Was The Uninvited always going to be your first film back working as an adult?
It just kind of happened. There were a couple of roles that I read scripts for, but none of the others grabbed me.
Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who produced The Uninvited and also did 2004's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, had been keen on getting you into a film like this for years, hadn't they?
At the end of Unfortunate Events they said to me, "We're going to put you in a horror film one day." It was very nice of them to have that interest and faith in me.
Had you been looking for a specific film to do?
I'd finished high school and I wanted to get back into something so I asked myself, "What's the opposite of A Series of Unfortunate Events?" They're not completely opposite, but this is for an older audience. I originally thought I'd be starting with an easier small role, as I was first cast as Anna, the sister of my character Alex. Then they said they couldn't find an Anna, so they asked me to do it.
How much notice did you have of the swap?
I went to Los Angeles when I knew I had the part of Alex to help other people audition for Anna. Walter Parkes, the producer, and the directors Charlie and Tom Guard, then said to me, "We've got some people to audition for the part of Alex" and I said, "So I haven't got the part?" They said, "You have, but maybe you could do the other one." It was pretty casual.
So did you assume at first that you'd been fired?
Pretty much. It was odd for a few seconds.
What did you think of the Korean film, A Tale of Two Sisters, that inspired The Uninvited?
I liked it. It's quite different and there were times I was utterly confused. It was beautifully shot, but creepy.
Did you grow up watching supernatural or horror films?
Not really. It's only in recent years that I've got into watching zombie films. My boyfriend was studying George A. Romero at university so we were watching Night of the Living Dead. I also love Zach Snyder's version of Dawn of the Dead. I've never been a big horror geek.
Are you a movie buff?
I don't watch enough movies for someone who is in this business. I have a million DVDs at home, but it's rare that I make it to the cinema. I feel really unintelligent when it comes to film - I'll be like, 'Um, yeah, how about that Titanic film!'
How do you feel when you see yourself on the screen?
What kind of demands did The Uninvited make that were new to you?
It was physical mainly. I had a fight scene with Elizabeth Banks that took three days. I ate the worst I've ever eaten on that film because while I'm usually very healthy I was so tired that I would eat whatever anyone put in front of me. I was eating constantly and yet I still lost weight because I was working constantly. We were doing 16 hour days - this was the first time I could work without restriction as an adult and it was intense. I worked really hard for four months with all this running around and panicked breathing.
At the same time the directors, Charles and Thomas Guard, obviously loved shooting you in close-up.
There were days that I'd think, "That shot was right up my nose!" I'd come off set and talk to my boyfriend about it and he'd say, "No, it looked great." Thankfully he was completely biased.
What was their working technique like?
They shot everything from 26 different angles. At the time you're starting to think about killing them, because you've done the scene one billion times, but when you see the finished film you know they've done the right thing by having the exact type of footage they needed to cut it together.
And you had more experience of feature films than they did.
I would tease them about that. "Well boys, let me tell you about how we did it on all my other films
" I have done quite a bit of work, but they do know so much technically. They were great for debut directors.
What was the brotherly dynamic between Tom and Charlie?
Off-set we'd hang out all the time. We had dinner together a lot. Off-set Charlie, who is younger, was a bit louder. But when they were on set it was as if they thought exactly the same thing, so you had one person but it was just more efficient with two of them. One of them might be looking at the shot on the monitor while the other one would be talking to me. Tom was slightly more of an authority figure because he was two years older than Charlie.
Were they always a unified front?
There was one scene where I was thinking I'd screamed enough in the movie and I didn't want to do it again. Charlie was just laughing, saying how stubborn I was, while Tom was going, "You have to scream." Charlie was laughing and Tom was angry - and that made Charlie laugh even more.
How is your screaming technique?
It's my second worse thing! The only thing I'm worse at is trying to fake laughter. I don't know why - maybe I'm not a good actor! I always think I can't do it and then the moment comes and I can scream. You feel so silly and over the top when you do it, but everyone will remind you that it's an important part of a genre film.
It's a very smart genre film, isn't it? As well as being most scary, there's a side to it about how women relate to each other.
Yes, on one hand there's the horrible bitchiness between the way Anna and Rachel relate, while Anna and Alex are almost creepily close. It's weird. I feel like Anna is obsessed with Alex because they love each other so much.
You presence signifies the same thing, doesn't it?
If it was an ordinary horror film I wouldn't have been cast. I'm five foot two, pale and have got big ears! I'm okay with that, but so many horror films have the blonde girl.
You also have to hold so much in as Anna.
It's like there was almost two different stories and you're playing both of them - you're playing one with the audience, with the real story always in the back of your mind. You need the audience not to guess, but then be able to think about what they've seen and get it. That's hard. There were times we had to pause before shooting a scene to make sure we didn't reveal something we shouldn't.
Has it changed how you've thought about yourself?
