The horror flick Oculus tells the story of a beautiful antique mirror whose most recent owners, siblings Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites), are struggling to rebuild their relationship after the gruesome demise of their parents, 10 years earlier. While the two attempt to uncover the truth, they also begin to turn on each other, as the malevolent supernatural force of the mirror infects their minds and reflects their own insecurities.
At the film’s press day, Collider spoke to actress Katee Sackhoff (who plays the mother of the siblings in flashbacks) for this exclusive interview about what attracted her to Oculus, being a fan of director Mike Flanagan’s work, how she approached this character, her concerns about having to be intensely physical with the younger actors, and the technical challenges of the show. She also talked about how Season 3 of her A&E drama series Longmire is going, and how fun it would be to get to further explore her Riddick character, if they make another movie. Check out our Katee Sackhoff after the jump.
KATEE SACKHOFF: I was looking for something to do. I had just auditioned for a big action movie that I wanted really, really bad, and ended up not getting it. Normally, when something like that happens, you look for something going immediately, so that you don’t focus on it. So, I was like, “What’s going immediately?” This script was sent and I read it was from Mike Flanagan, and I realized that he had written a script that I’d fallen in love with, about five years before. I read it in 45 minutes and called back and said, “Absolutely, I’ll do this. This is amazing!” I think I left two weeks later. It was crazy how quick it all happened. Really the only question I had was, “How young are you going to make the children?” I was really trepidatious. I think they were written to be 8 and 10, or 9 and 10, and I was a little worried about strangling a 10-year-old. Not that strangling a 13-year-old is any better, but it makes it a little different when there’s a “teen” at the end.
Did this story read the same way on paper, as it did to actually see it?
SACKHOFF: It read the exact same way. That’s what was so crazy about it. Literally, I read it in 45 minutes. It was incredibly fast. Normally, when I read a script, it takes me two and a half hours. I usually put it down and come back to it. So, I know if I can read a script in one sitting, it’s a fantastic script. That’s usually how I decide which roles to take. If I can read it in one sitting, that’s something I should go after. If it takes me two reads, then it’s boring, or just not something that I’m interested in doing. But, I read this so fast.
Did you get to see Mike Flanagan’s short film for Oculus?
SACKHOFF: No, I didn’t see it. I still haven’t seen it. I’ve seen Absentia, which was amazing. I loved Absentia. I loved that for no money, he was able to make a movie about something that you never saw. You never saw the bad guys. That was amazing to me. You never saw what you were supposed to be afraid of, you just knew you were supposed to be afraid of it. It was a phenomenal movie.
It seems as though this film really could have turned into a disaster in the wrong hands.
SACKHOFF: It could have. It absolutely could have. This is the first movie he directed where there was a stack of money and someone said, “Here you go.” That is definitely a daunting thing to trust in. So then, you try to just do the best you can do and hopefully you luck out. And with this situation, we did. There were the right people behind it, with Relativity and Blumhouse.
SACKHOFF: Ultimately, the mirror preys on your insecurities, and we know that her insecurities are body issues. I started thinking about being a young mom, which means she probably had these children at 19 or 20. She gave up a lot of her life to raise two loving, beautiful children. They’re getting older, and she’s probably questioning what her purpose in life is, now that her kids are growing up. Her husband has got a job, and he’s gone all the time and busy. And she’s getting older. Those are insecurities, right there. She’s actually obsessed with mirror, in general. She stares at the mirror, a lot. She’s the most obviously taken over by it, which was something that was in the script. I kept saying to Mike, over and over and over again, that vanity was out the window on this. I wanted her to be incredibly ugly, physically and emotionally, and just broken, at the end. The only way that a mother would go after her own children is if she’s just completely gone and has no humanity. So, that was my thing. If you took away the love that you have for your children, and all you felt was this ugly insecurity and these scars that she’s fixated on, and you then had to blame something for that, you would blame your children and your husband. If you want the pain to go away, that’s what you do. At that point, everything that was motherly about her needed to go out the window. It was self-preservation.
How difficult was it to do some of the horrible things with and to the kids?
SACKHOFF: I had a safe word with Annalise because she and I got really into it. There were scenes were I was just strangling the shit out of that child, and tripping her and making her fall, and climbing on top of her and punching and clawing. That’s just not normal. Most people don’t go to work and beat up a 13-year-old. It’s a really freaky thing. It helped when the prosthetics were on because I really didn’t feel like myself. But that first slip that we see, after the mirror first takes her, that was the hardest part because Marie still looks normal, at that point, even though she’s going crazy. It was easier at the end, when she looks bad.
How technically challenging was this to shoot?
SACKHOFF: Well, the present was shot after all the past was shot. We shot for three weeks while Karen [Gillan] and Brenton [Thwaites] basically sat around and watched the kids, and also memorized their dialogue. They had a shitload more dialogue than we did, so they spent the majority of their time there memorizing. And then, once they started shooting, we were done and we left. I think they had another week or two weeks left, of them shooting in the house. So, it really was just a matter of continuity and keeping track. Everything was already written in the script, so if you stayed true to the script, it was all there.
SACKHOFF: We’re shooting right now, and it’s going good. We’re finishing Episode 2. I’m tired. Longmire is an incredibly hard shooting schedule because the locations are usually an hour away, every morning, and I come home every weekend. I fly back to L.A. for about 26 hours a weekend, just to touch base back at home. It’s a lot of work. It’s four really intense months.
Where are things headed with the story, this season? Are you happy with the track that things are on?
SACKHOFF: We’re on Episode 2, so I don’t know. There are going to be more self-contained procedural episodes with a sprinkling of the serialized stuff, so you still feel like you’re a part of the characters’ lives. There’s definitely some interesting things happening, for sure. But, we’re only on Episode 2.
Because of that schedule, do you have to carefully plan out which films you’ll do? Do you already have something set up for your next hiatus?
SACKHOFF: I know what I’m doing in July, yeah. We’re done on June 30th, and I’m shooting on July 2nd. You definitely have to know what’s going on and where you’re going to be because it’s four months, and it’s the same four months, every year. As of July 1st, I know that I’m free until the middle of March.
What are you shooting in July?
SACKHOFF: I can’t say.
Have you heard anything about another Riddick film? Is that something you’re hoping might happen?
SACKHOFF: Yeah. It would be fun. I like the character. I know that they’ve talked about doing a fourth movie. I didn’t die, so I could be in it. But, I don’t know when that would happen. It would have to be written first, and I don’t think it is. She’s a cool character, and I think we left her with some interesting questions about where she is and what’s going to happen next.
Oculus is now playing in theaters.