Australian actress Samara Weaving has endeared to herself to horror fans by leaning in to a filmography packed with gleeful gore and spectacular violence. She was face-to-face with the Deadites in Ash vs. Evil Dead. She was a Satan-worshipping cool girl in The Babysitter, and she killed her way through an entire office building alongside Steven Yeun in Mayhem. In the new movie Ready or Not, Weaving — the niece of sci-fi–fantasy stalwart Hugo Weaving — lands top billing for the first time as Grace, a woman whose brand-new family is trying to kill her just hours after she says “I do.” (As Adam Brody’s brother-in-law character tells Grace and the viewer: “Rich people really are different.”)
For those who have followed the actress, it’s yet another star-making Weaving performance packed with equal parts comedic asides and full-throated screaming (and perhaps the first time a Weaving character has had to punch a kid who, just like his elder relatives, is hell-bent on murdering her). But considering Ready or Not will be Fox Searchlight’s most widely-released picture, she’ll have her largest audience ever. The funny thing about Weaving — and perhaps the biggest testament to her transformational abilities onscreen — is that she doesn’t relate to Grace’s shrieking rage or her Babysitter character’s easy swagger. In real life, the actress admits to hating confrontation, feeling a pervasive sense of anxiety in social and professional situations, and even avoiding driving for fear that someone might die. “I just never want to,” says Weaving. “I mean, if I’m behind the wheel of a car, I’m just going to get distracted and kill like seven civilians. I’m terrified of it.” Ahead of her new movie’s release, Vulture spoke with the actress about the therapy in acting, what it’s like to punch a kid, and how to let a good scream rip.
You’ve really built an early career out of playing these agents of chaos, and while Grace is the one on the defensive in Ready or Not, you’re still doing a lot of dishing out. And a lot of intense screaming. What are you tapping into when you go into havoc mode?
I really don’t know. It’s really technical to hit every beat, so you’re kind of concentrating on where to put your feet and your arms, ’cause it’s safety first. Then you just really have to sell it. You’ve just got to go all-in or else it’s going to look really dumb, and if you’re tired or you second guess a move, you can get hurt. I think a lot of the characters I’ve played, it’s so easy to fall in the trap of playing it with fear, and I really wanted to make this from a place of anger and determination. I just think that’s more interesting and more realistic. Women get mad about being repressed all the time, so let’s scream about it. And I’ve just always been a really good at screaming, I guess.
This is your first time carrying a movie, but you’ve made movies before, like Mayhem, that have a critical subtext about class. Why do you think there’s been so much positive buzz around this very violent satire in Ready or Not, where other, similar films are catching a lot of backlash?
I can’t speak for other films, but I know with Ready or Not it really was the marketing — and the studio really believed in it. They really sold this in such a great way, because it is funny and it is scary and it is a thriller, and they did such a fantastic job with the tone in that sense.
So, what pulls you to movies like these?
For Ready or Not it really was how collaborative the team was about my ideas. Grace easily could have gone the other way and been just this scaredy-cat, you know? Of course there’s fear in the discovery of this family, but I wanted her to get mad and determined. They really loved that idea and went with it. They even played around with ideas that didn’t work, but they at least let me figure it out rather than just shoot me down. So that was really cool to me before I signed on.
And how did you change Grace to suit you?
I didn’t change any of the words at all. I just wanted her to be logical and thoughtful in times of desperation, so just adding an extra layer. When I read that she grew up in foster care, I thought, “Well, she’s probably gotten into street fights and fought with foster parents and had to work on herself to get to this place, to become this woman.” That also makes it really funny, because the Le Domas characters are really thrown by the fact that she can fight back. She’s not an easy target. She has that survival instinct. If it’s fight or flight, Grace fights.
Do you gravitate toward playing fighters because it’s intuitive for you, or because this is you like going on vacation through different characters?
Oh, I’m totally taking a vacation with these women. It’s very therapeutic, because I am the most anxious introvert ever. I have terrible social anxiety. Press is truly terrifying. I can’t confront anyone. I can’t remember the last time I got mad at someone. It’s way too scary, and I’m in such awe of people who can. It seems like such a nice thing to do. I’d just be filled with regret, like, immediately after. I’d probably say the wrong thing, and I’m one of the people who stands in the shower after talking to an annoying person and goes “Oh, I should’ve said that!” I’ll put it in my diary and be like, “Yeah! I’ll show you!”
Does that mean in Ready or Not you were unloading internalized rage on Andie MacDowell then?
[Laughs.] Maybe not with Andie MacDowell! But oh my God. I was so nervous about hitting that kid in the face, ’cause I had to throw my whole shoulder like an inch next to his ear. I didn’t mess up. Thank god, because [his] mom was standing in the corner. What a job I have!