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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Van of the Dead Interview: Sarah Butler of I Spit On Your Grave 2010

The Metal Minute: I will be the first to go on record and state that I Spit On Your Grave was the last film I wanted to see remade, aside from Cannibal Holocaust. Some movies just cross the line, and while I've always held a strange admiration for the original Spit for its bravado and unsettling depictions, I just couldn't imagine another actress willing to submit herself to the physical demands and brutality Camille Keaton went through in the first film. Put me there when the script of the new Spit was put in your hands. Did you know what you were getting into and the sense of demoralization you would have to convey before the new Jennifer Hills exacts her nasty revenge? For the record, I am now also feeling a strange admiration for the new film.

Sarah Butler: That's great to hear, Ray! I'm glad we're slowly, but surely, winning you over. Amazingly enough, yes, I did know what I was getting myself into. I had read the script at that point, which is pretty close to the original, and trust me, I had the same feelings of disgust while reading it. I actually scolded my manager for even forwarding the audition to me. He usually filters out scripts with too much violence, nudity, etcetera and this had it all, times 2000! I thought to myself, there is no way I can do this film. It was others who convinced me to give it a chance. My boyfriend encouraged me to go to the audition anyway, just for the hell of it. My manager read the script and reported back that if I took on the role, I would be "bad-ass," and friends of mine expressed jealousy over the opportunity to play such a hugely demanding role. It was my opportunity to shine, so i went for it.

MM: I think Jennifer's vengeance this time around is far more gonzo and vicious than Camille Keaton's seduce and slice motif. Your Jennifer gets to taunt her attackers with all of their sick words and she finds a gallows humor way to turn each character's kill scene into a reflection of themselves, i.e. birds pecking out the eyes of Stanley the videophile after smearing the gutted fish into his hooked-open eyes, then Johnny's fellatio conundrum and Sheriff Storch's shotgun sodomy. Modern amplitude for modern times, obviously; the Hostel films have changed horror for the next decade, at least. What was your attraction to perform these dreadful acts of violence on film, much less being submitted to rape and humiliation in the build-up of Spit's story?

SB: Well, it's kind of like I was saying before, the project had a strange hold on me. Once my curiosity about it piqued, I never looked back. I accepted the acts of violence and humiliation, the nudity, the physical demands of the role, and I even relished them. I knew I couldn't half-ass this role, and I wanted to do it right if I was going to do it at all. What was underneath was a great role, a huge arc, a chance to play a woman hugely changed over the course of the film. That's the stuff we dream about as actors. That's the stuff that gets people's attention, whether they know it or not. Filming was just like any of the other projects I've worked on. We had a job to do, a story to tell, and we talked out the aspects of that, rehearsed them, and then lived them. In fact, we would sometimes catch strangers staring at us in the hotel lobby as we openly discussed "When you shoved the gun in my mouth", or "When Sarah put the shotgun up Andrew (Howard)'s ...." We're just making a movie, folks.

MM: (laughs) Examining both versions of I Spit On Your Grave, I can only imagine how much Camille Keaton had to gnaw through, having spent a large percentage of her film fully naked. You yourself went through a roughhousing in the cabin sequences and in the woods. That freefall off the bridge, holy smokes. Was that you or a stunt double? From the point-of-view of Jennifer, facing all of these bellowing, raping scum who shove pistols down her throat, liken her to a "show pony," videotape her degredation and ultimately violate her in every orifice, tell me what you feel was the harshest element you had to gnaw through.

SB: That was the one shot where a stunt double was used. Second one, I might add. The first double injured herself practicing the stunt the day before it was to be shot. We pulled in another girl last minute, despite the fact that I offered enthusiastically to perform the stunt. Liabilities... Obviously it was all difficult to digest and to throw myself into it day after day. But really, I know that Jeff Branson isn't really obsessed with my teeth, and Danny Franzese would never videotape me through my window. The hardest parts to get over were my real, personal fears. I'm not a good swimmer. When I had to get dunked, I was terrified. Also, I'd like to go on the record that those were real matches Rodney (Eastman) was flicking at me and I could smell my hair burning. A bit unsettling, to say the least.

MM: Seriously! Suffer for thy art, as the saying goes. Have you been approached by real rape victims who have seen the new Spit and if so, what have their reactions been?

SB: No, at least, not openly. That's probably the thing I'm the most scared of now that the DVD is available nationwide, and more and more people have seen it. I would never want to drudge up bad memories and offend real rape victims. This is a pain I can only imagine, and my heart goes out to these people.

MM: Critics can be just as raw as the people they condemn in films they don't like, but I've seen a quote (I'm deliberately omitting the source) where "Lead actress Sarah Butler (who was apparently attracted to the role for it's "strong feminist arc," ahem...) may look back on her dried up career at some point in the future and realise that it was this movie to blame." Do you think this statement was unnecessarily catty and even though you're still building your career, do you worry one day that this sentiment actually might hit home with you?

SB: Of course, I'll never really know if the path I've taken is the "right" one, but that goes for every person on Earth in their endeavors. I do feel proud of the film that we made and how it helped me grow as an actress. If my grandparents, aunts, uncles, mom and dad, sister, cousins, friends and industry connections can applaud and support the decision I've made, then I won't worry about critics whose main goal is to stir up shit anyway, just to get readership. These people run the same risk of regretting their past decisions. Maybe they'll look back someday and realize that they were wrong about me.

Copyright 2011 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

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