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Danielle Panabaker has been terrorized on screen by infected
maniacs, killer fish and a certain hockey-masked Mr. Voorhees over the past few
years, but now she’s the one dispensing death in GIRLS AGAINST BOYS. The
actress discusses her starring role in the vigilante shocker, opening today
from Anchor Bay Films, in this exclusive interview.
GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, written and directed by Austin Chick,
casts Panabaker as Shae, a Manhattan college student/bartender who suffers
repeated emotional and physical abuse at the hands of men, including an older
lover (Andrew Howard) who dumps her and a club guy (Michael Stahl-David) who
rapes her. With the encouragement and accompaniment of her new friend Lu
(Nicole LaLiberte), Shae rebels against the male race in ways that involve
pistols and other weapons. It’s a decided change of pace from her previous
turns in PIRANHA 3DD, John Carpenter’s THE WARD and the remakes of FRIDAY THE
13TH and THE CRAZIES.
FANGORIA: After playing a number of horror heroines, GIRLS
AGAINST BOYS is your first genre role as the aggressor. How was that experience
DANIELLE PANABAKER: It was great. What really attracted me
to the role initially was that it was nice to see a woman take matters into her
own hands and go through that process, and finding out what motivated Shae to
take each of those steps.
FANG: Did you make any contributions to the story or your
PANABAKER: I don’t recall making any specific contributions.
I was impressed with the film just to begin with. Austin had taken such time to
create these characters and this world, so from the get-go, I was excited about
FANG: It’s interesting to see a male writer/director tackle
a project so oriented toward female concerns and sensibilities, especially in
PANABAKER: Absolutely. I remember I went back to check the
cover page of the script when I first read it, to make sure it really was
written by a man. I thought, “Maybe Austin could be a woman’s name?” But I was
impressed that he is so sensitive. He has a very European sensibility about his
filmmaking, and a lot of the films he suggested I watch while working together,
like LILYA 4-EVER, lent themselves to that. He has great respect for women as
FANG: Did he have you look at other films about female
vigilantes, like THE BRAVE ONE or MS. 45?
PANABAKER: No, he didn’t! It’s so funny; someone else
referenced MS. 45, but I am not familiar with that at all. In fact, my primary
focus was more on Shae’s emotional journey, rather than the revenge element.
FANG: How was it working with Nicole LaLiberte?
PANABAKER: It was great. I was so excited when Nicole was
cast. I couldn’t wait to meet her, and she was lovely. We hung out at her house
a few times just to get to know each other, and that was very useful as the
film went on, because we have such an intimate relationship in the film, and I
was grateful that she was so open to working with me.
FANG: Shae and Lu have kind of an unusual relationship,
particularly given what we learn about Lu toward the end. Did you have to keep
conscious of that throughout the shoot as you were working with her in
PANABAKER: That was probably more a part of my preparation
in the beginning, rather than on a daily basis. I spent a lot of time talking
to Austin about that, and I had to make a decision very early on about how I
was going to view this character. As soon as I did, that informed a lot of my
FANG: How about your male co-stars, some of whom you have a
very antagonistic relationship with on screen?
PANABAKER: The irony is that they were all wonderful people.
Andrew Howard is such a talent, and so interesting. He was lovely to work with.
Michael Stahl-David was also incredible. I felt very lucky to be working with
him, because he’s so respectful, and we spent a lot of time working through
everything so that there would be a safe working environment for us to perform
in. It’s a tough situation when you’re shooting something like that, and I was
very fortunate that he was the one I had to go through this traumatic and
difficult scene with. And Liam [Aiken] was just delightful. He’s so sweet and
so earnest. It was a joy when he was on set.
FANG: What were you feelings about working with the guns in the film? Had you
ever shot before, or did you have to go through training for it?