It's only after this film finished that I realised I'm absolutely a feminist and how important that is now. Previously I probably thought that that mattered to the past and that now we're all equal, but we're not. It was my boyfriend who brought it up because he was raised by an amazing single mother and he's intrinsically a feminist himself. It made me think back to my past work and I was glad to realise that I hadn't done anything gratuitous.
How did the four main cast members - Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks and yourself - interact?
Myself and Arielle got on like a house on fire. It would have been a long four months if not. The first time we met, at an audition, we rubbed each other up the wrong way. When I first meet people I'm super quiet and nervous, whereas she's nervous and really loud. She was terrifying to me and she probably thought I wouldn't even talk to her. But in Canada we had dinner the first night and ordered the same things and just talked non-stop for three hours. I think after the while the directors and producers got worried about how close we were, because we'd rewrite lines so they felt more real to us.
I didn't get to do that many scenes with David, which is a shame because he's an amazing actor. He's such a sweet guy. He offered my boyfriend and I his car for the weekend so we could go away at one point because he thought I'd been working harder than him. David's this rad guy who's been nominated for an Oscar and he's just so normal. Elizabeth is hilarious. I didn't know how she'd do the role and she just killed it. She was so creepy, yet so likable. We were lucky to have these people.
You have younger brothers yourself, did that add to the attraction of being part of a mainly female ensemble?
I always wanted to have a sister. I used to be jealous of girls who had a sister they were close to.
It sounds like Alex has a far more emotionally extreme adolescence than you did?
That's definitely in the film. There's her relationship with her sister and they way they love each other but argue, her relationship with the boy that makes her so nervous.
The film is very good at putting us into Alex's world from the first scene.
It was important to establish that. You see her in the first scene with her shrink and she seems very much a healthy, fairly normal girl. You want things to go well for her.
How were your own high school years after you starred in A Series of Unfortunate Events?
I think it was actually worse early on before I'd done any big films. I was terrified then of what people might think and I didn't know if I was going to be one of the cool kids. But I went away for a year and I grew up a lot and I decided that I didn't care what these other people thought. If people liked me for me that was great, if not it's wasn't my problem. Once I had that attitude of not caring if I made friends I made a million great friends. And they're still my friends now.
Did you study drama in high school?
Never! I hate drama kids - I can't stand them. In that environment of a drama class everyone is so over the top. I just want to say, "Shut up! Stop performing!" It's too much. I'd like to do theatre one day, but I generally find theatre people way too intense. I like making films because it gives me a chance to be quieter.
There can be that over reliance on technique as well.
I've never done any acting classes. There might be a slight issue of pride in that - "I don't need this!" - but I think that I may do a couple at some point soon to help me develop.
Did you miss filmmaking when you were finishing your last two years of high school?
Not really. I didn't miss working, but I was thinking how good it would be to find a great character to do. A lot of actors make movies back to back and they like; I would like to make one good movie every two years and read books and ride my bike - and go to university! - the rest of the time. There are a million other things I want to do, acting isn't the only thing. It's good because there's a lot of rejection in this line of work, so if it happens to me I'll just do something else. If I ever felt I was getting rejected a lot and acting didn't seem to be the right choice for me, I wouldn't do it. I love doing it when I do work, but I wouldn't be absolutely devastated if it dried up.
Were there roles that you didn't pursue while you were finishing high school that you would have been interested in?
I remember reading Juno and thinking that it was the best script ever. I couldn't audition for it because I was in high school at the time, but when I saw it I thought it was amazing and I knew that Ellen Page was absolutely perfect for the part. She wore that fake belly so well!
How did your name come to be associated with the film adaptations of the Twilight novels for so long?
Apparently about two years ago Stephenie Meyer was asked in an interview who she would get to play Bella if she could get anyone and she said me, which is very flattering and lovely. No-one was talking about a movie at that stage, but later on I got asked to audition. It was just after The Uninvited and I really needed a break, but they asked me to meet with the director, so I read the book and Catherine Hardwicke was fantastic to talk to and she wanted me to do it. I was pretty much ready to do the first one, but you had to sign on to do all three and I couldn't do it. Some people can handle that, but I couldn't. I was in the city recently and I saw a big billboard for it and a friend of a friend said, "That could have been you". I was so glad that it was not. It wasn't right for me to do it.
Have you shot anything since The Uninvited?
Just a short film for my friend, who's in his second year at university. He's my best friend from high school so we write them together and shoot them together. I have so much input. We're doing another one this coming weekend.
Are you still interested in fashion design?
It's one of the things I'm interested in doing at university. There are fashion designers I know that I've been thinking about asking if I can intern with them. I'm in a transition phase, but at the moment I kind want to do everything. I love the idea of doing more films so that I can wear things afterwards that freak people out and disagree with the trends. I'd kind of be flattered if I was on Worst Dressed Lists. I'd love to have the fashion reputation of a Chloe Sevigny.
Are you also still keen on studying psychology?
