Whilst Morgana O’Reilly is currently best-known for her regular role as Naomi Canning on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, at long last the UK gets to see her in a completely contrasting role as Kylie Bucknell in the New Zealand horror-comedy Housebound.
Written, edited, and directed by first-time helmer Gerard Johnstone, the film went on to make some fierce waves following its SXSW world premiere last year. After winning a plethora of awards on the festival circuit it wasn’t long before New Line Cinema picked up the rights and announced a US remake.
Inspired by the Ghosthunters documentary series and cult classics ranging from Peter Medak’s The Changeling through to John Hough’s The Legend of Hell House, Housebound finds social scofflaw Kylie (O’Reilly) sentenced to eight months home detention with her well-intentioned yet ever so loose-lipped mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and wholly house-trained stepfather Graeme (Ross Harper). Whilst being forced back home is a big enough problem in itself, Kylie becomes increasingly convinced there’s a hostile spirit loose in the house who seems less than content with her return.
With the film releasing in cinemas this Friday, June 3, SCREAM’s Howard Gorman caught up with O’Reilly to talk about how Johnstone wrote the script with her in mind, the current prevalence of New Zealand horror-comedy and just what her thoughts are concerning the upcoming US remake…..
SCREAM: Your character in Housebound is certainly a far cry from Naomi in Neighbours. Did you intentionally pick two completely disparate roles to play?
Morgana O’Reilly: Housebound actually started filming well before I played Naomi. The film took a long time to finish and we chipped away at it for about two and a half years and I think I did my last bit of filming like a week after I started filming Neighbours. It was quite cool to keep the character of Kylie for so long but there was no conscious decision for me to play two characters from different ends of the spectrum.
Writer/director Gerard Johnstone wanted you to play Kylie from the word go. Why do you think he had you in mind?
I honestly don’t really know. You’ll have to ask him that. He’d seen me in some theatre before and I also did a very small role on a TV series that he’d made called ‘The Jaquie Brown Diaries’ which was a really funny and great show. Anyway, I bumped into him one day getting a coffee and he said, “Oh just so you know, I’m writing a script and I’ve got you in mind.” At that point I was a very unemployed actress and I was like, “That’s awesome! Keep writing!”
Then I found out he’d got the funding so I was like, “Yes! I hope that means he’s gonna call me soon and hasn’t found somebody else.” But eventually he did call me and the rest is history.
I believe you’re not a massive horror fan so did you immerse yourself in many films to help you with the role or did you try not to let other things influence your performance?
No, I just tried to stay very true to the script and the role. I guess it’s the director and DP’s job to play with genre as much as they want. There was definitely a tone in the film that I don’t think has been done a lot in New Zealand and it’s definitely in the Shaun of the Dead area but it’s a hard one because if you play the comedy too hard it’s not funny and then if you play the drama too hard it wouldn’t work either. But I just tried to stay true to the character and tame her because she was quite hard work.
I think Gerard was quite the perfectionist and had you shooting the same scenes over and over again.
He is totally a perfectionist and we would do lots and lots and lots of takes. I guess it had to do with the tone and trying to get it in that perfect place. Dealing with actors who predominantly work in comedy I guess he was trying to steer us away from that. I guess he also did this to help him get his head around what we were making because I think it all started maybe a little too early before it was quite ready and that’s why it took so long to make.
You shared some absolutely hilarious moments and some seriously frightening scenes with Rima, who plays your mother. It must have been a blast working with her.
Both of us are similar actors in the sense that we love character and we’d tell each other stories about people that we’d met and little idiosyncrasies that they would do. Miriam does all these hilarious things and she used to crack me up and in the end our performances arose out of our mutual love of character.
You were really adamant about doing all your own stunts. Why was that so important to you?
I don’t know! *laughs* I guess I felt like I could do them. My mother was a dancer and I grew up in a very physical house and I trained in dancing on and off in my life. I’d also done a lot of stage combat too and I’ve always been a tomboy at heart so I wasn’t going to play this badass chick and let some other badass chick do the badass bit. It was really fun and I’m really glad I did it. There were a few times when I was waiting for action and I was standing there thinking, “What the fuck did you say you’d do this for you dickhead? You’re going to break your neck!” But it was alright in the end.
You said earlier that this kind of film has never really been done in New Zealand but we’re getting things like What We Do in the Shadows and Deathgasm so it does look like it’s becoming popular over there right now.
Yeah, I guess maybe I shouldn’t say it hasn’t ever been done. It is very Peter Jackson and his early stuff was Braindead and things like that. I guess this stuff resonates with us really well because we have such an intensely dark sense of irony. Maybe it’s to do with our place on the globe because we’re right at the bottom of the world and very close to Antarctica and yet we’re still part of the Commonwealth and we still have this connection with the UK.
Is it true that virtually the only films made in New Zealand that make a profit are horror films?
Yeah, I have heard that too. I don’t know if I have the answer as to why that’s the case. Maybe to make a really good horror film you have to have a really morbid sense of humour, whether you want to make a horror-comedy or just straight-up horror.
You have said that Hollywood makes a lot of great stuff but it also makes a lot of rubbish so you aren’t all that fussed about heading over to the States to work just yet. Also what are your hopes and fears about the American remake of Housebound?
Well, in answer to the first part of the question about going to America, I would be more than happy to work over there but because the market is just so huge over there you also get a lot of crap mixed up with the most amazing stuff. But shit yeah, America hire me!
And then about the remake, I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m really happy for the film that it’s being sold like that but in a selfish, protective way. I’m kind of like, “Why do you need to remake it? It’s in English?” So I’m really conflicted but almost like a younger sibling or something like that.
Well thank you for your time Morgana, I really wish you the best of luck.
Thanks Howard, that’s cool. Thank you so much.
We’d like to thank Morgana for chatting to SCREAM and we can’t recommend enough that you go and check out Housebound this Friday. If you need some more convincing be sure to head over and read our five star review here:
In the meantime we’ll leave you with the UK trailer for the film, courtesy of Metrodome Film:
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)