Interview - Sharni Vinson

The Children of Samhain's Tribute to 

BADASS WOMEN OF HORROR

Volume One: SHARNI VINSON

Since the beginning of horror films, strong women have always been present. There has never been a shortage of female characters who aren't afraid to fight back when pushed too far. These are tough women that don't need a man to save them; because they aren't twisting their ankle running from the bad guy, they're picking up an axe and aiming for the villains head. And behind every one of these roles is an equally strong and extremely talented actress to bring life and nuance to the character. Who can forget Janet Leigh as Marion Crane or her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode? Who doesn't remember iconic roles like Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, or Sigourney Weaver as Ripley? Hell, almost every picture made by Alfred Hitchcock featured a strong female. Now, perhaps it comes from being raised by a strong woman that I am drawn to these characters, but it makes me happy to see the next wave of strong leading ladies kicking ass onscreen. A new school of hardcore heroines who are taking tough to another level. To me It seems like there has never been a better time for women in the genre, and luckily there are certainly no shortage of them. From Katherine Isabelle in American Mary to Sharni Vinson in You're Next, badass women are taking over...

So in honor of them, we'd like to introduce a series of interviews with actresses, directors, writers, and musicians in what we like to call: A Tribute to BADASS WOMEN OF HORROR. And who better to feature as our inaugural interview than the star of Patrick and You're Next - Sharni Vinson

Leo Francis: First let me thank you for taking the time to do this. It was such a pleasure to get to meet you at Arena Cinema for the premiere of Patrick. And it was an honor to host the Q&A, as I am a big fan. In my review of You're Next I likened your performance to Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, which is why I wanted to feature you as the first interview in this 'Badass Women of Horror' series. 

Sharni Vinson: Thanks Mate! It was a pleasure meeting you and doing the PATRICK Q&A together at Arena Screen. Thanks for featuring me as the first interview in this 'Badass Women of Horror' series! It is my honor.

LF: My first exposure to you was in You're Next, which was not only one of the nicest surprises to come out last year, but an instant classic. And that is thanks to the fact that Erin is written less like the 'final girl' in the movie and more like an 'action hero'. First, how did you become involved with the project? Where did you draw inspiration for a role like this, and is there a particular actress, character, or performance you were trying to emulate or that influenced you?

SV: Thank You! I first became aware of the project through a friend of mine who is a stuntman in the business. His roommate worked at Snoot Entertainment and was asking if he knew of any stunt women who acted, as they needed a strong physical girl for the lead in their upcoming film. My name was brought up knowing I've always had a passion for stunts and action films, and I was brought in to audition for Simon, Adam and the producers. The role of 'Erin' was originally written as an American, however during the audition we adapted her to an Aussie girl who was raised on a survivalist compound which gave me a more immediate connection to the character. I was raised in the Australian outback on a farm and grew up doing dancing, boxing, and martial arts; so all in all, parts of 'Sharni' were my influences for 'Erin'! I try to draw inspiration from personal life experiences, and let that come through in my characters- and it just seemed I could relate to Erin on more of a whole given her background.

LF: You've been extremely athletic since a very young age, you're both an accomplished swimmer and trained dancer. Does being in such great shape make you better prepared for what appear to be physically demanding roles like Erin from You're Next or Tina from Bait? How do you stay in shape now, do you train and hit the gym to stay in shape? Or do physical activities like dance and horse back riding keep you in pretty good shape? 

SV: The many years of ballet, dance, swimming, surf club, and horse-riding has definately played a major part in being better prepared for these physically demanding roles. I was an athlete first and foremost growing up, and that's been a great tool in transitioning into action roles for film and television. These days I am most active when I'm working. Most of my roles have come with some pretty intense training and stunt rehearsals, which keeps me pretty fit. Then in my own time I find that simply keeping a busy, outdoors lifestyle will do the trick!

LF: How much of your own stunt work, if any, do you do? If so, what is the most dangerous stunt that you've performed? Have you ever been injured on any of the shoots? Have you ever been injured on any of the shoots?

SV: I've always had a passion for stunt work- it goes hand in hand with the adrenaline junkie inside of me! So when it comes to doing my own stunts, I see that as being the best part of my job! I will always ask to do all my own stunts, and if I can't, it's because of an insurance liability. I seem to have a reputation of injuring myself on almost every shoot because I don't know when to slow down! I broke my thumb in 'Bait', ended up bruised and battered by my surfboard shooting 'Blue Crush 2', received a stiletto to the eye in 'You're Next', and broke two toes during 'Step Up 3D'. I think that was the hardest stunt I've ever done: the final jump shot in slow motion during the World Jam in 'Step Up 3D'. It was a timing thing where I had to jump between two boys who were flipping across me and go through the middle of them, landing on my knees...but I landed on my toes!

LF: Does it ever become taxing on you as an actor to repeatedly put yourself into roles that are faced with such disturbing subject matter? Or are you able to come back from that emotional place as soon as the cameras stop rolling?

