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:: Spotlight :: The Loved Ones interview with Sean Byrne and Robin McLeavy

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Somehow meeting director, Sean Byrne and actress, Robin McLeavy in a sun-dernched courtyard of one of Melbourne’s flashest hotels just doesn’t right. And while a logistical nightmare the right meeting place would perhaps be a burntout Gothic Chapel at midnight… see on the back of the release of their new film ‘The Loved Ones’ Byrne more than deserves the title of ‘King of Australian Horror’, while McLeavy would be his Princess-In-Waiting.

Despite the buzz around their film both McLeavy and Byrne remain laid back and friendly. In fact Byrne doesn’t even wait for the publicist to do any introductions, he introduces himself in a warm friendly way and it is now I realised that I was talking to a director that loves films as much I do… not a director that is in this to make a quick buck.

The interview itself starts with McLeavy laughing when I tell her that I have just seen between 20-30 trams plastered with ‘The Loved Ones’ posters which features her as Lola right in the middle of torturing Xavier Samuel. ‘They have those posters in Sydney as well… on buses,” she laughs. ‘Do you have any idea how weird it is running to catch a bus with your face on the side of it?’ I can’t help but wonder how the passengers on the bus feel when they see the face of one of the most horrific characters in Australian screen history boarding the bus they are on either so I ask Byrne where the idea for Lola came from. “Believe it or not I actually based Lola on my five year old niece. I feel really weird saying that but she has the curte side, loves pink, loves tiaras and mirrors etc… she’s like all little girls. I just thought of this cute little princess and then inserted the teenage hormones!’

So how did McLeavy ‘become’ Lola? “Sean gave me a lot of reference material,” she explains. Some of it was really disturbing and I don’t really have much of a stomach for horror. I looked a lot at neuropsychology… the studies of mental patients. I wanted to start with all the feelings and then bring in a sense of fun to the character… almost a party. I felt wired for the whole shoot… and I actually ended up developing a twitch in my left eye. It was exhausting though because it was so intense… there was so much energy and violence. It was also draining because of the schedule. It was a 27 day shoot but it wasn’t as difficult with John (Brumpton) and Xavier (Samuels) there all the time. John did have nightmares though because of the connectivity with his character. There was a lot of cruelty and the shots with the drill were really full on.”

Was there ever a time when she felt she wouldn’t do the film? “No way… oh no way, the opportunity to play the bad guy in a horror film for a woman is such a rare opportunity for women. The film has ended up like a Tarantino film – the shots are classical, while the set designs and colours are so bold. The blood and violence are another thing… I just had to be involved.

Director, Sean Byrne was so lucky to be able to get such a talented cast together. Xavier Samuel is Hollywood’s-next-big-thing thanks to his role in ‘Twilight: Eclipse’, Robin McLeavy has been critically talked about since ’48 Shades’. Then there is ‘Packed To The Rafters’ star Jessica McNamee and one of Australia’s finest actors, John Brumpton, who showed Aussie horror fans what he was capable of in ‘Storm Warning’. I just had to ask Sean how he went about choosing his cast. “I literally just wrote out characters briefs and then waited to see who walked through the door… who would give me goose-bumps. When Robin walked in I felt relief because in lesser hands Lola would have become clichéd. And with John Brumpton… well John just had the right face… these crazy eyes. John was a bit afraid at first but then he became Daddy… really demented.”

What was the hardest thing about creating the film? “I’m an obsessive Tarantino fan. He’s a master of balancing comedy and violence… and I also like John Hughes. I just didn’t want to be a slave to their influence… and I didn’t want to be a slave to formula like some horrors. A mix of comedy and horror was the hardest thing though. Normally in cinema one dilutes the other. Getting the comedy jet black and creating intensity - that was nerve-wrecking.”

The good news for horror fans though is that Byrne manages to put aside those nerves and has produced one fine horror film that is… well horrific!