EZ's Interview with KaDee Strickland of "The Grudge"
Enchanting Southerner with Passion to Burn
By Mike "Kryptonite" Altamura
KaDee Strickland has really "broken out" in 2004, starting with a bit part in The Stepford Wives, then followed by a starring role in Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Her successful year rolls on this week with the opening of The Grudge, a remake of the chilling Japanese thriller-horror ghost film of the same title. In the film, she plays Susan Williams, an American nurse working in Japan who mysteriously disappears. And next on the agenda is a supporting role in comedic geniuses the Farrelly Brothers' latest project, Fever Pitch, which is loosely based on Nick Hornby's acclaimed
novel, Pitch. The latter is set for release in late 2005.
As I phone the 26-year-old, it is obviously she is a little tired. She has just flown from The Grudge premiere in Los Angeles, to the set of the latest Farrelly Brothers project Fever Pitch in Toronto, and partaken in a day of shooting with scarce sleep in between. But the Georgia native's sweet, authentic Southern charm is still intact. She is welcoming, attentive, and every word she speaks is filled with an irrefutable passion. It's no wonder her popularity is soaring, both among those within the industry, and regular everyday film-lovers.
Now for the Zone's Eye View:
By Mike "Kryptonite" Altamura (firstname.lastname@example.org)
EZ: Something I realized while doing research for this interview which I think must be shared, is that everything out there about you, you personally, and what fans that have met you have said and so forth, is all very positive. I didn't find anything negative, which I think one, reflects your mentality, and two, reflects that you have good people around you.
KS: Oh, thank you so much! That's such a lovely thing to say. I mean, I honestly, the point of view I have about that is probably I have my parents in the place I grew up to thank for a great deal of it, and I also think that I'm so very aware. And here, I'm shooting with Drew Barrymore and the Farrelly Brothers, and these guys, and working with Ione Skye - someone that growing up I wanted to be (laughs). I'm just consistently in these extraordinary circumstances with people that I respect. If I take that for granted, that's a bit stupid…
EZ: What was it with Ione Skye? Was it Say Anything with John Cusack?
KS: Yes, I love her, and Gas Food Lodging, I mean she's been around and done extraordinary things 'cause she started, like Drew, working when she was a kid, you know. These are people that have really come up in the ranks and been around and stuck it out, and they're gonna be around as long as they choose to, you know. And it's a wonderful, wonderful influence to be around them.
I've certainly had it - I really had a great deal [of luck] with Morris [Chestnut], Salli [Richardson-Whitfield], and Eugene [Byrd] in Fiji (while shooting Anacondas). They were wonderful to me. Because Eugene has been doing this since he was a little boy, and Salli was like a big sister, and Morris was like a big brother. I've worked on Woody Allen, but, you know, it's a whole other ballgame when you pick up your entire life and leave your country where you know what kind of cereal and milk you can buy, and go up to the middle of the jungle where you have to drive an hour to eat in restaurants(laughs)! I mean it's just really, and that's the fun of it. That's the adventure and that's the wonderful gift I guess you kind of get given when you get to work. And I guess in lieu of
all that, I just, I think I would be really stupid not to really understand how lucky I am right now, because it's just a wonderful time to be me to be perfectly honest (laughs).
EZ: So you're currently on set of Fever Pitch, is that right?
EZ: How long have you guys been shooting?
KS: Uh, I came in, I literally walked from the Red Carpet two nights ago [for The Grudge], took a Red Eye, got here, I had slept for an hour, and then shot until four in the morning. And didn't start until nine at night, so I was pretty much up for over 24 hours. And that was my first day of shooting. We don't shoot again until Monday, thank God. I can try to adjust my body to this crazy schedule (laughs)! It was amazing; the first day was amazing, you know, the Farrelly brothers are fantastic. But I think they were in Boston first, and now we're in Toronto, and they've been shooting already for now, I think a good month, I'm pretty sure at least. And I've just had to sit around and wait because I've been so excited to get here. Now it's finally happened!
EZ: What is your exact role of your character, Robin, in the film?
KS: I am Drew's, there are three best friends and I am sort of the ring leader of the best friends. It's so very different than anything I've done because I'm a bit of a nightmare! Down to the wardrobe, I'm just a bit off and a bit wrong about most things, and it's so fun to play this character because, God, you wanna like her, but she's just off. For me it's a blast, and the Farrelly brothers are having me just really get extreme with it, and it's a great time. I can't even believe this is my life!
