Longlegs director Osgood Perkins and star Maika Monroe discuss how Darth Vader is connected to their serial killer story

In pursuit of a serial killer (Nicolas Cage), an FBI agent, Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) uncovers a series of occult clues that she must solve to end his terrifying killing spree.

As the terrifying film LONGLEGS releases in Australian cinemas on July 18, Nick L’Barrow had the chance to chat with the film’s writer and director, Osgood Perkins and star Maika Monroe (It Follows) about a global roundtable interview about finding a characters inner voice, the importance of great opening scenes, and why religion is such a fun playground for horror writers!

Nick: It’s a pleasure to meet you both and thank you for taking the time to chat! Maika, I’d love to ask you about creating Lee’s inner voice. She’s a character who is not just trying to solve this crime, but she’s desperately trying to figure something out about herself that she doesn’t fully understand. A lot of this comes through the physical performance you give for Lee when you don’t have the words to describe it, so I’m curious to know how you developed Lee’s internal dialogue, and then turned that into a physical performance to let the audience in on her struggle?

Maika Monroe: I think it really began by going backwards to her childhood and childhood trauma. Obviously, she has suppressed a lot, and there are things that are so suppressed that, you know, she’s blacked them out of her mind.

I think it was fun to play with, where you could slowly start to have, maybe, some of these memories start boiling to the surface. And obviously, it’s a very slow burn with that, and then it slowly starts to crumble.

Nick: Osgood, I’d love to get your thoughts on how important it is to nail your opening and closing scenes of a film. The opening scene of Longlegs is such a fantastic, terrifying setup, and the final shot is a chef’s kiss on top of the entire film. I’m curious to know at what point during creating the narrative, do you figure out what the opening and closing scenes will be?

Osgood Perkins: The opening scene was the first thing that I really had, because it really, you know—When you read about storytelling, or you read about screenwriting, you want your, sort of, first movement to contain the entirety of the thing, right? It’s like all of civilization is contained in a grain of sand, or whatever! So, your first movement should be, in a way, the whole picture.

In the screenplay, it’s a much longer scene. It goes for much longer. We ended up piecing it out and sort of using parts of it towards the end, but he [Longlegs] sticks around and has quiet a long scene with Alicia Witt. They talk about his visit and what it means.

It was the first thing I had in terms of a finished scene and knowing what it felt like. What the sort of discomfort and malaise and imbalance was going to be in that realm. And then when we shot it, I was like, “Fuck, we fucking missed it!” Like, we almost missed everything. And then, we had it!

Nick: What is it about religion, Satanism, and occults that is such a fun playground for the horror genre?

Osgood Perkins: It’s just sort of like, when you engage in something that’s a conscious or unconscious collective, it’s a standard issue right? Like, everybody’s standard issue is the devil! The devil is just that thing that everybody has some contained notion of. So, you’re giving yourself a little bit of rope, in a good way, to venture into something new from there. Pivoting off of a recognisable thing, to find that kind of nutty, pop art version of that thing.

When it comes to religion, I’m completely neither here nor there about it. I don’t take it seriously. I don’t not take it seriously. I just take from the Bible because I’m a writer and there’s a bunch of crazy fucking words in there!

Maika, with your work in the horror genre, I was wondering whether you think your character in this film would have been able to solve any of the cases or mysteries of your other films?

Maika Monroe: Yes! If we put Lee into It Follows or into Watcher, I have full confidence in Lee. I think she would do alright. I don’t know about the other way around though!

What inspires a character like Longlegs to pop into your mind, and then how do you make the leap of getting Nicolas Cage to play him?

Osgood Perkins: For me, it starts with Darth Vader, right? And everything kind of goes forward from there. When I say it starts with Darth Vader, it starts with the quality of the villain is really the star of their own story. The star of their own situation. They’re doing the best they can with the hand they’ve been dealt.

With someone like Longlegs, it’s not about the idea of how you can make them sinister, but sort of what about him isn’t sinister! The villainous parts, that’s just gotta be a part of it. That’s mandatory. But when you pull the rubber band, and stretch it, where is he pathetic? He’s obviously powerful, but where is he weak? Where is he unsure?

When you start to create these binary positions, much more can exist between those poles. When you have a villain who’s like that all the time, which you don’t see a lot of that anymore. Everybody has their pluses and minuses. And I guess a serial killer is ultimately still a person who shit has happened to, and when you pluck them out of their habitat, they’re probably pretty pathetic.

Thank you so much to Osgood Perkins and Maika Monroe for their time, and to Rialto Distribution, Neon, and NedCo PR for organising the interview. Longlegs is in Australian cinemas on July 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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