Claudia Maree Mailer
Live and Let DieRy
By Jay S. Jacobs
When you were young, and your heart was an open book…
That line is not merely the opening line to the old Paul McCartney song that was used for this article’s punny headline, it also rather fittingly describes the character of Marie in the psychological thriller DieRy, the first feature leading role by actress Claudia Maree Mailer. The film was written by her husband, producer John Buffalo Mailer.
Marie is a beautiful young Instagram model and college teaching assistant who lives a glamorous life of parties, bars, photo shoots and millions of likes. However, no matter how cutting edge her fab city life is, Marie has one retro fascination, she obsessively writes all her confidences in a diary. However, her diary is not an open book – she fiercely protects it from prying eyes – after all it has all her secrets in it. And some of those may be rather dark.
Then a stranger somehow gets his (or her?) hands on her diary and holds it for ransom – wanting Marie’s affections, not money. And he (or she?) seems to be becoming more and more deeply disturbed with every note, determined to get rid of anyone that may get in the way of the budding romance that the stalker imagines.
About a week before the premiere of DieRy, we got together on Zoom with star Claudia Maree Mailer to discuss the film.
I know that your husband wrote the screenplay. Did he write it with you in mind? Were you involved in fleshing out your character?
I definitely helped him a lot. He doesn’t have any social media whatsoever, so I introduced him to that world. He would not have known about Instagram or anything like that if it weren’t for my somewhat expertise in the matter. I definitely think I helped bring that to life for him.
The whole social media aspect was interesting. What was it about this idea that intrigued you?
For me, it was about the friends I was hanging out with. This is no disrespect to them whatsoever, but we’d be out, and they would be taking a video or a photo. They would tag everyone who was there. Tag the location. Upload it straight away, without any real regard of who is following you. Like, do you know who everyone is who is following you? Because you now told them exactly where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing. It was an idea that branched from that.
Did you contact or study any particular social media “celebs” in preparing for playing the role?
Yeah, I definitely have a few friends who are “micro” influencers. I got their advice on the matter – how they navigate it. Also, there was this one episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians – I know, that’s so bad – but Kylie was putting up her location, exactly where she was in real time, kind of what my friends were doing. I remember Khloe and Kim… or Kourtney… did a prank on her, because she was just telling everyone where she is. Seeing that as a direct result definitely [influenced the idea]. Everyone does it. They don’t truly think what happens when you put every single aspect of your life online.
It’s interesting, because of all the crazy things going on in the world, the whole idea of social media horror is taking on a bigger aspect in the world than it would have before. Is it interesting that you have done a horror movie about this type of thing in this weird time in history?
Absolutely. I’d have been less appreciative had social media not entered in my life – if it weren’t there from the get-go. It’s fascinating just seeing how everyone navigates all of it. Social media is such a big part of everyone’s life now.
The interesting thing about Marie is that she did not seem as jaded about that world as so many people are. Yeah, she was going for likes and doing what she had to do, but she also had a totally separate life – her school, her work, her friends. Was it important to you that she was a well-rounded character rather than the cliched influencer?
Exactly. We just know influencers to be 2D [two-dimensional] people. We only see one part of them. They only put the highlights of their life up. We don’t know the reality behind it. Talking to a few of my friends who are influencers, I know they only put a glimpse of their life up. And obviously, all the good parts. That’s what goes with the territory. So, it was very necessary to make her an actual person, who wasn’t controlled by social media, even though she knew it was her job to rely on it.
Just as an actress, was it fun or sort of a drag to have to do all those photo shoots in character?
It’s really fun. Brendan [Robinson, who played Kevin] who was the photographer, he’s just such a blast. It was just like playing. It was a lot of fun. We found a bathtub. We hopped it. It was a wild time. Samantha Strelitz, who plays Sarah, when we got to do that photo shoot together, it was just like her copying my every single move. It was very fun to get to play in that realm that I normally don’t.
Also, as a bit of a subtext, DieRy also took on the whole #MeToo movement. I mean, yes, Marie was a model and pretty, but it seemed like just about every guy around hit on her, except for her gay bestie. And even he ended up having some suspect…
(laughs) … Motivations….
Even the hot professor was treading in some murky waters even though Marie was interested, too. Was sexual harassment something you were looking to comment on with the film?
Absolutely. I think women get judged by how they look. That’s it. That’s the first thing that everyone sees and that’s how people make their opinion of you. Any woman has to navigate the world and be beating off men but at the same time keeping them at bay. Because you have to work with them. You have a crush on them. You are friends with them. There are so many aspects.
That’s why I love this movie so much. It’s not so on the nose. Like, that was sexual harassment. That was an assault. There are so many micro-sexual harassments that we don’t even realize. Like you said, with the gay bestie, there are some moments in there that are completely inappropriate. But women have been so normalized that that’s what they should expect. I was very, very happy to put on screen that just because you’re used to it does not mean it’s okay.
It’s weird, most of the movie is very cutting edge about things in the new millennium, but the idea of a diary seems charmingly old fashioned. Have you ever had a diary? And if so, were you as protective about it as Marie is?
