Interview: Actress Sarah Bolger of 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'
Mon, 23 Jun 2008 15:11:48
Mythical creatures are often wily beings, especially when they overrun your quaint forest abode. That's one of the main conflicts in The Spiderwick Chronicles, the fantasy epic starring Freddie Highmore and Sarah Bolger. Adapted from books of the same name, the film focuses on a lot more than CGI monsters in the woods. It artfully explores the dynamic of a separated family amidst complete upheaval, in more ways than one. Mallory (Bolger) is the big sister character that keeps it all together through a combination of savvy intellect, authority, and fencing skills. Bolger sat down with ARTISTdirect in an exclusive interview about Spiderwick and much more.
The movie has a fairy tale element, but at the same time, it's got an element of real family drama.
I've never done anything that involves CGI characters before, but also there's a real family bond in the film. There's a really strong theme going through it. This is happening to real kids. That's what children can relate to, and that's great.
The kids are going through more than just fighting off mythical creatures. They're dealing with growing up.
To me, it's like any kid who would be thrown into this situation. This is how kids would deal with this. Except for me, I'd probably be dead [laughs].
What attracted you to the project?
I actually read the books about a year beforehand. I had met with some of the Nickelodeon producers when this was coming together. When I got the script, I was really excited to be able to meet with Mark [Waters, director]. We had a session where we got to run through lines, and I met Freddie. After that, the role was mine.
The fencing looked realistic. Do you really fence?
I wish! I do now, but I didn't beforehand. I had to go into training for that. I did three weeks in Dublin, and then a week in Montreal of intense three-hour per day fencing.
You must be pretty good with a sword now.
[Laughs] I'm okay! I don't have one in my house, but it'd be pretty cool if I did.
One of the most interesting things about your character Mallory is the duality. She's feminine, but she can wield a sword. You play the role well.
Thank you very much. I had great fun playing her because she's a feisty girl. She's a role model. She's definitely not a damsel in distress, and I loved the sword aspect! That was pretty cool for me to be able to do that. She's kind of the mini-mom character to the two boys. She looks after them in this dangerous world. I think she protects them, which is what sisters do.
It seems like mom is a little more detached, while Mallory is more connected to the brothers.
Definitely, she feels the need to protect them.
That comes across really clearly. Do you have any siblings in real life?
I do! I have a 12-year-old sister named Emma. There's no need to protect her from goblins or anything though. Not yet anyway! I'm waiting for it!
So was it painful when your hair was tied to the headboard of the bed in that one scene?
[Laughs] There was no pain involved with that. There were hair extensions tied to the bed and they were entwined into my own hair. Everything in Spiderwick looks so real. They were just so precise with everything. When I was tied into that bed, I was really tied into that bed. They did some fire safety procedures at first, and they were like, "If there's a fire, we're just going to cut Sarah out!" I was like, "No, you're not going to cut my hair!" That wasn't too cool [laughs].
Mallory had an interesting style, too. Did you get to choose her clothes?
Yeah, the denim jacket that I was wearing the entire time had a back story. She embroidered the flowers on the back. She's supposed to be quirky and creative. I got to wear the same necklace during the whole movie, which I thought was a nice character touch. It worked very well. I was stuck in the same clothes for five months. So I had to like them.
You get to impart a sense of yourself on the characters. Is that the most fun part?
Definitely, that's why I'm so eager to do a sequel, because you stay as the character for almost five months, and you get so attached. Honestly, I loved doing the American accent, too. I thought that was great.
Was it hard to have that accent for the whole movie?
No. When I go to a country, I feel like I pick it up anyway. However, in this case, I had been practicing it. It's going to happen. You're going to have to change your accent. I'm going to do The Tudors, the Showtime T.V. series, and for that I need to do an English accent. Now, I've done so many, I don't even know what Irish accent I have anymore [laughs]. I feel like it's a neutral mixture between everything.
Even though the film takes place in America, the forested setting gives it a European feel. Would you say that's the case?
Really? I feel like they tried to give it a real New England-style and feel. Then again, we may have brought in that European feel to it! I don't spend too much time in American suburbs so I'll agree with you there.
Is it weird acting with CGI characters and monsters?
It is. You're just talking to a tennis ball for five months. It can be pretty weird. You sort of question your sanity at the end. I think you just have to be totally aware of what they're doing—the creatures’ movements and how they act. You have to be far more clued in to everything about them. The crew I worked with, there was no doubt about it, were so dedicated. At the end of the day, I think we all knew what we were doing. It was my first time doing blue screen work, so I was really excited about it. The gryphon sequence was so cool. We were on this big stage on this mechanical bull-looking thing. It was crazy, but I'd do it again!
It must be fun to see how integrated you are with the CGI in the final film.
It's so cool! I was in shock about what's in Spiderwick. I think I had my mouth opened the whole time. It looked so real. Kids relate to the characters, and adults can enjoy it, because there's a real story line in there. The parents have issues to deal with, and it gets pretty deep. I really hope there's a sequel.