Interview: 'The Innkeepers' Sara Paxton On Ghosts, Haunted Hotels And Ti West
Having played more then her share of memorable weighty roles in films like the remake of "Last House on the Left" and "Shark Night 3D," actress Sara Paxton has already proved she can do drama like a pro. But leave it to the likes of talented filmmaker to watch Ti "The House of the Devil" West to help bring out a different side of the actress audiences haven’t yet seen – delightfully quirky. In the new eerie thriller "The Innkeepers" (currently available via VOD and in select theaters on Feb. 3 from the great Magnolia Pictures!), Paxton plays the inquisitive Claire, an employee of the famed ghost ridden Yankee Pedlar Inn who becomes determined to find out if all the haunted talk is true. The film is a terrific mix of comedy and suspense and is, in true Ti West fashion, an entrancing slow pot boil where the journey almost becomes more important then the final destination. We’re celebrating the film with some cool coverage this week, beginning with a one-on-one interview with lead ghost hunter Paxton, who talked to Starpulse about working with Ti West, the reality of the hotel they shot in actually being haunted and what’s next for her. Spirits beware, here’s...
Where did you first hear about "The Innkeepers" and what was your reaction after reading the script?
Sara Paxton: I was doing another movie called "Enter Nowhere" and Ti and I have a mutual friend in that movie. And she was on her phone and she was like, ‘Do you know Ti West – he’s texting me about you.’ So I read the script and we spoke on the phone and we just clicked – I understood the vibe of the script. I really liked the character of Claire, I thought she was super relatable and her dialogue was so natural that I could see myself saying it.
Had you already seen his previous film "The House of the Devil?"
SP: No, I hadn’t! I didn't know anything about Ti, so I was embarrassed when I did find out. But I was really impressed how much he’d accomplished and how talented he is being so young.
There was a story about you being scared of staying at the hotel where the film was shot – what was it that made you so nervous?
SP: When I talked to Ti he was really hyping it, talking a mile a minute and saying, ‘Everyone’s so fun and amazing on the crew and the hotel...so haunted! So friggin’ haunted – haunted as sh#t! Ghosts are going to pop out and talk to you!’ And I was like (recoiling in fear)...ahhh! So I called PJ my manager and I was like I’m not staying at that hotel. I didn’t want to stay there – he scared me! So when Ti called he was like, ‘Sara, whoa, you’re way in the weeds! We’re gonna be fine. Stay one day and if you’re still not okay that will be fine.’ And it did end up being fine. Yes, it’s creepy and weird and probably haunted, but it was so much fun that I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
What was it like when you actually stayed there for real?
SP: It was unsettling from the moment you walk in. Everyone in the town thinks it’s haunted, but it’s just weird and off. Askew - built in 1800’s with 70’s renovation. And at night strange things happen and everyone has the same experience. Everyone wakes up the next morning and is like ‘the door slammed open again’ or ‘the lights flickered on and off’ or ‘the phone rang and no one was there.’ And you have to go to the front desk to call someone’s room, but there’s no one at the front desk. I worked at the front desk in the movie and no one is there. (Laughs) I know for a fact no one’s there!
Having worked on fast paced horror stuff like "Last House on the Left" and "Shark Night 3D" what is it like to work on a film like "The Innkeepers" where the pace is purposefully slow?
SP: Ti would give me direction to slow things down. Like walking slower to open something and we coined a term and called it snailbuck! (Laughs) He’d be behind the camera and be like, ‘Snailbuck, take two!’ And I’d be like gotcha – I knew what that was. The moment you feel like you’re dying and you’ve got to open the door...more snailbuck! It felt weird obviously, but it looked great in the movie.
Being a filmmaker who is known for taking his time, what kind of a director is Ti West on set?
SP: He’s amazing and so specific with what he wants. He has it all planned out in his head and he’s such a perfectionist that it makes my job so much easier because we’re not doing fifty million takes. Sometimes a director doesn’t know what they want to do, so they shoot everything. A take of everything – suddenly you’re doing the chair’s POV! For this every single person was on the same page. He’d just shout a word and everyone knew what that meant. It was one of the most efficient experiences ever.
Kelly McGillis plays such an oddly interesting role in this one – what was she like to work with?
SP: It’s funny because it all played out really well with Kelly. She arrived five days later then everyone else and of course she made everyone nervous because she’s "Top Gun" – hello?! So she made me a little bit nervous, but it worked, especially for the first scene where I bring her the towels. It was easy! And then we became better friends, which worked for the other scenes where we become better friends – so it all worked out to my advantage.
And what’s next for you?
SP: I’m really excited for 2012 because I did a lot last year. I did a movie called "Static," which is another ghost story, plus I did another movie that’s a murder mystery called "Liars All" and one called "The Boys of Abu Ghraib." Not only am I excited to see what happens with those, but it’s a whole new chapter for me – I’m just curious what’s gonna happen next.
Stay tuned for more coverage from "The Innkeepers" this week!
"THE INNKEEPERS" IS CURRENTLY ON VOD AND OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS ON FEB. 3 FROM MAGNOLIA PICTURES.