Odette Yustman Interview, The Unborn

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Ready for a terrifying glimpse into the life of the undead? Odette Yustman recently talked to MoviesOnline about her new movie, The Unborn, a supernatural thriller directed by David Goyer. Yustman plays Casey, a young woman who is pulled into a world of nightmares when a demonic spirit haunts her and threatens everyone she loves. The Unborn’s supporting cast includes Gary Oldman, Cam Gigandet, and Jane Alexander.

Yustman made her mark starring in J.J. Abrams’ groundbreaking action-thriller “Cloverfield” and recently starred as college graduate student Aubrey Diaz on the critically acclaimed ABC television series “October Road.” Her other film credits include The Holiday, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Transformers, and Dear God.

Odette Yustman turns in a strong performance in The Unborn and we really appreciated her time. Here’s what she had to tell us about her character’s nightmarish journey:

MoviesOnline: How did you feel when David snuck up on you with the eye speculum and didn't tell you about the bugs?

Odette: Oh, my gosh.  I was about to kill him. I really was because he said “I have an idea for this scene.” I'm like “What do you mean you have an idea for this scene?”  He's like “Well, there's this thing.  It's called a speculum and it kind of goes in your eye but you numb it so you're not gonna feel it and you only have to do it once.”  I'm like “Okay, but if I have to do it, then you have to do it.”  He's like “Sure, no problem.”  So, we do it and it's horrible and then “Don't blink! Don't blink!” I'm like (scared voice) “Okay, okay.” And then, he's like “Wow, that looks really cool! I want a cross shot right here. I want a shot right here. I want a shot right here.”  So we ended up doing it like six times and he didn't do it at all.  Great. But it was horrible.

MoviesOnline: He didn't warn you about the bugs either?

Odette: No, not at all. The bugs, he was like “There's potato bugs. I found one in my backyard. It's not really a big deal. They're harmless.”  I'm like “Whatever.” So they showed the potato bugs and they're huge. They're like this big (indicates about two inches long) and he was like “So we're going to put some on you but they're fine.” And they're crawling up my shirt, going into my boobs, one caught onto my arm and started biting me.

MoviesOnline: They bite?

Odette: Yeah, “You told me they don't bite!”  “I don't know!” (laughs) Great, they were eating each other. They're horrible bugs.

MoviesOnline: Was there a potato bug wrangler?

Odette: Yeah, there actually was. He was from South Africa I think. He couldn't have been sweeter but he was so serious about his bugs. He was losing them and one was caught on my arm, “Ewwwww.” He's like, “It's okay. Don't harm them.” I don't care about the bug right now. But they have regulations.

MoviesOnline: How long did you have to shoot that bug scene?

Odette: They put me through the wringer, a while. We had to do multiple shots of one on my hand, one crawling on me, a bunch on my whole body. We got really well-acquainted.

MoviesOnline: Did you actually watch exorcisms on You-Tube for research?

Odette: Yeah, that's exactly how I did research. I figured I can go buy the books and do research that way, but I really wanted something visual that I could see so that I could create my own idea of an exorcism, so I went on You-Tube. I'm like “Let's check it out.” Amateur videos, exorcisms, that's what I searched and I found really crazy things. If you search that, it's actually really terrifying. You have people all over the world. Some parents think their kids are possessed and take them into churches, “My kid is possessed, you need to do an exorcism,” and some of the kids are terrified. I don't know if the parents are crazy or these kids are actually...you know, whatever. But people react so many different ways. Some are screaming. Some are completely still. It's really scary and I watched it by myself at night. I was petrified! I couldn't sleep. It's the scariest thing because it gets in your head and, for me, psychological thrillers really just terrify me. Like The Exorcist is absolutely my favorite horror film and I watched it when I was like seven years old with my mother for the first time. I don't know why my mom let me watch that. I couldn't go to the bathroom by myself. I couldn't go upstairs by myself. I couldn't sleep. It just got in my head and Linda Blair did an amazing job.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about working with Gary Oldman and Jane Alexander?

Odette: Absolutely. It's so weird when somebody says, “Okay, we're letting you be the lead of this movie and you're going to be opposite Gary Oldman and Jane Alexander, but you have a bigger role than them.”  It's like “what?!” These are the greats. These are ACTORS. These are people you admire and I was really nervous at first and, to tell you the truth, they couldn't have been better. They just took me under their wing and gave me great advice. Gary sat me down one day and he's like “This is how you have to deal with the business. This is what you have to do.” He started telling me stories about The Professional and about Sean Penn. It was just like “You're Gary Oldman! You call me by my first name. This is so weird!” And I learned so much. They're so professional and just so “on it.”  It was great.

MoviesOnline: Were there contacts for the blue eyes or was that CGI?

Odette: Contacts. And, I've never work contacts ever and I have super-sensitive eyes so how in the hell am I going to get through this? I did it. I was like “Don't think, just do it. Don't complain.” Just like anything else, you just have to get used to it and I did. There were different stages of the color so certain ones didn't hurt as much as others, but it was irritating after a while.

MoviesOnline: Did you get a lot of horror scripts after doing Cloverfield?

