Dominic Marceau interviews Emily Perkins
As I walked into the “Nouvel Hotel”, my heart was racing a mile a minute. The FanTasia press agent told me to meet them in the lobby, and then said, “You know what Emily looks like, don’t you?” Of course I do. I’ve seen the first two “Ginger snaps” films many, many times. So, I walk straight to the front desk and introduce myself to the concierge. I state my purpose and she rings Ms. Perkins’ room. No answer. She’s probably on her way down, so I sit down in one of the lobby’s strangely oversized chairs. Slightly behind me are three people sitting and talking. A man and two women. None of them looks like Emily Perkins! Well, not the Emily Perkins I thought I knew. After a while, the man, who happens to be Cinematographer Michael Marshall, approaches me and asks, “You wouldn’t happen to be Dominic Marceauinic?” “Why, no. I’m just a big moron who needs new glasses!” I thought to myself. I get up and start walking towards the two women. “Hi, I’m Emily.” What? No you’re not! You’re waaaay too beautiful to be the trouble teenager I saw on that big screen! They say celebrities are always more attractive in person but this is ridiculous! Night and day! Black and white! Producer Paula Devonshire was on the phone, talking to Director Grant Harvey, who’s working on a film in England. After about a minute, we all proceed to the hotel restaurant to talk about corsets, digital tomahawks, and why it’s so damn cool to be Canadian…
Dominic Marceau: I feel like such a dork for not recognizing you! In the first film, you had this big ol’ wig on and in the second, your face was half-covered in latex!
Paula Devonshire: Maybe it would have been better if you had those contact lenses on while you waited in the lobby! (Laughs)
Emily Perkins: Maybe you would have recognized me! (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: So I’m just going to let the tape run because I’m against the usual type of interview that you have to do while promoting a film. It’s always the same bloody questions over and over again…
Emily Perkins: Well bloody questions are good questions! (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: Because the last thing you want to hear is “How cold was it in Edmonton?”
Paula Devonshire: I don’t know… Was it cold, Emily?
Dominic Marceau: It reminds me of something you said in the commentary of the sequel where Emily falls flat on her face in snow.
Emily Perkins: That was SO cold! Well, it was minus 40, PLUS the wind machine. (Laughs) And I’m like “The wind machine is NOT necessary!”
Paula Devonshire: You were such a trooper though, she was just like, take after take face plant into the snow and we’re just like “Emily! Oh my god!”
Emily Perkins: Everyone was coming to hug me, I’ve never gotten so much attention in my life! I felt so bad with all these people trying to warm me up!
Paula Devonshire: As this side of your face is getting frostbitten!
Emily Perkins: Poor little me! (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: That’s dedication more than anything.
Paula Devonshire: But the prequel wasn’t so bad, it had warmed up. Because the sequel was shot in February and March, and then the prequel, we started on March 31st until the beginning of May.
Emily Perkins: I could have easily worn all those clothes when it was cold!
Paula Devonshire: I know!
Emily Perkins: Because in the prequel, I wear all these corsets and period costumes, there was a lot of layers, a totally different look than the first two films.
Paula Devonshire: I guess it still wasn’t that warm because it was still a dress, it had to be fitted, you don’t want to wear anything bulky.
Dominic Marceau: We’re Canadian, dammit! We’re used to the cold!
(Laughs and high-fives all around. Ok. No high-fives…)
Dominic Marceau: These films are two distinct productions that were shot back to back. Were they approached and developed as two separate entities? The above-the-line personnel is pretty much different for both films. Did some of them work on both pictures?
Paula Devonshire: Yes and no. We have the same production designer, the same costume designer, we had different editors, different directors, cinematographers, different writers obviously, we had the same art department, so on some aspects, well, we had about 80% of the crew was the same crew that shot on both.
Dominic Marceau: Well that’s a logical approach to it because you can go ahead with the post-production of the second film, while the third one’s being shot!
Paula Devonshire: Oh yes, totally. But the producers were the same, they were financed exactly the same so it was the same two distributors, Lions gate and Seville, and Telefilm Canada was involved in both. They were sort of financed to be shot back to back, it was always intended that they would be shot together.
