Sara Paxton is more than just a pretty face. In fact, she is one of the few child actors who have made a seamless transition into adulthood and continues to grow at her chosen craft. With her chameleon-like ability to adapt to any role, she has quickly established herself as an actress to watch in the coming years. Her latest project teams her with director Ti West, who has returned to the indie film scene with the highly anticipated follow up to his indie horror smash, “House of The Devil.” “The Innkeepers” is the haunted house thriller, which tells the tale of the Yankee Pedlar Inn. The story focuses on Sara Paxton (“Shark Night 3D”) and Pat Healy (“Dirty Girl”) as two, slightly quirky employees of this quaint New England hotel which is on the verge of shutting it’s doors for good. For the establishment’s final weekend in business, the duo opts to spend the night so that when they are not tending to the Inn’s mere three guests, they can explore and perhaps catch a glimpse of the hotel’s most famous ghost, Madeline O’Malley. They soon find out that the dark side of The Yankee Pedlar is far from just part of the local lore. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Sara Paxton to discuss her start in the entertainment industry, her experiences on set while making “The Innkeepers” and what the future holds for this rising star!
Tackling a career in entertainment is often not for the faint of heart. What drove you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I started acting professionally when I was six years old, but when I was a little kid, I used to watch this show called “Fraggle Rock” from Jim Henson. I love Muppets! It’s a small obsession! [laughs] At some point, I decided that I really wanted to be a Fraggle, I would stop at nothing to make that happen. I was young, so I didn’t realize that they weren’t real. I begged my Mom to take me to acting class. I wasn’t into anything else, like sports. I took the acting classes and someone saw me, a director or someone like that, and he wanted me to be in the commercial he was making. Once I did that commercial, things started to snowball and I keep doing it. So, in a way, I guess I owe my career to Jim Henson and The Fraggles!
That is something you don’t hear everyday!
I know! [laughs]
Your latest project is Ti West’s ‘The Innkeepers’. How did you get involved with that project?
I was working on another movie called “Enter Nowhere” and it turns out that Ti and I had a mutual friend who was working on the film, Katherine Waterston. He had sent me the script but I guess I get really focused when I am working, so I might get other scripts but I don’t really look at them. Not that I am “actory” or anything but I just get really into the current project and really focused! I hadn’t looked at the script and was kind of ignoring it when Katherine said “My friend Ti is texting me. Do you know him? He wants you to read his script.” I said “Oh yeah, that’s the guy with the script, “The Innkeepers”. At that point, I read the script and spoke to him on the phone. I wasn’t super familiar with his work, which is something that I am now super embarrassed by. Once I had researched him, I was like “Oh my God, this guy is awesome! I’m an idiot!” [laughs] I watched his movie “House of The Devil,” and I am not a huge fan of scary movies because I am a bit of a pansy. They really scare me! Especially movies with the word “devil” in the title! I was so impressed with him and I spoke to him a few times on the phone until we met in person. I was impressed that he was so young but really focused on what he wanted to do. That is sort of how I got involved with it.
What was it about the script or the character in particular that drew you to your role in the film?
It is getting hard to remember because we made it such a long time ago now! But really, it was because the character was just “an every day girl”. Just a girl who is working at this Inn, not knowing what is going on with her life, she doesn’t know where she will be going next. She doesn’t know if she should go back to school or not. I feel that a lot of young people can relate to that feeling right now. [laughs] Even though acting is what I do, I still get that type of feeling a lot. I could really relate to her and I have never played someone so normal! It was really refreshing! The dialog was a big part of it as well. I felt like I would really say some of the things that she says. A lot of times, I will be reading a script or learning my lines and I will just think “Uggh, I wish I didn’t have to say this because it just doesn’t feel right coming out of my mouth.” Everything about this role felt so normal and natural and that really intrigued me.
The film balances some terrifying elements along with some humorous elements. Did you find that to be something difficult to pull off?
No, not at all. I really didn’t pick up on a lot of the humor when I was reading the script but when we were actually on set and filming it, that is when it happened. Pat [Healy] and I have such a good chemistry. We got along right away. We literally flew in on a Saturday and Sunday morning we started working. We didn’t have a lot of time before the shoot to get to know everybody. Pat was amazing and it was just immediate chemistry!
Speaking of chemistry, there is quite a buzz about the film and it’s director/writer Ti West. What was it like working with him and what do you think he brought to the table on a project like this?
It was great. Honestly, I think that Ti is the best director that I have ever worked with. He really knows what he wants. He has a clear vision and he goes for it. That was great because a lot of times I will work with directors and they don’t know what they want and we end up doing fifty million takes and one thousand different angles. It’s a little unnecessary! I think that because Ti is also an editor, that it also helps to speed up the process. He knows exactly what he wants and is so specific! It’s awesome because that makes it easier for me and all the actors involved!
Looking back on the experience, what was the biggest challenge in making this film?
Honestly, it felt like one of the easiest things I have done. Not easy in the sense that it was “so easy that I’m bored” but everything was so fluid. I would come in, I knew my lines, I knew exactly what Ti wanted to do, I would talk to Pat and he was always prepared and knew what he wanted to do, everyone in the crew functioned as a well oiled machine! We would finish early every day! That never happens! [laughs] Honestly, it was my most pleasurable film experience ever! I guess the only difficult part was when we started getting into the scary stuff because I would get REALLY scared! But yeah, making “The Innkeepers” was one of the greatest experiences ever.
I have to ask. Have you ever had a run-in with the supernatural?
Well, I guess it is sort of like the movie. Is something really happening or are you just paranoid because you can’t get these scary movies out of your head? Ya know what I mean? When we were living in The Yankee Peddlar and filming the movie, there was definitely some weird happenings and it is definitely a creepy place. They said the place is really haunted. When I was originally speaking to Ti on the phone, he was hyping up how haunted it was, which really freaked me out! [laughs] In my room for example, the door would just violently fly open out of nowhere. I would just say to myself “Sara, it’s just the wind.” even though the windows were closed! The lights would flicker on and off and the phone would occasionally ring and no one would be on the other end, but you could also just say it is a really old building!
That is true!
Yeah, but I haven’t actually seen a ghost up close and personal! Not that I want to!
You have done several horror related film but your career has been and continues to be very diverse. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
It has been a while since I have done a comedy. It has been a lot of fun working in the horror genre and I have had a really good time along the way. I am totally open to doing more horror films in the future but I kind of want to do a romantic comedy next! [laughs] Or just anything different — I am always looking for a new challenge.
Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you have evolved in your craft since starting out?
This is going to be really corny but I feel that I am really lucky because I am still working and not a lot of people who started out as young as I did get to keep working as often as I do. I feel that I am constantly learning something new. When I think back about to when I was seventeen and where I am now, I feel like I have grown in acting and I am constantly trying to learn more. That is the key, you have to keep growing and learning with everything you do. I hope that I get to take on more work and more challenging work, so that I can keep learning and getting better!
That is a great attitude to have and I can’t wait to see what you do in the future. Speaking of that, what other interesting projects are on the horizon that we should be on the lookout for?
Gosh, let me see. Well, last year I did another ghost story film called “Static” and I think that might be coming out this year. It is with Milo Ventimiglia from “Heroes”. I also did a murder/mystery film called “Lairs All” which I think will come out this year as well. I did another movie called “The Boys of Abu Ghraib” and I have a small part in that.
It sounds like you certainly keep yourself busy, Sara! That is great!
Yeah, I have been busy! i have been lucky!
Thanks for your time Sara. I think you will be winning over some new fans with “The Innkeepers”. Thanks for helping us get the word out about the film!
Awesome! Thank so much!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.