Interview: Meg Fraser

Cinema Australia Original Content:

Meg Fraser in Bloody Hell. Photo by Dan Berghofer.

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“I had a lot of support with the whole cast and the crew and everyone knowing it was my first feature, but also I just had a ball.”

It’s hard to believe Bloody Hell is Meg Fraser’s first feature film role. Her ultra-weird, yet completely captivating performance as Alia in Alister Greirson’s new horror film unearths an extraordinary acting talent to keep you eye on.

Interview by Matthew Eeles

A lot of filmmakers and cast and crew that I’ve spoken to lately haven’t been able to see their films with an audience. You were lucky enough to see Bloody Hell with an audience at the start of the year. What was it like for you?
It was so refreshing and enjoyable to be in a cinema with an audience, watching it for the first time with new eyes. The audience was very vocal and hearing their laughter and reactions to some more gore and things like that. It just sort of brought the whole experience back to life for me again, I think.

What did your parents make of it?
Mum is not a fan of horror movies, but she was pleasantly surprised that she made it through it without crying or screaming, but she definitely got a few frights, but I think that they loved it, and they’re obviously very happy and supportive, lovely parents, Thank God. [Laughs]. So they had a lovely time.

You were so good in this. It’s hard to believe that Bloody Hell is your first feature film. How long have you been interested in acting for?
I sort of started to pursue an interest when I was quite young. I knew that I sort of wanted to do it, but Mum sort of said, “Let’s wait until you’re a little bit older, and you can make those decisions for yourself and get yourself into it.” So at about 14, I suppose, I auditioned for the Queensland Theatre Company’s youth ensemble. So I sort of got involved with them through auditioning for them and spent most of high school with them and with Shake & Stir, doing some theatre shows and then basically off the back of high school auditioned for QUT’s Fine Arts acting degree and got in. I did that for three years, then graduated in end of 2018, then a few months later, I got the script for Bloody Hell.

Did your studies prepared you enough for the reality of making a feature film?
Yeah, I think definitely. I think QUT did an amazing job getting us ready. They have a big focus on screen, getting us ready for that because obviously it’s such a large part of the industry now. So I definitely think so. I mean, nothing can really prepare you for the kind of film that Bloody Hell was going to be. So the whole set environment was obviously very different to a sort of more tame environment at university. But I think I had a lot of support with the whole cast and the crew and everyone knowing it was my first feature, but also I just had a ball, really. So I just sort of got in there, and they just throw you in the deep end, and you have a good time.

Some people spend years working on short films before they get a feature film role, and you’ve just jumped straight into it.
I’m very lucky, but very appreciative.

Did you have to audition for the role of Alia?
I got sent two scenes and the two scenes were very out of context. I was very confused at first because I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is a Finnish girl. What’s going on? I’ve never done a Finnish accent in my life before.” Just completely out of context, no reference to who the character was talking about, who she was. The scenes were obviously with Ben O’Toole’s character, Rex, but no context to what they were talking about at all. So I sort of sent off a tape and then a few weeks later, the director, Alister Grierson, reached back out to my agents and said, “That’s great. Can we see another tape,” so I put down another one. And then, I did a third audition. It was basically the chemistry read with Ben, and then a few days before that, I got sent the whole script, and I was like, “Now I know what I’m doing. Now I know what the film is about.”

What was your reaction when you found out you got the role?
I was overjoyed. I think I immediately started crying, obviously. My agent called me and I was super nervous, and she said, “You’ve got it,” and I just screamed out, and I heard my mum scream from upstairs. She was like, “Oh my God. You got it,” and just came running downstairs. So, it was a really amazing moment. I was very proud and just really couldn’t believe it straight out of university, I suppose.

You mentioned your Finnish accent in the film. Was there much training involved to get it right?
I had a lovely Finnish dialect coach named Emma. She is from Finland originally, and she was brought on. I think I worked with her for three to four months, basically, definitely before shooting started. It was a few weeks and then all throughout shooting, she was on set with us every day and doing Skype calls when she was away. But it was a very intensive process, obviously a very strange accent to hear when you’re filming with an entirely Australian crew. So keeping the accent on set was very important, but I love accents, so it was kind of a joy to learn a new language and do the accent. So yeah, I definitely enjoyed it.

