Your new movie The Surprise Visit
- in a few words, what is
Surprise Visit is film about survival and what lengths we go to realize
that. Where do we draw a line, where does our conscience come into play?
The Surprise Visit
is your first film
as a producer - so how did that come about, and what drew you to the
project in the first place?
had a horror film we wanted to make on this particular estate in Virginia
and we were planning to start shooting in March last year. The pandemic
hit and this horror film included children and we figured out very quickly
it wasnít going to be possible to shoot with kids during a pandemic. So
we tried coming up with an idea for a film with a limited cast and crew
and minimal locations. The Strangers was our inspiration and what a
great film that is (ours isnít similar in any way), and Nathan my then-boyfriend-now-husband kept telling us about this theft that occurred on
the property, by a drug addict couple whose father was the groundskeeper.
So we decided to explore that, and thatís how The Surprise Visit
drew me to the project? All 3 main characters are ďbrokenĒ in
different ways. I think the audience is going to feel compelled to
sympathize with all of them, their motivations and will to survive.
What were the challenges of
bringing The Surprise Visit
to the screen from a producer's point
Oh yikes - try making a film in the middle of a pandemic (pre-vaccines) in
rural Virginia? Hahahaa. It was quite ambitious to say the least,
especially for a first time producer. I helped cast the film, that part
was fine. Finding crew - not so easy. Iím used to filming in LA where
there are 1000ís of gaffers, make-up artists, production designers, you
name it. Virginia is not really a hub of film production. There was a 2
week period before we began shooting and I did not have half of my crew in
place; I panicked and thought ĎI really have bit off more than I can
chew this time, I donít think Iím going to be able to pull it off.í
And then I did! Our director Nick Lyon (who also produced and edited the
film) was a huge help. Couldnít have done it without his, Nathan and
Andrew Feinís support.
You also play one of the leads in The Surprise Visit
- so what can you tell us about your character, what
did you draw upon to bring her to life, and how much Serah Henesey can we
find in Juliette?
Iím definitely a survivor. I lived and worked in 6 countries over 10
years as an actor and before that I modeled all over. Iíve worked in
countries where I had to sleep with a knife under my pillow. Iíve been
through things in life that would have probably Ďbrokení a less
resilient person. I had two different people, my therapist and my acting
coach tell me Ďyouíre the miracle here, the fact you turned out
normal, are kind and loving is the miracle.í Unlike Juliette I wasnít
born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I had to work for everything. Iíve
worked non-stop since I was 16. So I understand survival. I also
understand deep pain and grief. I donít carry those things with me on a
daily basis, but they are there if I need to access them. Juliette is a
survivor. She may come from a privileged background but she is good, kind
and smart and she is strong.
What can you tell us about The Surprise Visit's director Nick Lyon, and what was your collaboration
and I worked on 2 films before and were good friends outside of work too.
Stephen Ross Meier (our writer) and I have been friends for at least 10
years and I just love him. I introduced him to Nick and they collaborated
on other projects, yet weíve always wanted to do something the 3 of us
together, and Iím so happy we finally made it happen. It was great
collaborating with Nick. We kind of champion one another. He pushed me to
take things further in various scenes and I trusted his instincts, and he
guided me in the right direction with production stuff too. And we
finished on time and on budget. Whatís not to love? Iím really happy
with the way everything turned out.
Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set
remember the first day of set - I didnít have scenes that day so I was on
set as a producer. I got quite emotional to be honest. My first feeling
was a sense of pride, not in any egotistic way, more like I could see
everyone was doing a fantastic job, the set looked amazing, our actors
were knocking it out of the park and I felt a huge sense of relief. We
were a tight knit cast and crew, and I think everyone was very responsible
and sensible about Covid safety, so that was a relief. The chemistry
between ĎCaseyí and ĎAnnabelleí was paramount to the film, and
luckily they got on great and were very supportive and trusting of one
another. I think there was A LOT of heavy lifting for the crew especially,
because we were such a small crew, Iím sure it was very tiring for
everyone. From my standpoint as an actor I literally had to run for my
life all day, everyday, so there was a lot of physicality, then when I
wasnít on set as an actor, I had to be on set as a producer. I didnít
sleep much for a month there. We were however, all in good spirits and
believed in what we were doing. Everyone gave 110%.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
have another thriller feature - again based on a true story that Iíd
like to do. And a horror film I still want to do (with kids), so letís
What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any
formal education on the subject?