Odette: Here and there, yeah. I guess more so than anything else. I guess I don't want to be stereotyped, but I never say never so when I saw The Unborn script, I loved it so much and I was like “It doesn't matter. I have to do this. This would be a great opportunity.”

MoviesOnline: What stood out about this script?

Odette: I think one of the main things was this isn't a remake. It's a horror film. That's a new idea, a completely new concept, an original story and that really stood out to me because, nowadays, I don't think women have such great opportunities to play a character like this and to be able to carry a whole film yourself.  So, I was really fortunate to have that role and to be able to hit every single emotion because she really is a tortured soul and she goes through so much throughout the movie. As an actress, you kind of look forward to those roles. Would I do it again? Yes, but it's a challenge. You have to know that you're going to be working all day long. You're gonna be in bad weather conditions.  You can't complain. You can't get sick. You have to be on it. You have to do it.  And, that's what I loved the most and I'm really grateful that I even get to do this.

MoviesOnline: How was working with David Goyer?

Odette: Great. He's such a great director. I was such a fan of his work even before I even got the script. I knew about his writing. And just working with him, sitting down and creating this character and what we wanted from her, we just became really close and had this really great relationship. We joked around all the time on set so it was really fun. It was a great experience.

MoviesOnline: What about working with Cam Gigandet and Megan Good? Did you guys hang out off set at all?

Odette: Yeah, absolutely. Cam was actually shooting Twilight  before The Unborn and I was shooting another movie as well so we contacted each other through e-mail. We communicated that way and through the phone so, while he was shooting and while I was shooting, we were doing that. And then when we got to Chicago, we forced ourselves to hang out with each other, not that it was such a bad thing (laughs) so we would go out together. We would go to dinner, we would talk about the character and we would rehearse just because we wanted a real relationship. And, when you get to know somebody, you know what to do in a scene to make them laugh, just certain things. If you know somebody, that works so much better that way.

And with Meagan (Good) as well. Actually, Meagan and I got along well right from the moment that we met each other, it was really great. We had met probably two years before and we got along super well, so when we both found out we were doing the movie together, we were like “This is perfect. We don't even have to act.” So we didn't even need to rehearse together. It just kind of flowed naturally for us. Every time we see each other, we always hang out and we're really buddies off screen so, hopefully, that showed.

MoviesOnline: How did you react when there was a real earthquake on the exorcism set? And did anything else weird happen?

Odette:  It was unbelievable how that happened and so many different weird things happened. The lights would go on and off. There was an earthquake in Chicago. There was this picture that was taken of this guy going down a stairwell and these hands grasping him. It was a crewmember, a grip or something, and they took a picture and you could see hands coming out. I was like “What is going on here?” It was in that old insane asylum, yeah.

MoviesOnline: I was looking at your IMDB listing and found two that were very odd; on Transformers it said “socialite” and on Walk Hard it said “reefer girl.” 

Odette: (laughs) Yeah.  That's my favorite. With Transformers, I'm pretty good friends with the casting director and she called me in. I was auditioning for something else and she said “Hey, before you go, we just have this small role.  Do you want to do it for Transformers?” and I'm like “Yeah, why not? That would be cool.”  So I did it. And, for Walk Hard, I think I also knew the casting director and they were like “Will you come in and just play around with this and see what comes out?” and I'm like “Sure.” So, I ended up doing it and working with John C. Reilly and Tim Meadows was awesome, but what wasn't awesome was having to smoke those herbal cigarettes all day long. My fingers were yellow and it was like “Ugh.” It was so bad.

MoviesOnline: But you got the name “reefer girl” out of it.

Odette:  Exactly, I was happy about that. 

MoviesOnline: Where was the socialite in Transformers?

Odette: I'm in the car and Shia LaBeouf is coming toward me and he hits my car and I say something like “Did that guy dent my car?” and then the Transformer comes up.

MoviesOnline: You look like Meagan Fox (of Transformers). You two could play sisters.

Odette: I get that a lot. I met her while I was shooting Transformers and she was really nice but I get that comparison a lot which is fine. I'll take it. She's beautiful.

MoviesOnline: Any work on a possible Cloverfield sequel?

Odette: I did have dinner with one of the producers and he kind of toyed with the idea that maybe they would be coming out with a sequel. I haven't heard anything yet. I don't think any of the original cast members would be in it. My guess is that they would probably go with the perspective of another group of people that experience the same event, but I haven't really heard so don't quote me on that.

MoviesOnline: As an actress, how do you keep your energy up all day because this has got to be exhausting?

Odette: I have this thing, and I don't know how any other actor works, but I feel like the actor, especially the lead actor, kind of sets the tone for the whole movie and I think it's really important as an actress to be on set, even though you're so exhausted and you hardly ever get any sleep, it's still really important to come in with a smile on your face and put everybody in a better mood because, if not, what are you working for? We're all here to have fun. We're not curing cancer, we're trying to entertain people. It can get really intense on set sometimes so trying to ease that up a little bit is an actor's job. I know a lot of people wouldn't agree with me, and maybe other actors do their thing and then leave, but I want to embrace everybody and make everybody feel comfortable.

