Sarah Bolger Interview, The Spiderwick Chronicles

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline sat down this weekend with Sarah Bolger at the Los Angeles press day for her new movie, “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” an extraordinary fantasy adventure, filled with magical and sometimes scary creatures from an unseen world. The film is directed by Mark Waters from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, and John Sayles based on the beloved best-selling books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

The story revolves around the three Grace children – Jared and his twin brother, Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore), their older sister, Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and their recently separated mother, Helen (Mary-Louise Parker). Peculiar things start to happen the moment the Grace family leaves New York and moves into the isolated, dilapidated Spiderwick Estate, the former home of their great-great-uncle, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) and great-aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright). Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seem to happen on a daily basis, the siblings investigate what’s going on and uncover the extraordinary truth of the Spiderwick estate and the creatures that inhabit it, including the crafty, evil ogre, Mulgarath (Nick Nolte).

Sarah Bolger was born in 1991 in Dublin, Ireland, and is already a veteran of the acting profession. Bolger won a place at the Young Peoples Theatre Co. at just five years of age. Less than a year later, she was chosen to star alongside some of Ireland’s leading actors in the poignant real-life story “A Love Divided,” directed by Sid McCartney. After that she played Helena in the movie “A Secret Affair,” based on the Barbara Taylor Bradford novel.

It was in 2001, when selected by Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan to star alongside her real-life sister Emma Bolger in the major motion picture “In America,” that Sarah came to worldwide critical acclaim. Her portrayal of Christy, a young girl holding her emotionally drained family together, won a ten-year-old Bolger rave reviews around the world, and brought with it nominations for “Best Newcomer” at the Independent Spirit Awards and “Best Cast Ensemble” at the Screen Actors Guild, along with many other nominations for best actress and best newcomer in various award ceremonies around the world.

Bolger has had roles in many acclaimed television dramas, such as “The Clinic” (RTE 2005) and the controversial drama “Stardust,” nominated for the acclaimed Prix Europa Television Awards.

Recently, Bolger starred alongside Andie McDowell in the motion picture “Tara Road” for director Gillies MacKinnon and, in 2006, she was seen in “Stormbreaker” starring alongside Mickey Rourke and Bill Nighy in the role of the sassy vixen Sabina Pleasure. She is currently playing Princess Mary in the second season of the Showtime production “The Tudors,” which will be broadcast on the BBC later this year.

Sarah Bolger is a fabulous person and we really appreciated her time. Here’s what she had to tell us about her new movie, “The Spiderwick Chronicles”:

Q: You have a very good relationship with your sister [Emma] right?

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Q: No fighting?

Sarah: Never. No, I mean me and Emma, we have our usual arguments. Emma is four years younger than me and she has the same dress size and shoe size; a pain in the neck!

Q: You’re British?

Sarah: I’m Irish.

Q: I thought you were going to be very British when you walked in.

Sarah: [in Brit accent] I could be British if you’d really like me to be. [Laughs]

I really don’t like being it, you know.

Q: I was really surprised because they say you’re British.

Sarah: I’m Irish. Can’t say that. Can’t say that. There’s a difference!

Q: Did you find it hard to get the American accent.

Sarah: No. I work at accents very hard. I’ve been studying accents since ‘In America’ because it’s gonna come up, accents and stuff like that. I think it was good and I was thrilled to be able to finally do an American accent in a movie.

Q: You do sound different than when we interviewed you for “In America.”

Sarah: Yes, I know. I don’t know what it is. As soon as you get off the plane in that country, you just tend to do the accent. It’s when I come home and say ‘cell phone,’ they like throw things at me ‘It’s mobile!’ I come home and I say ‘sidewalk’ and they’re like ‘It’s path.’ Girls in my class just want to kill me at this stage.

Q: How physical was this film compared to your work in ‘Stormbreaker’? Was there a lot more physical work in this one for you?

Sarah: Yeah, definitely. ‘Stormbreaker’ was great and there was some blue screen but not as much as this movie. This movie was like totally I was [in front of] the blue screen like 24 hours a day. I think that the creatures and things like that were great fun. It was just so unusual to be kicking and slicing and punching things that were nowhere near. Just air. And then the twin thing was just another….there were so many things in this movie. There was only one Freddie, there were no goblins and, when we drive up to the house and you see all the forest? Those leaves were added. It’s freaky. So crazy. The fencing was difficult.

Q: You had never done that before?

Sarah: Never. I did like five weeks of intense training for it. Three hours straight with the Olympic Canadian fencing coach.

Q: Is that something you would keep on doing after this?

Sarah: Fencing? I have done. I’ve kept it up at home. Absolutely. Most weekends, when I’m there, I meet up with the guy who taught me for this movie.