began in youth theater in Sydney Australia at age 15. We performed in
various festivals and such. I had performed a dance somewhere and the
theater director pulled me aside and said ďyou are very brave on stage
as a dancer, letís see you as an actor.Ē I was a science student with
no intention of becoming an actor! But I thought, OK this could be a fun
hobby. And 25 years later Iím still acting. Yes I did. I received my
degree in London. I completed a class designed for people who had acting
experience but wanted a degree. I had already been acting professionally
and was somewhat known in my parents' country at that point.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Surprise Visit?
was on a very popular sitcom in Turkey for over 4 years - it was and still
is phenomenally successful. It ended 13 years ago and the re-runs still
land in the top 10 of the day. So lots of comedy. Lots of action too - I
kick-boxed and like doing my own stunts. I did a spy-spoof, that was fun,
then a cop comedy. Several TV dramas, soaps. Turkish TV shows are
100-120 pages long and we shoot an episode in 6 days (thatís like
shooting a feature film every week) and our TV season is 9 months so I
literally have 1000s of hours of TV and film work under my belt. Lots of
stage work too. I really really love theater.
You seem to have filmed all over the
world - so how do filmsets compare from one country to the next, and
honestly, where did you enjoy to film the most, where the least?
I was a household name in my country when I left, I didnít have to
audition for anything - I got offers. I came to America because I wanted to
make international films, and when my money ran out I had to wait tables
like everyone else. During the height of my career back home I was treated
like any A list actor, here in the States, I didnít need to wait tables.
So you could say Iím here because I enjoy making films here. I am
however forever indebted to Turkish TV and film sets, you cannot get that
kind of education or training anywhere. When you are shooting an average
of 20 pages a day and you need to cry in a scene, youíve only got time
for one take to do it in, if youíre lucky 2. So you better nail it. The
sheer volume of production is a huge asset in terms of experience for an
would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
fearless and not afraid to get my hands dirty. I like immersing myself in
the character. I donít walk around talking in accent for 6 months
beforehand. However, when Iím filming, Iím fully in it. For The
Surprise Visit I just needed to be really present with whatever fear I was
feeling. It wasnít too difficult to be fearful when you have a drug
addict swinging a metal fire-poker inches away from your head. I mean,
have you seen how Rob Riordan [Rob
Riordan interview - click here] looks in this? Scary! Plus I did my own
stunts too, so that really is me rolling down the side of the hill, that
really is me being strangled.
Actresses (and indeed
actors) who inspire you?
so many. Loved Philip Seymour Hoffman & I just watched his son Cooper
Hoffman in Licorice Pizza & love him too. Cate Blanchett (sheís
phenomenal and a fellow Aussie), Glenn Close and Viola Davis are all
actors/actresses that I greatly admire. And then I watch someone like
David Strathairn in Guillermo Del Toroís Nightmare Alley and he
steals EVERY scene heís in.
Your favourite movies?
too many to mention hereÖ Oldboy (the original),
One Flew Over The
Cuckooís Nest, On The Waterfront, Lost In
Amores Perros, Panís
Labyrinth, The Shape Of
Water, No Country For Old
Men, Training Day, There Will Be Blood, Boogie
Nights, Licorice Pizza. And
then I have a huge love for old school musicals, anything with Rita
Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Esther Williams, these
were the films that made me fall in love with movies as a little girl.
and of course, films you really deplore?
are movies I donít really love but Iíd never use the word
Ďdeploreí. My love for cinema runs too deep and I know the effort that
goes into making them. Out of respect I could never deplore anyoneís
effort to make a film.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
The Surprise Visit
January 14!!!! Hope you love it as much as we loved
for the interview!