Meg Fraser in Bloody Hell.

What’s your favorite thing about Alia? I know she’s a psycho, but she’s also quite sweet. Do you relate to her in any way?
What I really loved about Alia is that she’s portrayed as vulnerable and someone looking for her escape from the world, but I just think I find her really endearing, and I love the way she says what she thinks because she hasn’t grown up with any sort of knowledge of what the rest of the world is, so there’s no filter there. And I think that that’s what I loved about her the most was just her honesty and conviction in what she does and how she has always sort of held a strong belief that she would get out of the world that she’s been living in.

Did you bring anything to the character that wasn’t in the script? Was there room to improvise, or fro put forward ideas for the character?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that worked. Our whole crew and Alister and the writers as well were really supportive of us bringing some ideas to the script or being very free on set to play. Obviously, the Finnish sort of gets in the way, especially if we’re doing a scene where it’s speaking in Finnish, but I would go to the director and say, “I think I have some ideas, especially for that last scene of the movie.” A lot of that, the whole thing that I did at the end was all improvised Finnish, and I just sort of went to my dialect coach and Alister and was like, “These are the things that I’m thinking of.” I just learned all of this in Finnish and throw it out there on the day. And they were very welcoming with those sort of ideas and letting us have the freedom to… because it’s a wild ride. So I think that there was a lot of moments where we’re like, “That would be hilarious if we could add this in” or just, every take sort of felt a little bit different, I think, when we were doing it.

Everyone in the film is so great, but Ben O’Toole really takes his performance to another level. What did you learn from working with Ben?
I just think that he’s just a lovely, charismatic person, and from day one when I met him, just the simple act of knowing everyone’s name on set, having just the utmost level of respect for everyone, and then just really bringing it on set. His transformation, it would be amazing. He could be laughing with us a few minutes before a take, and then his quick transformation into Rex or the Conscience was just amazing. I think he’s one of the best actors I’ve ever seen and obviously ever worked with. But, he’s great. He’s very supportive as well.

Have you seen Nekrotronic, or any of his previous work?
Once I got told I got sent an email, and I told him this, I was like, “I stalked you.” Now I just sort of go to IMDb and watch everything that he has. So, I watched everything that I could possibly find on him and sort of felt like as soon as I met him we had great chemistry.

The film never shies away from the grotesque. There’s some real horror in it. Are you a horror film fan?
I was not. [Laughs]. Not before doing the movie. [Laughs]. I found it hilarious that my first movie would be a horror, but I think I still had a few shocks myself on set, even knowing that everything was not real. Just walking into body parts or seeing things covered in blood and things like that. I think the art department did a fantastic job creating this world, especially the family home, I think that they nailed it. I definitely think though that my fear level has probably gone down knowing how it gets made.

Who were some of the filmmakers that you’d like to work with one day?
Toni Colette. I just think, especially in the past few years, the work that she’s been producing and helping write and stuff like that, I think she’s just a powerhouse lady, and someone I really admire in terms of her range. I love comedy and also love drama, so I think that she’s just probably one of those people I just look up to and would die to work with one day. Fingers crossed.

Everyone says Toni Collette.
[Laughs]. She’s great. I feel like we say Cate Blanchett or Toni Collette, especially as a woman. I think she’s an Aussie legend.

The ending of Bloody Hell alludes to the possibility of a sequel. Has there been any word on that?
Yeah, we sort of went into it knowing that the producers and writers would love it to be a sort of three-part franchise. We definitely had chats about it while we were filming, and I would love to do a sequel, definitely. I think there’s a lot of potential for Alia to grow and see her in this new environment, post family escape. So I think that would be really exciting to see where that would go for her.

Alia would have to be the main character, wouldn’t she?
I would like to see a little bit of the dark side of her come out. [Laughs].

Bloody Hell will screen exclusively at selected EVENT Cinemas across New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia from Thursday 8 October.

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