Interview - Sarah Snook Talks Not Suitable For Children
I saw Not Suitable For Children at the Sydney Film Festival, walked out of the film, turned to a fellow critic and said – “Who was that amazing actress? She steals the whole movie!” He’d done his homework and told me it was Sarah Snook.
She's a wonderful actress and has the potential to become an international superstar (without putting too much pressure on her). I was lucky to speak with her about Not Suitable For Children which is about to be released in Australian cinemas.
You can download a 2 minute audio extract by clicking here.
Matt: I’ve pulled a few strings and it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you. You’ll have to help me out with your back story and tell me a little about yourself. Where exactly are you from?
Sarah: I grew up in Adelaide, actually in Belair. I then moved to Sydney in 2006 to go to NIDA. I was fresh out of high school, only 18 years old and a bit green. On graduating from NIDA, I started working my way through the industry trying to get more experience.
Matt: You always wanted to be an actress from a young age?
Sarah: Yeah. I got the bug when I played the understudy to the understudy in Big Chief Red Feather when I was in year 2 and just 7 years old. One of the people above me got the measles and the other one broke their arm so in the end I got to play Big Chief Red Feather.
Matt: Ah, so it was fate?
Sarah: Absolutely (laughs).
Matt: In 2011, you were one of the runner ups for the Heath Ledger Scholarship. Do prizes like that help open up some doors for you?
Sarah: Yeah, they certainly do. The calibre of the name lends itself to opening those doors. It gives you an opportunity to go over to the States and open the doors yourself. Definitely having that behind you helps people recognise you and has something attributed to your name.
Matt: I’ve since learned that you were shortlisted for the lead role in David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. You obviously got someone’s attention in Hollywood early on. How did that come about?
Sarah: Again, it was just of those random twists of fate. A woman named Jenny Rawlings, who is now my manager, was in Adelaide and had heard my name and had managed to get me an audition. I kept getting further and further along in that process. It was a really fortunate situation because David Fincher was looking for someone completely unknown and that helped me get a foot in the door.
Matt: We’ll should talk about the film Not Suitable For Children. How did you become involved?
Sarah: It was a similar, simple kind of audition process. It was quite protracted and went over about 5 months. I'd come in, two weeks would pass and I’d think “well that’s done” and then I’d get a call telling me to come back in and then yeah, I finally got the role.
Matt: This character you play – she’s a strong, funny, opinionated young woman. I’m curious to know how much of you is in this character? I’m hoping you’re going to say a lot because I love this person.
Sarah: (Laughs) Definitely a lot. I think I got to live a vicariously through her. She’s a little more opinionated and far wittier than I am. You have this image of what you’d like to be and I was lucky enough to get to play this character that represents that a little bit. It was really fun.
Matt: You’re working alongside Ryan Kwanten – a fact that will make many people I know insanely jealous. You’ll have to tell us – what was he like to work with?
Sarah: He was terrible (laughs). He’s a lovely man. Very generous and just a super guy. He was calming for me given it was my first feature film and to have someone who has had international experience and a real passion for the Australian film industry was great. I was able to learn a lot from him.
Matt: Now there are some love making scenes in this film which you guys manage to make as awkward looking as possible. How uncomfortable was it on the set?
Sarah: They were terribly awkward! It’s such an unnatural thing to be doing that in front of a crew and knowing that millions of people are going to watch it forever and a day. Those scenes are meant to be awkward anyway as their relationship up until that point has been as brother and sister. To step over that boundary is very awkward in itself.
Matt: Some of the dialogue between you two looks so relaxed. Was it scripted or did you have the chance to add your own dynamic to the character?
Sarah: It was thoroughly scripted and we had two weeks of rehearsals prior to the shoot where we went through things and made sure that they seemed natural. When we got to the shoot itself, we’d make sure that the scene was absolutely to the letter and then if there was time, we’d do a few other takes and try to throw a few different things in.
Matt: And what can you tell us about Peter Templeman who has stepped up to the plate and directing his first feature film. What was his style?
Sarah: I love Peter. He made sure that the script was to the letter whilst also allowing an element of freedom. He’s a keen “truth teller” I suppose. He can tell when you’re “phoning it in” or you’re faking it. He’ll go “no no no.” He’s a good guy and very relaxed. You’d be forgiven for thinking that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about sometimes but trust me, he does!
Matt: It’s tough trying to sell any Australian films. We had The Amazing Spider-Man released last week and The Dark Knight Rises out next week. What have we got to do to get people to go and see this film? How do we sell this?
Sarah: Well, it’s a damn good film actually! You’re going to want to see it. People somehow have this icky, irky thing about seeing an Australian film but to be honest, this doesn’t feel like an “Australian film”. It could be set in Berlin or Milan or London or anywhere. It just happens to be Sydney which features a little bit. It has a lot of heart which translates universally.
Matt: I’ll finish up by asking what’s in the pipeline? I’m hoping you’ve got a bunch of projects we’re going to see you in soon.
