Opening January 4th is director John Luessenhop’s (Takers) Texas Chainsaw 3D. The film acts as a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s original, ignoring the many reboots, prequels and remakes, and picks up where the 1974 film left off. After Sally escapes to safety the enraged townspeople of Newt, Texas descend on the Sawyers, burning their house to the ground with the family still inside. Decades later, Heather (Alexandra Daddario) inherits a Texas Estate from a grandmother she never knew she had, and when she brings along a group of friends to scope out her new home they unwittingly unleash Leatherface on the small town once more. The film also stars Tania Raymonde, Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson, Scott Eastwood, Bill Moseley, Dan Yeager, Gunnar Hansen and Paul Rae.
At the recent Los Angeles press day, I sat down with Daddario. We talked about what attracted her to the project, how she developed her version of the ‘survivor girl’, and the emotional toll of working on a horror film. She also discussed Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, working on green screen, keeping the second movie more true to the books, returning to the franchise and more. Hit the jump for the full interview.
Alexandra Daddario: I think the first thing is getting behind such an iconic film franchise definitely appealed to me. I was just excited to be able to be part of it. I also like in the script, that it deviated from what I expected it to be. There’s this twist and there’s a different kind of storyline than what I expected and I really liked that, that the character is different as the story went on.
The role that you fill, the female horror protagonist, can sometimes make or break a horror film. How did you go about creating your version of the “survivor girl”?
Daddario: Well, I think that she’s a darker character than I’m used to playing, but I think she’s very independent. I think she’s very tough and I watched certain performances and watched different movies to get some inspiration for that.
What did you watch?
Daddario: I watched Alien and I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish version. I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I watched the Jessica Biel version and watched Jessica’s performance. I got prepared mentally. I knew I was going to a very hot place so before I got on set I did a lot of hot yoga knowing that I was going to be running around in the heat. So different things like that. And on set there’s a lot of emotional preparation in order to get to that level of hysteria and that was sort of an interesting challenge for me.
Daddario: Some of it was physical, running around, and also using things from my personal life that make me upset and just taking them steps and steps farther. Going to the darkest place you can to make yourself really upset and adding that with the physicality and running around, you can work yourself into hysteria that way. Being in 105 degree heat with very little sleep sort of helped me go insane, maybe.
Did you find this kind of movie to be more emotionally or physically demanding?
Daddario: I guess it was a little bit of both, but emotionally I think I was pretty exhausted.
Is that hard to switch off?
Daddario: I think it took me a few weeks to readjust when I got back to LA, weirdly enough. But it was also that we were doing night shoots, it was all kinds of things. I think even if rationally you know everything is OK, your body is like, “What the hell is going on?” You’re running on adrenaline and you’re sort of tricking your body into thinking that something is really, really wrong. So you feel really weird at the end of the day, but it totally makes sense for you to feel really weird because you’ve been basically tricking your body into a traumatic experience.
Daddario: We had some rehearsal. I think it depends on the type of project that you’re doing. I think rehearsal is very, very important no matter what you’re doing, but for something like this, some of the scenes, especially the hysterical ones, you can’t really rehearse that. I mean, I guess I’ve been rehearsing for that my whole life with acting class. You sort of have to use the tools you have available to you to get to that place and then it’s just- you can’t rehearse when you’re going to scream, you have to react naturally in that moment. I think for different types of things more rehearsal is very important.
Obviously since it’s a 3D movie there’s a heavy digital element involved, but were there a lot of practical effects on set for you guys to react to?
Daddario: Yes, there were. We did use real chainsaws sometimes, obviously not when they were close to us or anything. But we also used chainsaws that would come at us, not real ones, that kind of thing. We did have certain things like that. The scene where he gets cut in half, that was obviously not prosthetics or anything, that was put in afterward. Some stuff you didn’t know what to expect, but a lot of the time you knew what was going on and you had something to react to.
I definitely want to talk to you about Percy Jackson before I run out of time. That was one of those movies that I didn’t know a whole lot about, but I ended up seeing it on HBO one day and just really had a great time with it.
Daddario: Oh, that’s awesome.
So I’m happy that they did eventually end up making a sequel.
Daddario: Yeah, me too. I was very pleasantly surprised that they decided to make it. Some of those actors are my best friends now in LA. We made that movie over three years ago, which is crazy, and I think the second movie is really fantastic and we had a great time shooting it. It’s just a really fun family film, the special effects and the green screen, and it’s just really fun to be a part of that franchise. I love the fan base. I really enjoy being a part of it.
How do you approach acting for green screen?
Daddario: It’s interesting, it’s a lot of using your imagination and focusing, not letting the things around you distract you. If you focus too much on the fact that you’re looking at a blinking red dot and that there are people all around, you’re going to laugh because it’s totally ridiculous. But I think that’s one thing as an actor you have to figure out a way to make that real to you in whatever way you need to, by using your imagination and focus and that kind of thing. It’s kind of fun in a way because you get to imagine whatever you want to and then when you see the movie it might be completely different than you imagined and it’s really cool.
Daddario: A great deal.
Obviously I don’t want you to spoil anything obviously, but can you point out anything in particular?
Daddario: There were a lot of changes. I think that they wanted to make it as good as they possibly could and maybe they would decide to change out one monster for a different one, and I know they wanted to make it more true to the book so sometimes they were trying to figure out how to do that.
For instance you went blonde this time, right?
Did you have more fun?
Daddario: Yeah, I mean, it was the first time I’ve ever been blonde. Unfortunately, I think I was working too much to have more fun. I always wanted to be a blonde and it was really cool to do that for a while. I’m glad that I got to be more true to the books; I think fans really appreciated that.
Daddario: Yes, and it’s not just my hair, there are other things. I know that was a big thing that was important to them, to be more true to the books.
What was the experience like going back after that delay between the two films? Was it harder to fall back into it or did you just pick it right up?
Daddario: It was like making a different movie in way, but with the same people. We had a couple new actors and we all got along. It was interesting because the people that I was just meeting three years ago are now some of my best friends. I’ve known them for three years and I’m now working with them. That was sort of an interesting thing, to know somebody so well. It was great. It was like going back to summer camp.
Thank you and congratulations on the movie.
Daddario: Thank you so much.