From teen model to music TV presenter to movie actress, Sara Foster has achieved a lot in short time.
Now she takes the lead in her first horror movie, psychological thriller Psych:9. Zombie2 caught up with her in a swanky London hotel to ask her about making the movie, working with co-star Carey Elwes and what her greatest fear is.
Zombie2: I read that you used to get your nanny to interview you when you where five years old. Did you ever think you would end up as the female lead in a horror film?
Sara Foster: Never. When you’re young you don’t even imagine that that’s a possibility.
You know I loved performing, I loved making people laugh. I always wanted to be an adult from a very young age but in my household I didn’t have parents who talked to me like ‘Well one day you’ll be an actress’. That just wasn’t how we grew up. I always wanted to be a lawyer.
As high school was coming to an end I knew I had to get a job, I knew I had to make some cash, so I did. I started modeling you know doing okay making money and taking care of myself and then I took real gradual steps. I went from that to hosting a television show on MTV, then parts in music videos, then bit parts and little parts in television, then bigger parts in television and then I got my first movie.
So you worked your way up?
Yeah there was no like ‘I was in McDonalds and discovered overnight’ it’s been tough. It’s a hard business and there’s so much rejection and you have to have such thick skin you really do.
In the age of instant stardom it’s nice that your story is one of real hard graft. You must feel that you have really earned everything you have achieved?
I do. I’ve paid my dues. I mean not compared to some people, listen I wasn’t waiting tables so I can’t complain but no it’s been a real gradual process and it’s still a struggle. I don’t get the roles I would love to get, so that’s a goal obviously.
And how did you get involved with Psych:9?
I think the actress they had lined up I think she fell through so I think they where in a pinch and they needed someone quick and my agent had spoken to them and said ‘what about Sara’ and they said ‘yeah okay send us her reel’. They saw my reel and they said they liked what they saw and they had me come in and audition and I went in, I auditioned.
Everyone was already in Prague so they sent the tape over there and they liked it, I got the offer and then I passed on it (pauses and laughs) I said no, I said I don’t want to do it I’ve changed my mind I don’t want to do it.
I just couldn’t believe I was allowed they where going to trust me to carry this movie I couldn’t even handle it, it was intimidating, it was scary, I was terrified. I mean every scene of this film and I knew that if I didn’t deliver the movie would not work so it was a lot of pressure and I’ve never been faced by that kind of pressure before.
So what made you then change your mind?
For that reason exactly. Everyone in my life just said ‘well that’s how you know you should do it because if it’s that terrifying you got to overcome it.’ And I’m glad that I did because it’s given me now so much more confidence. Because, I mean, I’ve never carried a dramatic movie before.
You’ve also never done a horror before but neither had Andrew Shortell, the director. Did that bond you at all as you where both new to it?
For Andrew it was really new because it was his first movie altogether. I was well aware of what the process of making a film is but for him because it was his first time he was overly prepared. He had a lot more to prove this was his moment, as it was mine too.
He knew what he wanted and I felt safe in knowing that he would never move on until he really got what he wanted but he also gave me the freedom to just do what I do and in a role like this you really need to feel free, to go to those places you need to go.
For me, I don’t know about other actors, but for me a director who’s hovering over me all the time and constantly giving me direction that shuts me down, I’m totally unable to go to the places I need to go.
I just became Roslyn, I never left character, ever. I completely isolated myself in Prague for two months. I didn’t speak to friends, to family, to anybody.
I wasn’t in a relationship, thank god (laughs) because that would have been tough, and I didn’t have children because that would have been tough too. I just disappeared and I eat, slept and breathed this person, this role. It was all very quick, I worked on it with my acting coach for 3 or 4 days before I got on the plane.
You basically just have to develop this character from scratch, you have to really break it down. It’s not all in the script so I had to fill in the blanks and make her a whole person.
I created in my mind that she had siblings, a sibling that had died, I created all these ideas just so I really felt like she was a whole person because it’s not all in the script, you have to do that yourself. And I just went for it, I just went for it and I knew that I couldn’t be blocked in any way shape or form or I wouldn’t be able to get to the emotional state I needed to be for people to believe it.
And how did you manage to stay in character whilst shooting?
