For her latest role, actress Kelly Reilly transforms herself into a desperate mother and emotionally estranged wife who fears that one of her children has been claimed by a bloodthirsty werewolf terrorizing the area surrounding her familial estate in the late 19th century. Written and directed by Sean Ellis, Eight for Silver examines the monsters lurking among us—both human and otherwise—and Reilly’s character Isabelle finds herself surrounded by unimaginable horror and tragedy.
Eight for Silver recently celebrated its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and to mark the occasion, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Reilly about her involvement with the film and her experiences collaborating with Ellis. Reilly also discussed how she immersed herself in her character and even reminisced about James Watkins’ tale of survival horror, Eden Lake.
Great to speak with you today, Kelly. I know that you’ve been in these bigger hits, like the Sherlock Holmes films and things like that. But when I saw this, I was like, "Oh my goodness. That is the woman who was in Eden Lake," which was one of the very first movies I ever saw at a horror festival and it traumatized me. I still haven’t been able to shake off that ending, and it’s been nearly 13 years now.
Kelly Reilly: Yeah, that ending is brutal. I remember shooting the ending of Eden Lake and saying to the director, "You know people are going to hate this ending. They are going to absolutely hate this." But I loved the ending. I loved that she didn't get out because that made the horror feel all the more real. It was very disturbing. I really loved making that film.
That’s great to hear. And congrats on Eight for Silver, too. I really dug the aesthetics and how Sean was able to blend history and horror and bring a new approach to the world of werewolves, too.
Kelly Reilly: You know, part of the joy is working with a filmmaker who wants to create something authentic and different and who has his own vision, and Sean certainly did when he called me up to talk about it. He's such an artist. The visual world he works with, and his visual storytelling, I think it is so beautiful. I had the chance to watch this very recently and we shot this two years ago. That kind of experience is so interesting when you're coming back to something after that amount of time. I hadn't seen a frame of it before, so it's a shame I didn't get to see it on a big screen. I don't have a very big TV in my house in England so sadly, I didn't get the full breadth of it, but his work is so breathtaking visually.
I had been such a fan of Sean’s previous films and how he tells stories through images. I found it very evocative and immersive and incredibly realistic. So how do you tow that line in a horror film to give the gore, but make it real and not indulgent? As an actor, when you are working with a filmmaker, a proper filmmaker, you really are just one color. You're one thread of the bigger piece and you don't know what it is you're a part of until you see it. And I think that he's done a beautiful job to make a beautiful horror movie. His photography reminded me of Terrence Malick.
What I really appreciated about your character, Isabelle, is that during the time period this movie takes place, sometimes you see female characters pushed to the side a little bit. But your character provides the story with so much heart, in terms of what she's willing to do and how she's not willing to give up despite the circumstances that she's dealing with. Can you discuss diving into the world of Isabelle and finding her place in this story and in this world?
Kelly Reilly: There's one character that's on the page, right? And then you have the character that you arrive with on set that you have been working within your mind or where you’re calling up Sean, saying, "Just talk to me about her. I want to know what it is you are wanting from her, what it is you see?" And then, I filter it through me and figure out what moves me. Especially in a genre film, it's so important for the emotion of these characters to be rooted in truth. Otherwise, you don't care. It might be a beautiful film. It might be really impressive scenery, lighting, and costumes. But if you are not emotionally engaged with the characters, I'm not interested. And so that's the thing that I take very seriously and I'm obsessed with. Sean’s work is visual, mine is full immersion in character.
And I loved the opportunity of playing with a different set of tones. And the themes of the archetype of the mother was something that I hadn't explored before, especially in this period where this real constraint feels strange. When she's getting pulled into the corset, it’s very oppressive. And there’s this cold house with a very oppressive, cold husband, so trying to find where the flame is in her and the heart, and finding the melancholy in that, and the loneliness of that and realizing that her children were her heartbeat. In that period, women were not involved in conversations of politics or what was happening on the land with those gypsies. She wasn't told about the beef. It was very isolating. What does that turn someone into, if they are so disabled from action or being able to do anything about their situation? I found that quite interesting and sad.
And you're right, she's the heart of the piece. If you do not feel the love and the yearning to find her son, if you don't feel that she is empathic to John McBride's (played by Boyd Holbrook) pain, then you're not following the journey if you don't feel it. We shot this all on location in France, and as soon as I got the costume on it didn't take much for me to be able to lose myself in my imagination when we're shooting like that. The only days where it was difficult was when we're shooting with the actual werewolf monster, because you go from these very real, delicate themes to suddenly this animatronic monster trying to claw at me and it's hard to keep a straight face, but they made it work. I think they did a really good job with that.
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[Photo Credit: Above photo from Eight for Silver courtesy of Sean Ellis/Sundance Institute.]