‘Mayhem,’ ‘The Babysitter,’ and now ‘Ready or Not’? It’s about time you got to know this charismatic force.
One evening I was watching Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz and the show introduced a new character late in the first season; a hiker named Heather. She seemed sweet and grounded enough, and actually managed to make an impression amidst a very colorful and lovable cast of established characters. Then – spoiler – Heather gets what’s coming to her in this Deadite-infested world, a deliciously over-the-top and wicked demise. That’s the scene that officially seared actor Samara Weaving into my brain forever.
After that, Weaving added one impressive credit to her name after the next. She had a small but unforgettable role in the Oscar-winning Martin McDonagh film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She also starred opposite The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun in the underrated Mayhem and lead the top-notch Netflix horror-comedy from McG, The Babysitter. It’s about time Weaving become a household name as an actor with A+ comedy chops, the ability to expertly balance tones, and so much more. Hopefully her new movie Ready or Not will contribute to making that a reality when it hits theaters on August 21st, but we want to do our part too, so we’re putting the Collider Spotlight on the incomparable Samara Weaving.
Daughter of a filmmaker and the niece of the prolific Hugo Weaving, the itch to act came naturally to Weaving as she was surrounded by it. “My dad is a filmmaker and a professor of film so he was always watching movies and talking about them. Whenever we’d watch movies as a family, we’d discuss them.” On top of that, her father actually got into the habit of interviewing her. “Dad always had the camera out,” she recalled. “He used to interview us, and I think I must have been five or six, and I had this really strange accent because we went to a British international school and then an American one, so I kind of sound Irish. And I’m like, ‘I want to be a dancer, or maybe a performer.’ It’s like the introvert in me was like, ‘that’s the only way I can show the extrovert side of myself.’”
When you watch Weaving’s work on the big screen, it’s tough to imagine her as anything but an extrovert with zero inhibitions. Turns out, that’s not the case and she suspects it might have something to do with how much she moved around as a kid. “Every two years we’d move countries and different schools, and I was such a shy, anxious child. And now, I’m an anxious adult.” She laughed and continued, “It took me a long time to make friends and settle into these new countries and places… so they thought it would be a good idea to put me in drama schools to bring me out of my shell. And it worked, because you kind of break the ice as a kid and you’re playing make-believe on stage. And it was a good way to make friends.”
Eventually it came time for Weaving to make a major career (and life) choice while working on Home and Away. “I had a big decision whether I go to university because I was working during high school. And then, yeah, Home and Away offered me the three-year gig, and it was straight out of high school.” Given how much experience her family had in the industry, who better to turn to than them for a little advice? “They were really supportive and were like, ‘Well, what do you really want to do?’ And I thought about it and, ‘Yeah, I want to be an actor.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, you can go to school for that or just learn on the job.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah.’ Because they would say, if that’s your end result and you’ve got an opportunity, then take it.”
Weaving took it and many more followed. She didn’t have to audition for Ready or Not and it might have something to do with the recognition she gained from The Babysitter, a project she did have to audition for. “I auditioned for The Babysitter, and it was like 15 auditions because I was living in Australia at the time.” In that film, Weaving leads as Bee. She babysits 12-year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) and one night, Cole opts to stay up past his bedtime to see what Bee does when he’s asleep and, boy, does he get more than he bargained for. “They had a scene where she’s offering Cole the cookie and she’s got all these people around her. I read the sides and I was like, ‘Oh, she’s a full-on narcissist.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna look up what narcissists are really like.’ And I looked it up, and they have a hearing disability where they just hear what they want to hear.” She continued, “I played it really cold but, because narcissists, if they want to, they can be your best friend. They just manipulate you so well, so they can be really charming and lovely, and then just f*ck you over.”
Weaving embraces that mentality to great effect in The Babysitter, while also showing off a real knack for horror-comedy in the process. Again, on screen, it seems as though that challenging balance comes to Weaving with ease, but she admitted there is some self-doubt when figuring out how big to go with a character like Bee. “You’re constantly doubting yourself, and then you just have to trust the director that they’re gonna pick the right thing.” Those past experiences came in handy big time on Ready or Not because, yet again, that movie really puts Weaving to the test when it comes to striking the right balance between a grounded protagonist and also a character playing into a very extreme scenario. “With Ready or Not because, you know, you learn from past jobs. I was like, ‘Okay, we really need to make sure that we’re on board because I can’t deal with that anxiety anymore,'” she said with a laugh. “Of being like, ‘Am I going too crazy? Am I being hysterical?’ Because I didn’t want Grace to be sort of this damsel in distress. Because she’s the first protagonist I’ve played; normally I play the evil person. Normally I’m the antagonist, but the likable antagonist who’s murdering everyone.”
While there is loads of variety on the horizon, playing the evil person worked in Weaving’s favor because The Babysitter cracked open the door to more opportunities than ever before. “So after The Babysitter, there was lots of indie films that were all horror/comedy/thriller-esque, but I sort of evened it out. I definitely auditioned and auditioned for doing comedy series. I did an amazing series called Picnic At Hanging Rock that was very different. It was 1900s, based on a brilliant book, and that was not a horror-comedy at all. It was a very serious drama.”