I have dabbled in journaling – I think that’s what they call it now, journaling – during this quarantine time. Before I had a diary when I was like 13. I used to write Taylor Swift lyrics in it, thinking that’s what you were meant to do. And the boys you had a crush on. I’d keep it under my pillow because that’s what you were meant to do. It was what the movies would tell you to do. I probably kept that up for like two to three months and then kind of finished with that. (laughs)
You have done TV and films before, but I believe this is the first time you have carried a film – in fact, there is not all that much of the movie when you were not on screen, basically just the parts with the PI. Was it fun being the focal point of the movie?
I definitely had a few freak outs before we started. I was like can I do this? During the time we were filming, during the shooting days, I had three days off. I was on every other day. But you know what? The cast and crew we had; it was just so rewarding. Every single day was fun. It was playing with each other. It was finding new things. It was an incredible time.
Well, that’s good.
I was worried about memorizing that many lines. (laughs) That was the moment I freaked out. I was like can I do this? You’d be in the makeup chair and you’d get the new sides that were just changed two minutes ago. You’re like okay, focus. But, no, it was a lot of fun. I couldn’t have imagined a better first lead role.
Marie also seems to have some sort of mental problem in her past, which reveals itself as the film goes on. Did you investigate mental illness and psychology when researching the role?
Absolutely. I wanted to do my research. Like we said, I didn’t want her to be a 2D character. I didn’t want how everyone expects her to behave [to be] how she behaves. That’s when it comes to the mental health parts, her past, and the influencer part. I wanted her to be unexpected. Hopefully, that came across.
I don’t know if it was just me, but I can handle people getting killed in horror films, but when it looked like the killer was going after the dog, that’s crossing a line. WC Fields once said as an actor you should never work with children or animals because they’ll always upstage you. Did you bond with doggy on set?
(laughs) Yeah. He was Hank. Hank was the loveliest, sweetest pup you’ll ever meet in your entire life. There was that one part where he has to follow me, and I run away. Because we just like created a bond, straight away, he didn’t want to. He’d come up and just start licking my hand. He didn’t want to threaten me whatsoever. (laughs)
How did they get him to chase you?
I remember the trainer had a cooked hotdog and she had to rub it all over my hand to try and get him to run after me. I would have to hold onto it as well, because that wouldn’t work either, he’d just start licking. I’d hold onto it and run as fast as I could. It was a lot of takes of trying to navigate that. But he was the biggest sweetheart in the world. Those tears [in my eyes] when he went away were genuine tears.
Your husband wrote himself a… let’s say eccentric… supporting character to play as well. Was it fun acting with him?
It was a blast. It was the first time we’d worked in a scene together. It was really funny, because obviously we’ve known each other for five-six years now. I remember one of the first times we went out, he told me this monologue – voice and everything. He already had it. It was down. So, it was so surreal to get to then be on set, listening to this monologue all over again. It was just so much fun. He’s so good. He’s so good.
Also, the film credits you as “introducing” even though you have worked before. Why was it decided to bill you that way instead of just giving you the straight lead?
For me it felt like this is my entrance to the industry. It was the first time that I’ve had a credit with my new last name. [She had always previously been credited under her maiden name, Claudia Peters.] This is how I wanted to enter it. So, I was very happy with the “introducing.”
Are you a fan of horror as a viewer?
(laughs) Absolutely not. I cannot stand horror movies, or psychological thrillers. I think psychological thrillers hurt me because your brain comes up with what you’re seeing, instead of seeing it in person. I remember I watched Paranormal Activity when I was 14 or 15 – when it first came out. I was so scared my dad had to sleep on my floor. He had to pull out an air mattress and sleep on the floor for at least two nights, because I [wasn’t going to sleep alone]. Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
What kind of things do you tend to watch just for pleasure?
I’m more of a comedy [person]. I love 80s movies. I know, they are so cheesy, but like all John Hughes 80s movies. I could re-watch those all the time.
The distribution of film has been sort of thrown in a blender by the situations of the last several months. While I certainly miss seeing movies in a theater, do you feel that the expansion of Video on Demand and streaming and even the resurgence of drive-in theaters helps smaller titles like yours find an audience?
Absolutely. It’s time where it’s not so much about the amount of money you put into [the film]. Obviously, the amount of money you put into marketing helps, but now everything is up in the air. It’s a free-for-all. The studio movies, sure they might come out on VOD first, but now everything is coming out on VOD. It just creates a lot more opportunities for the indie movies to be seen.
How have you been dealing with the whole shelter in place world?
I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I’m staying sane. I’m still married to my husband, which is good. That’s a huge, huge step for us. (laughs) Always a plus. I have a little dog, so she’s very distracting, which is nice as well. But you know what? Yes, it’s good to do daily check ins, but the world is in such a helpless place right now, it’s bigger than us. I am very grateful for everything that’s happening. I’m very grateful for where I am. I wouldn’t change anything, but yeah, I know the problem is bigger than me, so I’m not so in despair about it all.
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 19, 2020.
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