MoviesOnline: So you don't need to stay in character in between shots?

Odette:  I'm not really Method, no. I definitely, if it's a really intense scene, people will know. I'll have my i-Pod in and listen to music and I'll have my head down and they know not to (bother me), but usually I can pretty much just be me when I'm not shooting.

MoviesOnline: What was actually there on set for you to react to? Were the dogs real or CGI?

Odette: There was a real dog. Her name was Mattie. She didn't listen at all. (laughs). She was horrible. It was like “Come on. Figure it out.” Literally, the dog wouldn't move or it would walk away or it would not do the right thing, but it was a real dog. It was kind of scary when the mask would go on. They would put the mask on it and it was like “What is going on?”

MoviesOnline: What was it like working with that creepy little kid or I guess the actor wasn't creepy?

Odette: He (Ethan Cutkosky) actually wasn't creepy at all. He was the cutest little thing, well there were two kids, Barto and Matty (Atticus Shaffer) and they were both so adorable. Barto, in one of the scenes, it was so funny. I was on the gurney for the exorcism scene and he was like (high, child-like voice) “Hey, hey Odette, howz it goin' today? I'm excited about this scene because I get to like scare you.” And David Goyer would say, “Now, Ethan, when I say 'action' you have to open your eyes and don't blink” and he's like “Okay, guys. I got it. I got it.” And they go “Action” and he's like (she demonstrates immediately blinking) “Is that good? I think that was good, right?” (laughs).

MoviesOnline: Did he have to wear the contacts too?

Odette: He did. I think he got used to it after a little while but we were both like “Oh, great. We have to put the contacts in.” So it was kind of a joke between us. But he was fantastic. Just such a little trooper.

MoviesOnline: You bounce back and forth. You've done some TV shows and now you're doing a lot more movies.  Are you interested in doing another TV commitment?

Odette: You know, TV is really bittersweet for me because I had such a great experience shooting "October Road."  It was like I had this great family and I have these mentors, the creators of the show, they just guide me with everything that I do now. I definitely would if it was the right character and if it was a great script, a great pilot. I would, of course, toy with the idea, and especially if it was with the same creators of "October Road." I would do anything for them, of course.

MoviesOnline: Were you at the screening last night?  Have you seen the audience reaction to this?

Odette: I wasn't, but I saw it with about fifteen people. I saw a really rough cut.  The music wasn't done and I think they were gonna add a few more scares so I'm really excited to see it when it comes out. I think I'll go to the theater and maybe sit in the back and watch the reaction. Hopefully, they'll like it. What if they're like, “Wow, this movie sucks!”?

MoviesOnline: At our screening, the audience really liked it and people were jumping at the scares.

Odette: No way! That's awesome.

MoviesOnline: What other scary movies besides The Exorcist did you like?

Odette:  Rosemary's Baby and there's this movie Dolls, I was petrified of that movie because I had porcelain dolls growing up in my bedroom so, after I saw that movie, I grabbed a hammer and took off their heads.  My mom was like “What are you doing? Those are expensive!” I'm like “They have a brain. I know it!” She's like “You are the weirdest kid ever.”  I can't even look at a porcelain doll the same even now. I was so scared. I was probably like eight or something. I just love scary movies. I love the thrill.

MoviesOnline: You were in an episode of "Life on Mars." Who did you play on that show?

Odette:  I played a prostitute. It was actually the creators of "October Road." They were the creators of the American version of "Life on Mars" so they called me up and they're so great, “We want to get everybody on ‘October Road’ on "Life on Mars" and we have this role for you. Do you want to do it?” And I was like “Sure!” I didn't read it and then, when I read it, it was like “She drops her dress and she is making love to this guy” and I'm like “Oh my God! What are you having me do?” But, it's ABC, so it was very tastefully done. I never watched the British version but I heard that it was really great. Jason O'Mara is awesome and working with Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli is also a plus. God, I've worked with some great people! This is really good. I played this undercover prostitute that is getting information from one of the cops from the lead, Sam.

MoviesOnline: Has the episode aired?

Odette: Yeah, I think it did like three weeks ago.

MoviesOnline: What kinds of music are you into?

Odette:  I love all sorts of music.  I'm really into Damian Rice and Amos Lee.  I love Jack Johnson and I also love the new T.I. and Rihanna song. Josh Radin, he's a great musician and Katy Perry is one of my dear friends so it's so cool having your friends do so well. I remember her sitting in my living room playing the acoustic guitar and just singing and now she's this huge music star and it's like “Katy, are you kidding me?”

MoviesOnline: How is The Unborn unique from other horror films you've seen?

Odette: Did I say that it's not a remake? Okay, well that is what I think is so unique about it because it's not a remake. It's a new story. It's a psychological thriller. It really kind of does get in your head. I used to have recurring dreams and it's not an easy thing for a kid to go through, especially being a twin and not knowing it and having your mother kill herself or so she thought. So there are so many things that are so real that I think that not only kids, but anybody can relate to. So, hopefully, it clicks with audiences and people really enjoy it.

“The Unborn” opens in theaters on January 9th.

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