Sarah: I just finished wrapping a horror film in the United States called Jessabelle which was exciting to do. Kevin Greutert was the director and he was an editor on many of the Saw films. I star alongside Mark Webber who is the self-proclaimed king of American independent cinema apparently (laughs). He’s one of those names where people in America go “Mark Webber, oh I love Mark Webber!” I’d never heard of him beforehand but I do now and he’s a good friend.
Matt: Well best of luck with all your future endeavours and it’s been a pleasure talking with you today. Thank you!
Sarah: Thank you Matt!
You can read my review of Not Suitable For Children by clicking here.
Add a comment
Nominations Announced For 2012 Toomey Awards
We’ve reached the end of another financial year and that means… it’s time for the nominations for the annual Toomey Awards (or as they are otherwise known by some of my friends – The Golden Owls).
I started doing this back in 2000 as a way of honouring my favourite films and performances. I work on a financial year basis as it better aligns with a film’s year of production. Many Oscar contenders are released in Australia between December and February each year. Instead of having them split into two years for the purposes of my own awards, this brings them together.
Of course, you won’t find a set of awards more biased than this one. I’m the only person that gets to vote and it’s the truest form a monopoly.
Above all else, I hope it inspires you to see some of these films. If you don’t agree, I’m more than happy to engage in a debate!
You can check out the nominations for by clicking here.
Add a comment
Director Rupert Sanders Talks About Snow White
It’s a film that’s dividing audiences but I’m a big fan of Snow White & The Huntsman. Director Rupert Sanders was in Sydney for the Australian premiere and I was lucky enough to get 10 minutes with him to talk about the movie and his background...
You can listen to a quick extract from the interview by clicking here.
Matt: I know you’ve won a string of award directing commercials. I’m guessing you always saw it as a lead in to one day making feature films?
Rupert: Yeah, it’s kind of the next progression really. It’s a similar art form but you’re just dealing with a different dynamic of time.
Matt: From my outsider’s viewpoint, you’d usually start off a lot smaller than a $170m blockbuster. How did you get approached about this movie?
Rupert: I’ve never done things according to the book. I’ve been a bit of an outsider in that respect. I was lucky enough to be offered this script and my instincts were the same of the producers in terms of where the material should go. We worked on the script and put together a visual package which we took to the studios and ultimately sold to Universal. I made a three minute film based on what I wanted to do with the feature film and that was what I took back to the studio to show them what the film could be. They were blown away and it ultimately became the blueprint for the first trailers that came out.
Matt: With so much money at stake, I’m guessing the studio was a little nervous. We always hear stories about the influence of studios and overbearing producers. Did they lay down many ground rules or did you have a lot of creative freedom?
Rupert: I had a lot of creative freedom. They really trusted me and I think that three minute piece helped. We had a budget that we categorically agreed that we wouldn’t exceed and once they’d signed off, they let us go do it.
Matt: Now I’m not sure how it eventuated but there was another modern adaptation of the Snow White tale that was released earlier in the year – Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. Did you always know that film was in production?
Rupert: Yeah, we did. We were kind of jostling for space between the two studios but Joe Roth, the producer, told me to make my own film and not worry about that.
Matt: The stand out performance for me comes from Charlize Theron. She’s just so good at playing the villain. Was she an easy casting choice?
Rupert: She was the first person that we talked about and the first person we ultimately went to with the project. She gives an amazing, powerhouse performance that is very grounded, very real and kind of psychotic. We also wanted to find some kind of empathy within her character and some kind of understanding of where she’s come from to become this person.
Matt: What about Kristen Stewart? I know a lot of people will forever know her from the Twilight franchise. How did you picture her in a role here that is quite different from Snow White?
Rupert: Through meeting her, you get to see that she’s not Bella Swan. She’s got the world on her shoulders at a young age and she’s very instinctive and exciting as an actor. I’d seen her in Into The Wild, Welcome To The Rileys and The Runaways that showed her incredible talent. She really changes her expectations in this film and I think people will see her in a different light.
Matt: There’s been a bit of controversy over the last few weeks with the casting of the dwarves. Instead of using short-statured actors, you’ve used some bigger names and make them look shorter with the help of CGI and camera trickery. One actor even said it was ““akin to black face”. What are your own thoughts on the subject?
Rupert: I think the controversy has been slightly overblown. I chose the best people for the roles and I was creating mythical dwarves where you can use whoever you want to be honest.
Matt: The look of the film is amazing with so many huge sets and some great locations. The Dark Forest really got me though – was that a location or some kind of set?
Rupert: We built a set in a location. A lot of the forest work we did, we kept it outside so it had a realism in terms of light. We built trees inside of forests.
Matt: It was shot in the United Kingdom, is that right?
Rupert: Yeah. Everything was shot near Pinewood Studios.
Matt: We see fierce battle sequences, particularly near the end, with people on horses and fighting each other with swords. Try to give us some perspective – how hard are those scenes to pull off and how much work is involved?
Rupert: You’re lucky that you’re working with people who do this for a living. Their forte is horse riding and stunts falls and arrow hits. It’s about designing the most impactful sequences and figuring out how to put it on film in a way that makes it more intense and immersive. That was the real challenge for me.
Matt: With all the fighting that goes on, were there many injuries on set?
