Freaks, which premieres in theaters on Friday the 13th, is the first sci-film film Bruce Dern has done since 1972. The acclaimed actor stayed away from the genre until the forward-thinking vision of Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein brought him back into the fold. He sat down with Screen Rant, along with costars Amanda Crew and Lexy Kolker, to discuss what made the story so fascinating and how their roles scratch deeper than the surface – not to mention how young Kolker achieved a perfect poker face onscreen.
Bruce, you haven't done sci-fi film since 1972. So, what was it about Freaks that got you guys involved?
Bruce Dern: Well, that was an extraordinary experience. I mean, first of all, I worked for a wizard. Douglas Trumbull is a wizard. I mean, I can't say that about anybody else I've worked with in my career. Who could've done that? The guy won an Academy Award winner when he was a junior in high school.
Amanda Crew: Are you serious?
Bruce Dern: Douglas Trumbull. Because he did the special effects for [2001: A Space Odyssey] when he was 17 years old.
Amanda Crew: A true wizard; a true wizard.
Bruce Dern: And so, I was excited, because these guys were up to kind of what Douglas was up to. In other words, Douglas was pushing the envelope to try and do something for less than a million dollars. And he did it, and spaceships were aircraft carriers. But the real spaceships were 18-inch models hanging from flypaper in his garage.
And that's what these guys do. They could take little things and get us excited about it. [Lexy's] been telling [us]; today I'm learning more about what it was when she first read it. She said, “Well, when I first read it…” And then 20 minutes later, it’s, “When my mom first read it.” She's getting a performance of it before she ever gives one.
How about for you guys? What was it about the project that got you guys involved?
Amanda Crew: I think, to what Bruce was saying, it's a very ambitious project. And so, getting the script, I was like, “I love this. I love this story.” It's a very big world. It's very imaginative. How are you going to pull this off with an independent film budget?
But getting to see kind of their look book that they've put together, and their past work with what they've been able to do with special effects and everything – I think we were all talking about it earlier that the final product far exceeded our expectations of what we thought that they were. Because you're working with invisible things, and then they just put this whole world around you, and it's filmed so beautifully.
But also, I was at a point in my career, where I was kind of frustrated with the kinds of roles that were being passed my way. Typically, just to be the pretty girl on the side. And I love that this character was dirty, raw, messy and very layered – and the whole dynamic between her and myself seemed like it was really beautiful, and a challenge that I hadn't been given the opportunity [to do].
Bruce Dern: The other thing that’s neat about her, she obviously lives in a home where people encourage her growth. If I'm speaking out of turn, tell me.
Lexy, if you feel something, tell me. Just blow it out. And I didn't come from anything like that. I don't know what you did, but I wasn’t encouraged to speak my mind. I don't know how much of a mind I had, but she has been encouraged. So, everybody says, “She's a born performer.”
No, Lexy is performing, but really, she’s herself. So, what she’s doing is she's letting you get a peek at the inside of Lexy. And I don't know when she picked that up; when she got that. Laura got that at about 9 or 10, a little later than she did. But it's a gift. And only the kid knows if she has that gift. You can see it, but now it's up to her and her family, her consistency and her endurance. How long will she keep it up? Because she's ahead of the game, the most I've ever seen at this age, and her ability to just get it.
Poker playing is a part of the film. What did poker teach you? Because they said that you have a good poker face, and you just turned it on.
Lexy Kolker: My mom. She taught me. I think I learned poker after the film, because after that, it just made me so curious. Like, “What does that mean? What does that mean?” But she helped me with my poker face, because her family's like – they play poker a lot. Her dad's very [good]. When I played with her dad for the first time, if we didn't follow the rules, he was like, “I'm done playing. I'm done.” I could only follow the rules. But, yeah, she really helped me with that.
Bruce Dern: Who picked the pointed shoes?
Lexy Kolker: My stylist? I love them, though.
Bruce Dern: Was that Mom or you?
Lexy Kolker: That was… Was that me or you? Me. That was me, I love them.
You guys did an amazing job. I can talk to you all day about this film. Thank you guys so much for your time.