Feature: Arielle Kebbel on The Uninvited
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:55:55
Arielle Kebbel fell in love with her character, Alex, in The Uninvited. Kebbel's youth breathes fresh life into Alex. "I think Alex is great!" she exclaims. "I don't think there was one particular scene that made me feel that way. As I was reading the script for the first time, I completely took to her from the beginning. I thought about how much fun it would be to bring humor to the midst of this very dark story. Alex is able to bring wit, fun, and light to some very dark moments."
Alex's vibrancy figures into the relationship that Kebbel shares with her on-screen sister, Anna, played by Emily Browning. The two square off against their new stepmother, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), in a tense battle of wills, encompassed by encroaching supernatural terror. Kebbel continues, "I really loved the relationship that Alex and Anna have in the story. For me, it was more about creating that sisterhood than even telling the scary story. It was really exciting for me talking with Emily, because she felt the exact same way. So for us, it was a chance to bond both on-camera and in real life. I'm thrilled with the way it came out."
She should be. The young actress embodies every facet of Alex, creating a figure that's intriguing, funny, and smart. Sitting in the Palomar hotel wearing a radiant purple top with a black and white skirt, Kebbel is glowing and friendly, much like Alex, but even more so. She certainly shines a light on The Uninvited's dark story.
In some ways, the film draws upon Hitchcock more than the original Japanese movie, A Tale of Two Sisters, from which it was inspired. "We have the Guard brothers [Directors Charles and Thomas] to thank for that," she says. "When they settle on a project, they completely immerse themselves in it. The original film has this creepy fairy tale quality to it. In this version, we told a bit of a different story, but the Guard brothers kept that ethereal beauty and that fairy tale quality in tact. It's very important to the film, and it creates something very interesting for the audience to watch beyond the usual suspenseful thriller. The whole time we were shooting, everyone kept saying how beautiful it looked, and we really have the brothers to thank for that."
The Uninvited has elements of Edgar Allan Poe that completely fit that "fairy tale vibe" that Kebbel so rightly points out. "I love that you're saying that! Emily and I talked about it, and that was really one of the most important things that we felt needed to carry from the original into this one."
“Alex is able to bring wit, fun, and light to some very dark moments.”
The film resonates, too, because the family drama feels so real. "When you start breaking it down, it's actually a very complicated story," she shows. "On some level, it's talking about post-traumatic stress from Alex dealing with seeing the loss of her mother to the way that a teenager's whole world flips upside down when either a stepmother or another woman comes into the picture. There were a lot of issues: the broken family, the constant struggle to be heard, and the fight not be overshadowed by the new woman. Also for Alex, having her sister back brings about all these emotions. There's anger that her sister's return provokes because she's been gone for so long, but really, that anger is spun from complete love and the fact that Alex has missed her for the past year. So it's a very complicated story. I think that's probably why it attracted such sophisticated actors. Elizabeth Banks does a great job in the film as well as David [Strathairn] and Emily. We were all attracted to the same qualities that this film has to offer and that breaks down to the multi-layers in the script."
It's so complex that it may require a few extra viewings to unravel each of those layers. "It's the type of film where you could watch more than once and pick up on different things that you may have missed the first time around. I think that was the other reason why we had so much fun making it. At any given moment, it was like, 'Okay, how much of the story are we willing to unfold? How much do we want the audience to know? How much of it do we want to be a surprise? How much do we want them to have to watch it again to really figure it out?' That's part of the fun of creating this story, and if people saw it more than once, I'd be thrilled!"
Kebbel's love affair with Alex prompted her dedicated performance. Alex provides the emotional foundation of the house, and Kebbel nailed it. "It was really fun because I felt like Alex has so many special qualities. The way she was described on the page was 'classic, sarcastic, hate-the-world teenager.' That's not her at all. She's actually quite the opposite. She feels so much. She has so much love that she's so hurt, which causes anger, frustration, and resentment. You get to that place where you realize where the deep-rooted sarcasm is actually coming from. It's the fact that she is constantly thinking about her family, and she's constantly trying to protect Anna. She's trying to realize how everything fits back into the future. Things will never be the way that they once were. With Anna coming home now, their mother passing away and trying to watch the father-daughter dynamic between Anna and Steve rekindle itself, Alex takes on a lot."
She continues, "She has to be strong. That's also where she feels safest. Alex feels her best when she is her strongest, when she is there for her sister or when she is lashing back at dad to get him to listen. I think holding onto that power and trying to help the family in any way she can is what makes her feel most comfortable. That was definitely a lot of fun for me."
Beyond that, Alex's quirks also appealed to Kebbel. "I love her lifestyle as 'The Lake House Girl,' the girl that just doesn't care. She's always in a ponytail and a bathing suit. She's very spontaneous. She puts her heart out there. She's tough and athletic. She takes her aggression out on the water. I like that vibe. It was very important to keep that through the entire film. I thought it was important to have those friendship bracelets and those leather bands on her arms. That stuff needed to be authentic. It needed to be something you eat in, you sleep in, you swim in, and you shower in. She doesn't have time to care, but it's part of her funkiness and who she is. That says a lot without ever saying a word. It was really fun for me to work with the directors and figure out Alex's image and then make sure that stays consistent for the film."
Ultimately, Arielle and Alex aren't so different after all—they both shine quite a bright light.