Rupert: You try not to. When people are falling off horses, they’re prepared for it and the ground has been laid properly for them. Whenever you’re on a film set though, there are a lot of moving pieces and it can be a dangerous place. You have to be very careful about people’s safety.
Matt: So many big blockbusters these days are being shot in 3D. Was that a consideration with Snow White & The Huntsman? Why did you choose 2D?
Rupert: I think we wanted to do something more “paintfully”. We shot on 35mm anamorphic and we wanted to do something that harkens back to paintings of that era rather than really bright and sharp images.
Matt: I’m already hearing word of a sequel given the strong opening of this film in the United States. Where is all of that at?
Rupert: I’ve started sketching out ideas with David Koepp who is the screenwriter.
Matt: And so what is planned next? Will the focus be on a Snow White sequel or are you pursuing other projects?
Rupert: I’ve got a few projects that are all circling. I actually need to take a little holiday before getting back into battle.
You can read my review of Snow White & The Huntsman by clicking here.
Add a comment
Chatting With Billy Connolly About Brave
Billy Connolly recently attended the Sydney Film Festival for the Australian premiere of Brave, the new animated film from Pixar.
I was lucky enough to talk with Billy about the film and what goes on behind the scenes of an animated film…
You can download a 3 minute audio extract of the interview by clicking here.
Matt: I know you’ve done voice work before on films like Open Season, Paws and Pocahontas. What’s the secret? How do you keep landing all of these roles?
Billy: I don’t know. I think they like the originality of the noise that I make. I don’t audition or anything like that. They just phone up and ask would you like to do it.
Matt: I was going to ask about how they audition process works for an animated film. Just knowing your voice… is that all they go off?
Billy: That’s all, especially in an animated film. The voice is all you’ve got.
Matt: So when did they approach you about Brave? Did they send you out a script so you can see what the film is going to be about?
Billy: No. You just get your own bit. They just tell you roughly the story and when you get to the studio, you record only your own lines. So it was really exciting going to the premiere as I hadn’t seen the movie.
Matt: So which other actors had you interacted with? Do you do the voices opposite them in the studio?
Billy: No, you do it on your own. You don’t interact with anybody.
Matt: Wow! All the conversations that we see in the movie, you were basically talking to yourself and it’s all mixed together later?
Matt: In terms of your character in the film, the laid-back Scott, King Fergus, do you get any say yourself in terms of the look of the character? Can you throw in a few one liners yourself?
Billy: You can throw in bits and pieces. Sometimes you might not like the sound of a word. You don’t like the way it fits in your mouth or you don’t think it’d be something the King would say. I’d then give them a Scottish word and they’d all panic because they thought I was trying to sneak something dirty on them.
Matt: The mental image I have of directors is sitting in a chair, looking through the camera lens and yelling action. So what’s the relationship between an actor and a director on an animated film?
Billy: It’s lovely! He just sits at a desk to your left and you stand at a music stand with the script nailed to some cardboard. You get one page at a time and you do your bit. He laughs or otherwise and then you move along. It’s a lovely process.
Matt: Does it take a lot of takes to get it just right?
Billy: Yes. There are usually about 5 to 6 takes with different voices. He’d get me to say things in different ways – high, low, loud, angry, funny, sombre, and then go from there.
Matt: You mentioned that you only got to see the film for the first time recently. What were your thoughts on it?
Billy: I thought it was a really smashing film. It’s a great movie to take your daughter along to. I have 4 daughters and I like the way the world is becoming for women. They are encouraged to do their own thing and stick to their guns and go for their own destiny.
Matt: The story is set in the highlands of Scotland and pulls a little from ancient folklore. I was actually curious about the “wisps” that pop up during the movie. Is that part of Scottish legend?
Billy: The will-o’-the-wisps are spoken of but they don’t glow in the dark like they do in the movie (laughs). They’re just a little bit of steam that comes up in boggy ground.
Matt: Now you’re in Sydney for the Sydney Film Festival. What was it like at the big Australian premiere?
Billy: It was lovely. There were a lot of people with curly red haired wigs which was funny. The whole “red hair” thing took me by surprise. I didn’t realise people were going to latch onto it in such a big way.
Matt: Well that’s one of the things that struck me about the film. How red her hair is in the movie. It’s so bright!
Billy: Yes! It’s if her hair is alive, isn’t it?
Matt: I should finish in a quick mention for The Hobbit which I know we’re going to see later in the year. Has shooting wrapped up for that?
Billy: No. It wraps up July 7. I’m not in the first film. I’m in the second film.
Matt: What can we expect? Can you reveal anything about it at all?
Billy: It’s extraordinary. I’ve seen bits of it and it’s beyond belief. The way they’ve filmed it – it’s 3D but they’ve filmed it faster than a film is normally filmed and has more frames per second. It’s given it an amazing clarity so it kind of looks like a cartoon. It’s unbelievably beautiful.
Matt: I can’t wait to see it but in the meantime everyone can check out Brave which I think is terrific, another wonderful animated flick from Pixar. Billy Connolly, thanks for talking with us this morning.
Billy: Thank you for talking to me!
You can read my review of Brave by clicking here.
Add a comment
All Rights Reserved. Matthew Toomey. 2012.