Young actress Sara Paxton is always a favorite interview of ours, in
fact we've spoken with her three times in just over four years and
she is never less than charming, personable and sweet.
That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has followed her career
as she has made the impressive trip from child star to intriguing
indie film star. From her early appearances in kids' series
Darcy's Wild Life (as well as doing many voices on Spongebob
Squarepants), Paxton became a teen star in light films like
Aquamarine and Sydney White. In 2009, she changed
course and spent a while in horror films like Last House on the
Left and Shark Night. In recent years, her roles
have been getting even more experimental, starting with last year's
critically lauded performance in the acclaimed ghost story The
Now Paxton has three very diverse films hitting in the next few
months. First out is Static, in which she stars with
Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Shahi in a very dark ghost mystery.
As Static is being released, her pitch-dark black comedy
Cheap Thrills (which reunites her with Innkeepers co-star
Pat Healy) is starting to make the festival circuit. Also
right around the bend is the raunchy comedy The Bounceback,
in which Paxton gooses her good girl reputation.
Paxton took a little time to chat with us from
the set of her latest film to catch us up on Static,
Cheap Thrills, The Bounceback and her career.
Your character in
is very ambiguous. The audience does not know if she is good or
bad until the very end. As an actress, was it fun to play a
character who keeps the audience guessing?
Yeah, it was. It was fun. The way we filmed the movie
also helped, because I was scheduled to work on another movie in the
middle of production, so I just came in for three weeks and did my
stuff and then left. (laughs) I just flew in and flew out.
And I was like the mystery woman on the set, so that kind of
worked. Yeah. It was really fun.
Well, speaking of
keeping the audience guessing, the film starts out seeming to be one
kind of horror film and turns out to have an entirely different
thrust than the audience originally thinks. What was it about the
script that grabbed you?
I think just that. As I was reading the script, that's
exactly how I felt. I was reading it and I was like: Okay, what is
this about? I think I know what this is about. When it came to my
character, I didn't know who she was or why she was really there.
Why does she show up into these people's lives? I'd like to make a
comparison without giving away the end of the movie, but it sort of
reminded me in a way of The Sixth Sense. There's this big
reveal at the end. My character goes through an arc. You don't
know why this young woman is there. Then you're like, oh, gosh,
she's bad. There's something not right. Then at the end, you see
that she is actually good. She's actually there to help these
This is the
second ghost story you've done in a year. Why do you think ghost
stories resonate with people so much?
Well, for me, it's the unknown. People have loved ghost
stories for years and years. I think that's what it is, we really
just don't know. People I met talking about Innkeepers, a
lot of the questions I was asked about that film were, "Do you
believe in ghosts?" "What is your whole take on that?" I was like,
well, I don't not believe in ghosts. (laughs) A ghost has
never popped out and been like, "Hello, how are you?" But I think
that's what it is. We don't know, so it's so fascinating to us.
What were Milo
and Sarah like to work with?
They were great. I mean, I filmed this movie a really long
time ago (laughs), so I'm trying to think back. But Sarah
was really great. We shot the whole movie, it was all night
shoots. So even though it was really hard to be nocturnal for six
weeks, on top of what I filmed, it got everybody in the mood. There
was always this weird, loopy, eerie feeling happening on set. Sarah
was really fun. We bonded. She was a really cool, cool girl. Milo
was really great, too. He really knew what he was doing. He was a
producer on the movie. I'd never really seen that, where someone is
acting in a scene and then takes up and actor hat from their
producer hat and starts working in that way on set. That was really
In certain weird
ways, Static reminded me in parts of both of the films I have
interviewed you about before. Obviously, it has the ghost story
Innkeepers and also the running from dangerous people in the
woods was like Last House on the Left. Did you feel any
déjà vu in some of those parts?
Oh yeah, totally. For me, when I was reading the script,
it could go either way. I was like: Is this going to go Last
House? (laughs) Is it going to go all Last House on
the Left on me? Then I'm like: Oh, no, it's going all
Innkeepers on me. But yeah, it was very reminiscent of two of
the movies I'd done before.
When you were
young, who were some of the actors who inspired you to go into show
Goldie Hawn is my number one idol. I'm obsessed with her.
I read her autobiography. I've read her biographies. I've seen all
of her movies. Definitely my first idol was Lucille Ball, though.
What was the
first film that you remember seeing really wowed you?
First movie that ever wowed me? My favorite movie of all
time is Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe and Jack
Lemmon. I love comedy. I love doing comedy.
discussed before, suddenly it seems you are specializing in horror
films. Have you sort of settled into the genre now, or are you
still looking to branch into other styles?
Well I shot Static in 2011. I haven't done a horror
movie since then. Yeah, I mean I love the genre, I would absolutely
[do more horror], it's just the way being an actor works. Now, in
the past year, I did a really raunchy comedy called The
Bounceback, that comes out I believe sometime in the spring.
February or March. Right now I'm working on a drama comedy,
in the vein of a Little Miss Sunshine.
No, Cheap Thrills is kind of a comedy/thriller.
Yeah, I heard you
are working with Pat Healy from
The Innkeepers again in Cheap Thrills, which is
just debuting at the Chicago Film Festival. I know it's a black
comedy, but what is it about and what is it like?
I filmed the movie last year in September, and I saw the
movie for the first time at South by Southwest [Music and Film
Festival]. We are not the same two characters that we were in
The Innkeepers. Pat is a guy that is down and out on his luck.
He finds out that he is being evicted from his home. He gets fired
from his job. Before he has to go home and tell his wife, he
decides to pop into a bar and drown his sorrows. He runs into an
old friend of his, played by Ethan Embree, and they start talking.
This couple starts talking to them. David Koechner plays my
husband. We're this rich couple. We start playing little games to
win money. You know, David Koechner will say, "Go slap that girl's
ass. I'll give you 50 bucks." It's at first funny, but then it
really escalates to like "Chop off your finger for $3,500." It's
sort of a commentary on how our culture is so obsessed with reality
TV and so desensitized. We're playing this fucked-up game show. My
character is this total dead-eyed rich bitch psycho. (laughs)
So we do not have the same dynamic that we had in Innkeepers,
but I'm really proud of it. That also comes out in the spring, I
You've played so
many diverse characters over the years. As an actress, which of
your characters do you feel was the most like you, and which was
most of a stretch for you?
I definitely feel that Innkeepers is the most like
me. (chuckles) I'm goofy and silly and kind of dorky in
real life. (laughs) Definitely, if you see Cheap
Thrills, that is so not me. My character is on her cell phone
all the time. She's dead eyed and heartless and cold. That was
really hard, especially watching Pat going through these really
horrible things because he needs the money. My character is
enjoying it so much. She gets off on it. That was really hard.
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