Sarah Bolger may be new to the thriller genre, starring alongside Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass in The Lazarus Effect, out today, but the Ireland native is no stranger to the big and small screen. In fact, Bolger nabbed her first big role at the impressive age of 10, in the Oscar-nominated film In America. Now 23, and with a string of noteworthy projects under her belt, the actress finds herself on the cusp of a major year, thanks to roles in Once Upon a Time, My All American, and the upcoming AMC martial arts drama Badlands. We caught up with the actress on a recent press tour to talk about her creepy new film, working with Olivia Wilde, and fangirling over a particular James Bond.
Can you tell us about The Lazarus Effect and your character?
My character is really interesting, because she is the voyeur, the audience, especially for the first half of the film. She is a normal student who has a fascination with the idea of death, like everyone does. She is extremely relatable. I thought it was so great to put that into this world with this group of scientists. She comes on board to video the experiment. It’s interesting, because the film is not clichéd. I mean, David Gelb [the director] was a supreme choice for this film, coming from his documentary background. It’s so classy and looks so great and interesting. There are these beautiful long shots. I’m really impressed and happy about the film.
What sets this movie apart from other horror films?
I think you’ll be surprised with where it ends up going and how it ends.
Did you find yourself actually getting scared while filming?
We filmed in this tiny little space in the [San Fernando] Valley. It was a little stage with confined spaces, so it was pitch-black in there. Our director David Gelb would torture us, and make these noises, and jolt us out of our seats. He really kept us on our toes, which makes you scared and your heart is fluttering. It’s pitch-black and all you are hearing are these noises—it was brilliant. It made us scared filming it, which in turn, made it feel and look so real.
What was it like working with such a star-studded cast?
During downtime on set, there was a lot of the five of us just sitting around that studio. [Olivia Wilde] is really funny and so is Donald [Glover]. Donald is hilarious. They were great people to lighten a horror movie—which, with a different cast, may have been a different experience. It’s so easy to become method; it’s so easy to not stop crying, to not sit in a dark room and remain that way for the day to maintain the scare and fear. I’m happy to say that it was a lovely cast.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
One of the first movies I ever remember watching as a child was Jaws. I know it’s not a horror movie, per se, but there are scary elements. What I loved was like the banging on the boats and not being able to know necessarily what’s coming; I love the audience being able to imagine their worst nightmare in that moment. I like the ambiguity of it all, and I think that’s what our film did really well, which makes me really proud.
Growing up in Ireland, who or what inspired you to get into acting?
I started super young when I was five or six, and it was a hobby until I met Jim Sheridan. It was a fun thing I got to do on weekends or in the summertime when school was out. It wasn’t until I was 10 and I did Sheridan’s film In America that I caught the bug. He makes you love it. He helped me create characters, which I’ve actually brought with me in my 17 years of acting. With every film I partake in, I create this backstory, which makes it seem, for me at least, not Sarah Bolger playing a character, not Sarah Bolger with an accent, not Sarah Bolger saying lines, but this real other person. Even for [The Lazarus Effect], David Gelb and I created this idea that the character has a genital heart defect and this is her obsession with death and the afterlife, which is a nice bridge into why she’s partaking in this experiment.
You have an American accent in the film. What would you say is the hardest accent for you to master?
I was asked to do Scottish, and I was like, “Oh my goodness.” You know what’s funny, is growing up in Ireland with such a neutral accent you’re able to pick up other accents quite easily, which has been very handy.
Your sister is a beauty blogger (Emma’s Beauty Quest). What are some great tips you’ve learned from her?
She is a very talented makeup artist and works in Dublin. She is all about contouring. If I have to hear contour and dewy… I have to look dewy all the time. She yells at me when I’m not dewy. She is obsessed with the Charlotte Tillbury contouring kit, as am I now.
While stalking your Instagram, I noticed you have a knack for making beautiful cakes!
Yes! My mother is a really talented pastry chef, and she is the influence. That is my hobby, that’s what I do in my down time. I bake things and create cakes and I design wedding cakes for no other reason but to Instagram them. But it’s fun. I love brownies, and anything to do with chocolate. Now that I am in L.A., I’m dabbling in gluten-free deserts, which is oh-so Hollywood.
You’ve played two princesses: Princess Mary Tudor from The Tudors and Princess Aurora from Once Upon a Time. If you could play another other famous princess, who would it be and why?
It would be Diana. She was this rebel force within that family, and this interesting, unique person. You know Sarah means princess, so it was predestined in the stars.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career thus far?
Every movie I do, I feel I take away something that was brilliant. Every job is like a step up. So every moment is different; every film I come away thinking something was better than the last. Olivia [Wilde] was such a brilliant person to have on this movie, and as a female, she is so successful and so business savvy—I felt like I learned a lot from her. I thought that was really cool. I love to say that I worked with her. I think she is a great person in this industry—really smart and well-respected, and I would love for some day for that to be said about me.
Do you get starstruck by anyone in the industry?
Okay, so during In America there was a chance Pierce Brosnan was going to be in that movie at one point back in the day, and he came into my schooling room and I don’t think I’ve ever been so starstruck. It’s Bond! There’s something still about meeting Pierce Brosnan, a famous Irish actor who has made it completely mainstream and is so cool and very handsome—it was great.
What’s one thing most people might not know about you?
I am a fanatical tea drinker, like an Irish morning tea drinker, to the point that it’s an obsession. I have 14 to 17 cups a day; it’s a little strange. In fact, TSA constantly opens my suitcase, because I am sure they think I’m smuggling drugs, when it’s just bags and bags of tea. It’s difficult to get here in California, but it’s just a nice thing to have from home. I don’t know if it reminds of me of my home or my childhood, but it’s just a nice comfort.
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