If you've seen the trailer and/or watched the HitFix-exclusive clip (above) from Michael Thelin's forthcoming horror/thriller Emelie, you're aware that Sarah Bolger's character may well be the most deranged babysitter in cinema history. In advance of the film's release in limited theaters and on VOD today, I spoke with Thelin about how the sweet-faced Bolger — who you may remember as one of the young sisters in Jim Sheridan's 2003 tearjerker In America — was so perfect for the role, working with kid actors in a scene that involves a homemade sex tape, and why the film may feature the single greatest moment of hamster acting in all of history. Here are all the highlights from the interview. Emelie is out in theaters and on VOD today.
Bolger got one key thing about the character that other actresses didn't.
“We saw a lot of girls. And Sarah was definitely near the top of the list in terms of everyone we wanted to see. But it came down to — very few really understood where her character needed to be. I think a lot of people just jumped towards the 'she's insane, she's crazy' kind of trope. And at the end of the day, that wasn't gonna cut it for me as the director. I know she definitely does really bad things, but there needs to be a mind behind all this. There needs to be thought behind it. And [Sarah] 100% got that.”
Despite her innocent exterior, Bolger wasn't afraid to go to very dark places for the role.
“Interviewing her felt surreal a little bit cause I'm just like, 'how could she actually play this character?' And then [once] we talked, it was almost like, 'there is no one else that could possibly play this character other than her.' Cause she willing to go to places that I think a lot of people either can't go or just don't.”
He doesn't consider this a horror movie.
“I know people will want to call it horror, but I definitely think it is more of a thriller. People market things however they want to, I just, at the end of the day I was really trying to dive into the characters. Let's be honest: a lot of typical genre films sometimes don't do that enough, or it doesn't matter if they do it as long as they get the scares. So that's kind of the direction I wanted to take it, is not so much blood and gore and the kind of shock value, but more that slow-burn, psychological — I kinda want the audience to feel the movie a little bit more.”
For a scene in which Emelie shows her three young charges a homemade sex tape, Thelin had to use some creative filming methods.
“I didn't tell them at all what was on the TV…that would never fly. So it was just speaking to them in ways that emoted a certain — a literal, visceral look to their face. Or their body language, too. So it was a lot of that in terms of the direction there….obviously all the sound was put in later…they have no clue on some of the stuff that was going on.”
The hamster that we see being stalked and eaten by a snake on-screen is okay — and a terrific actor to boot.
“The hamster is fine,” said Thelin when I double-checked the current state of aliveness of the rodent. “I would love to take credit for what that hamster did. Like, when he put the hand on the glass, we saw that and it was just, the hamster was amazing.”