Q: When you and Freddie were hanging out off camera, was Freddie just young enough to be a pain or did he seem more like a contemporary?

Sarah: He was. Freddie is only a year younger than me, actually maybe less. We did, we had a brother and sister relationship. It was like four, almost five months of filming. Every day, we were pretty much on set together. I think we both annoyed each other by the end of it but we had great fun, especially in the griffin sequence. We took a break for a while, then we went to L.A. to finish it all up. And it was so much fun to get back into it. You miss filming and you miss the group of people that you become a short-term family with.

Q: Can you talk more about the green screen work? Were there times you had to re-shoot a scene and how hard was it to get that energy back?

Sarah: This is why this movie took so long to do. It is only an hour and thirty minutes but the thing is we did a reference shot to explain to us, first of all, where the creatures would be. We’d have cardboard cutouts. Phil Tippet did a fantastic job. Phil with this pole and a cutout Hogsqueal running along with it. That would explain that to us. Then Mark would run through which direction to look, but literally we had to do it so many times because we had to give them some kind of room to make changes in characters. If we only looked a certain direction that meant they only had that certain amount of space to create the character which is not fair for them. So, I don’t know, there were about 18 takes and only about seven, maybe five were actually like real. They were the ones you could actually use on film. So it took a while.

Q: When the first book came out you were probably what, ten or eleven?

Sarah: Yeah, I think so, the first one, not the last one.

Q: Did you read the books?

Sarah: I did. I read them. You know what’s funny? I went to Paramount for a meeting after ‘In America’ and they gave me the books as a present. That was cool, right? They were [predicting] something. Then I read them and I thought they were fantastic and I really enjoyed them. Actually, then we couldn’t read the last one which came out two years ago. I was convinced I looked like Mallory.

Q: ‘The Tudors’ is a different kind of project.

Sarah: Absolutely, ‘The Tudors’ is completely different from, I think, anything really that I’ve done before. Princess Mary is a dark character who has been suppressed her whole life and she’s so devoted to the Catholic religion and feels that that’s her only escape. It’s the only thing that’s looking after her because she’s forbidden from seeing her mother and her dad doesn’t want to see her because he’s gone off with Anne Boleyn and I think it’s such a different role from this like feisty, bubbly Mallory. Actually, the sword fight would probably come in handy with Mary. I’m so sure she’s going to kill someone at some stage.

Q: Well, she is Bloody Mary.

Sarah: She is indeed. She killed so many Protestants.

Q: The first season made a huge impact. Do you think people are going to be satisfied with Season Two?

Sarah: I really hope so. I think the script is very strong and, like ‘Spiderwick,’ we have the books to go off and in this, we have history to work off of. I do so much research. You’ve no idea. I like history anyway. I just think it’s appropriate to do that. It’s so funny. It’s like with school work, if I put a lot of effort in, I feel so much better when I get the end result. It’s like acting; if I put a lot of work in and do the research and I do the work that’s necessary… like for ‘Spiderwick’ it was fencing and the accent work. I think it pays off in the end.

Q: What kind of music are you into?

Sarah: I love that question. I have an odd taste in music. My favorite band would be like Simon and Garfunkle and I like Linkin Park, they’re great. Red Hot Chili Peppers and I really like Carrie Underwood, completely different and Queen. Queen’s fantastic. I went to see Queen at the ballet and that was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my whole, entire life excluding ‘Spiderwick’ but ‘Spiderwick’s’ the best.

Q: Movies?

Sarah: My favorite movie is ‘The Fugitive’ and second favorite is ‘Moulin Rouge’.

Q: Do you split your time between here and Ireland?

Sarah: I come over here any time I need to so I don’t know how much time I spend over here. I spend a lot of time in the air though, eleven hours flying.. killer.

Q: There’s no reason why you would, but have you met Saoirse [Ronan]? You know, fellow countrywoman and all….

Sarah: No. She’s the girl in ‘Atonement’? No, I have not met her.

Q: Colin Farrell is two floors down.

Sarah: I heard that. I’ve actually met Colin. He’s a great guy.

Q: What did you all do in Montreal? You can’t party at the clubs yet.

Sarah: I do not drink. I’m very good, no Guinness for me.

Q: Did you go do anything with Freddie or anyone else?

Sarah: When we were over there, at the end of our shoot, ‘Casino Royale’ came out. I think we went to see that like four times [laugh]. I think that’s what we did because we were working most days and it was long hours because you have to fit in three hours of school work every day. Then the weekends come and you just kind of want to sit there. We had a beautiful hotel room, myself and my mum the whole time, like five months, a long time but the only advantage is you don’t have to clean up.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about working with Mary Louise Parker?

