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American Mary directors and star interview

What kind of preparation did you do?

Katharine Isabelle
Pretty much none [laughs]. No, I had nine months between when we got the script and when we actually shot, and it was very valuable time for me to absorb the role, the character and the script. It’s not necessarily that I did so much work on it, because I really didn’t – I never do, I’m terribly lazy – I find that doing that kind of work makes you second guess your original instincts as a human being. When you put that much thought into how a human being acts and reacts, then it’s disingenuous, and preconceived. I got to know these girls, especially Sylvia, who will tell you that Mary is very close…

Jen Soska

Sylvia is Mary [laughs].

Katharine Isabelle
To let the script and to let the character sink in, to get to know these girls pretty well, and then we didn’t have any prep, we didn’t have any rehearsal days because we had fifteen days to shoot it. We had two, three takes max for each scene, and none of it was shot in sequence, of course. My prep was to let it absorb into my skin, to let it sink in. And then on set, to talk to Sylvia and have her explain anything I needed explaining. The thing that was the most helpful to me was their encouragement, and their support, and their confidence in me which let me be more confident and let down any guard, any insecurities I had, to really portray Mary as fully as I could, without squashing it with my own insecurity, and that was very generous, and very, very, very kind of them.

Given the allegorical aspect of the film, did you bring anything of your own experience to that?

Katharine Isabelle
Yeah, I had the same experiences as these guys in the film industry. I started in film when I was five, my parents are filmies, the filmies that I grew up with on set were my family. I had the same, like, ‘Everyone is my family member, it’s all cute and I’m all protected’, then all of a sudden there’s a switch where it’s very sexualised, very exploitative, very sort of creepy, in that your feelings are sort of hurt all of a sudden. Like, everyone’s looking at me differently and it’s become this thing I’m not comfortable with, instead of my base where I felt the most comfortable. And that took me a little while to get over. Thankfully, because my family are filmies, my bullshit radar was tightly tuned and no-one was going to sneak shit past me.

Whereas these two had each other, I had my extenuated film family that I knew would support and back me up and wouldn’t let anything happen. That’s what happens, and you learn to put up a good filter, and to block the shit there, and to let things through. You’re always taking a gamble, no matter what, you’re always going, ‘Okay I think this is somebody I can trust, something I believe in, something I want to believe in’. It might turn out to be a complete fucking disaster and I won’t want anything to do with these people, or it could be an amazing experience. You try your best to protect yourself as well as you can, and then the rest of the time you just have to sort of trust, and gamble, and if it doesn’t work out at the end of the day it’s a great fucking story, isn’t it?

Did you have favourite scenes in the film?

Jen Soska
The milkshake scene with Lance, played by Twan Holliday, was one of my favourites. Some people wanted it to be such a North American horror film, but it’s a story about people, and those intimate moments make it so beautiful. That one moment in that scene where she smiles, which is the first time you see the real Mary – it’s such a beautiful smile and it’s such a beautiful scene, it’s two people talking about what they’re not talking about, which is so much of what reality and conversation is about. I like the twin surgery because my dad plays the surgeon, and just seeing him just makes me happy.

Sylvia Soska
I love the end scene with Billy and Mary, because it’s so unconventional. I remember a lot of people saying, ‘You have to cut that, it doesn’t make sense’, or, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave with him, it doesn’t make sense’. It’s the last scene, there’s no way you can look at it without it being the last scene. They’re not saying what they want to say to each other because these are very damaged people. They’re in each other’s lives, but they’re not really in each other’s lives, and you know they have to move on in some way. He’s going to leave and she’s probably not going to show up at the bar anymore.

Jen Soska
I like the party too, Nelson Wong who plays Dr Black, he’s so charismatic, his agent forced him in to audition for us, we’d already cast someone and were like, ‘This guy better be so fucking good’. And that infectious laughter was outside, and we wanted Dr Black to have this really particular laugh. When he came in we were like, ‘I’m so sorry to the other guy, but you are everything your agent promised and so much more’. I’ll never work with him for one day again, I was wrecked emotionally; I need so much more Wong in my life!

You two have a fabulous cameo. What was the make-up like, and why the German accents?

Sylvia Soska
[To Jen] I’ll do the German accents, you’re the make-up nerd. In Berlin, that’s where the hardcore group of body modifications are, and I was like, ‘If I’m going to be respectful to this culture’ – because this is not a blanket statement with all the body mods, there’s different groups doing different things – ‘They have to be from Berlin, it just makes sense that we give a little shout-out to the Berlin thing’. I said let’s make a very twinny scene, let’s just lay it on super thick. I laugh every time I see it.

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