After having made a name for herself in the Australian television scene, Caitlin Stasey has looked to take her career to the next level. Having moved to Los Angeles, the young actress is headlining Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson’s remake of their own 2001 All Cheerleaders Die. We got to speak to Caitlin about her first foray into horror, about creative fulfilment over easy paydays, the politics of the Australian entertainment industry, and a whole lot more.
STARBURST: How did you end up getting involved with All Cheerleaders Die in the first place?
Caitlin Stasey: It was just the same process I’ve gone through with everything – I just showed up to a meeting, the directors were there, the producers were there. I was initially up for the role of Tracy but mid-way through I’d forgotten my lines. They sort of called cut and said, “You’re not really a Tracy, but if you stick around and learn these lines then we’d like to see you for Maddie.” That was one of the most unusual things, going in for one part, getting stopped mid-way through, told you weren’t right for it. I think about two days later I had the job, which was nice and quick. That’s not something that you expect. Being in L.A. and auditioning for things, it’s normally a pretty dragged-out process.
And you were happy with the change of character there, especially as Maddie is more of a lead character in the film?
Yeah, people tend to forget how hard it is to play an upbeat, naïve character like Tracy. There’s no way in the world that I could do a character like that justice, just because I don’t have the capacity to be that buoyant and have that sort of contagious energy for that period of time. Whereas Brooke, she captures it perfectly. I think Maddie, to be honest, is just an easier character for me because I didn’t have to reach too far to understand her.
Had you seen the original 2001 version of All Cheerleaders Die at all?
I hadn’t. I didn’t even realise there was an original film until after we’d started photography. I think it was kind of worlds away from what we were doing.
So did you then go back and watch it or were you happy to just focus on what you were doing, without the original perhaps influencing you?
I didn’t, because I wasn’t able to find it. I don’t really have a good enough excuse as to why. I figured that if they made the effort to remake it, perhaps I should go check it out.
Going in cold on the film, based on the title alone, many would presume that the film was some sort of generic slasher-type movie. How was it initially pitched to you?
I just thought it was a horror film, to be honest. There was never any hint, we were never privy to the fact that a lot of what we were saying was intended to be funny. The majority of the film was actually hysterical and I hadn’t realised. I feel like in this weird way I was duped but in the best possible way because the product ended up slightly more interesting than it could’ve been.
Are you much of a horror fan yourself or is a film like this likely to just be a one-off for you?
No, the thing is, I like good films. It doesn’t matter which genre. Mama is a horror film, The Orphanage is considered a horror film, and I really liked those. As a genre, it’s never really interested me as I’m such a cry baby. Generally speaking, women are sort of props in those universes. However, I do think that more in horror than in any other genre, women tend to be protagonists. People expect them to fail and it’s easy to get behind the underdog. But yeah, horror’s fine. I don’t have the stamina to get through horror films, really.
You touched on how women are often portrayed in horror films in a certain way, but All Cheerleaders Die is a little different in that respect. Did that pique your interest?
It’s really funny because none of this occurred to me until following the film. When I was there, I was just in the headspace of it’s a different job, working. I didn’t think about it in the grand scope. I watched the finished product and was, like, “Oh, actually this is really cool. This is something I’ve not seen before. It’s not heteronormative. There aren’t typical gender roles.” There was a real abandoning of that, which I really appreciated it. Maddie’s doing her own thing, people are fucking with her and getting in her way, and she deals with it. I think that’s the most important way to battle the betraying of women in film and television; just to give them their own agendas without it seeming like they’re the voice of an entire people.
Having made a name for yourself in Australia – Neighbours is a huge thing over here in the UK – did it seem like a natural progression to try and crack things in the US?
Well the thing about Australia, unfortunately, is that it’s quite, and people will resent me for saying this, but it’s quite elitist. It’s infinitely harder for people to see you in a light that isn’t sort of, you know, glossy, commercial television. The reason I had to leave Australia is because no one would hire me. They’re so wrapped up in their own sense of importance that it casts out those that are seeking better things or seeking work at all. If I’d have stuck around I probably could have found something but I never would have been fulfilled.
So you would’ve been a bit restricted and pigeon-holed with your options?
Yeah, pigeon-holed, restricted, discriminated against because of the work that I had done for four and a half years. There are people I met when I was doing the rounds for Tomorrow, When the War Began who treated me like shit. Even when I won my IF (Indie Film) award it was one of the most horrific moments of my life – everybody was just so bitter and shocked and taken aback and unkind. What should’ve been the best night of my life, regardless of what the award actually meant, I was 20 and it was exciting and I got dressed up and I got presented with this thing that was a symbol of something that I’d achieved… nobody at the after-party congratulated me, they all scolded me. Basically, I was told to apologise to a woman that I had beaten out for it, remarkably. That’s the kind of attitude they have towards soap-stars in Australia or towards people who are… I hate to imply that I consider myself of a level that is worthy to be cut down, but it is true. They do have this inner-resentment of those that are doing things publicly, not just in the entertainment industry but Australia at large. There’s this attitude of just keep your head down and just keep going. It’s such a, like, ‘Aussie battler’ environment. If you’re seen to have ambitions then people just think you’re a total dick.
