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Elisabeth Moss: ‘I have a high tolerance for dark material’

Elisabeth Moss: ‘I have a high tolerance for dark material’

Elisabeth Moss stars in The Invisible Man, a reboot of the film series of the 1930s-1950s by the same name. The movie was written and directed by Australian Leigh Whannell, and filmed in Sydney. Moss talks to MiNDFOOD about her love of horror films, what frightens her, and pinch-me moments in Hollywood.

Elisabeth Moss: ‘I have a high tolerance for dark material’

Firstly, that house you shot in, in Sydney, was amazing! Is it anything like the place you live in?

I have a one-bedroom apartment in New York City; I do not have a house like that! (laughs). It’s not exactly my taste. It’s very Gilead in a way, it’s almost more “Handmaids Tale”, it’s very brutalist, there’s a lot of cement and glass. It’s not exactly my taste, I’d love to vacation there, but it’s too modern for me.

The ocean is nice.

The ocean is nice; the location at the ocean was definitely lovely. And there was a pool, which we didn’t show but was really nice. It was in Kiama. It’s by a famous architect, I believe.

You must feel like an honorary Aussie by now?

I do, yes (laughs). It’s a second home to me now.

This version of The Invisible Man talks about abuse and domestic violence. Is that what attracted you? You’ve done a bit of that lately with The Handmaid’s Tale etc.

Well, I think first and foremost I really wanted to do another scary movie. I had done a small part in Us the year before and it was such a wonderful experience that I wanted to do more of it. I kind of got the bug. I’ve loved horror films since I was a kid. I obviously have a very high tolerance for dark material and am not easily frightened. I love that genre and then I was sent this script and I read it and it was this incredible character piece and had this analogy of gaslighting and coming out of an abusive relationship. It was addressing things that we’re all talking about and are really important to us right now, bullying and domestic abuse, domestic violence, women losing their voices, women not being heard or believed. And I just thought all of that was really kind of brilliant of [director] Leigh Whannell to put into this construct of this monster movie.

What do you think it is about being invisible that scares us?

I think something you can’t see; an invisible presence or an invisible threat is terrifying because you’re powerless. As soon as we know what we’re fighting against we can fight back, right, or we can at least be aware that we’re being attacked. And if you can’t see it there’s just nothing you can do. I think that’s universally a terrifying idea.

What frightens you?

Speaking publicly. And also, I’m a city girl so if you put me in a country home by myself surrounded by woods and silence, I would be terrified. So yeah, water, I’m kind of afraid of deep water. I could keep going….

You said you were a fan of horror movies – what did you like growing up?

All the classics, all the obvious ones, an array of 70s, 80s movies like Poltergeist, The Exorcist, IT, The Shining of course. And then later on a little bit more of Rosemary’s Baby. Then I got into the resurgence of these films that Jordan Peele makes, Get Out, Us, A Quiet Place, Bird Box. There was this resurgence of really smart storytelling in horror, which I felt harkened back to those days of those original horror films. So, for me those were the formative ones I would watch when I was 11 or 12. I’d get together with my girlfriends and we’d just scare the shit out of ourselves. It was so fun though, it was such a fun experience to go, ‘Oh my god! I got so scared, I’m so stupid, oh my god!’ And I just love that. But I also love Jason Bourne movies.

Do you still have pinch-me moments? Who was the last celeb you were star struck by?

I got to meet Adam Sandler at the Independent Spirit Awards and I was with my brother. We grew up with his movies and he’s listened to all of his albums. I went up and introduced myself, which I never do, but it was just really important to me. And he couldn’t have been lovelier and kinder and asked my brother questions, it wasn’t just about me. He was just so wonderful, and it far exceeded my wildest dreams of meeting him so that was a pinch me moment.

The Handmaid’s Tale is gearing up for its fourth season. Looking back, why do you think it’s so popular?

I think essentially what hit me when I first read it was that it is essentially a story of a woman in survival and a mother and a wife, a human, a friend, a sister, it’s somebody who is like us. She might wear a cape but she’s no superpower, she’s just a real person. And she’s put in extraordinary circumstances and asked to survive for her daughter, for her family, for the people around her. And I think that those are very universal ideas that we can connect with. And then what unfolded over the next few years as our rights in our country and all over the world have been threatened on so many levels and not just for women, but it’s a story that I value very much, and I connect with it in the same way that I think the audience does.

How is it for your mum to see you so distraught in The Handmaid’s Tale?

(Laughs). Yeah, my mom definitely doesn’t like it. She’s an artist as well, she’s a musician so she has an appreciation of it but she does tell me that watching “Handmaid’s” for her, is not normal. She can’t sit down and order some takeout and watch her daughter be terrorised. She’s a mother and she gets that it’s not real, she compliments me on my performances, she loves it, but of course it’s hard to see her daughter like that. She tells me that she laughs at herself and she’ll say to me, ‘I know it’s not real but it’s hard for me to see you like that!’

How do you shake off the character?

I have cocktail, usually order food, and watch something on my iPad, whatever I’m currently watching. Right now, I’m watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I read that Melissa McCarthy was scared to meet you. Do you have that effect on people?

Yes. I guess because people only know you through your work, which is often dark, as we discussed and is intense and confronting and you seem quite serious, and rightly so. But as you know, over the years, we’ve talked a lot and I’m not really that way. But maybe I should use it more though; I think I should be more intimidating and scary maybe (laughs). Okay one day I’m going to walk in where I’m going to be super scary. And you’ll be like, what’s happened to you?

It’s a deal. I’ll brace myself.

Okay then!

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