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Nicole LaLiberte, Danielle Panabaker and Andrew Howard star in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.

Danielle Panabaker and Nicole LaLiberte

Drawing First Blood in the War of the Sexes

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 31, 2013. 

The indie film Girls Against Boys is trying to be the ultimate word on men pushing women too far.  A bloody mix of Thelma & Louise, Death Wish, Single White Female and Hostel, the film looks at Shae and Lu, two women who have been mistreated by men and decide to take brutal revenge.

Shae, the sweet, quieter student is played by Danielle Panabaker.  Panabaker is an interesting actress whose career path has been taking some unexpected turns.  She started out as a child actress and Disney Channel favorite, spent a couple of years on TV as James Woods' daughter on the series Shark and now has become a bit of a scream queen – starring in such horror films as the Friday the 13th reboot, Piranha 3DD, The Crazies, Mr. Brooks and John Carpenter's The Ward.

Shae has just broken up with her married lover – who has decided to give his wife another chance.  She is invited to a club by a co-worker named Lu, played by the exotically pretty Nicole LaLiberte (HBO's How To Make It In America and Dexter).  They get drunk, get high, meet some strange guys and go home with them.  When Shae insists on going home, one of the guys rapes her.  She goes to her ex for compassion and he comes on to her as well.

This is when Lu turns into her protector and dark side, suggesting a deadly retribution be paid to all the men who mistreated Shae.  But at what point will Shae decide that Lu is apparently enjoying their little crime spree a bit too much?

A few days before Girls Against Boys had its New York premiere, Panabaker and LaLiberte gave us a call to discuss the film.

Danielle Panabaker and Michael Stahl-David star in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.What was it about the script of Girls Against Boys that intrigued you?

Danielle Panabaker: I had really been looking for something a little bit more dramatic.  I first read the script and I was really interested to speak with Austin [Chick, the writer-director].  Austin had such a specific vision and is a really talented filmmaker.  We met a couple of times and I really liked collaborating with him.  So, then we were off.

Nicole LaLiberte: It was just that I would read things and I'd be like "Oh my God, did that really happen?"  "Oh my God, did she really do that?"  (laughs)  "Oh my God, I can't believe that's happening right now."  There is one particular scene that reminded me of the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs.  Do you know that scene where... what's his name?  It's not Vince Vaughn, the other guy... the dude in the Quentin Tarantino movie that cuts the policeman's ear off.  [ed. note: It's Michael Madsen.]  There is a similar scene in Girls Against Boys and I just remember being so excited about that scene, because I thought it was so dark and really fun to make.

You started up on The Disney Channel but lately your career seems to be mostly in the horror realm.  Have you been surprised by the direction your career has taken?

Danielle Panabaker: (laughs)  Absolutely.  I'm kind of a sissy.  Horror films still scare me.  So, it is a surprise, because I never grew up watching them, either.  Bambi used to give me nightmares.  But the truth of the matter is that I think that's the majority of the films being made these days.  A lot of films in theaters seem to have a genre bent to them and people often go see them.  So, those are movies getting made and I'm an actor who likes to work (chuckles) so it's just seems to be a good mix.

Nicole LaLiberte stars in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.Not as an actress but just as a film fan, what type of things do you tend to watch just for fun?

Nicole LaLiberte: I like period dramas.  (laughs)  I want to be in a Jane Campion movie.  Not just period films.  I love the director that did Drive, Nicolas Wending RethI would love to do one of his films.  I watched a lot of foreign movies – French horror and Japanese horror – to prepare for Lu.  But I usually don't watch horror movies because they really freak me out.  I just saw Mama the other day.  I went with my boyfriend.  I literally had his hand covering my eyes for the entire movie.  I sort of peeked out every once in a while.  (laughs)

Danielle Panabaker: I'll watch anything.  I feel like the films this year from the awards season are incredible.  I loved Silver Linings Playbook.  I really enjoyed Argo as well.  It's a good time of year for filmgoers.

In some of the scenes in Shae’s class, the movie sort of suggests a feminist slant.  Do you see Girls Against Boys as a bit of a feminist film like Thelma & Louise, or just more of a straightforward psychological horror film with the battle of the sexes as a hook?

Danielle Panabaker: I did see it more as a sort of Thelma & Louise story.  For me the relationship between Lu and Shae was very important.  Especially because at the end of the film, you are really left to second-guess their relationship with a lot of questions.  That relationship was very important to me.  I was so excited when Austin finally cast Nicole.  She and I spent a lot of time together getting to know each other.  I think that's also one of the great things about the film, that we, I feel, are a great match on camera together.  My performance in this film is a little simpler and more quiet.  Hers is the opposite.  I think that they are a great match.  I'm really proud of Austin that he brought it all together. 

Nicole LaLiberte: One way I have described it is of like a Disney version of Baise-moi.  Are you familiar with that film?  It's a French film, another female revenge film.  Girls Against Boys is really like... if you ever do see that film, which I totally recommend, if you have your hands that can cover your eyes (laughs)... our film is a very Disney version of that. 

Nicole LaLiberte stars in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.Lu was such an odd character, arguably sociopathic.  Was it interesting playing her and with her?

Nicole LaLiberte: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  It was really fun.  I had a lot of freedom in terms of what I could do in a particular scene.  So it was cool.  I did a lot of research in terms of sociopaths. 

