Georgina Campbell breathes new life into Horror
Photo by Mia Clark
The BAFTA-winning actress and ‘Barbarian’ star reveals her love for scary movies – and what makes her new film so special
Monday 12 September 2022 By Jenelle Riley
You could say that Georgina Campbell has lived the classic Hollywood story – even though her version happened in England. At the age of 15, she was spotted on the street and approached to audition for the MySpace series Freak. After landing that role and booking an agent, Campbell appeared in films like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the series Sadie J before winning landing the lead role in the 2014 TV movie Murdered by My Boyfriend. Her performance won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress against some stiff competition – and no one was more surprised than Campbell. ‘I remember my mum very sweetly saying, “You just have to remember that it’s amazing to get nominated,”’ Campbell recalls with a laugh. ‘It was a lovely “don’t be too upset if you don’t get it” speech.’
She followed that with a lead role in ‘Hang the DJ’, an episode of the wildly popular series Black Mirror, which she credits as having been a major game changer in terms of recognition, especially in the United States. A relatively light-hearted instalment of the traditionally bleak anthology, it gave Campbell the chance to play a romantic lead and mix genres, something that caught the eye of writer-director Zach Cregger when he was casting his forthcoming film Barbarian, which has just hit theatres.
Barbarian stars Campbell as Tess, a young woman who arrives at her rental home only to find it’s already occupied by a mysterious but compelling stranger, played by Bill Skarsgård. What unfolds is impossible to predict and pointless to define, as it veers from romcom to thriller to horror – sometimes in the same scene. But where Campbell can offer clarity was the joy of making the twisted and twisty movie – and why viewers can’t resist the thrill of being scared.
What interested you in Barbarian? Are you a fan of horror?
‘I really love horror and I’ve always wanted to do a horror film, but nothing has come by that really captured me or had the kind of writing that I love in really good horror movies. When you look at films like The Babadook or Get Out that have these messages in the film, I love the way the genre has developed recently.’
The film is so full of twists and turns. What was it like reading the script?
‘Actually, I got sent the script really late one evening and I was just hooked. I read it fast and was pacing around going, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” So yeah, once I read it, they had me.’
You read it at night? I think I would have waited until the morning.
‘Well, I’m one of those people that's really into true crime. I listen to true crime podcasts to go to sleep, So I didn’t mind.’
Why do you think we love horror films so much? What do we enjoy about being scared?
‘It’s about getting an emotion out of you. I love horror and I love comedy, as well. It’s just the experience of something making you feel scared or making you laugh – and this film mashes them together really well. There’s something cathartic about watching horror films or listening to true crime or being involved in that stuff. Maybe it makes you feel like you could figure out this situation now because you've seen how it’s gone down; so you’d be able to behave completely different if you got yourself in a similar situation.’
I also love that in horror the genre is the star and you can cast people who maybe aren’t as well-known. And you get to run them through a gamut of emotions.
‘It’s a great vehicle to do so many things. It’s a smorgasbord to run through, a really good showcase. And I just think they’re fun to do.’
So it was fun, even when you’re covered in blood and mud?
‘Yeah, I love that stuff. The last few films I’ve done have been minimal makeup and involved mud and I guess you just get over your vanity. You get into the scenes and stop worrying about yourself so much and become the character.’
Are you the kind of actor who takes your work home with you? Was it ever hard to shake off this role at the end of the day?
‘The hardest part was doing lots of night shoots, so it became strange to sleep all day and do this job at night. But I really enjoyed the whole process. It’s probably one of the best filming experiences I’ve ever had. It was such a lovely atmosphere and everyone got on so well. A lot of us were really into games so we’d play Settlers of Catan and Werewolf and card games. It was a really lovely, supportive set.’
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