Imogen Poots is no stranger to the horror genre. The 26-year-old Chiswick native has, in just ten years, already co-starred in 28 WEEKS LATER and the underrated remake of FRIGHT NIGHT. But this year she’s reteaming with her FRIGHT NIGHT co-star Anton Yelchin for an altogether different kind of scary movie, GREEN ROOM, in which a punk band fights off a small army of neo-Nazis after witnessing a murder in – you guessed it – that one backstage area where all the musical acts hang out.
Adding an x-factor to the mix is Amber, played by Imogen Poots as an enigmatic witness whose loyalties are always in question. In order to stay alive they’ll have to try to trust each other, and get really super clever about defeating an evil Patrick Stewart in battle. And of course they’ll also think about what their “desert island band” would be, because that’s how small talk works.
I spoke to Imogen Poots on the phone this week to get into her head, consider her increasingly prolific acting career in Anton Yelchin movies, learn more about that awesome hairdo and why she loves the original version of THE BLOB.
GREEN ROOM opens theatrically on April 15, 2016.
Blumhouse.com: Is it a coincidence that you’ve made two horror movies with Anton Yelchin?
Imogen Poots: He’s one of my best friends. He’s probably my best guy friend. He was my first friend really when I was in Los Angeles, and we met on FRIGHT NIGHT, and I guess with us we both really like genre film and we both see weird films together when we’re in Los Angeles. I remember actually in Albuquerque, I knew we’d be good friends because the first thing we did on our day off was go see THE NAKED CITY. We found a screening of it at this old cinema near we were living in Albuquerque.
But yeah, so we talk all the time and we are inevitably up for similar things, I think, because of our age. So this was just one of those things when we both were like, “Wow, how cool would it be to do it together?” I hope I get to work with Anton more. He’s one of my favorite people to be around.
BH: Would you describe GREEN ROOM as a horror movie? Obviously it’s not about kisses and hugs but it could arguably be considered in a bunch of different genres.
IP: Yeah, so I think I wouldn’t describe as a horror film, no. I think that’s because it’s not purely about shock value. I think there’s actually a lot more that’s being explored via the characterization, and I think it also prompts an audience to ask themselves questions. […]
So yeah, I think also the point, something about the film which I found really interesting, is the idea that no one at any given point, among the characters, is morally at ease. There’s no simple hero or victim or villain at all, it’s just human beings who apparently are quite faulty with their methods.
So in that way I think it’s more complex than just a horror film, and there’s more to it than just prosthetics, and that’s credit to Jeremy Saulnier who crafted a script that operates on a lot of different levels.
BH: Some of those levels are kept from us. We don’t learn a lot about Amber over the course of the film. Do you think it’s important not to know that much about her, or could you tell us a bit about her backstory now?
IP: Well obviously when you play the character you feel like are fleshing them out as much as you can, and then of course it’s different for an audience member watching that. I think it’s interesting, the fact that she is so enigmatic, because there’s an unpredictability to her, and I think there’s something terrifying about not knowing. It’s also exhilarating not to know. I think there’s something about that, that you really don’t know what exactly her intentions are.
I think that, especially as an actor, is quite a fun thing to toy with. And the beautiful thing about her two is she’s not in any way a device. There’s something there. Her heart beat is certainly real within the group, and in terms of a progression of her character she has to make decisions rapidly and why does she make these choices? Does she want to survive? Why does she want survive? Does she care about the other [characters] in any way? There’s no kind of moral vanity to her character. Whereas Anton’s character of course has to combat the idea of his friends, and would you defend yourself by sacrificing them, and other potentially biblical questions. [Laughs.]
BH: There’s two things I guess you definitely get to work with regarding Amber, that both you and the audience know for certain. One is that she likes Madonna. What does that tell you about a character?
IP: Well, it tells you that there’s obviously a lot of contradiction within the piece, and I think as well with how people in general are extremely misunderstood. And how in any sort of environment – and regarding this film as a microcosm – you could just say, “Well, she dresses this way. She listens to this kind of music, obviously. Her hair is a specific way.”
