The Cellar Star Elisha Cuthbert Doesn’t Hold Back In Horror Movies [Interview]

When Brendan told you about his vision for the story, how did you think you wanted to help him fulfill it?

When it comes to Brendan, working with directors who have written the script is totally different because they know every nuance, every aspect of the script. It was easy for me to come to him with questions about backstory and concept. Just going to him and going, “How does this equation work mathematically?” And he’s like, “Here, I have the diagram.” In relation to the symbols over the doors. When we were getting into the nitty gritty of that, he was so versed in it all, because it does get mythical and mathematical.

We also had great conversations about how, tonally, it was going to be. That sort of subdued, atmospheric vibe was going to be front and center. I started to realize very quickly that the house itself was becoming a character, moreso than I imagined it was going to be. So yeah, I think it can only help when you have a director who knows every facet of the script, the way he did. It was great.

Did you both talk a lot about “The Haunting” and “The Innocents?”

Yeah, we were talking about those. We were talking about tone, mood. I could already tell, too, when we got to set, how shots were being set up by him. He’s patient. We have so many nice, slow, beautiful shots that lead up to this really intense ending. So it starts down here, and it just builds and builds and builds and builds and builds. So to know prior to going in that it was going to be a slow build was great for me to track, script-wise, where I was going to be physically and emotionally.

Plus, it was all there, right? I mean, that set with all the people in the third act is very impressive.

I think anytime you don’t have to really put your imagination to it as far as green screen goes, it was so much easier to actually have the Leviathan guy there. There’s one scene that’s not in the film anymore, but when I’m under the table, there was one shot through the doorway that the hooves of the Leviathan creature cross the screen. I was under the table, seeing this visually for the first time and then obviously jumping and all that. There were so many things that were actually happening in these catacombs and going down these tunnels. We were really in the Irish countryside in these tunnels.

You talked about getting a sense of Brendan’s pacing for the story, the scares. Acting to that pace, is it similar to performing comedy for you?

You could definitely make a correlation between comedic timing and jump scare timing, for sure. What all movies, TV have in common with actors and the camera: There’s always a dance, right? Even if we’re doing the simplest of scenes, there has to be sort of a focus to the actor and the actor has to know when that’s going to play. I think timing comes up in so many different ways, and it is all about timing, always, always.

[For tone] “Happy Endings,” for example, when you’re doing comedy or even “The Ranch,” when you’re doing a sitcom, your demeanor and your tone is so much higher. And then when I come into a movie like “The Cellar” and you get into the Keira Woods vibe [Editor’s note: Keira Woods is the name of Cuthbert’s character], everything has to be a little bit more focused, a little bit more thoughtful and smoother.

You can’t come into a movie acting like I would on “The Ranch.” So it’s good. It’s nice to go from understanding how to act in front of a live audience and then coming back down into a feature and having to kind of come more into yourself.

I’m now imagining Alex [from “Happy Endings”] in this sort of horror movie scenario, though.

She’d probably like the guy, the beast. She’d be like, “Wait a minute!”

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