Interview – Kathryn Newton and Dan Stevens on the insane volumes of fake blood used in ‘Abigail’

After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, and they discover, to their mounting horror, that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

As the blood-soaked, horror-comedy Abigail bursts on to Australian cinema screens on April 18. Nick L’Barrow had the chance to sit down with the film’s stars, Kathryn Newton (Freaky, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) and Dan Stevens (The Guest, Godzilla x Kong) about creating hilarious tattoos for their characters, and finding inspiration in unexpected places.

Nick: Kathryn, Dan – it’s a pleasure to meet you both today! How are you going?

Kathryn Newton: Pleasure!

Dan Stevens: Doing great!

Nick: I just need to start by saying – I fucking love this movie! It was so goddamn cool, so I’m excited to talk to you both about! And Kathryn, I want to start with you because I big part of Sammy as a character is her tattoos. To the point that it’s talked about a fair bit in the film. How much does sitting in the makeup chair, getting those tattoos applied, help you get into character? Then on top of that – did you get to create any tattoos, or stories around the tattoos yourself?

Kathryn Newton: Oh my gosh! We could talk about this all day long! It’s all because of Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett]. They didn’t say no! I was like, “I think I should get tattoos”, and suddenly I have sleeves, you know? You give me an inch, I go a mile!

My favourite tattoo was a heart with a poodle because I had to sneak a poodle in there! I love the dragon tattoo because it’s ridiculous! I had some anime eyes on the back. My favourite thing was going to hair and makeup, and they’re weren’t going to tell me it’s a bad idea because they don’t want to hurt my feelings, but I wanted to put… I’m gonna say a bad word. Is that okay?

Nick: Please, by all means!

Dan Stevens: He’s already said one!

Nick: I did! I did!

Kathryn Newton: Okay, so I wanted to put ‘Fuck Mom’ on my hands, because my character has a bad relationship with her parents.

Nick: I thought it said ‘Fuck Mom’ when I saw it!

Kathryn Newton: Yeah! But the hair and makeup team was like, “Um, it might be a bit much”. They’re Irish. They were very sweet! And then we do the screen test, and I go to Matt and Tyler, “Well I guess you guys didn’t want the ‘Fuck Mom’?” And they were like, “You want to put ‘Fuck Mom’? We love ‘Fuck Mom’!” And so, on the first day of shooting we put ‘Fuck Mom’ on there. And that one was semi-permanent, which I was kind of excited about!

Dan Stevens: It was on in the evenings where we went out for dinner!

Kathryn Newton: And it was the coolest thing about me for like six months. But it does get you into character! Sammy is just a little bit of what I want to wear all the time. I expressed my inner punk. Punks out there, don’t get made at me! I’m just having fun!

Nick: Dan, I want to ask about getting into character as Frank, as well, because the most interesting thing I read about Frank is that inspiration came from the most unexpected place – I Think You Should Leave.

Kathryn Newton: Best show ever!

Dan Stevens: [laughs] “He’s a real piece of shit!”

Nick: “He’s a real piece of shit.”

Dan Stevens: “He’s a real piece of shit.”

Nick: I watched the skit last night preparing this question! I love it!

Kathryn Newton: That’s so funny!

Nick: I’m curious to know where the most unexpected inspiration for a character has come from for you.

Dan Stevens: Gosh? For any character?

Nick: Any character!

Dan Stevens: I think for Beast in Beauty and the Beast, my son was about two at the time. And I used to watch his like tantrums and incorporated a lot of like, toddler tantrums into Beast.

Kathryn Newton: Wow, that’s cool!

Nick: The thing I love most about Abigail is that it reminded me that horror can be fun! They don’t have to be all doom and gloom. I’m curious to find out what you both think about how comedy and horror, two seemingly different genres, work together so well? Is that a Matt and Tyler thing?

Dan Stevens: It’s very much their kind of thing! I mean, my personal reaction to horror is laughter anyway! I find horror films kind of make you nervous. I guess nervous laughter is sort of like protection.

But I also enjoy when filmmakers show you something really batshit. It just makes me laugh. But Matt and Tyler, they produce very particular kind of horror-comedy that really treads the line between the two.

There are great zinger lines peppered throughout. There’s also just like, insane amounts of blood and gore that really challenges a lot of other filmmakers out there in terms of volume of blood used!

Nick: I love that! I’m getting the wrap now, but I just wanted to say I’m a big fan of you both. Kathryn, I think Freaky is fantastic!

Kathryn Newton:  Thank you!

Nick: And Dan, I truly believe The Guest is one of the best thrillers of the last 20 years.

Dan Stevens: Thank you very much.

Nick: I appreciate you both taking the time to chat, and I hope we can do it again soon!

Kathryn Newton: Thank you so much!

Dan Stevens: Thanks very much!

Thank you so much to Kathryn and Dan for their time, and to Universal Pictures for organising the interview. Abigail is in cinemas April 18.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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