PANABAKER: I had shot a gun before. My aunt and uncle had
taken me years ago, so I was familiar with it. But I have a deep fear of guns;
it’s something that scares me, and I have a special reverence for them because
of that. So even though it wasn’t my first time, it was scary to have a gun on
set. There was a whole safety protocol about making sure it was unloaded and
that sort of thing, but none of that made the scariness and power of a gun
being on set go away for me.
FANG: As an independent production in New York City, was any
of the filming done guerilla-style, or did you have permits for everything?
PANABAKER: There were not permits for everything. I don’t
want to get anyone in trouble and tell you specifically, but I think most of
the locations were obtained legally!
FANG: GIRLS AGAINST BOYS is a smaller film than the genre
films you’ve done previously. Was there anything different about this
PANABAKER: Absolutely. Everything was a little bit more
run-and-gun. We were shooting a lot of pages, a lot of material every day. And
there weren’t a lot of hands on deck. I didn’t have the luxury to relax
much—not that my character or performance really offered that opportunity
anyway. We were constantly moving around, all functioning on not the most
sleep, but I’m really proud of the film.
FANG: What are your feelings about working with special FX
on films like these?
PANABAKER: It’s different! One of the challenges of working
on GIRLS AGAINST BOYS was the low budget, so what helps in the final version of
the movie is that everything is pretty much off-camera, and left to the
viewer’s imagination. It’s not as gory or gruesome as other films I’ve been in.
I do have to say that fake blood is one of my least favorite things in the
world. It’s so sticky. It never goes away. I don’t recommend it.
FANG: Was there a lot of bloody stuff filmed for GIRLS
AGAINST BOYS that didn’t wind up in the film, or did you not end up shooting it
in the first place?
PANABAKER: No, Austin’s intention for the movie was never
for it to be particularly bloody or over-the-top, as far as I understand it.
What attracted me was the lack of on-camera violence. It’s all implied through
this tragedy, but you’re never assaulted with it, which I really like.
FANG: How was your experience on PIRANHA 3DD? It seems like
it must have been a pretty crazy shoot.
PANABAKER: It was! We were in a beach town in Wilmington,
NC, but the cast was really cool, and we had a good time. What can really make
or break your experience as an actor is the people you’re working with. Matt
Bush was wonderful, and Chris Zylka was fascinating to watch on camera. David
Hasselhoff was a delight, and Paul Scheer was so funny. That was really fun—the
constant revolving door of people we had coming in, especially Christopher
Lloyd. I think he was one of the first people I’ve asked for a photo with,
because I was just in awe.
FANG: PIRANHA 3DD has a remarkably short running time. Did
you film a lot of stuff that didn’t wind up in the final version?
PANABAKER: No. I may get in trouble for saying this, but the
script we shot was only 77 pages. So much material kept getting cut before we
even filmed it, so quite frankly, I was amazed that they got almost 90 minutes
out of it. I know they had reshoots as well, but they took a lot out before we
even shot the movie.
FANG: When you did FRIDAY THE 13TH (pictured above) and THE
CRAZIES, how familiar were you with the originals? Were you a fan of those
PANABAKER: Not familiar at all. I did not grow up watching
horror films. I’m very sensitive and affected by those things. I remember
watching the original FRIDAY THE 13TH right before I left to go film [the
remake]. Quite frankly, I have not seen the original CRAZIES, which I really
need to. Breck [Eisner, the new version’s director] asked that we not watch it
prior to filming.
FANG: For someone who’s not into horror, you’ve done quite a
few of those films. Is that just the way parts have come to you, or did they
offer particular challenges that you enjoyed?
PANABAKER: No, I think that’s just where our market is these
days. Horror and genre films are being made quite frequently, and I’m an
actress who likes to work. There’s also been quite a variety for me. I’ve been
very lucky in that way. FRIDAY THE 13TH was wildly different from GIRLS AGAINST
BOYS, which is drastically different from PIRANHA 3DD. So it has been quite an
array and many different experiences for me, which I’m very grateful for.
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