Actress Jane Levy attends the world premiere of "Evil Dead" during the SXSW Film Festival March 8, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (Jack Plunkett / Associated Press)Link
An ancient evil is loosed after a group of friends reads aloud from a book bound in human skin. (Sony / TriStar Pictures)Link
Jane Levy in a scene from "Evil Dead." (Kirsty Griffin / Sony / TriStar Pictures)Link
Jeremy Sisto, left, and Jane Levy in "Suburgatory." (Karen Neal / ABC)Link
Allie Grant, left, and Jane Levy in "Suburgatory." (Adam Taylor / ABC)Link
Jane Levy, left, Parker Young and Allie Grant in "Suburgatory." (Kelsey McNeal)Link
"Suburgatory" stars Jane Levy as Tessa Altman. (Craig Sjodin / ABC)Link
In “Evil Dead,” Fede Alvarez’s remake of Sam Raimi’s cult classic, Jane Levy plays heroin addict Mia, whose friends (Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Elizabeth Blackmore) sequester themselves with her in a cabin to help her kick the habit. As in Raimi’s original, they discover and read from an ancient book bound in human skin — the Necronomicon — and unintentionally awaken a demonic force.
As Mia begins to experience the consequences, her friends assume she’s going through heroin withdrawal.
Levy, 23, has been making a name for herself in comedy, starring as sharp-witted Tessa Altman in the ABC television series “Suburgatory” as well as taking on film roles in “Fun Size” and “Nobody Walks” last year. But “Evil Dead” is Levy’s first foray into the world of horror, and the actress said nothing could have prepared for her the intensity of the experience of shooting the film. (Beware, spoilers lie ahead.)
Levy’s character undergoes demonic transformation, endures a visceral knife attack and is raped by a tree. Unlike many horror films today, most of the movie’s effects were achieved practically rather than by using computer-generated imagery — which made filming “Evil Dead” physically punishing. Hero Complex caught up with Levy last week to talk about the horrors she faced on set.
HC: Can you tell us a little about your audition? I hear it was quite challenging.
JL: In my audition, I have to act like I’m being buried alive while slowly turning into a devil, while we’re in a cubicle in an office and I’m sitting on a folding chair. And that’s pretty hard. And I remember telling myself, “I just have to be as crazy as possible, don’t be embarrassed, go for it, and that’s the only way you’re going to get this job.” And I was. Once the scene was over, I remember being so ashamed about how disgusting I had been that I practically ran out of the room. I felt so rude afterward, and I had my agents call to make sure that they weren’t offended by my behavior, but they were really nice and understanding. I guess it’s exactly what they were looking for.
HC: What drew you to the part in the first place?
JL: A lot of things. I think first my reaction was, wow this is so different than working on a television show, a comedy. How cool! That would be so exciting to learn something so new. I didn’t know much about horror films, that was another thing. I’m just curious about the genre. There’s something so compelling about it because people love it so much. The fan base is so loyal, I don’t know if that’s even the word. So I wanted to learn about it, and if I was going to take on a horror film, this was the horror of all horrors. And also as a young woman, I get to play a really dynamic role. I play practically three different characters in one movie. I get to deal with heroin withdrawal, then I become a demon, and then I come back to life, which is a spoiler, and I get to be an action hero, and to be able to do all those three things in one movie — to even be an action hero at all would be so cool, but on top of that, I get to be a villain, and I torture people, and I thought all of that would be a [load] of fun.
HC: So did you do research for each of those three aspects of your character?
JL: Yeah, I was really nervous to do this movie. I felt terrified, but I did all sorts of research.
HC: I mean, heroin withdrawal. That’s heavy.
JL: Yeah, it is heavy. It’s a really small part of the movie. It’s like the first 10 minutes, maybe. So we don’t go that far in depth, but mostly what I did was researched my favorite actors who have played villains in all of cinema, and watched their performances and tried to steal stuff from them — what made them so scary. Being scary was something that was daunting to me. It sounded like a blast. It’s really fun to explore that, but trying to be scary feels sort of like trying to be funny, where it can’t be contrived and the things that make something funny and the things that make things scary aren’t even explainable. So I had a lot of fun watching Anthony Hopkins being Hannibal Lecter or Robert Mitchum from “Night of the Hunter” — he’s so good.
HC: And your “action hero” moment? Were you nervous about taking that on?
JL: Mostly excited. And when I watch the movie, I feel like a badass. I kept referring to myself in the third act of the movie as Bruce Willis. It was my Bruce Willis moment. When I first got there, they gave me a shotgun, and I went out into the farmlands of New Zealand with the Kiwi John Wayne — I forget what his name was, he was so sweet — and he taught me how to shoot a shotgun, and that was really fun. All the practical effects, in a way, were really fun and fascinating to learn about. It just became at a certain point so exhausting that it was hard for me to think about it as fun anymore. But you know, I get to use a chainsaw, which they actually gifted to me, and it’s in my living room right now.
HC: You say exhausting. I heard something about a blood rain ear infection?
JL: Yeah, I’m not supposed to talk about it. Just like copious amounts of blood. Too much.
HC: That sounds really dark. Did you have nightmares?
JL: I did, I did, yeah. It’s hard to go home, have a nice dinner, get eight hours of sleep after you’re spending your day screaming, “Come down here so I can suck your […], pretty boy, your little sister’s being raped in hell!” It’s hard to unwind. I definitely had nightmares, and the whole crew said the same thing. You consume yourself with this world for months, and it affects your personal life.
HC: This film is filled with tons of torturous things — knives, vines, blood. What was the worst?
JL: Being buried alive was the worst. With a plastic bag tied around my head, with an oxygen tube hidden behind my ear.
HC: Was it worth it? Do you think this film is opening doors for you as an actor?
JL: I definitely think it’s worth it for just the fact that I saw the movie, and I thought it was great. All of it was worth it because I’m really proud of it. I’m proud of all of us.
HC: How was working with director Fede Alvarez and your costars?
JL: Everyone was a trouper. The director is awesome. It was his first movie, but it doesn’t seem like it. He knew exactly what he wanted, and he was also really open to everyone else’s ideas. He doesn’t have a big ego. He was so nice to everybody, really welcoming, generous. He made us feel like there wasn’t something we had to do. He let us play with all sorts of stuff and gave us freedom, and I think it made us all more confident in ourselves and made us willing to try new things. And I had to trust him. I mean, he was doing such torturous things to me the whole time, I had to make sure that I was OK.
HC: What was the last day on set like?
JL: The last day on set, I think we picked up some reshoots at the end. I think it all had to do with the blood rain. And I was so ready to get out of there. I ran to the showers, and then I ran to the airport.
HC: Is there anything else you’ve done in your career that helped you prepare for such a strenuous role?
JL: No, I mean, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a harder acting job for me. No, definitely not. It was so emotionally and physically and psychologically exhausting. But it’s good. I learned so much. And now anytime I hear an actor complain about something they have to go through, I’m like, Pffft. I feel like I can do anything.
— Noelene Clark | @noeleneclark
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