Danielle Panabaker: It was.  A lot of Austin's direction to me was "Do less."  She's doing the opposite.  So I got to just react to her.  It was great.  It was a treat.

Shae was on the other hand rather depressive and much more downbeat.  Did you research how rape survivors tend to react when preparing for the role?

Danielle Panabaker: I did.  I did do some research.  Any person who has gone through a traumatic event like that, you have a lot of different reactions.  Austin and I spent a lot of time trying to think about it.  Where specifically he and I thought Shae would be emotionally after an event like that.  How much shock she would have.  We had very specific discussions about "okay, she was on the floor and then she got up and showered because she didn't know what to do."  We talked it all out. 

Nicole LaLiberte: You think her character was depressed?  I would think so, right?  Yeah.  Not so much, I didn't research rape victims.  I basically was focused on becoming as manipulative and seductive as I could be in terms of dealing with somebody.  With the state that she was in, it wasn't really that difficult to get her to do what I wanted her to do.  But, that's questionable, too.

We know basically Shae’s motivation in getting involved in the revenge plot, but Lu quite blatantly refuses to explore why she kills.  Did you try to come up with a backstory as to how Lu became the person she became?

Nicole LaLiberte: Ummm... (long pause)  Obviously, I think I found the love in that character.  (laughs)  If that's the best way to put it.  She really believes that what she is doing is right.  The world would be a better place when these people who are acting like this are disposed of.  (laughs again)  In some way. 

Danielle Panabaker: I wouldn't say I took it at face value.  One of my favorite things about the film was that last scene where you are left questioning the reality of everything and whether it's just all been some very twisted fantasy or fairytale or Shae's imagination.  Austin and I also discussed that.  So for me, Lu always was real.  She was this very real entity who has been almost like a guardian angel sent to protect Shae.

Danielle Panabaker and Michael Stahl-David star in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.Do you feel that Lu’s feelings towards Shae were romantic or more protective?

Danielle Panabaker: There are actually several scenes that didn't make it into the final cut of the movie that delve a little bit more into their relationship.  I used those scenes to inform the basis of my work for their relationship.  So, yes, I think that certainly was an element of their relationship – Lu's attraction to Shae – but I don't know that Shae would have ever returned it in the manner that Lu would have hoped, if that makes sense.

Nicole LaLiberte: Yeah, I think obviously it was very seductive.  I think that Lu's survival depends on Shae's attention. 

New York City plays such a big part in the feel of the movie.  Was it fun filming in New York?

Nicole LaLiberte: Oh yeah.  I love New York.  I lived there for a really long time.  I only just moved out to Los Angeles.  So I have a lot of history in New York.

Danielle Panabaker: It was incredible.  I really toyed with the idea of moving to New York.  I had a great time.  We were so lucky, we got to go to so many cool locations.  I had an incredible time.

The film ended kind of ambiguously.  Do you think Shae will ever completely escape Lu’s influence?

Danielle Panabaker: No,  I think once you meet someone like that and they leave an imprint on your life and they shape who you are, that never goes away.

Nicole LaLiberte: I think that Shae has escaped Lu's influence, but I think that she's grown exponentially through understanding Lu and can now utilize those powers when she feels she needs to.

Danielle Panabaker stars in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS.I was reading that you have a romantic comedy called Renaissance Girl coming.  Is it fun to get back to a lighter film?

Danielle Panabaker: You know what, unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge Renaissance Girl hasn't been made yet.  If it has, it's been made without me.  I would.  I did do several episodes of a show called Necessary Roughness last year.  That's a much lighter show.  Those episodes are just starting to air.  That was great.  It is nice to get away from the gloom and doom of death.

You have been juggling TV and movies in your career with things like How To Succeed in America and Dexter.  Which do you prefer, film or series work?

Nicole LaLiberte: Oh, I don't know how to answer that.  That one stumps me a little bit.  I think at the end of the day it's another day that I'm exposing myself in some way.  (laughs)  Whether it's for TV or film...

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Nicole LaLiberte: I'm shy.  (laughs)

Danielle Panabaker: Ummm... (pause)  I don't know.  I feel like in this day and age with Twitter and everything like that, it's pretty easy to get access to people, but I'm still pretty protective of my personal life.  So, I feel like everything that I want to let out there is out there.

I wasn't looking for anything deep and dark, just something a little quirky...

Danielle Panabaker: I wish I had something.  Okay, I'm obsessed with Downton Abbey.  I just got into it a week ago and I'm almost done with the second season.  (laughs)  I love that British sensibility.

How would you like for people to see your career?

Nicole LaLiberte: A brave one.

I was reading you graduated high school as valedictorian at only 14.  Why do you think that people don’t make such a big deal about something important like that as compared to some of the trivialities of Hollywood life?

Danielle Panabaker: I think when I was younger, people were really fascinated with it and I did feel the need to defend it.  Because that is true, I went to an independent study high school and graduated young.  And then graduated from UCLA at 19.  That's something that wasn't done for the business.  It wasn't done for my career in any way, shape or form.  It was done for myself and to round out my life as a person.  So I'm very proud of it, but it doesn't necessarily correlate with my career.  (laughs)

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Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 31, 2013.


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Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 31, 2013.