EZ: Getting back to The Grudge. You said you have the premiere on the 12th…
KS: I mean, I'm telling you honey, we walked the red carpet, I signed a few things, and I went and got in the car to get on the plane, which broke my heart because I wanted to see it with an audience. I had seen it the night before - Sammy [Raimi] was lovely enough to let me see the film before I had to talk about it to people. I gotta tell ya, if you like The Exorcist, get ready, because it is damn scary. Damn scary.
EZ: At the epicenter of The Grudge is a supernatural curse, precisely involving ghosts. Has the paranormal always intrigued you in life?
KS: Yes, Absolutely. Absolutely. In the South, there's a lot of, as much as religion is quite prevalent, there's also a lot of the other side of that which is sort of a mystical - because you have obviously New Orleans - but in Savannah which is only a couple of hours away from me, there's a good deal of voodoo there as well. There's a good deal of people that claim certain claims so to speak. So, I mean I remember like half an hour from where I grew up there was this train-track that was supposedly haunted, you know, so I grew up with a very active imagination about that thing. I don't rule anything out. I just prefer that they stay away from me (laughs).
EZ: I was reading an interview with Sarah Michelle Gellar a few days ago where she was saying after some of the shoots of the film, she tried to rest but was left absolutely horrified…
KS: It's completely true. It's odd. I had a very odd experience too coming back from Fiji (where Anacondas was filmed) and doing the looping of the voices. And I had it again with The Grudge. When you see those images, and when you have to get back into that, it really does play with your psyche and your physical body in a way that is just bizarre, because I didn't realize what a state it puts you in when you cry, or when you allow your imagination to go through fear for like 12 hours a day. It really messes with you. So the moral of that story is go do a Farrelly brothers movie; there'll be no more of that (laughs). But it does. I completely relate to what she's saying, because, you know, while my lawyer was at the premiere he called me and said, "I'll have
you know I had nightmares, and couldn't go back to sleep for an hour and a half." I was very happy about that! If a grown man had the gumption to admit it, then that's fantastic (laughs). It means we did our job, because they don't get any tougher than him.
EZ: Do you think it gives the film a certain level of authenticity that the original writer/director Takashi Shimizu directed this film, because it is his baby, his vision so to speak?
KS: Absolutely. I can't imagine trying to make this film anyway other than the way we did it. I also think that it would not turn out to be the same picture. Really, down to the way you breathe he specifically dealt with us. He's so specific with movement, with all the textures that causes good horror films. The suspense, the anticipation, and he doesn't show you too much. I think that's the beauty of Japanese cinema. I think they are fantastically good. I mean you watch any of those films from over there and they're not "slasher". They're true horror. They're terror. They terrify you. And any more I think we've really lost sort of a sense of storytelling in the Western world when it comes to that. I mean you lose your story, you put in too much bad
dialogue, a lot of crying, and probably a pair of boobs and you have a horror film. There was none of that. In fact, one of the loveliest things he did when we were shooting - I wear this white, buttoned-down shirt, not revealing at all. I mean it's under a business suit. And he came to me and said, "Are you okay if we shoot above your head? We may see the top of your chest." Now in America it would be, "Let's open your shirt so we can see the top of your chest!" I mean that's what the scene would suddenly be about, would be the shot of my boobs. Do you know what I mean?
KS: I hate to be crass about it, but dare I say it's pretty true. But the whole thing with him is storytelling. He wants nothing to confuse the actual moments, and I love that.
EZ: Are you feeling culturally enhanced after having spent considerable amounts of time in Fiji and Japan this year?
KS: Absolutely. And I would go back, particularly to Japan. Japan spoke to me on such a deep level. I'll just start sounding like an idiot if I try to even talk about it. But it was a very profound experience for me being there, and I have to go back as soon as possible. I really loved it. Fiji as well. I mean when you come from a town with one traffic light, and you throw somebody in a completely different culture with a completely different language, you can do one of two things. You can really engross yourself in it, and drink it up, and enjoy it, or you can be terrified. And I'm the kind of gal, you know, New York feels like home for me. I love that, just as much as I love being on the farm. So I, yeah, just tasting life the way I got to in a year, and I'd never
been to Canada until two days ago so that's exciting for me.
EZ: You have a couple quite demanding scenes in Anacondas, and The Grudge. How do you get yourself in the zone when doing scenes that you have to convey a lot of emotion, particularly confusion, sadness, or loss?