Sarah: She’s fantastic. I was a big fan of ‘Weeds’. I actually know Hunter Parrish quite well. I did a short film with him years ago. I think she’s a fantastic actress. She has a son herself so she has that family thing. She was so great. She wasn’t on set too much but when she was, every day we’d have lunch in her trailer and she was so down to earth and just lovely and she’s had some hard things in her life and I think that she’s come through it and she’s the better person.

Q: Mark was saying that you didn’t know how to say something sarcastically at the beginning. You didn’t know what that was?

Sarah: I’m not a sarcastic person really. I learned it after. Mark was so funny. He used to go ‘Sarah, you need to watch ‘Mean Girls’.’

Q: Nick Nolte told us that Mark gave some strange directions. He said something to Nick like ‘Pretend you’re a junkie stumbling out of the alley.’ Did you get any weird direction from Mark?

Sarah: Mark has this great idea. He has this direct image in his head and it’s funny how he explains it. I’m sure the image is quite clear yet he explains it in this odd way. He used to refer to ‘Mean Girls’ a lot for me. He used to working with teenaged girls. I remember this one scene, I was running down these stairs and he’s like ‘Pretend your legs are falling off. You run that fast.’ Just things like that. He’s a funny guy.

Q: He said he had this loud speaker and he’d do the voice of Mulgarath?

Sarah: That was hilarious. You have no idea. The book burning scene was the best. We were sitting there and they were burning the book and he was like [chanting loudly] ‘Book! Book!’ He’s fantastic. If cameras had filmed that, it would be a best-seller comedic film.

Q: Was it hard to keep a straight face, though?

Sarah: Yes.

Q: Which half of Freddie did you prefer working with?

Sarah: [laughs] Simon. He’s just so much nicer than the angry, troublesome Jared.

Q: Is Freddie more like Simon really?

Sarah: He’s somewhere in the middle. I don’t think he’s quite as shy and quiet as Simon was. Freddie’s a lot of fun.

Q: Are you surprised at how far you’ve come? It’s only a few years since you started out in “In America.”

Sarah: It seems like a long time though, doesn’t it?

Q: You and Emma were sitting in those chairs and Emma was having a great time.

Sarah: Emma always has a great time. It is crazy though how time passes and you don’t know… I didn’t know how ‘In America’ was going to turn out. I didn’t know how successful it was going to be. I don’t do movies expecting to get my next. I live for the moment and I think that’s it’s silly to kind of be constantly ‘Oh, what’s my next? What’s my next?’ You don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sure as Hell going to finish my education. I don’t know, maybe do Astronomy. I don’t know. Something cool like that.

Q: But you just keep being busy all the time.

Sarah: It’s a good complaint, though, right? I want to keep up acting for as long as possible. It’s the one thing in life that I wouldn’t change anything about. Film sets, for me, are a second home. I’m not saying that to be dramatic. It’s my favorite place to be.

Q: How old are you now?

Sarah: Sixteen, almost seventeen, February 28th.

Q: What’s your favorite things to do on a date?

Sarah: First of all, it has to be Shia LaBeouf! Right? [Laughs]

Q: We’ll have to tell him you like him.

Sarah: Second of all, let me think, what else does it have to be? I hate when guys look at themselves in the mirror like when you’re passing a shop window. It drives me up the wall. I have some friends that are guys and they always do that and I’m like ‘Oh, get over yourself. Come on!’ I think they spend more time looking in the mirror than I do.

Q: What about personality traits like a sense of humor?

Sarah: Oh, certainly. I like jokes and I like light-hearted stuff and I don’t like guys who are real dull or only interested in football. Boring!

Q: What do you enjoy most about acting?

Sarah: I love reading scripts and I love understanding a character and getting into that character. I’m not a method actress in any sense but I enjoy ‘being’ that character and working at it and I do a lot of research on the characters. I think that being on set and trying out different ways to say stuff and experimenting and working with some fantastic people. I’ve been very lucky. There’s nothing bad about it.

Q: Is there a favorite historical character you would love to play?

Sarah: Keira Knightley took my role. If they had waited a few years, I still could have been Elizabeth Bennet [in ‘Pride and Prejudice’] you know?

Q: Is there a favorite toy you had when you were a kid?

Sarah: You never know. Mallory might be a toy. That would be pretty cool.

You know ‘Sesame Street’? Elmo? Him. Tickle me Elmo, the red one. Those things crack me up. I had one in my closet. In the middle of the night [laughing] ‘hee, hee, hee, hee’. Creepiest thing ever!

Q: Thank you.

Sarah: Thank you very much. See you again.

“The Spiderwick Chronicles” opens in theaters on February 14th.


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