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Q&A: Olivia Cooke talks “OUIJA”

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Currently sitting atop the box office is OUIJA. The modest, suburban set teen scream from Universal and Blumhouse is divisive among horror fans yes, but it’s undoubtedly still endearing to see the kids have come out the last weekend in October for jolts and frights. Which OUIJA does have, thanks to some ghoulish design in its supernatural entities and the emotional authenticity from lead Olivia Cooke. 

Cooke is already well acquainted with genre, bringing an earnest posture to work in BATES MOTEL, THE SIGNAL and this past spring’s THE QUIET ONES. Here, she isn’t as internally afflicted, but the specters are out nonetheless. Cooke spoke with Fango about the film and her no-so-horrific plans ahead.

FANGORIA: Do you approach genre acting in a different light?

OLIVIA COOKE: No, I never approach as it if was a genre movie. I approach the character and what I would do, or what I would do as the character in each circumstance. I don’t really approach it as a horror movie.

FANG: It’s always seemed the best horror performances ask for more. QUIET ONES was particularly heavy.

COOKE: Yea, but the character in THE QUIET ONES was a very specific character. She didn’t believe that she mentally had something wrong with her. She believed that she’s possessed, so that was a very specific character to add all those attributes to when you’re thinking of how to play it.

With OUIJA, she’s a very straightforward, accessible character that felt like I could definitely put a lot more “me” into.

FANG: Who is this accessible character? Why does she want to prod the darkness?

COOKE: Laine discovers that her best friend has died in quite horrible circumstances and she can’t really get to grips on why, or how, she would do this. It seems like suicide. She doesn’t understand how, as her best friend, she didn’t know anything about what was going on. She finds a Ouija board in her room when she’s housesitting, and they played when they were kids together. Her best friend Debbie was the one that taught her how to play it, and she has this crazy idea, as people often do in scary movies, to play it to try and contact Debbie. Just, go out on a limb and she if she can talk to her just to get some closure.

As she does, she gets all her friends to play, and they don’t really believe like she does. Strange things start to happen and then you enter the horror movie genre.

FANG: You’ve described your character as someone easily recognizable as a young person. Ouija boards are so accessible as well. Did that familiar fear appeal to you? Did you mess around with a board as a kid?

COOKE: [Laughs] I was always told not to. I always told not to mess with that kind of stuff. But I was always trying to coax our friends into going to some abandoned, derelict place and playing it and seeing what could hit us in the head, or what could take our arm off, something like that. All our friends would think the worst and wouldn’t want to play with me, which rightly so.

But no, I think everyone I’ve spoken to, or who knows about the movie wants to talk to me about it. They’ve always got a story from a friend, or a relative. It’s very interesting in that sense, something seemingly so inanimate can create so much hysteria.

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FANG: Was there a desire as a cast to give it a shot?

COOKE: I know we talked of it, but everyone was so knackered anyway… after playing with the Ouija Board all day we just kind of left it alone.

FANG: Did you have the time or interest to look into the board’s history, or speak with spiritualist?

COOKIE: No, I never talked to a spiritualist. I felt like just over the years, I’ve collected enough information about Ouija Boards anyway, from people telling stories, from relatives who’d messed with it. I never felt like I had to go see a spiritualist. My character never would, she would’ve gone into it blind anyway. So, I felt like that was probably best for the story, if she was really new to it, just remembered it vaguely as a child.

FANG: Do you have an affinity for horror?

COOKE: I love horror movies. I love going to the cinema and going with a group of mates and watching them just shit themselves. [Laughs] I kind of know a few tricks here and there, so when I’m watching it does kind of spoil it for me, but I think OUIJA will be my last horror for a while. People already pigeonhole me as a scream queen, so I think it’s my last for a while until something I can’t turn down comes along.

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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