Star On the Rise: "Cabin In the Woods'" Kristen Connolly

Actress almost didn't land the role that helped launch her career.

By Scott Huver
|  Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012  |  Updated 11:47 AM EDT
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Kristen Connolly in "The Cabin in the Woods"

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Kristen Connolly was sure she wasn’t going to get the gig in “The Cabin In the Woods.” And she didn’t – at first. But she discovered that Hollywood has a knack for surprise endings, and ended up both the film’s leading lady and a star on the rise.

As the genre-tweaking horror film heads to Blu-Ray, Connolly tells how she lost, and then got, the job, recalls scary and silly days on the set and reveals how her Hollywood career continues to heat up.

Did you realize while you were making the film the impact that it would later have?

No. I think we all knew it was really something special. I think we were all like, 'Really? Are they going to let us all do that?' But I didn't know that it would be so well received and that so many people would love it so much. So, that was really exciting and it just felt good to have something that you loved so much be so welcomed.

How did the project come to you and how did you react when you first read the script?

This is kind of freaky actually: the first casting director that they had working on this thing, I don't think he liked me at all. He kind of like was, like, 'Eh,' and he gave me lots of notes, like, 'Your hair is wrong. Your outfit is wrong.’ And after I left I was like, 'Well, that was a waste of time. He's never going to hire me,' and he didn't. Then there was a new casting director who I guess went through all of our old tapes – and I think Chris Hemsworth had the same thing, where he was never submitted – and so she asked me to go in again, and I was like, 'Are you kidding? Again with this movie?' My agents said, 'No, no – It's different people.'

So I put myself on tape at my agents office and from there I got a call that they wanted me to come out to L.A. and meet with Joss [Whedon] and Drew [Goddard]. So I flew out there and I read with Fran [Kranz] – up until then I had all fake scripts. Like, I had no idea what the movie was actually about, and so it was kind of crazy. I was kind of like, 'I'm flying out to L.A. and doing this thing and I don't even know what this movie is about.' They were like, 'No, no – It's the main girl. She's awesome.' I was like, 'Alright, fine.' I got there and Joss and Drew were just so cool, and Fran was great and we hit it off right away and it was a really fun day. I remember leaving and thinking, 'You know what, even if I don't get this job, that was a great experience and it was great to meet these people and to have a fun time in an audition,' which almost never happens.

Then I got a call on the way to the airport that they were offering me the role, and only then did I get to actually read the script. I was like, 'Holy s***, this is fantastic!' It's so different from anything. I'd never read anything like that in my life. Yeah, and at that point I was like, 'I have to do this movie. It's so cool.'

It's a great deconstruction of the horror genre. Are you into the genre?

I'm sort of in between. There's some stuff that I love. I love being scared, but I don't like some of the torture stuff. I find that really, I can't watch it. So one of the things that I was so excited about with this movie is that it's not torture porn, and they were very aware of that and I think what they wanted is to create, and what they did create is a movie that's actually got the sort of thrill of being in a movie theater with other people and being scared and then laughing, almost, as soon as the scare’s over, that it's fun. It's not meant to just disturb you. It's kind of communal and it's fun and it's exciting. I wasn't a total horror buff, but I do like scary movies. Drew gave us a whole bunch to watch. There were ton of movies that they gave us, and it was a ball.

Did you ever feel genuinely freaked out on the set, a sequence you did maybe where you felt some real fear?

Yeah. There were times when we were actually outside and it was really late at night, like three or four in the morning. They had all of these different zombies, like in all different directions and they were kind of far away. And they didn't even show all of this in the movie, but they had footage of all of them approaching us, and that was pretty eerie, because you actually were outside and it was pretty quiet apart from the set and you could just sort of make out this figure, like a person from far away.

What's the flipside of that: the silliest day where you guys couldn't stop breaking up?

It was in the basement. The basement was the worst. We couldn't get through that Latin, when I was reading the journal – somebody would start laughing. I mean, there were so many takes where we just couldn't get through it, and we shot that scene over three days and it was all night shoots. So we were totally loopy, and Fran had somehow snuck a camera onto the set and we looked over and it was just sitting there and people were losing their minds, trying not to laugh.

Because the film was so warmly received, have you felt an uptick in your agents getting more phone calls for you and offers coming in?

I was very lucky in that I was already going into another job. I'm shooting a series down in Baltimore called 'House of Cards.' David Fincher is the director and executive producer and Kevin Spacey is the lead and Robin Wright. It's about DC and politics. It's based on the British mini-series from the early '90's and it's for Netflix – It's their original programming. I had gotten the job about a month probably before the 'Cabin' press tour started. So I was very lucky to be able to go right into another job. As soon as the film opened I was already heading to Baltimore to do preproduction on this, so I've been very busy here, and I'm crossing fingers that I continue to be.

Can you talk about what you're playing on that show?

I play the assistant to a congressman, who's played by Corey Stoll. He's got sort of a drug and alcohol problem and I'm his assistant, but also his girlfriend.

Do you have another scary movie coming up?

I do. It's called 'The Bay.' It comes out November 4th. It could not be more different from 'Cabin,' but the similarity, I guess, is that I'm not allowed to talk about it. And to make it even more certain that I couldn't talk about it, they only let me read the scenes that I'm in, so I haven't even read the entire script, but I do know that it's more like 'Paranormal Activity' in that it's feels very pedestrian. It feels very naturalistic, and then these sort of extraordinary, scary things happen…Barry Levinson’s the director, and it was really kind of low-key. I mean, we shot the whole thing…I think I worked maybe five or six days over two weeks, and it was really kind of wonderful.

What's the most scared you've ever been, whether something was really going on or you were just doing it to yourself in your head?

Oh, man, I had a really weird experience with my mom. We were on vacation and I became convinced that the doorman was going to kill us. He was really creepy and I thought that he was going to come into our room and kill us in the middle of the night. She was like, 'You are out of your mind – I don't know what's going on,' but I was positive that it was going to happen, and I think that I just had PMS or something. But I was terrified.

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