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Q&A: Actress Lake Bell Talks Surviving “BLACK ROCK”

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Lake Bell is a familiar face from televised drama (BOSTON LEGAL, the sci-fi series SURFACE) and comedy (HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA, CHILDRENS HOSPITAL), and lighthearted big-screen fare like IT’S COMPLICATED and NO STRINGS ATTACHED. For her first venture into serious screen thrills, she joined director/actress Katie Aselton and Kate Bosworth in the survival saga BLACK ROCK, out today on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download from Lionsgate.

BLACK ROCK focuses on Abby (Aselton), Lou (Bell) and Sarah (Bosworth), estranged friends brought together for a weekend trip to mend their differences. After they arrive on the eponymous remote island off the Maine coast, their vacation is interrupted by the appearance of a trio of male hunters (Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson and Anselm Richardson), who make the women their next targets. The scenario becomes an intense cat-and-mouse game (see our review here) that put Bell—whose directorial debut IN A WORLD…, a comedy set in the trailer-creation milieu, opens August 9 from Roadside Attractions—through some real-life strenuous situations, as she discusses below.

FANGORIA: How acquainted were you with Katie Aselton before you started on BLACK ROCK?

LAKE BELL: She and I were pals; she and her husband Mark Duplass [who scripted BLACK ROCK] and I knew each other, and did an episode of THE LEAGUE together because of our friendship.

FANG: When we interviewed Aselton about the film [for FANGORIA #323, and also here], she described you as a “city girl” and said she wasn’t sure how you would respond to a film that required you to run around in the woods for a few weeks.

BELL: Well, being from New York, I think I’m inherently resilient and can adapt, so while I didn’t grow up in the brush, I still have a will to survive and can be a team player, that’s for sure. I was pretty game to do anything, and I went to sleepaway camp when I was a kid, so I know a thing or two about working up fear in the middle of the woods [laughs].

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FANG: When Aselton first presented the script to you, did she give you your choice of role, or did she have one specifically in mind for you?

BELL: It was interesting—I mean, it was obvious that Lou seemed like the right part for me, and she was my director, so when she asked, “Do you wanna play Lou?” I said, “OK, f**k yeah!”

FANG: Once the three of you were cast, did you work together on the script to refine your characters or dialogue?

BELL: Yeah; we didn’t have a tremendous amount of rehearsal time, but the way Katie works is, while you always play the script, she prefers her actors—and Mark is the same way—to “let it sit in your mouth the right way,” and if you want to change a couple of lines here and there and improvise a little bit and see if we can get to the same end point, those kinds of moments are encouraged.

FANG: What was the experience of working with Aselton as both an actor and director?

BELL: She’s a multitalented woman, and also a nice person and very respectful, and that’s a great starting point for any director. Regardless of how many jobs you’re juggling—and I’ve just done that feat myself with IN A WORLD—it’s a vast undertaking, and she just stayed true to herself. It doesn’t hurt to have a tremendous creative resource in her life partner, Mark. He was so supportive of her every effort, and also, all of her team—her DP, Hillary Spera, everybody—was well-bonded and rooting for her, and that’s what you need in order to be successful in this kind of undertaking.

FANG: Were you a fan of horror films before BLACK ROCK, and had you been offered any before this one?

BELL: I’m going to be controversial and say I don’t think of this as a quintessential horror movie; I consider it more of a thriller, in all caps, and then maybe horror in small letters. I think of it in those terms mainly because it centers on these interpersonal relationships and takes time developing those, so when the shit hits the fan and the stakes are rising, it’s not just, “Oooh, this crazy stuff is happening,” it puts you in their shoes and says, “Now that you know these women, it’s scary that these extraordinary things are happening to these particular people.” It’s much more relatable, invasive and raw in that way. I have been offered some horror movies in the past, but they just weren’t right.

FANG: Was shooting on location a grueling experience?

BELL: We were fighting the elements at all times. Shots were orchestrated around the tides; we would have whole sets washed away, we would only have x amount of hours when we were shooting nights and the exterior temperature would be 40 degrees, and the water was 42 degrees. We had to film our scenes from all these different angles when we were in the water, and we didn’t have stunt doubles or anything like that. I had a really crazy and epic experience on this movie; it was tremendously grueling, but honestly, I had a great time doing it; it was like going to hardcore sleepaway camp or something, where you have camaraderie with your teammates and you power through different obstacles.

FANG: What would you say was the most difficult scene for you?

BELL: The most challenging one physically probably comes down to the water scene, just being in it, mainly because of the whole life-or-death moment I had with it [Bell suffered an asthma attack while shooting this sequence]. The most emotionally challenging…we had a lot. I’ve got to be honest with you, we were constantly tested during the second half of the movie, because we had to maintain high stakes and create new ways to attack those feelings, and there were myriad emotions we’d go through as we were pushing forward: Who’s going to be stronger and who’s going to be frail and who’s going to be powerful; who’s going to be the rebel rouser and who’s going to be the one who ruins everything? The girls constantly switch roles as they struggle with this crisis.

FANG: Did you shoot the movie in sequence, or did you have to go to those different emotional levels out of order?

BELL: Katie was adamant that we shoot everything chronologically, and she was so wise to do so, because you can really feel it. Where we started was filled with levity, and then we go on this journey to barbarianism and animalistic mayhem, and in order for us to get into that mental space, we had to take all the steps in order to get there.

FANG: Did you and your fellow leads keep separate from the actors playing your male antagonists, or did you all pal around offscreen and then switch that off when the cameras rolled?

BELL: No, we were totally separated. The girls lived in Katie and Mark’s little cabin that they own up there, and the boys’ house was down the road from us, so we never saw them. At one point, one of the guys wanted to borrow a VHS tape, because they only had VHS up there to watch movies on, so one of them came over ominously to get the tape and then disappeared back into the mystery of the darkness. It was very, very boys’ camp/girls’ camp. That was really wise, too; they were completely mysterious to us. We never talked to them behind the scenes.

FANG: You get covered with a fair amount of blood in the film; how was it dealing with that element?

BELL: Fake blood is really sticky, but then the mental side of it, the emotional side of it—having blood smeared all over your face and body makes you feel kind of barbaric, and added to our animalistic attitudes.

FANG: Would you be interested in taking on this kind of film again?

BELL: It’s all about the team. I never thought I would do a thriller before this one, and it came about because I loved the group and making a movie at that point in time with a bunch of creative people who had a common goal. If it’s the right project with the right people, I would go down any number of genre paths.

FANG: What did you take with you from the BLACK ROCK experience when you jumped into your own directorial debut on IN A WORLD…?

BELL: Well, being a maniac bad-ass at the end of this movie and feeling utter girl power pulsing through my veins was a great feeling while going into the mammoth task of assembling my own team and making IN A WORLD…. IN A WORLD… is a comedy, so obviously there was no fake blood or near-death experiences on that one. But I look up to my friends and comrades, and I’m very thankful that they’re supportive and respectful of me—as I am respectful of them—and being on BLACK ROCK with Katie and seeing her realize her dream of making that movie was absolutely inspiring.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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