CinePile Interview: Olivia de Jonge (M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit)
A quick chat with the Perth-based 17 year old star of M. Night Shyamalan's new film.
There are only three rules when you come to Grandma’s house:
1) Eat as much as you want.
2) Have a great time.
3) Don’t ever leave your room after 9:30 p.m.
This is the basic premise of the soon-to-be-released M. Night Shyamalan film, The Visit, a movie seen by many as a chance at redemption for the man who once brought us The Sixth Sense and Signs, but later a movie about plants trying to kill us with Mark Wahlberg running away from the wind. It's a low budget thriller/horror film, produced by Shyamalan and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious series), and sees the director playing in a new sandbox for him, but one that's been around for a while - the found footage/handheld genre. Seen as this isn't a review of the fillm but rather an interview with one of its young leads, I won't rabble on too much besides saying I had a bloody good time, and it brought a touch of class to the genre that's been hammered by all and sundry over the past few years with results usually varying between okay (The Bay) and downright terrible (Grave Encounters), with a couple of good ones here and there (REC).
The Visit stars 17-years-young Perth-based actress Olivia De Jonge as Becca, and Ed Oxenbould (another young Aussie - he was the cool young kid in the Puberty Blues TV series) as Tyler, as siblings who go to visit their estranged grandparents for a week in remote Pennsylvania. The found footage is explained via Becca being an aspiring young filmmaker wanting to make a documentary about the whole experience, and the less you know after that the better. You can check out the film's trailer below, ahead of an interview with De Jonge about what it was like working with Shyamalan and being a Hollywood actress while still attending high school in Australia.
We also have 10 double passes to giveaway to an advanced screening that will also feature a Q&A with Olivia, see the bottom of this page for details on how to win.
Hey Olivia how are you? I imagine things have been pretty full on in the lead-up to The Visit's release?
Quite busy but I’m enjoying every moment of it, it’s really good fun. As my work has built up there has been more of it. But I haven’t had that much as much as I have now with The Visit which is exciting.
Congratulations on the film - I got to watch it last week it was awesome. I like my horror movies so it's always good to find a new good one. I was reading about the audition process which seemed pretty simple, but what was it like shooting the actual film itself and working with M. Night Shyamalan and also Ed as well?
It was very, very busy. Yeah really busy. We were at this beautiful townhouse or this sort of house in the middle of nowhere. It was the coldest winter in Philadelphia in 30 years so it was freezing! Night is an incredible director. He’s very hands on, very friendly, very genuine. Knows exactly what he wants. He’s a perfectionist but in the best of ways and he has taught me so much about the craft which, you know, it is an absolute honour to work with him as a director. Ed is like an old man in a little boy's body. Very mature, very easy to work with. He’s an absolute… yeh he’s a legend. It was such a fun shoot.
Your's and Ed's relationship on screen seemed very natural. You two as brother and sister, you had no trouble believing it.
Absolutely not. As soon as we met we clicked.
I recognized Ed but I couldn’t pick were from, then I realised you guys were both from Australia which is pretty crazy.
Yeah I know. [M. Night] didn’t actually know he’d cast two Australians. I think they did like a worldwide search and ended up with two Australians which is crazy!
Ed Oxenbould as Tyler in The Visit.
His place on the film is a bit of comic relief I guess. You’ve done a couple of scary movies now, do you feel like having that kind of element in there is really important with scary movies as sort of a tension relief being able to laugh every now and then?
Absolutely. I think that’s what is really authentic and different about this film is that it has the genuine dynamic between thriller and comedy if you know what I mean? You can have horror comedies that are a bit slapstick but this one is genuinely scary and genuinely very funny which makes it very, very different to lots of other heavy genre films that are coming out at the moment and I think, definitely, it brings a lot of relief to the audience when you're going from laughter to screams and I guess it makes the screaming even better when you're going from such a happy place to such a freaked out place.
Yeh totally, you feel like that in the screening. There’s a lot of laugh out loud moments and genuine jump in your seat moments amongst it all. Your character in the movie is a little film buff; she loves documentaries and stuff like that. Is that part of you as a person? Is that the kind of thing that interests you as well?
Yeah absolutely. Becca is like a little reflection of Night in a way...
Yeh I was going to ask that...
Yeah very much. She is a reflection of Night and his younger self so I had to work very closely with him in order to capture that sort of level of professionalism and that level of maturity I guess in her in so far as her knowledge of the film industry. You know, she knows all the lingo, and she knows how to work a camera so we had to work that out which I wasn’t very good at to start with but, yeah it's absolutely an avenue I’d love to go down in the future. Something that you know... Jodie Foster has done amazing things with her career working both behind and in front of the camera so that’s something I’d love to be able to follow.
You mentioned how much she knows about the technical side of things, was it kind of difficult to balance having that knowledge of things but not coming off as knowing too much. Because you’re still a 15 year old girl…
Yeah, that was one of the big sort of conceits Night and I had to get over - making her sort of knowledgeable and put together but not disliked by the audience, if you know what I mean? So there had to be that level where the audience liked her but also needed to see how much that she knew. She couldn’t come off as a know-it-all but she had to come off as knowledgeable. So it was a very delicate balance. It was a challenge for me but Night worked very closely with me and pushed me to reach that and hopefully I did.
Things came off in the film so I think you guys nailed it pretty well. And how was it working with Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie (the grandparents)?
Oh they’re lovely. They’re not at all like they are on screen. As soon as we yelled “CUT” they were so sweet. So nice, very, very knowledgeable. I mean they’ve both, Dianna particularly, is an amazing stage actor and I particularly, and I think Ed did too, learnt so much off the both of them. They would come to set and they would just nail it every single time. We both admired them very highly.
You’ve done a couple of thriller/horror movies. Is that a genre you enjoy playing roles in? Or what other stuff would you like to get involved in?
Absolutely! It's always a great genre to play in but I’m very open to other genres if I have the opportunity to partake in films of other genres. But at the moment, yeah, I’ve been really interested in horror/thrillers. They’ve been good fun.
Deanna Dunagan as Nana in The Visit.
So how was balancing school and stuff like that, I mean you were still doing a bit of school…
Yeah I was in Year 11 at the time so I did a full term of school there. I did term one there and we had like a schooling trailer where you need to do a minimum of three hours of schooling a day. So pretty much we moved from shooting to, you know, in between set-ups we would be doing school. The only time we sorta got off was lunch. So it was very important.
Are you almost finished school this year then?
Yes I am, I’m nearly finished. This is my last, I’ve got some more exams. Two rounds of exams then I’m done.
Once you finished exams and all that, you’ve got all the press stuff and that for the movie this year, what sort of a focus do you have once your exams are over and moving into next year, are you going to do uni…
Yeah I'm doing a film in January called Safe Neighbourhood which is a US film shooting in Sydney. So I’m doing that in January and then yeah, I've signed up for university, I’ve been doing heaps of auditions. But hopefully a film will come up where I won't have to do anything. Fingers crossed. But we’ll see, I’ve definitely got that avenue, I’ve got both avenues sorta sorted.
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