How do you feel about horror movies’ role in popular culture?
I think horror movies are under-rated by the general public. Too often it seems that watching them is seen as just the favorite pastime of the apocryphal “18 to 35 year old male demographic” and that these films, no matter how well made, have little or nothing else to offer society. This is, to me, not true, and I believe that we are so in love with horror movies because we are in love with exploring the unknown, with seeing exactly what IS in that dark closet with the squeaky door, with figuring out whether the hook-handed killer really IS just an urban legend and, ultimately, finding out what happens to us after we die.
What scares you?
Snakes…snakes scare me…the last scary-snake thing that happened to me was a nightmare that I had about snakes coming out of the walls… I woke up, terrified, and this was the first time EVER that a nightmare has woken me up.
I also fear being helpless, paralyzed and not being able to do anything for myself. The scene in Million Dollar Baby where Hilary Swank is lying completely helpless in her hospital bed is, to me, one of the scariest scenes I’ve EVER seen on-screen…
What role are you the most proud of?
I’m actually proud of all my roles but a couple really stand out:
(1) When I played The Fury / Mrs Dodds in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief because I did all my own stunts, which meant that I jumped off a 20ft scaffolding again and again and again while trussed up in a flying harness;
(2) When I played Sophomore in The Mudman and The Nurse in Shelter: both of these roles were major supporting roles and both were silent, which meant I had to get the story across by only physical acting; and
(3) When I played the mother in African Gothic: the entire role was performed in my second language, Afrikaans.
What was the best advice that you have been given and who gave it to you?
I think that the best advice I ever received was in the form of Chris Columbus directing me on the set of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. He taught me that subtlety works best for the big screen and that you really only have to think something for the camera to be able to pick it up in your eyes.
Do you have an actor who you are dying to work with?
I’d love to share the screen with the actresses I grew up watching when I was a kid in South Africa. Amazingly bright talents like Sissy Spacek, Jodie Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Jane Fonda and Kathleen Turner would fill my screen and my imagination, and it would be a dream come true to work with any one of them. There are obviously other actors and actresses who I would love to work with, but these ladies especially shine in my memories!
What is your favorite part about movie making?
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that my fave time of film-making is when I’m actually on set and the whole production train is in motion. Pre-production, to me, involves a TON of not very exciting work, like spreadsheets, emails and fundraising, while post-production is when the director and editor disappear into their post-prod cave and, a bunch of months later, re-appear with a completed film/rough cut. But those few weeks when you’re actually on set shooting the film are absolutely golden. Even if the shoot is the most difficult to organize ever, those times after the director yells “action” and before he yells “cut” are the most wonderful of the whole experience. That’s when everything slows down and the magic really happens… A well run set is also a thing of great beauty, and it’s wonderful to see everyone working together towards the same goal.
What advice do you have for up and coming Horror Queens?
If you want to work in horror, you have to accept the fact that you’re going to get dirty. Not only dirty as in covered in blood (fake and sometimes, when you hurt yourself, not fake), vomit (usually the interestingly edible kind made of things like avocado and bread), bruises (totally real) and dirt (picked up when rolling around on the ground while covered in blood) but also dirty as in having to explore and take on deep, dark and heavy emotions. You might also have to get naked… Now I get that nudity is a personal choice and that it should never be gratuitous – I actually view nudity as the ultimate expression of honesty, actually – but I would most certainly have had fewer jobs if I had decided not to do nudity. I would have lost out, for instance, being in Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (where I played a doomed descendant of the Salem witch generation) and on being the – even if I say so myself – AWESOME succubus in Dennis Widmyer’s short film Curtain, which led to my having a leading role in his and Kevin Kolsch’s feature Starry Eyes… I think all that I’m trying to say is: if at all possible, don’t limit yourself.
Any new projects we should be on the lookout for?
My latest releases are The Haunting of Whaley House and Vile, and I do believe that both of these films are available on Netflix and through Redbox. Further films that should be released in the near future and that will be of particular interest to horror lovers will be the animated horror feature, The Amazing Adventures of The Living Corpse (an adaptation of the comic book of the same name), a super-interesting found-footage feature The Levenger Tapes and the ultra-quirky horror/noir/sci-fi feature Way Down in Chinatown, which I also co-produced. The disturbing thriller, African Gothic, will also have its world premier in South Africa in July at the Durban International Film Festival.
Learn more about Maria on her official IMDB profile.