KS: Well for me I'm really lucky in that I privy myself to have a good base in my work ethic, and I've always had an active imagination. I think when you're doing pictures like this in particular, you have to be willing to tap into that. And really, the only way I like to work is from my imagination. I don't knock anybody's process, because I think no two actors - even if you are taught a certain technique - I don't think you're the same. I think you might have a similar process, but everybody has ultimately their own way of getting into it.
I love my imagination, and frankly, when you're thrown in the jungle and at four in the morning you're being dropped 30 feet and you have a deadening fear of heights and you don't want anybody to know it, being scared isn't hard (laughs). That's just not hard. But what's much more hard, to sort of return to what I was saying earlier, the hardest part is to keep your bubble up the same time. I think what kept me going was that I know people all over the world get to see these movies, and you have so many versions of fear you have to try to convey and you have to be specific to what you're actually dealing with. Like whose death. If it's death number one, then it's a lot different to death number three. You know, you've seen it a couple of times at this point, you know what you're
up against. However, I think what really kept me going was trying to communicate something universal. You know what I mean?
KS: So that someone in Australia would get this story just as well as someone in Japan because fear is fear, and we've all been scared. And the things that I'm scared of in these movies in particular are things like, in a lot of it, like in The Grudge, I have moments where I'm walking down hallways thinking that I'm being followed. That's something we've all experienced. In Anacondas, the need to survive. It is a very extraordinary story, it is very genre, but we didn't want to make it hokey. That was very important to me. So you have a certain responsibility to the story and to yourself as an actor.
To me the concern and the process was to be as honest in these given circumstances, running from snakes or running from ghosts (laughs). Did I answer that question, or am I just talking(laughs)?
EZ: I think you answered that question and then some!
KS: You know darling, I tend to have diarrhea of the mouth. Sorry about that.
EZ: No, that's fine. You're from Georgia, which as you've already alluded to in this interview is a long, long way away from Hollywood.
KS: In every respect, honey.
EZ: Were there ever any doubts in your mind as to whether you have made the right decision to pursue acting?
KS: No. I honestly think that, I've said this before, I think that if I tried to be a janitor, you and I would still be having this conversation. I just think I was put here to do this. And really, I don't think I could breathe without it. It's my joy, it's what I love, and there's no feeling like being able to do what you love in life, and really fully doing it. I'm not naïve. I realize there's going to be moments where I certainly have difficult sets and this and that, but so far I've been so blessed. Every set I have gone to has been a damn dream. I mean it's been a dream. It really has. Everyone has been so focused and lovely and it's just wonderful. And I think if you have doubt, then you don't do it. And again to sort of go back to a teacher I had, she sort
of sat us down at the end of our work with her and said, "Look, if you can breathe and sleep without doing this, I highly recommend that you do because it is not fun, this lifestyle." And it's not. I mean it's so ironic how when you do a thing such as a press line the priority is, "What's your next job" Not the fact that you even have something you're representing at the time. It's "What's next?," and "What's after that?," and it's sort of like, you know, we go out for jobs more often in a week than most people do in their entire lives. It's a crazy existence, and it's completely unstable, but it's the one I chose (laughs). So I'm gonna be whole hog with it and hopefully do it until I'm in the grave.
EZ: This is a personal opinion of mine, but I wanted to ask you if you thought it's a fair assessment. Would you say that your role in Anything Else in a way kind of helped to propel you to the next level?
KS: Well I think certainly when you have Woody Allen attached to your resume, people will meet you when they hear that. I mean it's much easier to get a meeting. Whether people like Woody's movies or not - 'cause I'm a diehard fan, like obsessive diehard Woody Allen fan. I just adore him. It was a dream come true for me to work with him. There are people that don't feel that way because they are much more interested in personal lives, than they are body of work. Which I really don't care about too much, as long as people are professionals with me. I couldn't care what any tabloid ever says about him because he was extraordinary to work with. Lovely man, so focused, so smart, he's everything you'd expect. I think that definitely helped me get through, and it's
strange, because I go back and forth, sometimes I think my resume is the reason I get jobs, sometimes I like to think it's my talent. You never know ultimately why you get them, except that those parts are yours to have. But I think having worked with him, a lot of people will take me pretty seriously, because not everyone gets to. It is an honor if you get to, I feel in this industry.
