Lydia Hearst Interview: The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Hillary Duff and Lydia Hearst in The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Though it's been fifty years since the Manson Family Murders which rocked Hollywood to its core in 1969, the psychological scars remain. During the height of the Vietnam War, the Manson cult represented a cruel amalgamation of the era, combining the violence of the war with the worst drug-fueled excesses of the counter culture movement. Charles Manson was a monster in human form, who manipulated people and committed unspeakable crimes, including the "Tate Murders," in which members of his cult laid siege to 10050 Cielo Drive and killed five people, including Abigail Folger, a young heiress and socialite with her whole life ahead of her.

With 2019 marking the 50th anniversary of the infamous crimes, there is no shortage of cinematic adaptations of the Manson family murders, from Charlie Says (starring Matt Smith) to Quentin Tarantino's highly-anticipated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. First on the draw, however, is The Haunting of Sharon Tate, which offers a slightly supernatural dramatization of Sharon Tate's final days and untimely death at the hands of savage killers.

Related: Haunting of Sharon Tate Trailer

In The Haunting of Sharon Tate, the role of Abigail Folger is played by Lydia Hearst, best known for her role in the cult sci-fi series, Z Nation. While talking to Screen Rant about the film, she showed off her enthusiasm towards all things horror, from her sizeable collection of film props to her childhood fascination with Ed and Lorraine Warren's Occult Museum. She even owns the very issue of Fate magazine which inspired The Haunting of Sharon Tate! More seriously, she talks about the effort that went into making The Haunting of Sharon Tate unique and scary while remaining respectful to the victims and events of the 1969 murders. Finally, she also shares her personal top picks in the horror genre, which fellow fear aficionados should be eager to see.

This movie, The Haunting of Sharon Tate, hits during the 50th anniversary of the Manson killings, but we're also currently obsessed with True Crime podcasts and shows. Are you a big True Crime fan?

I am. I'm actually a huge fan, I guess you could say, obsessed, with True Crime and the supernatural. I do actually like to visit haunted locations. But I mean, that's not necessarily why I signed up to do this project, but, in general, anyone who knows me knows that horror is absolutely my favorite form of entertainment.

What are some places that you've gone to, if you don't mind sharing? Some haunted locales?

When I was a little girl, I grew up in Connecticut. Ed and Lorraine Warren's home was not too far from mine. The Conjuring films are based on them; Ed and Lorraine were real people who made a museum in their home.

Would you say that a part in The Conjuring would be your dream role? Would you love to be in one of those movies?

I don't know if I necessarily have a "dream role." Whatever my dream job is, it's probably yet to be written. I think there's so much that I hope to be able to do as an actor. I do consider myself to be still just starting out in my career.

In The Haunting of Sharon Tate, you play Abigail Folger. What research did you do to learn about her, steps you took in order to identify with her?

Yeah. You know, when you're playing a character like Abigail Folger or anyone who is a true person, I think part of the challenge becomes anthropological. And you have to put a lot of time and effort into learning about who the person is and do your due diligence in order to respectfully portray the person you're hired to play. With Abigail Folger, it's quite difficult to find a lot of information about her on the internet. But what I was able to discover was, she was in her mid-20s, she was well-educated. She was a feminist at the time, working for civil rights, beginning her career in politics. She was very close to her family. She planned to leave to go home that day when they were all found. Obviously, she was in a relationship with Wojciech, and she was there, house-sitting with Sharon; they were all good friends. That's some of what I was able to learn about her.

I really like about these movies, I talked to Jonathan about this the other day, that there were so many victims whose tragedies are overshadowed by Sharon Tate's star, and movies like this really let the viewers learn about the other people.

Right. The one thing I loved about this film is how it really focused on the people who were in the house and their relationship and their friendships. Charles Manson is very secondary, in a sense. Yes, the film technically categorizes as a horror film, but I find it much more of a psychological and spiritual film. It really only classifies as horror because the actual events that occurred were so horrifying.

Speaking of that horror, this movie is certainly controversial because it has supernatural elements but based on a real-life incident.

But it's also based on the interview. It's inspired by an actual quote that Sharon Tate had given to Fate magazine, a year prior to her death. In that interview, she sort of revealed having dreamed about hauntings in her home and how she foresaw her own death at the hands of a satanic cult. There have been questions as to whether or not that magazine exists, but part of why I agreed to sign on to the project was because I happen to be one of the only people who own an actual hard copy of the original magazine where that interview is printed. So I know, for a fact, that the interview is real and it does exist. I have a copy of that magazine.

How did you get that? Has this been a subject of interest to you?

As a fan of horror and the genre, I have a collection of horror movie props and backdated magazines, and I just have a very vast and eclectic collection of things in my home, and I have every issue of Fate Magazine.

That is really cool.

It just sort of worked out that I happened to have that one magazine, because I have every issue of Fate that was ever published.

So, obviously, this movie is set in 1969. How fun and/or challenging was it, horror notwithstanding, to be playing in a 1960s sandbox?

Oh gosh, it was incredible. Obviously, it was a different time, and to be a part of this story... And also, just to play a person who was real and went through what they did, I honestly think that it broadened me as a human being, and stretched me as an actor. This was an extremely challenging role, but I wanted to make sure that I respectfully portrayed Abigail Folger, as did the rest of the actors in the cast for the people they were trying to play. I'm incredibly grateful for having had this opportunity, but it was challenging, and very real at times.

To that end, what steps do you feel you and the production took to make sure you payed respect to the victims and these events?

I think all the due diligence that we put in as individuals and as a cast, to show the relationships, to make sure that we learned who these people were, and also through conversations with Daniel (Farrands, the director), to make sure we weren't sensationalizing, trivializing, or mocking anything that happened to these people. What happened was horrifying and horrible, and I would hope that something like this never happens again. But the film is not wholly biographical, and I appreciated that the focus of the film was based on this interview and dealt with that question of fate and whether or not we have the power and ability to alter the course of your destiny. I think it ends in quite an idealistic manner, in a way that we wish it had all actually occurred.

Lydia Hearst and Hillary Duff in The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Last question: since you mentioned that your favorite form of entertainment is horror, and you have a collection of horror movie props, what are some of your favorite horror movies that you'd want to recommend to the Screen Rant reader?

Oh gosh, I have a lot of horror movies that I'm insanely fanatical about. I really geek out with horror and like to delve into the subgenres, whether it's comedy or slasher or sci-fi. Some newer horror films I'd like to recommend include: Night Eats the World, Train to Busan, Pledge, Await Further Instructions, Killing Ground, Pontypool, Trench 11, The Hallow, Ghost Stories, Verónica, The Hive, Scare Campaign, The Void, Tormented, We Are Still Here.

More: 20 Best Horror Movies Of All Time

The Haunting of Sharon Tate is out now in theaters and On Demand.

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