Arriving in theaters and on VOD this Friday is Clive Tonge’s Mara, a supernatural thriller centered on a paranormal entity of the same name (played by Javier Botet, the genius behind so many great creature performances in films such as Mama, IT, The Conjuring 2, and Insidious: The Last Key) who strikes her victims by utilizing sleep paralysis as a weapon.

Daily Dead recently spoke with Botet about his creative process on Mara, how he approaches collaborating with filmmakers on bringing their visions to life, and he even discussed the freedom he experienced recently on Two Pigeons (aka Freehold), in which he plays a stowaway living inside a guy’s apartment and takes full advantage of his stealthy status, as the makeup-free experience allowed him to really let loose.

So great to speak with you, Javier. In terms of Mara, and maybe this applies to other movies as well, but when you're coming on to do a character like this, what is your process as an actor? Do you work out the physicality before the makeup process, or do you wait? And how deep do those discussions get between you and the director?

Javier Botet: Yeah, I always try to speak as soon as possible with the director and start speaking about what references they might have and if they have a clear idea about what they want. Most of the time, they know that I know my body better than anybody and they ask me if I have ideas for what I’d like to do. For Mara, Clive gave me some clues and he gave me a lot of freedom to propose my own ideas. In Mara, knowing that this character is an old myth, I started reading about this and I even watched some documentaries about sleep paralysis. Clive gave me some really great physical moments and a lot of freedom to create how this character stands and moves. We knew that with creating this character, we were creating the suspense in the film.

My process is to always propose a lot of things, and maybe they get used, and maybe they don’t, but we always find a way to make the movements work. To me, what I am doing is something I consider artistic work, and if you have the time on set, you can find those special moments. That’s what I enjoy most about my work.

Maybe it’s because it is being talked about more these days, but it feels like directors, when they're working with actors playing these types of specific characters, it seems like it’s a much more collaborative process than maybe it was 10 to 15 years ago, where they're finally understanding what actors like yourself bring to the table. And maybe a lot of that comes from filmmakers like Guillermo [del Toro], who has always been a big proponent of having respect for that kind of artistry and practical effects as well. How transformative is that process for you as an artist, once you're in the makeup and you get to physically embody these characters?

Javier Botet: I always try to know how it's going to be in my makeup as soon as possible, because some makeups are very restrictive, and they don't always allow me to move very easily. When you wear a suit or a prosthetic makeup, it helps to also work with the makeup artist. Once they transform you, you’re right in the role instantly. You look in the mirror and it clicks. And once I become the monster, I start squatting and moving around like the creature, working the hands—everything. The creature starts appearing more and more. It wouldn't be the same without the makeup, so it helps a lot.

If possible, I am someone who wants to see the first sketches of a creature. That way I can start coming up with ideas in my head. And at some point, we always try to do some makeup movement tests to see how the camera sees me with the makeup. It's different between what you feel when you’re in the makeup versus what the camera shoots. Sometimes, I’ll look at the monitor, and everything looks very different than how I am feeling. You're in the set and you're doing something that you think is amazing and then you see the screen. But the testing process is very important, because it can save you so much time when you’re on set.

Before we go, I wanted to talk about the movie Two Pigeons, which features you getting to create a character without any makeup. I was so enthralled by it, and horrified, too (in a good way). How great was that experience for you to just be able to be in that space and work with your own intuition, and be free of the makeup?

Javier Botet: I love what I do in my career. I love the horror, the science fiction, and all these makeups. I love what I do, but I love to do other things, too. So, when they called me to do that film, I was so happy. In Spain, I feel very comfortable working in comedy. I've been doing comedy my entire life, but in Spain, it's hard to find and get these different kinds of roles. So, I enjoyed Two Pigeons very much. After all the movies I have done with a lot of makeup, whenever I get to work without makeup, it's like a picnic for me. I felt so free. I felt so much happier, and it was so comfortable. I can work every single day, for a lot of hours, this way. When you’re in the makeup, you need to rest, you need to stop every three days. It's very hard work. It's very hard, mentally and physically, and that’s why I enjoyed Two Pigeons so much. It was constant freedom as an actor.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.