But the thing that got me like Anacondas, the thing that really got me a starring role in a film, a supporting starring character, was the one scene in Something's Gotta Give. Executives at Sony were looking for the girl, and they saw one scene. As funny as that sounds, I think people that are trying to do this really need to, you know, if they get work, there is no small part because you just never know where it leads. I had no idea that something as little as one scene in a film could get me going with that, and now The Grudge, and now this. It's all like a domino effect really.
But Woody certainly did not hurt, to answer the actual question you asked. You have to forgive me because I really don't think I've caught up with sleep at all, so I sound a bit crazy right now (laughs). It's a good thing the first scene in this movie (Fever Pitch) I was drunk!
EZ: Coming off Anacondas, an action-horror, and The Grudge, a thriller-horror, were you pleased to find a comedic role in Fever Pitch that would allow you to explore your capacities as an actress even further?
KS: Oh darling, I'm so tired of crying, and screaming, and running, this is fantastic. I mean I get to be such a maniac in this movie, it's wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. And you leave light of heart, whereas when you leave those days you just leave and you want to be with your cast mates, or someone, or completely alone because you just had such a "go" with your insides, you know what I mean? Your emotional insides as well.
But this, I think the workout in this is laughter. I think I left the other night with the biggest tummy ache in my life from eating far too many peanuts, and just laughing at Drew Barrymore (laughs). Because she's so much fun! And Jimmy Fallon, I mean my God, they're fantastic.
EZ: You touched on this a little earlier, but I'll throw it out there again. How does it feel to be doing a Farrelly brothers project?
KS: It's wonderful. I mean it's up there with doing Woody. If you're going to do a comedy - 'cause I think in the same way, really if you think about it, particularly this type of comedy, they really revolutionized. I told them the other night, it was like, "My God, what does it feel like to be you and to know you have literally changed the face of comedy, and made it a particular style that is yours?" You know, excuse me, it's just an amazing thing. They have coined a form of comedy. And I think the thing that is going to be interesting about this is that they're also associated with "potty-joke" humor in a way and that kind of thing, for lack of a better way of putting it, because they're not afraid to be crass or a bit vulgar, and sort of go
places where most people don't have the courage to sort of create humor. They have certainly done it, and done it well, and done it time and time again.
But I think this, especially with it being a Hornby novel, the thing that is smart about those guys is they go for the truth of it no matter how silly the circumstance or absurd what you think you're saying is, they go for the truth of it. That's the key, and that's why their films are good I think. So to be a part of that and to be able to learn early in my career how to do that hopefully, I just want to get back on set all the time.
KS: Oh, what did you think, by the way, of Anacondas?
EZ: You know, it took me a lot of different places. I mean there's some absolutely riveting moments where you're thinking, "Man, what would I do in this situation." And then there's some comedic highs as well, and then back to drama, and so forth. It jumps back and forth, and that's what I enjoyed about the film - regardless of what others may say.
KS: That is wonderful, that is such a compliment. Thank you. Because we did try to do that. We really did. I think the most fun I've had so far professionally has been going to an audience and sneaking in, and watching that with kids. That was great. That was so satisfying. And no one knowing I was there (laughs). I saw this kid on the street afterwards, you know, I was getting a coffee, and he was just standing there staring at me. And I was like, "Oh no, I've just been recognized for the first time!" He was very sweet.
EZ: Have you been getting recognized more on the street in recent months?
KS: I mean, yeah, you do. And it's not an awful thing, it's a lovely thing. And people are typically really lovely, and to have people that genuinely - because my career has not been vast at all so far. It's starting to get a lot more so. But people that genuinely want to see what you're gonna do next, and are excited about you, and have found a way to relate to you in a very genuine way that what you do as an actress speaks to them, and your version of storytelling speaks to them. There's nothing more flattering. And I'm lucky 'cause so far the people I've met, they're just lovely. The fans I have met are just so lovely.
The other night, there was a guy, and I think he was more trying to get an autograph to sell on the internet or something, sort of pushed this girl when we were at the premiere, and I was just like, "Don't do that. I'll sign for you." When you see that, you can tell who is a fan and who is actually - and it's odd though. I never even thought anyone would want my autograph to sell it. It's so weird. That is so weird to me. When you're doing it because you wanna be an actor, you don't think about that stuff, because it's so crazy. It's strange (laughs).
EZ: You schedule has been, as we've discussed, extremely loaded this year. Do you find much time to do things outside of film etc?