It seems a very close-knit, narrow-minded environment in certain quarters at times…
Oh yeah, and they’re so sexist. They’re so fucking sexist. This is a sexist country, it is a racist country, and the filmmakers, I think, consider themselves above all of that but they still buy into that shit. I think, speaking in very broad and general terms, not that I’m damning a nation, but I’m speaking of specifically my areas. I’m an incredibly mitigating person, I’m an incredibly hard-working person, and I couldn’t find an end. People wouldn’t look at me, people wouldn’t talk to me, people would just have this opinion of my purely because of my background. I was always referred to as an ex-soap-star, which is irrelevant. It shouldn’t matter where I’ve come from, it should matter what I’m doing now and currently. That’s the thing with coming to the US – they reward work. Although L.A. can seem like a vapid, vein and sort of infected environment, at least you feel as though you sort of, maybe there’s a sense of over-congratulation, but I like that, I like that better than just getting fucking scolded all the time.
You ended up on projects like I, Frankenstein, but how hard was it to get work when you got to the States?
It was really hard. I had two years where I didn’t work at all, and it was a huge culture shock. People always think that when you move from one English-speaking country to the next that there isn’t going to be much by way of adjustment or adjustment period, but it’s absolutely not true. It’s an entirely different world. This place is so foreign to everything I’ve ever known or grown up with and, yeah, I had two years of not working. Then I finally spoke to smaller, indie films, horror films, occasionally romantic comedies. Over time it just started to snowball and I was working and working, then I booked this show called Reign, which I’m working on now. It’s really the first major role I’ve managed to get and I’ve been here for six years. It’s been a long process, it’s not been easy and I’ve not, sort of, hit the ground running – it’s been fucking hard.
You come across as a remarkably well-educated, eloquent woman who seems very level-headed. Do you have a particular career path or career plan in your mind?
It’s funny because I feel like being here, you go through this process of coming in with this idea about these are the things I will do and these are the things that I will not do. After a year of not working, maybe you will do those things, they’re fine, they’re totally fine. Then it’s a case of, “I’ll do anything. I’ll do absolutely anything to work.” Then you get work and it’s this weird process where you go to the beginning again. I feel like, in terms of a career path, I definitely don’t have aspirations of, like… I came through immigration the other day and this guy at passport obviously had had a foul day and was, like, “What do you do?” I said, “I’m an actor.” He says, “Are you famous?” and I was, like, “Well no, I’m just a working actor.” That was a really enlightening moment for me because I understood that working is far more important to me than it is being recognised. Therefore, I’m able to turn down things that I think are not fulfilling or I’m able to approach things that won’t pay me much or propel me into any sort of stardom, but as long as I feel like I’m being creatively fulfilled... as for a career path, I just want to keep working on things that I love and with people that I love. The relationships that you build throughout these intimate experiences are worth twice as much as anything else. It sounds really silly and wanky but it is, like, I’m discovering that life’s too short to work for cunts, to compromise too much for no good reason than financial.
And to bring it back full circle, if there was to be a follow-up to All Cheerleaders Die, is that something that would interest you or that you have any agreement in place for?
I hope that they would wanna use me again but by the time they get round to shooting it I may very well be far too old to play a cheerleader. I would love to, at this point in time, but I’ve not heard anything about it as of yet. I think they would love to do it, it’s just a case financing. I guess we’ll see how well it does overseas at this point.
In terms of yourself and your outlook on fulfilling projects, what’s on your slate in the future and what would be a dream project for you?
Well a dream project that I’m actually lucky enough to be working on is a show called Please Like Me, which is written by and stars a guy called Josh Thomas, an Australian comedian. I don’t think you get it in the UK but it’s on in the US and on ABC2 in Australia. It’s just this beautiful comedy about this guy who’s gay and his mother is suicidal. It sounds really sort of heavy but it’s genius, it’s may be the best thing I’ve ever read. To me, the reason I can gush about it is because I’m not in every episode and I have nothing to do with its inception or anything. To me, it’s a perfect project. To make things like that forever would be a dream come true.
And are you still a part of Reign?
I am. We’re in the middle of our second season right now. They’re all wonderful people and I adore them, so that makes it a lot easier.
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE IS RELEASED ON DVD ON OCTOBER 27TH.
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