On the eve of the release of The Loved Ones, a wicked Australian import from writer-director Sean Byrne, Shock Till You Drop spoke with actress Robin McLeavy, the film’s mad prom queen.
McLeavy plays Lola Stone, a young woman who has her eye on Brent (Xavier Samuel). Unfortunately, he’s not keen on taking her to the prom, so, Lola and her father snatch up Brent so Lola can have a prom to call her own at home.
And things get very, very weird and violent from there.
Head inside to see what McLeavy – who appears on Hell on Wheels and will be seen in this summer’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – had to say about her psychotic turn in the film, what helped her delve into Lola’s headspace and her “Cat Face.”
Shock Till You Drop: What I love about the film is the gender role reversals here – you’re in a position of power…
Robin McLeavy: Yes sir!
Shock: That must have excited you…
McLeavy: It did, and I wouldn’t do a horror film in a victim role because that frustrates me as a woman to see women portrayed as victims. It was refreshing to read this script and see how in control Lola is and how imaginitive she is with her acts of violence and manipulation.
Shock: Prior to Loved Ones, had you turned down horror films before because you were asked to be the victim?
McLeavy: Normally, I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to horror films. Usually when I read horror scripts, I have to be close to people or reading during the day or I’ll freak myself out. I’m not normally attracted to horror because it’s something that terrifies me. But this role was uniquely twisted that it was a bit of a dream to explore. Lola is like a demented little child, really. This whole evening of torturing Brent…I saw it like a series of magic tricks, like a party with daddy and Lola running this wonderful show. Sean wrote so much color in the script, I knew it was going to be special.
Shock: What part of yourself were you excited about bringing to the part that perhaps wasn’t in the script?
McLeavy: I read the Oliver Sacks book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and it takes time to describe mental illness in a way that’s non-judgemental and it’s kind of fantastical that these fits of episodes of mental illness that people have are quite joyful and ecstatic. I wanted to bring this feeling of joyfulness and play to it and I think that’s what makes it creepy and delectable. [laughs] You want to feel that when you’re watching this kind of film.
Shock: Did John Brumpton, the actor who plays your father in the film, help you slip into Lola’s skin, too? How did you two get along in order to find that creepy, uncomfortable playfulness you two have?
McLeavy: He’s a great actor and he’s got this Aussie quality to him that’s very specific. I grew up in Tasmania which is full of men like him. He’s a jokester and doesn’t take things too seriously. We joked around a lot, so that was good bonding for us. [laughs] We broke out into fits of laughter a lot, which is a bit disconcerting. [laugh]
Shock: Were there any particulary moments that pushed and challenged you?
McLeavy: The drilling scene we did a lot of coverage on and we did it over and over. It was pretty manic. Sean, the director, wanted me to do this face that I developed with him. It’s called the “cat face.” Sean kept yelling “Cat face! Cat face!” I had to clench my face up and offer this physical, concentrated exertion which was exhausting. Sean is great and his energy is rapid. He wants to get all of the details and he’s open to collaborating.
Shock: For many in the U.S., this is going to be their first exposure to you – are you concerned you’ll now be seen as the actress who takes on psycho roles?
McLeavy: As far as the horror genre goes, I’m a bit weary to take on further roles as a crazy bitch. I have a lot of admiration now for the genre than I did. I know how die-hard the fans are, but I guess it depends on the script. From a creative angle, I probably have to do a romantic comedy and step away from the crazy a bit.
Shock: A romantic comedy without the drills…
McLeavy: Oh, thanks!
The Loved Ones opens in limited release Friday, June 1st.