Desperate to avoid a sophomore slump after her hit first album, Queer indie singer Grey (Lauren Beatty), joined by her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So), accepts an invitation to the remote estate of notorious producer Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk) to work on new music. Beyond her artistic woes, Grey has another problem as she experiences visions of becoming an animal. As the emotionally demanding work deepens, the lifelong vegan singer begins to hunger for meat. What will it take to become a great artist, and at what cost to her humanity?
Canadian director Amelia Moses’s fantastic sophomore feature Bloodthirsty is eerie, intense, and hauntingly beautiful, thanks in large part to the excellent performances from its cast. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren Beatty and Greg Bryk to discuss their history with the horror genre, working with practical effects, and why the film’s Queer characters made this the “role of a lifetime.”
Thanks for talking with Queerist today! You both have been in a number of horror films; do you consider yourselves fans of the genre?
Lauren Beatty: Initially I wasn’t a huge horror buff, but my career shook out that way—very happy that it did. I think horror is one of the funnest genres to act in. I owe a lot of credit to our Bloodthirsty director Amelia Moses, who I also worked with on Bleed With Me. Before I met her, I had a very small view of the horror genre. To me, horror meant Saw, Jaws, and films like that. What I’ve realized through working with Amelia is that horror can be many more things. There are so many different sub-genres within horror, and horror is constantly changing and evolving. Some people might not call my last film, Bleed With Me, a horror film, but it is. I’m becoming a very big fan of horror and I hope to do a lot more of it.
Greg Bryk: I hated horror films as a kid. I remember I was at a birthday party in grade 6, and in the wisdom of the parents, they played Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It destroyed me; I cried and cried. Now that I have kids of my own, I have to play the hero when it’s scary. Despite that, I act in horror films a lot! When you mostly play monsters, horror films are a good place. I enjoy making them more than watching them. There’s something freeing about the heightened circumstances and there’s usually a lot of social conventions that are broken in that world. It gets very elemental, very quickly.
I loved the werewolf transformation scenes in Bloodthirsty; those were practical effects, right? How does that affect your performance?
LB: It was all practical, which I can’t say enough good things about. It was very helpful for me to have the practical effects. Having that constant reminder of what your character looks like helps you to get right back into that headspace.
The makeup artists were absolutely amazing. It was cool to me that the werewolf transformation wasn’t like others that I have seen, where it goes from human to full furry suit. I know this was an intention of Amelia—I like that you can see the human behind the monster, and that you can see the two coexist. I think that makes [Grey] more relatable and it helps us sympathize with what she’s going through. Also, it’s just fun as hell to have that makeup on and get to play in it.
GB: There’s something in the way a well-designed wardrobe will inform your performance. We are so influenced by it, when you put on the makeup, the teeth in your mouth, and the eyes… when it’s you, recognizably you, along with this manifestation of that within you… it was very exciting. Shooting the night where I was chasing the girl through the junkyard, attacking her, there was something primal about that. You tap into something that goes way way back in our evolution. So it was exciting.
I think for an audience CGI is wonderful. [dryly] You can see my excitement. But practical effects, makeup on people, it impacts us more because it’s recognizably human on a gut level, on a pre-conscious level. We know that feels more real than some beautifully rendered CGI effect. So I liked it.
I was sold on Bloodthirsty when I read “lesbian pop star werewolf;” what was it about the project that drew you in?
LB: Lesbian pop star werewolf! I was like, I’ve peaked. This is my dream role. It checks all the boxes. The huge thing for me was that it was Amelia directing. I had such an amazing experience working with her on Bleed With Me—I knew this too would be great. I really liked the script; I liked the idea of an artist struggling to find their voice and making sacrifices for their art. And of course, that the lead character is a Queer woman, a main character and the werewolf, which you don’t see a lot.
Reading the script, the Queer relationship was just there. It just exists. It’s not the main focal point of the movie, the movie is not about coming out.
Reading the script, the Queer relationship was just there. It just exists. It’s not the main focal point of the movie, the movie is not about coming out. As Greg puts it, it’s about the werewolf coming out, it’s not about lesbians coming out. To me that was refreshing, to see a relationship that was treated the same as a straight relationship would be in the same type of movie.
GB: I think it was the idea of greatness in art and what sacrifices you have to make to achieve that—to put away your politeness, social mask, and sense of obligation to those around you at times in the pursuit of something more meaningful. I don’t think that good art is ever pretty; I think it is beautiful at its best, but that encompasses a lot of ugliness as well. That idea was appealing to me.
Lauren wasn’t attached to it yet, or Amelia, or Katherine. I had been working with Wendy, who co-wrote it, and Mike, another of the producers, on another movie, and they asked me if I’d come and do this one. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Lauren, Amelia, and Katherine, which was just incredible. They had such interesting voices, and enthusiasm, confidence and approach to the work. And Lauren’s voice [Ed: see clip below], it changed the movie for me in a lot of ways.
Hearing that changed my approach to the character, cause you have this idea of what this relationship is gonna be, but then listening to her sing, there’s a quality to her voice that made me vulnerable. Like a young soulful yearning that changed the arc of the character for me. There’s a sense of loss in what I’m pushing as well, which confused me, and I like, as an actor, being confused by how I’m feeling, as opposed to how I’m supposed to feel.
Lauren, why is Queer representation in film important to you as a Queer person?
LB: One of my goals is to play a part in normalizing Queer characters. They come in all forms, not just in the kind of relationships we see in mainstream media. That’s why I’m so excited when I get an opportunity to audition for a Queer role, or when I book a part that’s a Queer character. I’m also writing a lot for myself and for other people in the Queer community. I know a lot of Queer actors in Toronto, so I’m constantly trying to create projects where we can all work together, where we can tell our stories.
One of my goals is to play a part in normalizing Queer characters. They come in all forms, not just in the kind of relationships we see in mainstream media.
It was very important and very meaningful to also work alongside Katharine King So, who is also Queer. I think we inherently had this chemistry that just worked because that’s us. This is our lives. We live it every day. I think it added much more to these characters than if they had cast with non-Queer people in these roles. I was very happy to see that this was something they wanted to do. They were actively seeking Queer actors to play these Queer roles, and I think that’s definitely some progress. I love being a part of Queer stories, so this was a dream role for me!
Bloodthirsty releases April 23rd at theaters and VOD in the U.S.