Dominic Marceau: It must be weird though. Because, well, you pretty much knew the character by the time the third film started rolling but it’s a different aspect of that character. How do you get into that?
Emily Perkins: Well, I had a pretty good idea of what it was about. But a lot of Brigitte, this time around comes from the costumes and the different look. And the way the script was written, everything is a bit more articulated…
Dominic Marceau: Is it true that as an actor, the sets and the costumes do help you to find your character?
Emily Perkins: Oh yes. Definitely. I don’t do too much preparation, I like to leave a lot of it open. I like to take my cues from whatever’s going on any particular day.
Dominic Marceau: Working on instinct.
Emily Perkins: Yep!
Dominic Marceau: So you’re not Method at all, then?
Emily Perkins: Well, I guess there always a little bit of that there.
Dominic Marceau: Because in the second film, there was a lot of self-mutilation. I hope you never asked yourself “Well, what do my insides look like?” to find a character! Because the different layers to your interpretation were very impressive!
Emily Perkins: Oh! Thanks!
Dominic Marceau: You and the girl who played “Ghost”!
Paula Devonshire & Emily Perkins: Tatiana!
Dominic Marceau: Wow!
Emily Perkins: She’s fabulous. She was really nice to work with too. Her and I really got along.
Dominic Marceau: The second film was great because it wasn’t a rehash of the first one. There’s a tendency to do something once and, if it works, it’s going to work again!
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it has its own unique tone, it’s darker. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that they are character-driven films and Brigitte is just a lot different than Ginger so her transformation is different, so is the atmosphere.
Paula Devonshire: I think “Unleashed” appealed to a different group of people. Like fans of the first one prefer it because it’s funnier and you could have done a sequel that kind of kept going in that direction, but we decided to take the darker route, Brigitte is a bit older, experiencing different things that are less funny and more grotesque. A lot of people actually preferred that because it was more of a horror film than a dark comedy.
Dominic Marceau: Some of it is really disconcerting.
Paula Devonshire: It still bothers me to watch that arm, pulsating and dripping pus.
Emily Perkins: That was fun!
Dominic Marceau: Something that’s very unique to the “Ginger Snaps” trilogy, well actually the first two were written by women, and the third one is co-written by a man and a woman. Did you notice anything different in the script, a different approach?
Emily Perkins: There are men in the third one! (Laughs)
Paula Devonshire: That and Stephen Massicotte is also a playwright. He is very understanding of the period and knew a lot about the research from that era, so he kind of wrote what he knew which was great. Stephen did a very excellent job. It worked out very well. The original goal was to have all women writers because we felt that they could identify with all of the trials and tribulations that Brigitte and Ginger go through.
Dominic Marceau: Hmmm, hmmm…
(A moment of silence is heard on the tape)
Dominic Marceau: I’m trying to think of something to ask you…
Paula Devonshire: Ask Emily how she felt wearing a corset!
(Laughs all around)
Emily Perkins: I wasn’t too happy about that! It was really hard to breathe! When you’re doing action stuff, trying to run, you can’t expand your ribcage! I was a little bit dizzy sometimes… (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: What’s your take on this third film? What does it say to you?
Emily Perkins: I don’t know how much I should say about it! I think the fans are going to appreciate the fact that it pushed the werewolf mythology, and, it’s almost kind of like a fairytale with the time setting and the costumes and its overall look which is very gothic.
Dominic Marceau: Well, speaking of the look of the film (I motion towards Michael Marshall, who was sitting to the side, quietly listening in), how do you approach shooting a period film?
Michael Marshall: Hmmm… I looked at classic paintings, old paintings, referring back to old films, like we didn’t to look like a 20’s film or anything, I mean, I’ve done Guy Madden’s stuff and that wasn’t exactly what we were after. I’d like to show him the film afterwards actually, just to see what he thinks of the way we approached it because it’s not naturalistic at all. It’s got its own style to it.
Dominic Marceau: I’m thinking of “The Duellists” and other films that have that type of approach to lighting…
Michael Marshall: Yeah, you could look at it that way I suppose. There’s been a couple of recent films that have that sort of look, “Brotherhood of the wolf” has a nice, mythological look to it…
Dominic Marceau: But that was shot on HD though, and you shot on 35mm!
