences, too.
Shock: Is “Stopping Power” still happening, because I keep hearing that it’s on and then last I heard, it was off.
George: It’s back on! First of March. Three days into filming, we were in Berlin, they cancelled the film. It worked out so good, because I’m busy doing other things, and I could come back to shoot HBO and I’m going away next Christmas, and then the strike happens next year, so I’m going to go away in March and do this. Look, anything can change, but it’s on. It has to be on.
Shock: It must be good to be keeping this busy.
George: I couldn’t be happier. To fly to L.A. knowing I’m going to land and work, it’s just the best.
Shock: I saw “Music Within” and that was an interesting movie. How long ago did you shoot that?
George: Not that long ago, like eight or nine months ago.
Shock: Your character has a very strange relationship with Ron Livingston’s character, kind of an on-and-off-again romance over the years.
George: I know, and they’re real people.
Shock: Did you meet her?
George: Oh, yeah, because we were out there with Art and Richard Pimentel, they’re real characters.
Shock: When I talked to Michael Sheen, I think he said he met the person he was playing.
George: Yeah, he was always on set. Brilliant performance, right? It’s an extraordinary transformation.
Shock: I don’t think I would have recognized him. Was that a fun movie to do?
George: It was brilliant, because it was fun and romantic and lovely and light, and I play a young, young character, and I got to roller skate, and it was like the Robin Wright Penn role in “Forrest Gump.” Having two boyfriends at the same time, the sort of free, fun-loving woman.
Shock: What’s this movie “Nine Miles Down”?
George: No, what’s that?
Shock: I don’t know. I just saw somewhere that you were in it.
George: Oh, don’t read anything. They always say I’m in everything and I’m not.
Shock: Something called “Captive”?
George: Oh, the cop movie? It’s fantastic. Stellan Skarsgard and I, about two cops. I shot it and the Weinsteins bought it, comes out in February. But “Captive” no, and “Nine Miles Down” I have no idea. No, they just like to say I’m in it to maybe raise awareness and financing.
Shock: Oh, I see, well that must be flattering at least.
George: Oh, I dunno. Everyone thinks I’m making a horror-thriller or something.
Shock: Well, it’s good to see you’re not just doing horror films.
George: No, no, no.. but just give me respect for doing “Entreatment” with Gabriel Byrne and a great romantic movie with Michael Sheen and a movie opposite Stellan Skarsgard and an action movie not say, “all your horror movies.” “Amityville” was a #1 hit horror movie in the United States, great. “30 Days of Night” is opposite.
Shock: Well, I don’t know. It could be a #1 hit in the United States also.
George: Oh, I dunno, will it? Really? I have no idea.
We can only hope. Even if Melissa George seemingly hates horror (no, not really), we still love her, and you can see her facing all sorts of horrors (maybe for the last time until the inevitable sequel*?) in 30 Days of Night, which opens everywhere on Friday, October 19. Also, check out our interview with the director who George calls a “modern day Hitchcock”, Mr. David Slade.
*Earlier in the day, during a press conference, Ms. George had this to say about the possible sequel based on Niles and Templesmith’s “Dark Days”: âI read the sequel graphic novel and it was brilliant. I would absolutely return. I wanna get a Mohawk! Iâve never had one and would love it!”
Source: Edward Douglas