Interview: Irish Actress Sarah Bolger on Being EMELIE



Actress Sarah Bolger on her evil babysitter role in EMELIE.

Opening today in select theaters (read our glowing review HERE) is director Michael Thelin’s unsettling portrait of feminine madness, EMELIE, in which a very unstable, sociopathic young lady insinuates herself into a family’s home and proceeds to smash their sanctuary to smithereens.

Starring as the titular very, very bad babysitter is Irish born, Dublin based actress Sarah Bolger (Mary Harron’s underrated THE MOTH DIARIES, AMC’s INTO THE BADLANDS, TV’s AGENT CARTER and so much more). Bolger’s performance as the deeply disturbed Emelie is mesmerizing, a turn propelled by the actresses wide, ice-blue eyes and, guided by Thelin’s assured direction, one that escalates from shy manipulation to outright mania.

There’s an intelligence to the performance that is partially due to the way the character is written, certainly.

But the majority of the credit rests within the talents and vision of Bolger herself.

She’s a talented performer and as thoughtful as she is beautiful, something SHOCK was pleased to discover when we sat down with her to discuss the film.


But beware…there are crippling spoilers below.

SHOCK: One of the greatest things about EMELIE the film and, of course, Emelie the character, is that you really don’t know much about her…

BOLGER: It’s true! She’s an enigma.

SHOCK: And because of this, the movie almost feels supernatural, when it’s obviously not.

BOLGER: Yeah and when I was playing her, I mean, you don’t know a lot about her or what she’s gone through, save for some flickering moments, so I was thinking, God, this girl…well, she’s a witch, isn’t she? This girl doesn’t understand humanity. She doesn’t understand the modern day. She’s a witch. She’s a monster. She’s from the unknown. She’s not supernatural, as you say; she’s a real girl who went through very real trauma. But there’s something oddly out of this world about her…

SHOCK: I would agree. And as I mentioned in my review of the film, your picture makes for a fantastic double bill with Robert Eggers’ new film THE WITCH in that both, I think, are grounded by a tale of feminine madness.

BOLGER: God, I haven’t seen THE WITCH yet, but I want too, so badly.

SHOCK: Emelie is cruel, often merciless; did you find any humanity in the character at all, or did you play her as pure evil?

BOLGER: No, I did find humanity in her, absolutely. Because Emelie is cracked. You know that expression, ‘you throw a frog in a pot and you bring it to boil’? Well, that’s Emelie. Hers is a gradual madness and this girl is cracking under the situation she’s in and that she’s built for herself. She’s human, but her compass is totally broken.

SHOCK: So you agree that real evil isn’t bred in the bone, it’s created…

BOLGER: Yes, I do think that’s true and I think that’s a lovely way of saying it.

SHOCK: Joshua Rush as Jacob matches you step for step in this film…

BOLGER: I thought all three kids were superb but Joshua killed it. All three kids were supposed to be a unit and it was Emilie’s job to move in and separate them. I think (the kids) all did a great job and I’m so proud of them and yes, of Joshua.

SHOCK: How were they to work with during some of the more delicate scenes? I’m thinking of that sequence on the toilet and some other key, disturbing sequences…

BOLGER: They were great. But listen, a lot of the darker scenes with me screaming or covered in blood or any of those parts, they were in school, you know. We’d run out of hours as to when we could use them. So we did those bigger moments when they were gone, out of fear of upsetting them. Some of the scenes, where I felt I could have dialed it up a few notches, I didn’t want to do it front of them for fear of really disturbing them. People would have treated me with the same care when I was their age so they deserve the same respect.

SHOCK: The hamster vs snake scene is truly upsetting!

BOLGER: It is. And it’s mirrored: Emelie is the snake in the room, after all…

SHOCK: And on that note, what point while reading the script did you decide that ‘I need to be her, I need to do this film…’

SHOCK: I’m with the audience when reading the script, the first time reading it, anyway. I’m asking the same questions. Who is she? What is she doing? Why is she there and what is her goal? So I’d keep reading these scenes and the be saying, ‘okay, now I have to go back to the earlier scenes to understand’. You realize that this girl is obviously so unhappy with who she is that she’s just making up who she is now as she goes. I found that fascinating.

SHOCK: You’re a young thing. You don’t have children, correct?

BOLGER: What? Oh no! Not even! No! No! (laughs)

SHOCK: Have you ever had a bad babysitter?

BOLGER: I’ve never been babysat, if you can believe it. So I had to talk to a few friends of mine who had been babysat to kind of enlighten me a bit. No, never been babysat. I just had a big Irish family!

SHOCK: The Book in the film, the scrapbook…it’s a remarkable prop. Tell me you got to keep it…

SHOCK: No…but I did get to draw in it! I got to draw in my own pieces. I actually wrote a diary for Emelie of my own. I would go home and write as the character for the next day scenes. I would write what was in her head. I would try to fill in some blanks. I mean, what happened in her life to make her want to watch the parent’s sex tape, for example? Why was she so desperate and voyeuristic? So I filled parts of that into the book you see on screen.But alas, I did not get to keep it.

SHOCK: I love how the movie is open ended. Emelie just runs off into the ether. Presumably, there will not be an EMELIE 2…

BOLGER: No, it’s not a sequel film. She’s a continuous thing, searching and reinventing and it sort of ends where we met her.

SHOCK: Almost mythical…

BOLGER: Exactly. She runs into the darkness…to where, we know not…

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