Michael Marshall: We shot on 35mm. Yes. I don’t know if there ever was talk of shooting on HD. I don’t think so. I don’t think it would have been right for this film.
Dominic Marceau: 35mm has the right grain for natural light and candlelight, which I reckon you used profusely on this film. You can’t get that on HD.
Michael Marshall: We didn’t use any filters, even when we were supposed to!
Dominic Marceau: No star filters!
Michael Marshall: No star filters! No anything! We shot on Tungsten stock, with which you’re supposed to use an 85 filter when you’re outside, but we didn’t. We went for this dark, blue, really contrasty sort of thing. There was a little bit of timing done afterwards to change the curve of the film, the spectrum, because the blue isn’t quite right when you do that. We added a tiny bit of green to take the magenta out of the cold faces, because everybody’s faces went pink all the time! I think we got a unique color out of it.
Dominic Marceau: It’s important because the visuals do help the narrative!
Michael Marshall: It’s supposed to be sort of “no time” too, when you watch it, you’re quite never sure if it’s night or day for the most of it! It’s all sort of “twilight-y”, as if the sun has never quite risen, there’s a feel of a moon to it, but the first three-quarters of the film are all “no time”.
Dominic Marceau: That’s very interesting!
Michael Marshall: I’m really happy with that. It meant applying silks a lot when we were shooting in the fort and timing our shots. There’s a scene where Katie (Isabelle) finds somebody in a graveyard, and it’s actually bright sunlight! But you’d never know it because we’ve got silk up covering the graveyard, and we’re always looking into the shadowy part of the fort, timing our shots so that we never see direct sunlight, even though the sun’s blasting in there, we managed to avoid it. There’s two scenes in the first three-quarters of the film that you could call day, I guess, you can actually see the sun. Briefly. (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: And of course being a werewolf film, you have to put a full moon in there somewhere…
Michael Marshall: We did actually throw some moon stuff in there, which I really like to tell you the truth! Yeah. We weren’t too sure if we should when we were shooting it.
Dominic Marceau: That’s always a question when you’re shooting a werewolf film. Do you do the usual clichés? People usually expect those kinds of shots in a werewolf film…
Michael Marshall: Except, I don’t think the others had any moon stuff in them at all!
Paula Devonshire: No, the mythology that we’re telling is not about that traditional werewolf changing because of the full moon and then change back. In “Ginger Snaps” when you change into a werewolf…
Michael Marshall: You’re a werewolf! Paula Devonshire: They just look cool and gothic and fit what we were doing with the third film.
Michael Marshall: There’s a beautiful moon shot that’s a CGI bit of business, I just love that shot! Because the moon is ridiculously huge, it’s very unnatural, and I think it tells the story perfectly by being unnatural. We’re not trying to fool people into thinking this is the real world!
Dominic Marceau: Speaking of CGI, how do you feel about special effects? Digital correction tools, and in your case Emily, being covered up in fur and latex?
Michael Marshall: Well, it has to be seamless otherwise people will know it is a CGI shot. In so many movies these days, you just know. You watch “Lord of the Rings”, it’s going to look soooo dated in a few years! Maybe the third one not so much, but if you look at the first one now and you have to kind of cross your eyes a little bit sometimes! (Laughs) That’s going to look like the backscreen with the people driving from the fifties in a few years! But look at “Master and commander”. You know it’s full of CGI, but where? You can’t tell! It’s so seamless, it’s beautiful!
Paula Devonshire: We have one CGI shot other than the moon, where a tomahawk is thrown at a werewolf all in one shot. It wouldn’t have been possible to do it otherwise.
Michael Marshall: Physically impossible. And we did a bit of green screen stuff but not much.
Paula Devonshire: We only had two werewolf suits.
Michael Marshall: And now, we have many werewolves! Dominic Marceau: It reminds me of Joe Dante on the “Howling” commentary track when he said that he had one full suit, one head, and a couple of paws! The scene at the end where Dee Wallace is trapped in the car, it looks like there are twenty werewolves surrounding the car but it’s actually the same four guys! (Laughs)
Paula Devonshire: That’s kind of what we did. We had a suit and a stunt head for punching and kicking.
