[Interview] Maria Olsen
Recently we had a fantastic opportunity to speak with the ever-so-awesome, Maria Olsen, who is not only an amazing actress but a very talented film producer working under her production company, Monsterworks66. Most will know Maria best for her many roles in horror films. These would include Paranormal Activity 3, The Lords of Salem, I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu, Gore Orphanage, Starry Eyes, and now her newest hit film, Ghost in the Graveyard. If you have not seen any of these films, do yourself a favor and take time to give them all a watch. Some of Maria’s non-horror roles include Percy Jackson & the Olympians, as well as The Lightning Thief. Maria has appeared in over 120 feature films since 2005. Read on and discover even more about Maria!
First, we want to thank you for talking with us today! We realize how busy you must be right now so we’ll just jump right in and get started. Maria, I believe one of the first horror franchises you became involved with was the third installment of Paranormal Activity. How did you get the opportunity to work on this and what were your thoughts about it?
Maria: A casting director I had previously had a workshop with tracked me down when it came time to audition for the Coven Witches as she remembered how creepy my performances could be. She found my manager, set up an audition time, and I soon found myself on the lot signing an iron-clad Non-Disclosure Agreement before even being allowed to audition. I had absolutely no idea what film I was auditioning for, and they told me the project was called Sports Camp. I auditioned – it was a lot of fun – and left the building. A few days later, I was told that I had booked Sports Camp and that I would have 1 day of shooting in a house in Pasadena. We shot – and I ate jelly beans, but that’s another story – and a good time was had by all witches, but we STILL did not know what project we were working on. It was only about a week later that one of the other witches got hold of me and told me that we had actually shot Paranormal Activity 3! There was general rejoicing in the Coven Witch camp!!!
A little known fact is that I also shot a scene for Paranormal Activity 5. Unfortunately, it landed up on the cutting room floor…but that’s Hollywood!
That definitely sounds like Hollywood. It’s crazy they had you do all of that without ever being told what you would be working on! What was it like working with such a big production?
Maria: PA3 was not a huge production – Percy Jackson was! – And it just seemed like a really well oiled upper-level indie film set. I’ve worked on quite a few such sets since, and it’s always nice to see work being done quickly and efficiently!
I imagine it would be. At what point in your life did you first realize you wanted to pursue acting as your career? What personally inspired your decision to become an actress?
Maria: I was in high school when the idea of acting full-time first crystallized for me. I greatly admired – and still admire! – the leading ladies that were in the spotlight while I was growing up, including such legends as Jodie Foster, Jane Fonda and Kathleen Turner. They were examples to me then, and they, and others like them, are still examples to me today.
Indeed, Jodie Foster has always been one of my favorites as well. What genre would you say you are most comfortable acting in? Why are you more partial to that genre?
Maria: I’m most comfortable acting in the heavier genres like drama and horror because I enjoy exploring, and bringing to life, complex and multi-layered characters. After I started seeing some of my work on-screen, I also found that I had a very intense on-screen presence, and that helped me by teaching me to choose which projects to submit for. If you submit for projects that you are temperamentally and tonally right for, you have a far better chance of booking whatever role you’re auditioning for.
That’s interesting and makes perfect sense. What’s the one thing you find particularly challenging in your acting or the roles you play?
Maria: The shoes that I have to wear! I have weak ankles that can turn or twist really easily, and it’s extremely difficult for me to wear shoes with any kind of a heel. I will happily accept the most intellectually, emotionally or mentally challenging role, but I will spend HOURS agonizing of what shoes production will have me wear!
Wow, I don’t even want to think about how agonizing that must be! So what’s been the hardest part, as far as acting goes in your career so far?
Maria: Breaking through – or even making a lasting crack in! – the glass ceiling that sits between all indie projects and all studio or network TV projects. I have over 125 indie feature films under my belt, and it seems that no matter what I do, I will just NEVER be called in to audition for studio horror films or network television. We’ll see what the future holds.
Wow, that’s a lot of films, I had no idea you did that many. Out of everything, what’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned from the movie industry?
Maria: The difference in film production and television production is fascinating, and, from the outside, no-one really has any idea of how different they are. Television is extremely fast-paced while films can often be indulgent with its time (although, of course, film does also have to adhere to a strict shooting schedule). There’s also more room to play in film, and by “play” I mean more room to do things like experiment with dialog or do a take or two with a vastly different, and maybe experimental, interpretation. TV is very by the book and “it must be THIS way”, and you’ll get into hot water if you just leave one word out or choose a slightly different interpretation! On the whole, I prefer film.
Yeah, I guess so, with all the TV censorship and all. So what are your thoughts on the current trends in horror films? Do you think the genre is quickly running out of ideas or do you feel there’s more good horror coming our way?
Maria: There’s a vast difference between studio horror and indie horror. Studio horror is less inclined to take chances, so we see a million and one sequels, prequels, re-boots and re-imaginings of several franchises. This is because a studio’s bottom line is what counts. It HAS to make money or else it won’t survive, and, in order to make money, it panders to already established fan bases. Even if fans KNOW they will hate a particular film, they will still go and see it just to figure out how much they hate it.
