SXSW 2015: ‘The Final Girls:’ Taissa Farmiga, Nina Dobrev, Malin Akerman, Alia Shawkat, and Angela Trimbur
The Final Girls sends up horror movies from the inside. As any horror fan knows, the final girl is the virginal survivor who ultimately defeats the killer. In The Final Girls, Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends actually go into the summer camp slasher movie Camp Bloodbath, where Max’s mother (Malin Akerman) played a character who didn’t survive. At SXSW, we sat down with all the ladies of The Final Girls, including Angela Timbur as the slutty cliche Tina, and Max’s friends played by The Vampire Diaries‘ Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat.
Malin Akerman: How are you, Fred?
Alia Shawkat: I know, I was trying to read his name tag.
CraveOnline: Sorry, they always flip around.
Alia Shawkat: Bad exposure.
So since it’s called The Final Girls, did you all want to be the final girl?
Malin Akerman: We fought about it, all of us.
Taissa Farmiga: Yeah, but I think I won.
Malin Akerman: You did. You ultimately won, on screen.
Nina Dobrev: I didn’t even know what a final girl was. I was like, “What is that?” I had to have it explained to me.
Taissa Farmiga: Isn’t the poster over there with the definition?
Is that really something that hasn’t carried over outside of horror movies?
Alia Shawkat: You’ve just got to do the research.
Malin Akerman: You have to read the lines, you have to learn them, you’ve got to do ‘em.
Taissa Farmiga: I’m not a big horror fan so I had no perspective on what a final girl was. Oh well. I figured it out.
So what do you think of the rules that make someone a final girl, that you have to be a virgin? Does that seem like tough criteria?
Malin Akerman: Well, at this table, we’re all virgins, right?
Alia Shawkat: It’s that trope where the innocent are the only ones that are allowed to survive but I think that’s another reason why this movie’s really cool. It’s making fun of all the tropes. Even when we’re talking about who’s an actual virgin, it’s not even because Max is just amazing and innocent and has never had a dick inside of her before. No, she just hasn’t had sex. We’re like, “You’ve got to do it then, because that’s the stupid rule.” We’re making fun of that.
I always thought it was more about the shy quiet girl is actually the strongest one you never expected.
Malin Akerman: That’s right, the ones that don’t talk. Same when it comes to food. The ones that don’t talk so much about the food that they make. No, it’s always the shy quiet one that ends up surprising you in certain ways, I think, which is fun.
Malin, was it fun to have both the Janet Leigh part and be the star of the movie?
Malin Akerman: Yeah, absolutely. I had so much fun with this. It was amazing to be able to come in and play a few different characters. Start as this one-dimensional teenager, which is hilarious, and then to become a fallible human being by the end of it was really beautiful. It was a nice journey to play.
For those of you that were in both the real world and Camp Bloodbath, did it feel like two distinct movies you were shooting?
Nina Dobrev: We only did, like, a day or two of the real world.
Taissa Farmiga: Our first day of work was already in Camp Bloodbath and we were shooting in this Girl Scout camp, so we’re already transported into this real world down this winding road. So we didn’t shoot the real stuff until the end.
Angela Trimbur: And since the horror movie is bad acting within that movie, it’s just seeing the two different tones in a scene. So they’re walking into this wide-eyed insanity, so I think the world is the characters in Camp Bloodbath meeting them.
For those of you who played Camp Bloodbath characters, did you embrace the one dimensional ‘80s types they were set up to be?
Malin Akerman: That was so much fun to play, are you kidding me? It was such a great excuse to do some bad acting. It was awesome.
Nina Dobrev: I didn’t even realize how bad and how big it was going to be until we got on set. Everybody did it and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so funny.”
Angela Trimbur: It was even better than I read it to be.
Malin Akerman: That was really liberating and fun to be able to just go off and do those bad [line readings]. It made me want to live back in the ‘80s. It would’ve been much easier to be an actor back then. Now everyone’s really good.
Is “bad acting” actually harder to do, to convince people that you know you’re being bad and not actually being bad?
Malin Akerman: I guess that was the whole challenge of the film was all of those elements. The bad acting but you don’t want to be too bad because you want to believe a relationship that’s growing. So it was walking a fine line and I think Todd can take credit for that because he’s the one that has to monitor and keep the wrong tone, and put limitations on us so we don’t go too far.
Alia, you do a real scream queen scream. Did you practice that?
Nina Dobrev: Oh, and she killed it.
Alia Shawkat: I remember Todd going, “Can you scream? Like, can you really scream?” I said, “Yeah, let’s just do it.” I discovered something new about myself. I tried it a couple times but after the fifth one I was like, “Yeah, I can’t do any more.” We all have screams like that.
Nina Dobrev: I can’t scream. When I scream, I scream like a dude. So for the show, for Vampire Diaries, I have to all the time. So I pantomime it and in post they’ve hired a separate person who does my screams for me because I can’t scream.
Malin Akerman: Have you met your screamer?
Have you had the same scream double for five seasons?
Nina Dobrev: I don’t know. I’ve never actually met her.
Check Out: Fred Topel’s Review of ‘The Final Girls’
Malin and Taissa, how did you work out how emotional the story of Max visiting her mother in the film would be?
Taissa Farmiga: In the beginning, we had a couple rehearsals. We sat down and we talked through the scenes with Todd and the two of us. We tried it out and I feel like on the day we just went there. If it was too big, Todd told us to come back. It is such an emotional beat. We wanted it to feel real. Even within this crazy world, it’s the heart of it. You want to care for these people. I don’t think you could’ve gone too big, because my character was supposed to be real so big for my character wouldn’t be like the ‘80s horror movie characters.
Malin Akerman: But I think we were just trying to keep it real and grounded and that was the main thing. If it called for big emotions, then that’s what would have come out just trying to play it in a real way. Even though her character is in a different place, what she was saying was lined with all these innuendos. What I was saying was just, “Jesus, I’m going to die? That’s fucked up.” But there was a real connection between them from Nancy’s perspective as friends and from her perspective as I’m her mom. It was just playing the reality of that whatever moment we’re in, and that’s what Todd was always saying. Even though we’re in this big world, the groundedness of these characters, you have to keep the heart. That was real.
Are you proud to make people cry in a horror comedy?
Malin Akerman: Fuck yeah!
Taissa Farmiga: Let’s just go with sure.
Malin Akerman: I think that’s an accomplishment.
Favorite legitimate scary movies?
Taissa Farmiga: I hate horror movies.
Malin Akerman: I think The Shining is a big one for me. That’s probably the only one I can watch. I can’t really watch horror films without having to call a friend to come snuggle up for five days after watching it.
Alia Shawkat: Exorcist, the original one. There’s a third one. I know the second one was terrible but then they did a third one.
I’ve heard good things about Exorcist III. That’s the only one I haven’t seen but I’ve seen both Exorcist IVs.
Alia Shawkat: Yeah, the third one slipped by.
Angela Trimbur: I really like The Fly. Gremlins, Poltergeist.