Allison and I got together this week for a trip to the winter of 1843, as we dissect the new Fantasia International Film Festival horror thriller, The Last Thing Mary Saw! Our special guests, genre vets Isabelle Fuhrman and Stefanie Scott, join us to talk about filming behind blindfolds, staying in character, LGBT representation, and even a special little tease for Orphan: First Kill, and where one can see Stefanie don a bionic arm!
The Last Thing Mary Saw starts with a young woman blindfolded before a constable, blood dripping down from her eyes. She stands in front of the council to plead her case after a terrible accident paints her as a witch. What follows is Mary’s recollection of events, split neatly into chapters that correspond to a creepy notebook. Mary is played by Insidious Chapter 3 actress Stefanie Scott, deep in the throes of a passionate lesbian affair with her family’s maid, a shy recluse named Eleanor (Orphan’s Isabelle Fuhrman). Ahead of the festival debut, horror streamer Shudder picked up the film for distribution. Read on for our exclusive interview with Isabelle and Stefanie!
Thank you gals so much for chatting with us today for Josh at the Movies, and congrats about your Shudder pickup! That’s actually one of our favorite streaming services! What has been the most exciting part about the journey from script to screen for The Last Thing Mary Saw?
STEFANIE SCOTT: The process of filming the movie was pretty great! I’ve known Isabelle for a really long time. We got to to film the movie together, and lived together while making it. We shared a car, we shared a house. We really had a great time. It’s a dark heavy movie, but it didn’t feel like it for us honestly.
ISABELLE FUHRMAN: We would go home and like roast vegetables at two in the morning, take long showers, and go to Whole Foods on the weekends. I’m sure you want more of a film answer, but it was a really great experience overall. When you make something as dark and also kind of scary with so many different questions—to also have a great time at the same time, it’s the best.
Isabelle, how do you get yourself in the mindset to handle such dark roles, between this and your Tribeca award-winner, The Novice? Does it bleed into your everyday life, and how do you turn it off?
ISABELLE: I try and separate my own personal life from when I’m on set or working, but I also think it helps to have fun and play, because it keeps you present. I think that’s so much of acting—being able to be present. Part of being caught up in your own head as a character is being able to be present in that moment as that character to think through those thoughts.
The way that I actually separate the two… I go home, and I always would take a shower or bath. I’m almost washing off the day. Stefanie and I were both living together, it was really funny. Stefanie did these little exercises in her room, and I would be knitting… we’d be reading. You just step back into your own shoes.
Stefanie, what drew you to the role of Mary? How many days of shooting were spent behind that bloody blindfold?
STEFANIE: I was easily drawn to the role of Mary. The script is fantastic. Everything was thought out right from the beginning. Photos, references… He had everything all sorted out. So I just had to step in. Honestly, Edoardo was a fantastic writer and director. I didn’t have to do too much thinking on that or creating, it was thought out and well done. So I couldn’t say no, you know, he’s awesome. How cool to play Mary in 1843—what a dark project, and to play with your best friend!
Oh, the blindfold. Oh my gosh. I had two days where I had to have the prosthetics on, which was completely blinding.
ISABELLE: Filming sometimes runs behind; certain things happen early in the day. Stefanie and I went to work at the same time—she’s getting her prosthetics on, I’m like in the bonnet playing with chickens or something. The scene took way longer, and we were maybe two hours behind. They were like, ‘oh, we’re not going to put the bloody thing on it until later.’ I go upstairs, and Stefanie’s just lying in this bed. She’s lying there for hours. She can’t use her phone, because she can’t see it. Without anyone knowing the time, they escorted her upstairs to the dark.
STEFANIE: It’s the best feeling when you take those off, and you can see again, and you don’t have that on your eyes. We had some very deep conversations actually, like sleepover talk.
ISABELLE: Gazing lovingly into your gouged eyes.
Isabelle, as a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I was really happy to see lesbian representation in your recent film roles. How did you prepare for the total contrast of the modern-day, more accepting world of The Novice vs the antiquated 1800’s mindset on sexuality?