The ideas and creativity are, however, in the world of indie horror. When you don’t have to keep a studio afloat, and you’re in a position to take a few financial knocks, you can experiment with the storyline and try something new. There are TONS of new concepts out there just waiting to be put on the silver screen, and all these productions need is money to give them the kick-start they so deserve.
That being said, there is ALSO the trend that I call The Return of the Horror Epic. Here we see the studio, or, at least, higher-budget indie films, that are not afraid to take chances and give us super-long epic horror stories. We have Midsommar, Suspiria, Doctor Sleep and It Parts I and II to name a few – and these films are all pushing 3 hours long – as well as my own I Spit On Your Grave Deja Vu. Personally, I love this new trend, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.
That’s a great explanation! I can clearly see just how vast those differences really are now. I’m with you on this; I also can’t wait to see what other ‘Epics’ they bring to us. Maria, beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite horror film and why? And what is your favorite movie outside of the horror genre?
Maria: I’m actually going to go with The Lovely Bones as both my favorite film and my favorite horror film. Yes, I know: it’s not a traditional horror film, but the concepts that it explores are horrific. I also listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and, the more I listen, the more I understand how huge the problem of opportunistic murder, both solved and unsolved, is in the world. Just like Susie Salmon, there are thousands upon thousands of unknown and, now, unknowable victims out there. The difference is that their stories will never be known or told. And this is terrifying.
Well, it may not have been classified as a full-blown horror, but it was certainly horrific. The Lovely Bones has to be one of the most amazing and emotional movies I’ve seen. It simply blew me away. That being said, what do you think draws people to horror movies? Why do we love to be scared so much?
Maria: Horror movies, books, games, and comics are our way of trying to shed light on the terrifying and inescapable concepts like death and fear of the unknown, that we are faced with every single day. If we become familiar with something, we learn not to fear it. If we understand something, it becomes commonplace to us. If we explore something then-unknown territory becomes known and familiar. Known as a dark genre, all horror is actually trying to do is shed light on the darkness.
That would definitely be a challenge to most people I’m sure. Of all the actors and actress, living or dead, who would be your dream actor or actress to work with on a horror movie?
Maria: Vera Farmiga and Saoirse Ronan. Absolutely no doubt about that!
Both brilliant and amazing actresses! Okay, so I know you just finished up with ‘Ghost in the Graveyard,’ are you currently working on any other movie(s) or projects that you would like to share with us?
Maria: The incredibly bloody and super-creepy western “Eminence Hill,” where I play Sister Abigail, was actually released on the very same day that GITG came out. Films that should soon be released, and which are either currently on the festival circuit or looking for distribution, include Beast of our Fathers, The Butcher and Kecksburg. Films in post-production include Desert Moon, Desert Shadows, The Crumbs and Inverted, and I’m hoping that these will all be released early next year.
Wow, ‘busy’ is an understatement with you! I cannot even imagine how you’re able to keep all those lines separated from one film to the next. Can you tell us about the one greatest moment in your acting career?
Maria: I think it must have been the moment when I found out that I had booked the role of The Fury, Mrs. Dodds, in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief!
I bet so! I know you had a small role in Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem.’ How did that opportunity come about?
Maria: I actually originally auditioned for one of the Salem Witches, but I did not book the role. I really wanted to work on the film, though, so, when I saw the breakdown for all of the witches’ descendants, I submitted for it and was offered the role.
Of all of those movies you worked on, which have been many I might add, what were your favorites and why?
Maria: I can neither confirm nor deny… Actually, I never have, and never will, answer this question. *enigmatic smile*
Haha, I guess that’s as good an answer as any! Would you tell us a little about yourself? Are there any hobbies you enjoy? Cooking, reading, writing? What do you like doing when you’re not working on a film?
Maria: When I’m not working on a film, I love watching films and series and knitting the blankets and scarves that I sell in my online store CatcatCreations!
How adorable! This is some amazing stuff you create; my cats would surely worship me if I bought them all scarves! Then again, they would most likely just choke me with them before shredding them into bits. But yeah folks, check these out! https://www.facebook.com/CatcatCreations
Maria, although I’ve had a blast talking with you, I suppose we better wrap this up now. Before we close, is there anything that you personally would like to add? Anything you’d like to let the readers out there know about?
Maria: “Always expect dragons.”
And this is a quote from one of the features I shot this year, which we hope to unleash on you next year!
Thank you again, Maria, we can’t wait to find out what that will be!
What did you think about this Interview? Tell us below.
Or discuss it with us in our Horror Group!
*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase or sign up for a program, Grim Magazine may earn a very small commission. This is at no additional cost to you. The small fee goes toward keeping our website free of advertisements and other product banners. It also helps in funding our contests and giveaways, and pay compensation to our content contributors for their reviews, articles, and stories. Please don’t hesitate to use our affiliate links!