Exclusive Interview: Robin McLeavy Discusses Going Psycho for The Loved Ones, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and More
In Sean Byrne's Australian horror import The Loved Ones, Robin McLeavy plays spoiled "daddy's girl" Lola Stone, who isn't used to not getting her way, especially around prom season.
This year she has her eye on Brent (Xavier Samuel), but he already has a girlfriend named Holly (Victoria Thaine) and very little interest in going to the big dance. When Brent rebuffs Lola, she has her father (John Brumpton) kidnap Brent just so "Princess" can have the prom she's always wanted.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with McLeavy about her sociopathic character, the power of female protagonists in the horror genre and more. Check out highlights from our chat with the actress below, and look for The Loved Ones in limited theaters this weekend via Tugg and courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Dread Central: I'd love to hear what you thought of this role and this project as a whole when Sean first approached you; I imagine it had to be quite a shock to read and see what Lola was all about.
Robin McLeavy: At the time I used to do a lot of stage and theater work, so I was playing roles like Catherine the Great or Stella from A Streetcar Named Desire, so yes, this was definitely a very unusual script to get.
But as I read it, I fell in love with it, especially because first and foremost, it was about a female protagonist. Not a victim. That's so rare these days so that really excited me as an actor. I'm not a huge horror fan myself because they scare me, but I realized how refreshing Sean's take on the genre was on The Loved Ones, and I just loved how this role drove all of the action in the film. What a rare treat as an actress.
Dread Central: How was it collaborating with Sean?
Robin McLeavy: Just fantastic! Sean is meticulous, and I think that's what I loved most about working with him. Before we started shooting, he gave me a 'bible' of reference material on people like Jeffrey Dahmer to go through to get inside Lola's head; going through that book was very confronting for me because it was a lot of really terrible things to be reading about. I could barely read it.
So I realized if I was going to 'protect' myself from Lola's mentality, I had to approach her with a different point of view, and I think that helped. What was also helpful is that a few weeks later after Sean gave me the first book, he then gave me another book that was filled with stuff like Barbie, Britney Spears - a lot of 'little girl' fantasy elements - and that's when I really 'found' Lola. It was that dichotomy in her psyche that I used to pull myself out of the character and just went for it.
What's sort of funny is that Sean actually based this role on his five-year-old niece, who is just obsessed with the color pink. That was my real frame of reference- when you're that age, you just think anything you want to happen can happen, and that's Lola.
Dread Central: John, who plays your father, is such a central figure to Lola's life and this movie as well; did you guys work together ahead of time to get the chemistry right between you two?
Robin McLeavy: John's a great actor, and we did work a bit together before shooting, yes. What's interesting about him is that he's got this Aussie quality to him that's very specific. I grew up in Tasmania, and I knew so many men just like him (laughs). It was really uncanny; we joked around a lot while shooting so that helped us bond, too.
Dread Central: You mentioned earlier that the horror genre is pretty terrifying to you; how did you get through shooting the more extreme scenes on The Loved Ones then?
Robin McLeavy: Oh yeah, there were some tough days, but I think because we had so much fun making the movie, it was hard to separate all of that out from 'real life.' Plus, when it came to the violence in the film, I never treated it as Lola getting out her rage; it was more about intimacy for her. I read somewhere that a lot of violent people use those tactics not because of anger or anything but because they want to be close to their victim.
And that was Lola- all she wanted was to be close to Brent, and since he didn't want anything to do with her, she had to force that intimacy on him.
Dread Central: You're pretty much the face of The Loved Ones, which must be great to be enjoying as an actress; did it ever hit you at all that everything about this movie - the story, the marketing - was going to revolve around you and your character as much as it has?
Robin McLeavy: Not really at all. I mean, I knew Lola was the focus of the movie, but I didn't even think about how the marketing and everything would play out. I just saw her as an incredible challenge and a chance to stretch myself creatively. I've been incredibly lucky that the horror fans around the world have embraced both the movie and myself; I wasn't expecting that really.
Dread Central: I noticed you're also in the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; what can you tell us about that project?
Robin McLeavy: Working on Abe Lincoln was amazing; it was my first real Hollywood blockbuster, and I just found the whole experience mind-blowing. Timur [Bekmambetov] is such an incredible director- I was in awe of him. I've never seen a director work so closely with his storyboard artists; they'd actually be working on sketching out scenes on the day we'd be shooting even because the look is everything to Timur. And I get to play Nancy Hanks Lincoln, which was a lot of fun; I really can't wait to see how it turns out.
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