But these are just trends, and it’s a myth of what that person is rather than really knowing someone, and these little attentions to detail that Jeremy put into the script… like honestly, reading that, she says “Madonna” and you’re like, “Okay, okay that’s interesting.” You get the chance to understand who this person might grow into, which is very, very rewarding. There’s a lot more than meets the eye.
BH: The other thing we get to know about her, and you touched on it already, is that she has awesome hair. I want you to tell me everything about picking that hairstyle.
IP: It was Jeremy Saulnier’s experience. He was around it the whole time that he was younger, and he was very specific with the type of hair he wanted. I was also thrilled, because if you want to be cast in a role you want someone to – and a lot of people find this hard, they kind of lack the imagination to do so – but you want them to be able to believe you can transform in that way. So it was just really a wig, you know? We pasted up my hair into a really flattering bald cap and then plonked the wig on top of that every single day. It was pretty easy. I would one hundred percent have that haircut. It’s fantastic.
BH: It is fantastic. I guess my question was, was that always the haircut he wanted for you, or was there an adorable montage like in a family movie, where you’re coming out in different wigs and he’s giving you the thumbs up or the thumbs down?
IP: You know, there wasn’t that. There wasn’t the time for that and also I don’t think Jeremy’s really a “montage guy” anyway, even if it’s just in life. So no adorable montage. It was much more an unglamorous wig plonked on the head, go to work scenario. But it worked out great. Luckily my head was the right size. It would be humiliating if I had too big a head or something like that.
BH: Tell me about Jeremy Saulnier as a director. This is a film that takes place in a very tight amount of time and there’s only so much emotional fluctuation you can do when everyone’s trying to kill you. How does he create an atmosphere of tension for that long?
IP: He’s very, very subtle. You can see how a lot of directors would be very, very anxious about maintaining a certain energy, and they’re certainly out there those guys. They lay on a lot of pressure and they say, like, “You know, it’s gotta be really intense!” and Jeremy’s not like that at all. He casts people that he really believed would deliver, whatever that means. He just knew that each cast in the role was there to really service the story, but in their own way, and that each of us was going to bring whatever we were going to bring.
But in terms of maintaining an environment on set, that’s why I do what I do and everyone in the cast does what they do. Because you go there to really be challenged and to ask, as characters, important questions, and sometimes the answers to those questions are terrifying because you’re really having to assess your own ability to survive and how you’re going to go about that. You have to be honest about it.
I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? Anything in life, any sort of trauma, or any sort of horrendous scenarios that they’re subjected to, that’s when the true actions surface. That’s when the true characters starts to come into play. So that alone kind of maintains the high stakes.
BH: You said you’re a big genre movie fan and you like to go out and see different kinds of films. What have you been watching lately?
IP: Lately, what have I seen? Gosh, let me think. I’ve been traveling for a long time. What’s the last thing I watched? THE BLOB, by the way, for example. Something like that is pretty extraordinary.
BH: The original or the remake?
IP: The original. I mean, original horror films in that way are really, really clever because they’re comical and they wink at you as their made. I think actually GREEN ROOM has elements of that too, where there are moments that we didn’t think were going to be funny at all. You don’t consider these moments to be humorous until you’re sitting at a screening and the audience are laughing out loud or cheering at a bit that you’re baffled by. And you’re almost like, “Oh yeah! Shit, I guess that was funny.” That in itself reflects real life, right? Because so often the funniest things are actually quite sad or melancholy! [Laughs.]
In terms of genre film I think they’re just artistic, that’s what’s so kind of thrilling about them. You could sit down with the Criterion Collection and delve into that and find really obscure pieces, but also just kind of old, old… what horror films used to be.
I always remember Peter Bogdanovich said to me, because I asked him about film noir, “Well, you know, noir films were just called ‘thrillers’ originally. We just called them ‘thrillers,’ we didn’t call them ‘noir.’” And I thought wow, that’s so interesting how we’ve, as a culture, adopted that name for them and decided that they’re not thrillers anymore. The thriller is now something else, like a certain type of action movie star running through doors before the door shuts, you know? [Laughs.] It’s a totally different time.
BH: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you what would be your desert island band.
IP: It would be The Smiths! The Smiths are my favorite band of all time.
BH: Good pick.