No Static At All
by Jay S. Jacobs
Young actress Sara Paxton is always a favorite interview of ours, in fact we’ve spoken with her three times in just over four years and she is never less than charming, personable and sweet.
That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed her career as she has made the impressive trip from child star to intriguing indie film star. From her early appearances in kids’ series Darcy’s Wild Life (as well as doing many voices on Spongebob Squarepants), Paxton became a teen star in light films like Aquamarine and Sydney White. In 2009, she changed course and spent a while in horror films like Last House on the Left and Shark Night. In recent years, her roles have been getting even more experimental, starting with last year’s critically lauded performance in the acclaimed ghost story The Innkeepers.
Now Paxton has three very diverse films hitting in the next few months. First out is Static, in which she stars with Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Shahi in a very dark ghost mystery. As Static is being released, her pitch-dark black comedy Cheap Thrills (which reunites her with Innkeepers co-star Pat Healy) is starting to make the festival circuit. Also right around the bend is the raunchy comedy The Bounceback, in which Paxton gooses her good girl reputation.
Paxton took a little time to chat with us from the set of her latest film to catch us up on Static, Cheap Thrills, The Bounceback and her career.
Your character in Static is very ambiguous. The audience does not know if she is good or bad until the very end. As an actress, was it fun to play a character who keeps the audience guessing?
Yeah, it was. It was fun. The way we filmed the movie also helped, because I was scheduled to work on another movie in the middle of production, so I just came in for three weeks and did my stuff and then left. (laughs) I just flew in and flew out. And I was like the mystery woman on the set, so that kind of worked. Yeah. It was really fun.
Well, speaking of keeping the audience guessing, the film starts out seeming to be one kind of horror film and turns out to have an entirely different thrust than the audience originally thinks. What was it about the script that grabbed you?
I think just that. As I was reading the script, that’s exactly how I felt. I was reading it and I was like: Okay, what is this about? I think I know what this is about. When it came to my character, I didn’t know who she was or why she was really there. Why does she show up into these people’s lives? I’d like to make a comparison without giving away the end of the movie, but it sort of reminded me in a way of The Sixth Sense. There’s this big reveal at the end. My character goes through an arc. You don’t know why this young woman is there. Then you’re like, oh, gosh, she’s bad. There’s something not right. Then at the end, you see that she is actually good. She’s actually there to help these people.
This is the second ghost story you’ve done in a year. Why do you think ghost stories resonate with people so much?
Well, for me, it’s the unknown. People have loved ghost stories for years and years. I think that’s what it is, we really just don’t know. People I met talking about Innkeepers, a lot of the questions I was asked about that film were, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “What is your whole take on that?” I was like, well, I don’t not believe in ghosts. (laughs) A ghost has never popped out and been like, “Hello, how are you?” But I think that’s what it is. We don’t know, so it’s so fascinating to us.
What were Milo and Sarah like to work with?
They were great. I mean, I filmed this movie a really long time ago (laughs), so I’m trying to think back. But Sarah was really great. We shot the whole movie, it was all night shoots. So even though it was really hard to be nocturnal for six weeks, on top of what I filmed, it got everybody in the mood. There was always this weird, loopy, eerie feeling happening on set. Sarah was really fun. We bonded. She was a really cool, cool girl. Milo was really great, too. He really knew what he was doing. He was a producer on the movie. I’d never really seen that, where someone is acting in a scene and then takes up and actor hat from their producer hat and starts working in that way on set. That was really cool.