There were definitely scenes like the abortion scene I didn’t get out of that gurney for, I mean 6 hours I just had them leave me there. I said ‘if I get up from here I’ll break the rhythm and it’ll be over, it’ll be gone, that’s it’.
There were definitely scenes where I would just sit and I wouldn’t move. In between shots and lighting, changing camera lenses, you get up and you move and you go to your trailer and I really stayed put to just stay in the zone in most of the scenes.
What was it like working with your co-star Cary Elwes, a great actor and 80’s cult hero?
Yeah especially now with all the Saw movies but he is still always be The Princess Bride guy. Yeah when they told me Carey I was like, because I don’t know if by that point I had seen Kiss The Girls where he plays this very creepy murderer so when they said Carey I said huh that’s interesting he’s got such a sweet face, that’s interesting that he’s going to be the creepy doctor and then when we started working together he creped me out. He’s such a good actor, he’s just so eerie and creepy.
I read that Carey helped you a lot during the shoot. Was it useful working alongside someone with his experience in horror?
Carey helped me without helping me in a way, you know what I mean? He wasn’t coming up to me giving me tips, he wasn’t coming from that place (adopts self important man’s voice) ‘let me show you how it’s done, I’m the pro here.’ The biggest way in which he helped me was he gave me confidence. When I would hit the right beats in a scene he would come to me and say just something as simple as ‘you nailed that.’ And just something as simple as that gives you the confidence that you can do it better the next time and that was helpful. Hearing that kind of praise from someone like him can be more helpful than I can explain.
Psych:9 was filmed in Prague. Had you been there before and did you like the city?
Never, I had never been to Prague. I have a lot of friends who have shot there, I was always hearing these stories of them coming home and just staying ‘oh forget it I’ve fallen in love I’m moving to Prague’ and it was everything that they said and more. It is truly a magical city.
I didn’t get to see it the way I wanted. I would love to go back as a tourist to see it. I was just so tired, Sundays where really my only day to explore and most of those Sundays I couldn’t move. It was my day to recover it was really a day to recover so I really stayed in bed, pretty much every Sunday.
Prague is a magical place and I will go as a tourist. I would love to go back and work again as well.
Hostel was wrapping while we where there, the Bond movie, one with Angelina Jolie. A lot of production, yeah.
Shortell also said that you had problems with homeless people plaguing the sets, is that true?
Before the production started, before we moved to that location I believe it was like a shelter in a way for the homeless. I don’t know what they did I can’t even fathom going up to a poor homeless person and kicking them out of the roof over their heads but I did hear that.
It must have added to the atmosphere?
Oh yeah. All of our locations where old and rickety and had the essence of just horror. You just felt the presence of that cold energy like terrible stuff has happened, I don’t wanna know what but weird things have happened in these walls. If these walls could talk…
They probably would have helped you get in character or at least scared you.
For sure, I mean for sure. One of the locations was so dirty I didn’t even want to sit down.
Now you’ve done this is there any more horror on the horizon for you?
If the right opportunity presented itself. I think there are a lot of scripts that sort of float around that are just so obvious and just trying to scare you and I have no interest in being part of those. But if the right thing presented itself I would fight hard to get the job for sure. Now I definitely have way more confidence when it comes to this genre.
And finally Psych:9 is all about dreams and hallucinations and the meanings and fear behind them. What is your biggest fear and your worst nightmare?
I wouldn’t say I am afraid of the dark but I’m afraid of death…
That’s a pretty healthy fear to have.
Yeah. Well I’m not afraid of death actually I’m afraid of suffering. I just don’t want to be tortured or feel my death. So I guess my biggest fear is feeling death. I’m afraid of drowning that totally freaks me out. I have horrible drowning dreams.
Does that mean you would you avoid any films that where anything to do with water?
No, I did a movie when we where in Hawaii and I was in the water a lot (2004’s The Big Bounce) and got caught under a wave it was pretty horrific. But no I’m trying to face my fears. I definitely was afraid of doing this film but I did it anyway. I’m afraid of heights, I’m afraid of a lot of things, do you have all day?
Sadly not. Sara thank you very much.
Psych 9 is released on DVD on 11th October.