Dominic Marceau: You had quite the extensive make up job in the second film. How hard is it to get emotion through or just, hell, your dialogue?
Emily Perkins: A lot of the character and emotion is in the make up. I got to collaborate on how the make up would look like. He would ask me “How do you think that looks?” and I’d say that there should be a little more eyebrows or something like that and then I would just look in the mirror and practice, find out what muscles I had to use for different effects. It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed that part of it.
Dominic Marceau: Again, finding your character because of design!
Emily Perkins: Yep! And it’s neat too, when you walk around on set and everyone doesn’t really say much to you (Laughs)! Normally, when you look like yourself people are going “Hey” How’s it going?” but in those instances, they’re a little bit more distant! (Laughs) It’s a little bit quieter and that helps too.
Dominic Marceau: Just those teeth you had were gnarly!
Emily Perkins: Yeah! (Laughs)
Michael Marshall: Wasn’t that a great look at the end? That looked fabulous! When you’re looming in one of the last shots, when you’re looking out of the hatch, you’ve actually got a really great expression, I’ve never complimented you on that, that was actually a great scene!
Emily Perkins: That was fun!
Paula Devonshire: Everything was real in that one too.
Dominic Marceau: Thank God! Because, like we said, you can spot those instantly! It reminds me of “An American werewolf in Paris”. You look at it now and it is just laughable.
Michael Marshall: In Paris or London?
Dominic Marceau: In Paris.
Michael Marshall: I’ve never seen the “Paris” one! Cause “London” is not bad!
Dominic Marceau: It’s great!
Emily Perkins: Yeah, London’s good!
Dominic Marceau: I grew up on that film!
Michael Marshall: Yeah, likewise!
Dominic Marceau: “In Paris”, the whole werewolf is CGI, and they hadn’t figured out how to do fur yet, so it’s a dead giveaway.
Paula Devonshire: That was never even a consideration for us. It had to be real.
Dominic Marceau: What was great when the first “Ginger Snaps” came out, was that people were saying on how it was a return to a forgotten time. You had transformations; you had the glop and the hair and everything. You pulled it off, the effect were astonishing. For a little Canadian film, a lot of people think we’re only good for maple syrup and hockey!
Paula Devonshire: And werewolves!
Dominic Marceau: And now, werewolves! It’s like the scene in the second one where the werewolf attacks you and the library clerk in the car, right before the infamous head-first dive into the snow, it’s a gruesome scene and all the while, I’m looking at the little Canadian flag on the windshield thinking “Right on, man!”
(Laughs all around. Sadly, no high fives…)
Dominic Marceau: Let’s open another door, shall we? What kinds of movies do you guys like?
Paula Devonshire: Of course, I love horror movies! I like a little bit of everything but I’ve always loved horror movies. I love “The Exorcist”. I think it’s a classic. I still watch it today and it gives me chills! I love being scared. That’s a good thing about making horror movies, you ‘re always going to have an audience because you’re always going to have people who like to have that surge of adrenaline.
Dominic Marceau: Because if you’re going to produce, star in, or shoot a horror film, you have to have A: knowledge of the genre and B: a certain kind of respect for it. You wouldn’t invest all of your energy into something you don’t really care for.
Michael Marshall: Well, on the other hand, I’m not a horror movie fan. I like films that are self-aware and films that are art pieces. Of course some horror films can be that. And a lot of them have become very tongue in cheek, and self-aware.
Dominic Marceau: Post-“Scream”.
Michael Marshall: Exactly. So it was actually a lot of fun to shoot a horror film where it’s a little outside of what I do a lot of. That was even more interesting.
Emily Perkins: For me personally, unless if I feel enthusiastic about a project, it has to have some kind of substance, if I don’t really care for it, my performance just sucks. In the audition, I always find some way to flub it.
Dominic Marceau: What if your agent calls you and tells you that there is some great part that he was you to read for and look at the script and you’re like “F*ck this!”, you intentionally flub it?
