Arriving in theaters tonight is one my favorite films of the year, Ready or Not, from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (you can read my review HERE). The story follows a young couple (played by Samara Weaving and Mark O’Brien) who find their relationship tested in unimaginable ways when the groom’s family decides that on their wedding night, they must hunt down the bride before sunrise, or suffer the consequences.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with O’Brien, who discussed the initial appeal of the project coming into it, how much he enjoyed working with Weaving, as well as another Ready or Not co-star, Adam Brody, and how he got to live out his own Billy Madison fantasies on location as well.
Look for Ready or Not to hit theaters tonight for some early screenings, courtesy of Fox Searchlight.
Congrats on the film, Mark. What was the initial appeal for you coming into Ready or Not? Was it the characters, the story, or a combination of those things?
Mark O'Brien: I think, honestly, it was just the script in general. Much like how it plays onscreen, it read that way. It was just a page-turner. And I'm not even necessarily a horror film fan particularly, or anything like that, but I thought that it was just so interesting. I wanted to know what was going to happen next, which I think is the barometer for any script that you read.
I did think my character was really interesting because he's totally conflicted the whole time, and that's what you want as an actor—you want a character who's conflicted. And then I met with Tyler and Matt, the directors, and we hit it off immediately. I just immediately was like, "These are smart guys. We're on the same wavelength. They're funny, they're prepared." Basically, it was over Skype, the three of us, but it was one of those meetings where you're like, "Oh, this is perfect. There's no reason to not be a part of this."
This movie feels very theatrical in its nature, in terms of the back and forth between the characters and the staging of everything. How did they bring you guys together as a cast? Did they do extensive read-throughs of everything? Or did they let you guys find your groove on set? I'm just curious, because I think there's a really fantastic energy between all of the players in this movie.
Mark O'Brien: Oh, great, thanks. Honestly, we did do a read-through, and we did rehearse certain scenes, mostly the group scenes, because you have seven or eight people sometimes, so you want to make sure you get those right. My second to last scene in the movie, it's a huge turning point in the film in general. We really talked that out a lot, because it's a huge moment for Grace and Alex, so that's a certain part of the movie that was talked about a lot. It was really constructive and it ended up in a place I think we needed to get to.
But to be honest, we shot this in like 21 days or something. We only had time for one or two takes, maybe three very rarely. So it really just comes down to preparation. And Matt and Tyler, they were really prepared. It was really well-prepared by everyone. I was really impressed.
Alex and Grace are the heart of the story, and their relationship is the reason we’re invested in Ready or Not. Could you talk about working with Samara? I think you guys are really fantastic in this together.
Mark O'Brien: Oh, thanks so much. Well, it was misery every day [laughs]. No, I'm completely joking. Samara is one of the few people in the world who I've met, who is just a really, really good, open person who works really hard, and there's nothing precious about anything she's doing. So when you're working with someone like that, it makes everything easy. I've always found it weird as an actor to do a chemistry read, like when they get two actors together to see if they have chemistry. I've always thought the idea of them is strange, because I do think that if you're a good actor, and the other person's a good actor, then you find the truth of the scene and the truth of the relationship, and then it just works.
So with Samara, it was just easy because she is such a good actress, and she's just so open and willing, and then fierce at the same time, so it was great. Her and I got together before we started filming and realized that we really get along and that we were pals. She's a star; that's what I break it down to. She has all the ingredients of a star and you see them all on display here.
I also think there's another relationship in this movie that very much grounds the story, and it's this back and forth between Alex and Daniel, played by Adam [Brody]. Did you enjoy getting to work with him as well?
Mark O'Brien: Yeah, I agree, and I think Adam does a really good balancing act. That's really tough to play, because he's just such a damaged soul in the film, and so you don't know what he's going to do. You don't know if he's just going to go along with it, or he's going to finally get up the balls to stand up to the rest of his family. So, he balances that really well.
Adam was just really easy to work with, too. We all know him to be so funny, but it's his subtlety, even in his comedy, that I'm really impressed by. When you're working with really good actors, your job becomes very easy. So when you work with a very good actor like Adam Brody, you might be like, "Oh, maybe I'll be nervous, or who knows if it'll work out." But then when you actually do the scene, you're like, "Oh, right, of course, they're really good actors." They're just doing half my job for me, because I'm just responding to their great work and their great instincts. So I felt like it was really natural with Adam, and he's such an easy guy to get along with, so off camera, it was just really smooth. And he's just such a pro.
I am such a sucker for really great production design and locales and locations and stuff like this. So, this house was absolutely fantastic for me, because I just wanted to poke around in every room. How much did it help you guys once you got into the house to immerse you in this atmosphere?
Mark O'Brien: It was an amazing location, and I think it's also utilized really well, especially by the DP, Brett Jutkiewicz. He nailed it, and I think it really did help because it was a real place. So when you have four walls, and you're not in a studio, and it's real, it 100 percent helps the atmosphere. It's just like getting into costume, where all the pieces come together.
It does show how auditioning is such a crazy thing to do, because you have to imagine everything. There's nothing. Even the actor is not really an actor. The director is not really the director. The room is not really the room. So when you're on a set like that, it really does help. I don't know if I'm allowed to say this or not, but the houses were actually two different locations. One was used 80 percent, and the other was like 20 percent. The one we used 80 percent was the mansion from Billy Madison. So for me, I just spent the movie quoting Billy Madison. And you'd never know it's the same place, and that was really exciting for me.
I don't know if you remember Billy Madison, but there's a part when he dances down the steps when he's going to go back to school. As soon as I came in, I was like, "Those are the steps, the winding staircase." And I ran up there, and then danced down them by myself, which is really weird to do. And one crew member, a grip, walked by, and he was like, "Man, I did the same thing when I came in." I was like, "Yeah, man." So it was exciting for a multitude of reasons [laughs].
In case you missed it, go HERE to read Heather Wixson's review of Ready or Not.
[Photo credit: Above photo by Eric Zachanowich / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.]