Abigail Set Visit:  Everything We Learned From Kathryn Newton, the writers + new trailer

Dublin, Ireland.  Headquarters of Guinness, Jameson, and the most overpriced beer you can find in the Temple Bar area.   Steeped in history, Dublin boasts landmarks like Trinity College and Dublin Castle, emblematic of its medieval heritage. Amidst its historical allure, the city’s streets thrive with the energy of bustling pubs resonating with music and culinary delights. However, beyond its libations and cultural landmarks, Dublin harbors a lesser-known connection to vampire folklore. Since early childhood, my mother took me to the movies weekly.  And horror was always a shared love.  It was an obsession I’m sure many of us share.  My love for vampire films and stories began as soon as I was introduced to The Lost Boys.  But Ireland was special for us.  Having ancestral ties to the majestic island, we always dreamed of visiting it and taking in the stunning landscape one day.  

So, how do vampires and Ireland come into play?  Located in Dublin is Marsh’s Library, the oldest public library in Ireland, housing tens of thousands of rare texts and manuscripts.  Within these hallowed halls, Bram Stoker, the legendary horror author and Dublin native, immersed himself in his youth, laying the groundwork for his literary masterpiece, “Dracula.”  And now, the fair city can add another tale to its vampire legends.

Recently, Universal Pictures invited JoBlo to the second-largest island of the British Isles to visit the set of its newest vampire film, Abigail, which has just gotten a new trailer:

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (collectively known as Radio Silence) from a screenplay written by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, Abigail follows: “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 with Radio Silence’s previous outings, the cast is stacked with top-tier performers, including Melissa Barrera (Scream franchise, In the Heights), Dan Stevens (Gaslit, Legion), Kathryn Newton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Freaky), Will Catlett (Black Lightning, True Story), Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Angus Cloud (Euphoria, North Hollywood) as the kidnappers.  Alisha Weir (Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, Darklands) stars as Abigail, and the esteemed cast includes Emmy nominee Matthew Goode (The Crown, Downton Abbey) and five-time Emmy nominee Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) as Lambert, the efficient organizer of Abigail’s kidnapping.

While waiting for night to fall during the city’s extended daylight hours, Marsh’s Library brought an unexpected and welcomed encounter with Stephen Shields, the Dublin-based screenwriter. His insights into the horror genre resonated deeply, adding a serendipitous layer to our excursion through the library’s storied corridors. 

STEPHEN SHIELDS: “The first film my father ever showed me at a young age was The Lost Boys, so it kind of started from there.  And then I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.  I kind of go backward in horror.  We’re lucky enough here in Dublin as well that every October, we have a horror film we never got to see before.  So, we get to see stuff like Dario Argento movies.  I did a film a couple of years ago at Sundance called The Hole in the Ground with Lee Cronin, who directed Evil Dead Rise.  So, yeah, I love horror.  Who doesn’t?  It’s the best (genre) ever.”

When asked about his favorite horror film, he smiles and points to my Ghostface earrings.

 “My favorite scary movie of all time?  Scream.”

After grabbing the smoothest pint I’ve ever had at the Guinness Storehouse, we traveled just outside Dublin’s city limits to the Glenmaroon House:  a once party house for the descendants of the Guinness family, now the setting for one of the bloodiest films of the year.  Just looking at the house from the outside is breathtaking due to its size.  But what it holds inside is what I was eagerly anticipating.  As I entered, I was greeted by the splendor of the lobby, characterized by expansive staircases ascending to the upper levels. The aesthetic transformation within was nothing short of astonishing, with thorough attention to detail evident in every surface of its design—from the intricate branch-like light fixtures to the exquisite taxidermy and lavish furnishings that adorned the space. All of which had recently been added.  However, the subtle yet unmistakable presence of simulated blood hinted at the dark narrative unfolding within. Immediately, the set felt reminiscent of the duo’s acclaimed 2019 film, Ready or Not.  As a fan, I eagerly anticipated what the atmospheric locale had next in store.

Just as the cast and crew were setting up for the next scene, we caught up with William Catlett, who plays the Rickles.  He describes his character as:

WILLIAM CATLETT: “(He) has a military background.  He is the shooter of the film.  He’s the one who keeps everything grounded.”

Catlett agrees the house is “a great backdrop for the film.”  

He adds, “When I first walked in here, it’s creepy.  Especially when you walk through doors, there’s a cold mist on your face, but there’s nothing there.”

“Welcome to Dublin,” our host jokingly interjects.  “There’s nothing like a cold mist of a figure of a ghost in the corner.”

What element of the production are you most excited for people to see?

“To be honest with you, the crew, you know?  Ten-hour days.  You don’t get ten-hour days in the States.  You have the same crew on Monday that you had on Friday.  You know, usually, the crew is dead by Friday.  That’s been impressive.  Everybody is mindful of people’s time, which is very respectable.  Sometimes, in this industry, depending on who the number one is or who the number two is, it’s a hierarchy type of thing.  But this feels like artists have come together to create something kind of magical.”