So right now Weaving is receiving offers and packing her resume with a variety of content, but when asked what she views as the gig that convinced her that acting could be a real-deal career, Weaving still said, “I still don’t know if I can believe I can do it. I still don’t know.” She laughed and added, “Like, okay, fingers crossed. Get another go at it.”
It’s a good thing she did get another go at it because Ready or Not is a real late-summer gem and Weaving is phenomenal in it. She stars as Grace, a bride-to-be who marries her fiancé (Mark O’Brien) at his family estate. Later that night, Grace is surprised and relatively amused to learn that his family has an unusual wedding night tradition; in order to officially be inducted into the family, Grace has to play a game. Little does Grace know though, when this family plays a game, it can turn deadly.
“With Ready Or Not we discussed Grace a lot before we even started, which was so nice, because there’s a lot of what-the-fuck moments and a lot of discovery after discovery after discovery. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to play this beat the same time every time.’” She continued, “So playing the first time she sees something, I was like, ‘Okay, she’ll be in shock,’ and I was looking for the stages of seeing something as horrific – because you can’t do research.” She laughed and continued, “Like, what would you do if your whole family tried to murder you? And then making it, instead of it being her just trying to run away and being so distressed and ‘I don’t know what to do,’ and kind of a bit hopeless, I was like, ‘No, she should get angry. She should get determined and mad,’ and I think that’s what drove the second and third act.”
Not only does Weaving achieve just that in Ready or Not, but the movie also shows off a very effective evolution for the character from the initial shock of the reality of the situation to becoming a formidable force who refuses to put up with this outrageous tradition. It’s no surprise that Weaving found so much success with the role because she had a stand-out trio watching her back, Radio Silence. (Click here for a full episode of The Witching Hour with directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and executive producer Chad Villella.) “The day before we would come, they would figure everything out to a tee so that Tyler [Gillett], on set. would basically take care of the mechanics and the technical side of things and work with the crew. And Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] would work with the performers, and then after we’d say wrap, they’d kind of debrief and talk about it.”
On top of that, have you seen the full cast of Ready or Not? In addition to Weaving, the line-up also includes Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni and more, all of whom get time to shine and, apparently, contributed to a wonderful vibe on set. Weaving explained, “They were just so fucking fun. Everyone had the best time, and especially doing the night shoots, where it’s like 2 am and everyone – you kind of feel drunk because you’re so tired, and you get a fourth wind and you’re like, ‘I’m just delirious.’ And everyone just leaned into it and was like, ‘This is just so funny.’”
Not only does every member of the ensemble stand out, but Ready or Not is also packed to the brim with unforgettable set pieces. When asked for her favorite, Weaving highlights a scene from early in the film; “There’s a scene at the beginning and it’s the only scene where the whole cast is together; the kids, and Fitch and everyone. There was like, what, 15 of us in there? And it’s when you introduce Grace to all the family members. That was so much fun because the amount of improv and the hysterical moments. God, it was so fun. It was the most fun. Probably not for the ADs to wrangle all of us and keep us quiet.”
I really can’t recommend Ready or Not enough, but looking ahead, Weaving has a few other projects well worth keeping an eye on. There’s a good chance you’ve been following the development of Bill & Ted Face the Music where Weaving steps in as Bill’s (Alex Winter) daughter, Thea Preston. She’s about a month into filming on that project right now and while we’re all waiting for any little update we can get our hands on, the widespread anticipation for the film hasn’t quite hit Weaving yet. “I think you’re in a bubble when you’re filming it. It’s not until you’re finished and you’re doing press for it; you’re like, ‘Oh, people, are into it. Oh, I didn’t know.’” She added, “We’re filming in New Orleans and there’s so many people that are posting, ‘They’re filming in this location on Friday.’ And I’m like, ‘How did they know?’ I don’t understand.”
Another upcoming role that earned her some early attention was her part in Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm follow-up film, Guns Akimbo, which is set to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “Oh god, I looked unrecognizable.” She further explained, “We were doing filming in New Zealand and Germany, and they have a different turnaround system to the States, because it took like three or four hours in make-up every day. I had tattoos on my face, all down my arms and with very aggressive words. And sometimes I’d just leave them on so I could sleep and then I’d have less time in the morning.” She continued by offering up an interesting visual; “I’d go to a grocery store or trying to get dinner, people would leave the restaurant or they’d cross the road. They were terrified, they were terrified, especially if I’d just done a bloody scene and sliding my keycard along to the front desk, trying to hide my hands because there’s a skull and blood everywhere, and they’re like, ‘Sorry, so what are you doing here?’ I’m like, ‘It’s just a movie. It’s fine!’”
Clearly, Weaving has a habit of picking up one highly unique, challenging role after the next so I did catch myself wondering; how does she keep it up? Is there some sort of magic to her pre-set routine that helps her power through Deadite attacks and killer in-laws? “Just wake up as late as possible, do a half assed wash and then, yeah, get on my way. I think having your downtime, your alone time, is important… especially with an ensemble piece like Bill & Ted. And it’s such high energy comedy that at lunch, I’m like, ‘I need a nap. How did they do this the first two times?’”
Here’s to as many late wake-ups as possible! Especially if that keeps Weaving as busy and successful as she’s been in recent years. Don’t forget to catch Weaving in Ready or Not which hits theaters on Wednesday, August 21st and keep an eye on Collider.com for Guns Akimbo coverage at TIFF 2019.