SV: During the beginning of my career when I worked on Aussie drama 'Home and Away', I was constantly getting the heavier storylines which I remember finding hard to disconnect from at the end of the day. The more demanding, emotional scenes would stay with me long after I'd finished shooting them as I hadn't yet learned how to 'switch off'. Working with fake blood, prosthetics and special effects etc is fun and fascinating! If you watch the Behind the Scenes on the "You're Next" DVD, you'll see us all singing and laughing in between takes on set. I like to keep things light and fun when the cameras aren't rolling, then switch into character when I need to. However some scenes may take a bit more preparation time if they demand a higher emotion or intensity.

LF: How did you make the jump from movies like Step Up 3D and Blue Crush 2 to horror films? Aside from the obvious things, like being covered in blood, how are the experiences different? Have you always been a fan of the genre? What was the first horror movie you ever watched?

SV: I'm not sure how I leapt from Disney to R rated Horror, but the cross over appears to lie in the physicality of these roles. I've played a dancer in 'Step Up 3D', a pro surfer in 'Blue Crush 2', survived a tsunami and sharks in 'Bait', fought back killers in 'You're Next' and overcome a psychotic telekinetic comatose patient in 'Patrick'.. So I see the recurring theme to be my passion for action and strong physical characters. Whether I'm covered in water or dust in Step Up, or doused in blood and gore in 'You're Next', it's all movie magic and a helluva lot of fun! I've been a fan of the horror genre since I was 6 or 7 and would have sleep overs just to watch 'IT', 'Jaws', 'Pet Semetary', 'Child's Play', 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', and 'Scream'! I think the first horror film I ever saw was 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' or 'IT', so I've always been scared by a killer wearing a good mask in a horror film!

LF: Who are your strong woman role models professionally? And who are your strong woman role models personally? According to Wikipedia you were raised by a single mother, like myself. Do you draw a lot of your strength from your mother and would you consider her to be kind of a badass?

SV: Professionally and personally, my two strong woman role models have always been my mother and my grandmother. Both women managed to secure very successful careers in the entertainment industry, all the while being dedicated mothers to raising their kids. They are the ultimate badasses, and I'm proud to be in the third generation of badass!

LF: You're not only an accomplished actress, swimmer, and dancer, but you've also had a bit of a career in the music industry as a singer in the group Foxfire IV. Which of your many talents are you most passionate about? Which are you strongest at? Do you have time for your other interests, or has your schedule been pretty full? 

SV: I basically grew up training in musical theater- in singing, dancing and acting- and it's been interesting to see each field take prominence at one time or another throughout my career. Ideally, I'd love to do a film adaptation of a Broadway Musical where I can incorporate all into one! I'm passionate about all three equally, however with acting comes the possibility to play these different characters- like a dancer in Step Up, or a singer in an animated Disney film.. I think when I can combine as many skills as possible into the one role is when I am most in my element! 

LF: Are you working on any horror films at the moment? Are there any directors within the genre that you really want to work with? Do you ever think about directing?

SV: My latest film, "Patrick: Evil Awakens" released in select theaters in the U.S last week and can be currently found on VOD. Its a remake of a 1978 telekinetic thriller about a man in a coma who terrorizes his nurse through mind games. I had an amazing opportunity in 'You're Next' to work with so many brilliant up and coming directors within the cast itself! I absolutley loved working with Adam Wingard and deem him one of the best in the genre and the business! Joe Swanberg is a genius! I recently watched "The Sacrament" and would love to work with Ti West as he's such a talent! I'd also love to work with Quentin Tarantino! Directing for me..? - maybe one day- way down the line.

LF: What scares you? We're all scared of war and disease and things like that. But when it comes to horror films, what genuinely scares you? 

SV: A Serbian Film.

LF: Name a film you walked out of at the theater.

SV: I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy to be subjected to 'A Serbian Film'... I walked out after a few minutes feeling physically I'll and mentally disturbed. Awful. God awful. 

LF: If you could punch one person in the face, who would it be? 

SV: The director of 'A Serbian Film'!! 

LF: Has anyone ever made you feel 'star-struck'?

SV: Honestly, no, not really. I think you get so used to seeing celebrities out in Hollywood and in this industry that it becomes second nature to be like 'Oh, that's Leonardo DiCaprio'. 

LF: What's your favorite horror film of all time and / or the scariest movie you've ever seen?

SV: One of my favorite horror films of all time would have to be the Australian classic, "Wolf Creek". It scared me to the point of not wanting to be alone in the outback. 

LF: I absolutely loved that film too. Thanks again. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your work and you're taking the time to do this. Cheers. Best of luck with everything. 

SV: THANKS, LEO!! 

 

- Leo Francis

Leo Francis (below) with Anthony Ginnane (Producer of Patrick 1978 and 2014), Ted Cahn (Arena Cinema) and Sharni Vinson.