He continues on the process of working with the directors.

“Those guys.  We’re doing 39…40 set-ups.  It’s unheard of that you can do that many set-ups and still complete the day.  They have a nice system that they work with.  I actually talked to my wife.  I said ‘you know, actors look for things to complain about.  I ain’t got nothing to complain about.’” He laughs.  “You know, the food is good, the crew is cool.  It’s been a joy.”

Filming is about to commence.  We settled in an opposing room, waiting for “Action” to be called.  Gathered in front of a couple of monitors, we witness Melissa Barrera’s character, Joey, covered in blood and cautiously walking down a hallway.  It’s a quick scene, yet one thing her character mentions captures my curiosity: there are bodies in a pool.  Her intensity lets us know something truly terrifying has happened.  

Fresh off shooting the scene, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett join us briefly to welcome us to the set. 

abigail props

We were taken through some of the many rooms and corridors of the estate to the setting of a previously filmed scene. The setting: A control room, or rather, what was left of one.  As I watched my step, careful not to slip on the pools of blood and guts, I marveled at the practical artistry of gore splattered all over the room.  So much was to be taken in, and I wondered what exactly happened here and whose intestines and pieces of skull remained.  The gorehound in me couldn’t be more thrilled.  

From there, we entered a portion of the house not used for filming: a church.  Yes, there was a full-sized church in this mansion.  But I wasn’t the only one just as dumbfounded by this addition.  Kathryn Newton enters the room, dressed in a jumpsuit and covered in faux tattoos. 

KATHRYN NEWTON: “This place just got weirder.  I didn’t know it was possible.  It is a little magical, though, right?  I keep thinking about Alisha (Weir) and how much fun it must be because it’s kind of like a haunted house, but it’s not that scary.  It’s mostly beautiful but still cool with spiderwebs and weird dolls.  It’s a little magical.”

After showing us her “hacker” outfit and knuckle tattoos, she explains who her character is.

 “So, my character’s name is Sammy, and she’s a hacker.  But she’s really kind of a mystery because the main question I keep asking myself is, ‘How did she get here?  Why is she here?’  And I think it’s because she likes to be entertained.  As you’ll find out about her, there’s a lot you don’t know that, on the surface, isn’t who she is.  And I’ve had so much fun playing this character because she has the best transition of any character I’ve ever played in my whole life. “ 

She elaborated on her collaboration with the directors and their receptiveness to input on her character.

 “The freedom of collaboration has made this job just a joy.  Everyone’s happy, and, like, it’s fun.  It’s Fun!  For me, it was a no-brainer.  When I read the script, I was like, this role is going to be way too fun not to do.  It was different once I came on board.  I think there was an idea of Sammy in the script, and then, with the collaboration, it turned into something better than I imagined with them.”

abigail kathryn newton

Regarding her character’s interactions with the rest of its motley crew, she continues,

“There are a lot of unexpected relationships.  A lot reveals itself between unlikely characters.  People you’d never think you’d be friends with, you get really close to.  We have a bunch of people who don’t make sense together, and we put them in this situation where now they have to rely on each other.  And I think anyone can relate to that.  Like a human condition, human experience, all being different from different places in life, all trying to survive this one night together.  So, there is an understanding there that I think anyone can relate to watching a movie.”

With her role as a hacker, I asked her if she had done any research into the role.

“My research comes from a place of ‘what do I want her to look like and feel like?’  So, I watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is random, but that’s where I came from for my character and how she carries herself but falls apart immediately.  But that’s where I wanted her to start.  Someone who isn’t as who she seems.” 

Recently, it has been teased the film is ”extreme and hilarious.” Ms. Newton confirms this, dishing out the most bizarre thing she has had to shoot so far, further expanding on the pool Barerra’s character was talking about.  

“This movie – oh my gosh – it’s the most traumatic experience I have ever had in the best and coolest way.  The grossest and most difficult, physically.  I just did a Marvel movie, and this is harder.  Way, way harder, physically.  I had to do something where I jumped into a pool of bodies.  All I was thinking about was the audience because that was the only thing getting me through.  It was comfortable, but I was sweating so much.  I was hot because I was working so much.  They did everything to make me comfortable.  Everyone did their job.  It was so gross.  It was heavy. The blood, the screaming, but it looks so, so good.  So, what I thought of before every take was, ‘Don’t go watch this movie and be disappointed you didn’t kill it because you’re already doing this anyway.  So that was the best scene I’ve ever shot. 100 percent.”

When it comes to the young Alisha Weir, it was a recurring theme shared by the entire cast.

“She’s the sweetest girl you’ve ever seen and the most talented kid I’ve ever met.  Our relationship is a really great working relationship.  She’s so open and listens and so much smarter than anyone I have ever met.”

Stay tuned for way more from our Abigail set visit, including interviews with Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, the directors and so much more! Abigail opens only in theaters on April 19.

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/abigail-set-visit-kathryn-newton-and-the-writers/

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