In the horror thriller Lovely Molly, a happy newlywed named Molly (Gretchen Lodge) returns to her long-abandoned family home with her new husband (Johnny Lewis), only to find frightful reminders of a nightmarish childhood. Not long after arriving, she begins a descent into an evil that blurs the lines between psychosis and possession, threatening everyone she comes into contact with.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Gretchen Lodge talked about the appeal of such creepy material, collaborating with director Eduardo Sanchez, developing her own backstory and personal diary for the character, baring herself both emotionally and literally, working in a house with such a long history, and what she wanted to do to shake off the role, as soon as filming wrapped. She also talked about what she’d like to do next, and writing two of her own scripts – one dark and one lighter and funnier. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
GRETCHEN LODGE: Well, the very first audition material that I got was first-person camera. It was just one of Molly’s monologues to the camera. It was much different than other material I was reading, at the time. It was much more personal. And that was just one scene. There was so much about the character, in that one scene. It was vulnerable, it was scary, and it really drew me in. I think that’s also an interesting first thing to give anyone. There was no material with anyone else. I was completely on my own, talking to the camera. And I really like self-directing. I really like that about the audition process, so it was exciting to be able to go, “There’s no one else here. I’m just talking to the camera.” It was creepy.
Was there something specific that appealed to you about this material?
LODGE: Because that particular scene wasn’t necessarily horrifying, it was more intense and there was a whole emotional arc, just in that particular monologue, I think that’s what drew me in. I thought I could tell, just from that one scene, that it was just a huge arc that she goes on. And then, once I read the rest of the script, it was confirmed for me. It was a little bit weird, the way that it comes about, and that intrigued me. I like the stuff that you normally don’t see on screen. It wasn’t glamorous. It was really raw. It was really down-and-dirty. Those are the types of films that really draw me in and make me go, “This is really real.”
Had you been familiar with The Blair Witch Project, prior to doing this?
LODGE: Ed’s really cool, in that way. He is so trusting, and he was so excited. Once I met him, it was so apparent to me that he was so involved and so excited about the writing. I had seen Blair Witch before, and it felt to me like he was a director who could get some really interesting material out of his actors. I was like, “I don’t really know how he does it, but I’m intrigued.” That was certainly the way that he works, as a director, when we were filming. He had a lot of involvement and there was a lot of cross-talk back-and-forth, to figure out different scenes. He’s the greatest, and so trusting. He was just so excited about this particular script that it was incredible to work with him on it. I think that it was very close to his heart. It was something that he’d been wanting to do for awhile, so it was exciting, on both sides. He’s very good at doing the initial scene work with actors, and certainly with me and the people who were alongside me. There’s a lot of work at first, and then he’s very cool about going, “Let’s see where that goes,” and letting you take it along and experiment.
LODGE: As far as how it ends, I think that it’s exciting for the audience to allow them to come to their own conclusions. But, for myself, I had to keep a running diary and have my own backstory of what was going on, just in terms of moving it along, scene by scene. Otherwise, it would become too messy and too blurred. I had to make some strong decisions, as far as what I, personally, thought, so that it didn’t become the same emotion driving every single scene. I had this whole backstory and personal diary for the character, laid out before I got to Maryland for shooting. And then, Ed had this really cool thing that he shared with Alexandra [Holden] and I, when we started rehearsals, which was a family history of generations back. That was an exciting aspect to add to the research that I had already done and the stuff that I had already come up with on my own. It was an amazing extra thing to incorporate.
You really bare yourself in this film, both emotionally and literally. How difficult was this shoot for you, especially spending so much of it alone and talking to a camera?
LODGE: The solitary stuff, Ed and I discussed beforehand. Everything else was shot chronologically, which helped. We started off with the wedding, and then went straight through, completely in order, and that helped me so much. He and I did a lot of talking, back and forth, about the nudity, and then some of that evolved as we shot, as well. It was such a close-knit group of people filming it, and there was so much support on set and with him, that it was obvious to me, as we shot and even beforehand, that if the story was going to be told truthfully and completely honestly, some things had to be done that might have been outside of my comfort zone, but they weren’t outside of hers. I was like, “Well, I have to shut myself off for a little bit and just go with what she would be doing,” and I have to say that everyone surrounding me on the shoot helped a lot with that.
We would have full days of shooting, and then Ed would be like, “I’ll leave you with the camera.” It would be after intense scenes that we’d done the whole day. He’d leave me in the room, and I would do it a few times and he would look at it, and then we’d go from there. That helped a lot because it was hard to go straight into them, so having that be after a day of raw emotional shooting, and doing stuff that was physically and emotionally demanding, was certainly helpful. Then, I didn’t have to just go straight in from nothing. The way that the shoot transpired, scene for scene, helped me get where I needed to go, which was nice.
What was the first thing you wanted to do, as soon as filming wrapped, to just shake this character off?
LODGE: Lots of manicures to get the dirt out from under my fingernails. I had specific music playlists and clothes that I was wearing, at the time. It was nice to be able to leave all of that and go back to my life. That helped a lot. If I had incorporated my own personal life into the shooting, I think it would have been a bit harder. But, I cut off all that and went into her world, and that helped. I was able to say, “Okay, I can go back to my own stuff now.” Also, because we were shooting it so quickly, it really was like its own time capsule and its own world. My own life was something completely different.
A lot of the time, when you’re in a house with a history, like the one you shot in, they just feel creepy. Was there anything particular strange that happened while you were shooting there?
LODGE: Like every day. When I arrived for shooting, they were still doing last-minute touches on the house, so I saw it evolve from how it was when I first got there – which was still being debugged and cleaned and set dressed – into shooting. It was a really interesting transformation that the house went through. I stayed there on my own for a night and that was just terrifying. I couldn’t believe, in a million years, that that would be the most terrifying thing I had done, but staying in that house on my own was definitely a test. You have to go up this long, long, long drive into the woods to get to the house. It’s ten minutes and the only light is your headlights. That was pretty creepy. During shooting, we used the basement of the house, which was pretty raw. It was just concrete and was used for storage, so people hadn’t really been down there before we got there. There were a couple takes that we did where I was just with the camera, going downstairs and I was just like, “Get me out of here!” I feel like maybe a bug whizzed past my shoulder or something, but I was like, “There was definitely a hand that grabbed me.” I was like, “Get me out!” We took a couple minutes before we did it again. But, with a house that has so much history, and I think had the same family in it for three generations, there’s always going to be spirits of people from past generations. The air was certainly thick with generations past. It was pretty scary!
Where do you go from here? Are you looking to do a light romantic comedy next?
LODGE: That was my idea, as soon as we wrapped. I was like, “Now I need to just do something really fun.” Yeah, I think that that is probably perhaps what I will have to look for next. I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or what, but I am in the middle of writing two things right now and one of them is pretty dark with one of the plotlines being addiction. The other one is lighter and funnier. I’m working on writing those two myself right now. As far as being in front of the camera, I’m thinking of doing something with flowers and sunshine.
Have you always wanted to act and write?
LODGE: Yeah. It’s been like, “This is the path that I’m on,” but then, something will come along that’s maybe not on the path that I’m walking on, that looks really great, so I’ll go off and spend some time there. They are definitely things that I’ve been doing, for as long as I can remember. It’s amazing to have the time and space to be able to be working on my writing now. It’s just really nice. I had to take a little bit of time off. I was working on other things that didn’t gel with me putting my attention on it. It’s really, really great to be doing my writing again.