The sizable shoes of the beloved Evil Dead trilogy’s Ash are pretty tough to fill, but Jane Levy, star of ABC’s Suburgatory, isn’t sweating it. While speaking to journalists at New York Comic Con, she revealed she’s playing a completely different character – named Mia – in the remake.
And, despite that rabid fans are skeptical about the 1981 cult classic being updated, Levy is certain it’ll blow their minds – especially because the original team of Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert are producing. She discussed how first-time director Fede Alvarez pushed her on set and imparted his love for the genre into his vision for the film, the advice she was given while auditioning for the role, her immersion into horror movie education and playing a butt-kicking female protagonist, and why this film was the most challenging of her career.
Do you feel any pressure taking over such a beloved character?
I actually don't feel any pressure. I mean, as an actor I could feel immense pressure every job that I take and think about all the people that are going to hate it, but you sort of have to choose not to do that or else it could be paralyzing.
Was doing all the practical horror effects really wearing?
Yeah, this was the worst thing I've ever done in my life. I'm not kidding. It was the hardest thing I've ever done by far. It’s extremely physical, I did a lot of my stunts, and it hurt. It was scary and I just wanted to go home, so I didn't have to act that much.
One of the carryovers from the original film is the Book of the Dead – can you tell us about the Necronomicon that we meet in this movie?
Yeah. You know, Mia never really encounters the Book of the Dead. More Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric) – it's his fault, pretty much, that the whole night goes the way it does. It's his fault that he resurrects the devil. But our book is a little different – it looks a little different, for one. But I think it sort of – it opens the same door.
How familiar were you with the original Evil Dead films before you auditioned?
I had never seen the original when I auditioned for it. I had never seen the original until I got the part.
And what did you think of it?
I loved it! Like actually, I really did! And I didn't think it was funny – I didn't understand why anyone thought it was funny. I was really scared. And I thought Sam Raimi proved himself as a promising filmmaker as a young man. I thought it was shot really cool, I love the POV – which we've kept in the remake. And it's so simple, but it's a perfect idea for a horror film. Ours is very different – it's not the same characters. It's the same, I guess, situation – kids in a cabin and then here comes the devil. But different characters. So I didn't have to feel the pressure of being Bruce Campbell.
Did anyone prepare you for what it'd be like to film an Evil Dead movie?
Yeah, mostly they just warned us. In my audition, Bruce was there, and he was like, "Do you know what it feels like to be buried alive? Do you know what it feels like to have a tube stuck down your throat so you can vomit everywhere?" And I was like, "Uh, no, but yes, I wanna do it!" But nothing could've prepared me for it. We have the original producers and Rob Tapert talked to me at the beginning, and most of their advice had to do with how taxing it was going to be, physically and emotionally. Rob Tapert sat me down and said, "There's going to be a moment when we're shooting in the next four months that you are going to break down, you're going to be covered in blood, you're going to be freezing cold, you're going to want to go home. When that moment comes, don't worry – go to your trailer, we'll stop and you can have your moment." And I had a couple of those.
Do you think people are going to come out of this seeing you as something of a contemporary scream queen?
I feel like this was a pretty cool role for a young woman to be able to play. I got to go everywhere. I start off, I'm a junkie – I'm addicted to heroin. I don't want to give too much away, but there's three main stages I go through in the film, and they are all completely different from each other. And one includes killing people. And I think, you know, I do scream a lot in the film and I'll tell you – I have a pretty good scream. By the end of it, the sound guys would have to take their earphones out and everyone would have to wear earplugs. It was pretty loud. I'm proud of it. But I got to be a badass also – I'm not a young lady getting chopped up. I'm the one being pretty nasty. I don't know if I'm going to have any friends after this movie! [laughs] But the reason I did this, really, is because I didn't know much about the horror genre and I'm fascinated. I don't know if I ever really want to do it again [laughs]. I have a newfound respect for the actors and directors who do it.
So you didn't know much about the horror movie genre, but you were working with two of the masters – Sam and Bruce. Did they give you any films to study up on before or during shooting?
Fede definitely did, and I watched a lot of horror films. I watched The Exorcist, I saw Bram Stoker's Dracula, I saw a lot of Dario Argento films. I had never seen the original Halloween, so I watched that. I hadn't really seen anything, and I realized a lot of prominent filmmakers start off in the horror genre. It's really cool – and they're stories, usually, about outcasts and they're just like basic level storytelling that I think people want to watch.
Having gone back to that canon of horror classics, why do you think people will love Evil Dead. Why will it raise the bar for the current landscape of horror films?
I don't know! I was so far in that movie that I forgot we were making a movie after week one. It was just like I was so immersed in this world, and Fede would bully me into doing everything, and I would do what he wanted me to do. I've seen some of it, and I'll tell you that it looks amazing. It looks like noting I've ever seen before. I wish I knew some more film lingo so I could describe it to you better – it looks so cool. There's a little bit of horror nostalgia. You can see that Fede has been inspired by a lot of old horror films. But it's definitely very modern.
Evil Dead opens April 12.