They say that when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. But in Smile, the feature debut of writer-director Parker Finn, that’s certainly not a good thing.
Smile stars Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon, who’s no stranger to the horror genre himself) as Dr. Rose Cotter, a deeply empathetic clinical psychologist with a troubled past. After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Rose starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. Something is smiling at her, and it’s safe to say that it’s not friendly…
Earning the number one spot at the North American box office during its opening weekend, Smile has left audiences grinning from ear to ear. Following the film’s world premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, we caught up with star Sosie Bacon to discuss her powerhouse performance and experiences working on a project that’s emotional and terrifying in equal measure.
SCREAM: What drew you to this project?
SOSIE BACON: There were a couple of things. One was the script. [Rose] is such a fully realized character, so deep, with so much history that’s really shown as opposed to just suggested. And then there are a lot of jump scares that I thought were going to be normal, but [Parker Finn] kind of twisted them on their head. That was really cool and fresh, I thought.
And Parker’s short film has such a clear visual language. As an actor, if you’re going to take a big leap — do a lead role with a director who’s not directed a feature before — you really want to know that the thing you don’t have control over, they’re taking care of it. That was the visuals, and the visuals in his short were so cool and beautiful and eerie and different.
Your character is really put through the wringer. How do you prepare mentally to take on such an intense, emotional performance?
You go back. You go to their childhood and start thinking about that. But I think it’s different every time. You do as much preparation as you possibly can and then you might use it or you might not.
Is there a particular moment or scene in the film that you are especially proud of?
You know what scene I liked? The scene with Robin Weigert [who plays Dr. Madeline Northcott] and I in the therapist’s office when I kind of just show up and I’m asking her for drugs, basically. I think it was a challenging scene to make work because there’s a lot of layers. [Rose] wants the drugs, but she doesn’t really want to let her know that that’s the only reason why she’s there. She’s not really looking for support, but she is.
She’s amazing — such a fun person to play around with — so I’m proud of that one.
You’ve dabbled in the horror genre in the past with Scream: The TV Series, but in this, you were working with Kyle Gallner (Scream, Jennifer’s Body, The Haunting in Connecticut), who’s a horror veteran at this point. Was it helpful to have someone who’s been around the horror block a few times acting opposite you going into this role?
Beyond. He’s such a kind, supportive person who really is looking out for you. He’s just lovely and also very committed. We really talked about building their relationship, having this past. We worked together a lot on that, which was really fun.
Also, since he’s done so much, he kind of kept me grounded. Like, “It’s okay, this is normal.” I just loved having him there — I wish he was there every day, but sadly he couldn’t be.
There are a lot of great practical effects in Smile. What was it like seeing this crazy stuff happening right in front of your eyes?
It was helpful, honestly. I would rather that than act with a tennis ball on a stick. I have a really hard time reacting to nothing,
Definitely looking back on it, it was surreal. But it became almost normal at a certain point.
We have to talk about the smiles, which are so creepy. Once filming was over, did you ever find yourself looking at people smiling in public differently?
It’s so weird. I didn’t after filming, because it was a big part of it but also there were so many other things.
But then when I saw the movie for the second time, I walked out and I was talking to the parking attendant. He was like, “Thank you so much, have a good day.” [Sosie pretends to hold out a ticket with a big smile.] It was in that moment that I was like [pulls a suspicious face]. That was the first time. [Laughs]
Do you see yourself doing more horror films in the future?
One day. I definitely want to do something else first. But there are a lot of different subgenres, so maybe a comedy horror film! One of those ones that’s like a broad comedy but then there’s a lot of gore. I like the idea of that.
Smile is in cinemas now. Read our review here.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)