Well, I was really interested in it in year 10, then I took it in year 11 and it was okay, but everyone said it got better in year 12. I did it and I didn't like it. I thought it would be about human interaction and the mind, but it was all statistics and science-based, with diagrams of the brain. That was Hell for me because I'm really into English and the arts and not math or science. I'd really like to do philosophy and literature and women's studies at university.
That's a serious workload.
I know. Maybe I'll have to start with a general Arts degree and then hone in on them later.
You're one of the few actors I've met who appears to have a rounded life.
I think it's important. When I first went to Los Angeles I met people who were just all about the movies and I thought that that wasn't right. What if no-one wants to cast you one day?
Your earnings as a teenager were placed into a trust account to keep them safe for you - did you have a tiny splurge when took control of them?
Actually there are some trusts in the States I still can't access because I'm not yet 21. I don't have my license; I ride a bicycle my boyfriend made for me as a birthday present from the spare parts of 1960s bikes. I live in a tiny rental house. I don't care about flashiness, but I do spend money on clothes. I don't buy expensive things, but I buy so many items. And food, too. I love going out to eat and my mum taught me to always buy organic food.
What else did your parents teach you?
They kept me grounded. I never wanted to act; I fell into it, so when it first happened they were worried. They were not stage parents. They didn't want me to change. They emphasised being yourself and not worrying about what other people think of you. That's not easy when you're in the public eye.
Especially in the Internet Age.
I just ignore them now. A few times I've looked at message boards and you get uplifted by one comment but then there's a heap of ones saying you're terrible.
You got the facile side of Hollywood out of the way very early.
That happened while I was shooting A Series of Unfortunate Events. There were things I liked, such as how passionate people were about film, but at the same time everyone was involved with film. Every person you met was in the film industry. I almost felt like I should say I did something else just to be different. Life is a lot more versatile here.
What's you cook what's your specialty dish?
The dish I make the most is vegetarian chili: very good, very cheap. I also do lots of vegetarian tacos and other Mexican dishes.
How long have you been a vegetarian?
I don't want to offend proper vegetarians, so I'll point out that I'm a pescetarian - I eat fish. We had to come up with out own wanky term for it, because if you say you're a vegetarian who eats fish the real vegetarians can get upset. I do my best. From eight until 14 I was a vegetarian and then I stopped. I started again 18 months ago.
How's it going living outside the family home?
Great. It's been a year now. My boyfriend and I got together about a week before I got this movie and that meant I would be moving to Canada to four months. I didn't want to leave my new boyfriend behind, so when they said it was time to go I asked him to come with me. That was four months worth of practice at living together and we were such good housemates that as soon as we got back we found a home together.
What are you reading at the moment?
The key author for me recently has been Haruki Murikami. I read After Dark, Kafka By The Shore and now Norwegian Wood consecutively. He's just changed the way I read. He's an amazing writer who has these weird tangents while describing these perfect human moments with great realism. I could read at age three because I was a bit of a weirdo.
Advanced is the phrase we use.
I was a weirdo. I'm into self-diagnosing, which is terrible. I read about this thing called Dyscalculia, which is akin to dyslexia for number, and I've got every single symptom. I'm not saying I have it, but the idea of being in a math class and getting it one day but then not remembering it the next day is very me. I also didn't learn to tell the time until I was 16 because I just couldn't comprehend the numbers, while being advanced in English.
Your parents were quite young when they had you, weren't they?
Really young. My dad was 19 - he was younger than my boyfriend is now. My boyfriend is 21 and he's worried enough as it is about our kitten. You think they must have been really mature, but my mum told me the other day that she had no idea at first. They did a really good job. I almost died from a seizure when I was six weeks old. I had immunisation drops and the same day I turned blue. My mum was shaking me and didn't know what to do, so she gave me to my dad and got ready - she told me this last night - to throw herself down the stairs because I was blue. My dad breathed on my face and I woke up. Haven't had a health problem since.Cast
: Emily Browning, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Massar and Arielle Kebbel. Director
: Charles Guard and Thomas GuardGenre
: MA15+ Running Time
: 87 minutes
In the haunting suspense thriller "The Uninvited," a deadly battle of wills begins when Anna (Emily Browning) returns from a psychiatric facility and investigates the circumstances surrounding her mother's suspicious and untimely death. While Anna recuperates from the tragedy, her father (David Strathairn) becomes engaged to Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), her mother's former nurse, and moves her into their home. Anna's dismay quickly turns to horror when she is visited by her mother's ghost - crying out for revenge and pointing an accusing finger at Rachel. When her father refuses to heed their warnings, Anna and her sister, Alex (Arielle Kebbel), look into Rachel's questionable past. But Anna may be underestimating Rachel - perhaps fatally so.The Emily Browning Story - www.femail.com.au/emily-browning.htm
Emily Browning The Uninvited Interview 1 - wwww.femail.com.au/emily-browning-the-uninvited-interview.htm
Emily Browning The Uninvited Interview 2 - www.femail.com.au/emily-browning-the-uninvited-interview2.htm