Emily Perkins: Not so much intentionally, I guess subconsciously. If I don’t feel there’s enough of a character to put myself into and my energy into, I just have superfluous energy that diverts my attention because I usually still want to get the job because I need the work!
Dominic Marceau: But also, you have your reputation and your portfolio to think about. Are people still going to talk about this piece of shit I made twenty years from now?
Emily Perkins: Hopefully, that stuff gets forgotten. I just need work! (Laughs)
Paula Devonshire: But it’s hard to put your heart and soul into it. It hard work making a film, working eighteen hours a day, working in sub-zero temperatures. If you don’t believe in what you do, you wouldn’t want to put all that time and effort into something that you don’t care for.
Emily Perkins: That’s true. My energy wouldn’t be into it if it had a lousy character and a lousy story. It’s really grueling to do two movies back to back. But I have passion for film and I managed to keep my energy level where it needed to be.
Dominic Marceau: Since you did them back to back, how hard is it to shut her out when you’re done?
Emily Perkins: Well, Brigitte is a lot of what I was like when I was a teenager, but that was how I was inside. I didn’t show that part of me to the world, so it was really cathartic for me portray that and it was easier for me to leave behind something that I had already left behind.
Paula Devonshire: Thank God. Can you imagine Brigitte tobogganing on the weekend?
(Laughs all around)
Dominic Marceau: I mean, it’s a complete metamorphosis! For me not to recognize you in the lobby, me knowing the first two films through and through!
Emily Perkins: Yep! I’m not Brigitte at all. (Laughs)
Dominic Marceau: Which makes me quite happy!
Emily Perkins: I’m much happier than Brigitte. But I am pretty introverted, like Brigitte is. That part comes naturally to me.
Dominic Marceau: Is it important when you choose to portray a character that you some part of you in the character? Or can you go completely at the other end of the spectrum and play someone entirely unlike you?
Emily Perkins: I like to think I can play anything. (Laughs) I don’t know if that’s true. I think it’s a question of how well you it identify with a range of people. I tend to identify with something in every person that I meet. And that helps me when I read a character that seems, on the surface, totally different from me, I just remember somebody that I met. I think it also has to do with liking characters and being interested in people, people with different lives, it helps when you can’t find the character within yourself. I have definitely used some people in my family, the way they are when they get angry, their mannerisms…
Dominic Marceau: Because, to have all that inside you, it’s the old joke that most actors are borderline schizophrenics. They’re playing different characters throughout their lives.
Emily Perkins: I think everybody has that potential. It’s just like a little part inside you or something that you saw in someone, and then it’s your job as an actor to amplify that.
Dominic Marceau: It must be great, being that you are an introspective individual, to portray a character that goes apeshit, that really lets it loose!
Emily Perkins: Yeah! It was fun.
Paula Devonshire: Great crew, great cast.
Michael Marshall: Their hearts were really in it. It’s nice to get a crew that’s fully engaged, rather than just hauling sandbags around, putting wedges where they go…
Dominic Marceau: Where it’s just another job.
Michael Marshall: Just another stinkin’ job! Yeah, I think everybody, by large, felt really involved!
Dominic Marceau: Something that’s interesting about the “Ginger Snaps” films is that they are distinctively Canadian. Especially the second film, you have “April Wine” playing on the radio! I mean, come on! (laughs) I almost took out my lighter! In its humor as well, it’s very Canadian. How hard was it to keep that vibe going?
Paula Devonshire: I think the third one’s even more Canadian because it’s based on history as it takes place is what looks like a Hudson’s Bay type of traders fort. It’s deeply rooted in Canadiana. And everyone on the film is Canadian and proud to be Canadian. So you want to tell a story that horror can happen anywhere, so why not in Alberta?
Michael Marshall: What you’re saying is kind of interesting because Canada is kind of dark, cold and evil to an American anyway! The whole thing seems sort of alien and awful and terrifying to begin with! So there’s a extra level of terror by just being Canadian!
Dominic Marceau: It’s amazing on how too few Americans know what’s going on up here and it’s a shame because I feel they would be happily surprised. We’ve got some great stuff in the Great White North…