KS: Yeah, I mean I certainly, I - 'cause you have to start taking time for yourself, 'cause you cannot be present if you don't, I do a lot of different things. One thing that was really good about Anacondas was that it really enabled me to find out my capacity for what I can do physically, and now exercise has become such a part of my life. And honestly, yes there's the vanity factor in Hollywood, you know, you do it because it's part of your job, but beyond that, if I didn't have that outlet, I think I would explode because you just have to get things out of your system because so much of it is whirlwind, you know.
That's been a good capacity, and honestly, unless I'm just insane over a part, if I'm in a headspace where I need to take a break and go away for a bit in camp or do something like that, the good thing is that people in my life support it because they understand. They understand that this is not about dollars and cents to me and that kind of thing, it's more about what I love to do. And if I can't do well, I don't want to go in at all. And if I can't mentally, 'cause I need to be in the woods for a bit, be present, because I'm tired of wearing lip gloss, you know what I mean? Again, in a roundabout way I hope that answered your question (laughs).
EZ: Do you miss your family when you're in LA, or out on set for extended periods of time?
KS: Oh, absolutely. The thing that sort of devastates me a bit is not being around for my niece and nephew's birthday, or my parents' birthdays or anniversaries, things like that. My mother just turned 60, and that's huge. It's fantastic. I mean what a thing. 60 years of living and life experience. And I didn't get to celebrate it with her except over the phone, but I think it's also quite sweet that she and my dad had a lovely romantic date to celebrate it, so that's kind of nice. But it is hard, particularly with the kids, I don't get to see every tooth lost and things like that, and my family is quite close. But, you know, on the flipside of that, my nephew is in love with the film. He is so proud of me. And frankly, I love traveling, so it kind of works itself
out. I do get to see them once a year now, it's not twice a year anymore. But we all sort of make it work. I'm glad you said that, because I owe them a phone call today.
EZ: I'm glad I could be of assistance. A bit of housekeeping here, because no one quite seems to know. What is your date of birth? I've got about 4000 conflicting bits of information!
KS: What do you have? I'm born December 14th, 1977.
EZ: Yeah, they vary from 1974-1978.
KS: No, 26, about to turn 27 (laughs). It's funny, people are very - you think sexism is bad, ageism in this industry is just terrible. It's hilarious when you're being told you're too old to play a role when you're the age of the person you would be playing. And it's also an energy thing. I think a lot of times people don't believe I'm my age because I think I come off a certain way, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. But anyway, there's this stupid emphasis put on that. I think if you do the role well, that's what is important, not your age. But for some reason people like to look at all that stuff I guess.
I used to say I'm as old as the character needs to be, but I guess people really want to dig that up! But that's the age. I think it's funny because as a woman, my mother really came into her own in her 30s, and I sort of, I've been looking forward to my 30s for a long time now because 20s kind of suck to be honest. You just have too many growth spurts to deal with.
EZ: Can we expect to see you continue challenging yourself and seek different sorts of parts in the future?
KS: God, I hope. That's all I really care about. I don't want to do the same thing over and over again. And that's the challenge. I mean, I was sitting down with my girls last night, Marissa Winokur, and Ione [Skye], and the three of us were having dinner and having conversation about that. And you know, Marissa, she is one of the smartest, she and Sarah Michelle Gellar man, those two girls so understand business, and so understand business for themselves. It's really amazing. Like what really works for them, what really makes sense to them, in terms of their acting and in terms of being businesswomen, they are on it.
We were talking about it and I was asking about a particular magazine that wanted to do an interview with me, and I am very careful about the way I want to be projected as a woman. I'm trying my best to keep it off of sensationalizing or sexualizing myself. And also, you know, I've gotta be very frank, this thing of being the "pretty girl" isn't something that I'm used to at all. It's very strange to me. To be considered attractive by a standard that I've never felt that I was part of is very strange.
At any rate, we were talking about this, and one has to be very careful that they switch it up, and frankly, I didn't get into this to do the same thing over and over again. I think the fun of it is to play different characters and to do them quite differently, that's why this [role in Fever Pitch] is the perfect job for me right now. It's the antithesis of what I've been doing all year, so that's great. And yeah, to answer it, what I'd love to do next is something that really challenges me and is really meaty. I would love that. Then again, maybe a good comedy will come along. Who knows. Who knows. Anything is possible I'm finding, so we'll see (laughs).
The Grudge opens nationwide October 22.
Mike Altamura is a Victoria, Australia-based freelance entertainment journalist. He welcomes your questions and/or comments at email@example.com