ISABELLE: It was interesting… in The Novice, there’s not really a question about who she loves, or whether or not it’s a question for Alex or a question for Danny or anything. It’s just that they fall in love with each other, and that’s the relationship they have. I love that. I think that’s such a beautiful thing to see. In future cinema, my hope is that we can be diverse, and include all of those things without having to constantly talk about it. It can just be a part of their story because it’s just who they are.
What I love about our story too is I think their love is so deep and so special. It comes from a place where they feel safe, where they feel loved; they feel connection. It is timid and fearful—there’s so many rules in this space of what they can and can’t do, but also at the same time, they know this is what is right for them.
I really think that’s incredibly powerful that even in these two different time periods, both Eleanor and Alex are characters that are confident in who they are. They know and understand that about themselves. Even if something’s happening in Mary’s family, it’s not even a question for her because this is who she wants to be with. This is what matters to her. I think that’s beautiful.
I love that and Edoardo did such a great job writing their story together too. I hadn’t read a script like this probably ever (especially a genre piece), but to have such a horrific story with such a beautiful heart at its center, and to balance that so well… it was really cool to be a part of, and to film that with Stefanie was the best!
STEFANIE: The family dynamic with their relationship… I feel like they’re scared of them, because they don’t understand what’s going on between them. They punish her, and they do all this stuff to her. They don’t even know how to talk to us anymore. The family doesn’t understand, or they’re scared. So they accuse them of witchcraft-y things. I just thought it was interesting that they don’t understand the relationship.
ISABELLE: You can see that in the family dynamic. They all don’t seem to have a relationship, which is what’s interesting. We have a relationship in the movie, and it’s not just a romantic love story. They genuinely love each other—it’s a very deep bond. The rest of the family doesn’t seem to have that with anybody, you know? ‘Let’s just not talk about it.’
We found the chemistry to be so great between Eleanor and Mary. Can you each tell us about your favorite scene between the two characters?
ISABELLE: I love this scene at the beginning where we’re up in the attic, and we lean in and almost kiss. It feels so intimate and special. Of course, it’s beautiful when you see them kiss in the movie, but I think there’s something powerful about feeling their connection. They’re still unsure of how this goes and what they want. Have they ever kissed not just each other, but anyone before? It’s such an intimate special time. I think you can say so much more sometimes by not always doing what you expect. I love that they just have this really nice, beautiful embrace. That was one of the first scenes that we filmed. It set the tone! What about yours, Stefanie?
STEFANIE: I don’t know! I mean, I had a great time through most of it, but maybe the whole ending? The feast is pretty great. That was a full day of shooting; there’s a lot!
Since religion is at the forefront of the film, how did your personal and spiritual beliefs relate to your portrayals of Eleanor and Mary? Was any of the folklore, specifically from the book itself, based in reality?
STEFANIE: I think spiritually, I realized a lot of it has to be a very strict religion, but Edoardo [he wrote and directed the movie] has threaded some interesting questions throughout. About God, would God create evil if it wasn’t him, and stuff like that. It can relate to all different subjects and texts. I just think it asks a lot of interesting questions, and you can take whatever you want out of it. It’s all open-ended, and I like things that make you think as opposed to telling you.
ISABELLE: There’s a lot of questions about belief, and what you believe. In the film, they believe that their way of following God is by adhering to all of these tenants and rules, and living by a very strict kind of code. Edoardo, when we spoke originally, said that he believes his definition of God is pure love. He said when we first met that Mary and Eleanor’s relationship to him is like an act of God—in its purest form, deep love.
Even with the pathologies that they read and the book, are those things happening in their life because they’re reading them and they believe in them, or are they happening because they just happened to become an exciting story? At the same time, who do you put your belief in? At the end of the day, Mary and Eleanor truly put their belief in each other. Like Stefanie said, there’s so many questions that this movie poses, but I think this whole concept of what you believe and how subjective that is to each person, and to each family, to each way that person was raised, the way that someone lives… it’s a really interesting place to be.
Part of the reason that they don’t connect as a family is because there’s this overlying silence. There’s no communication by any stretch of the imagination, and they don’t talk to each other. The only communication comes between Eleanor and Mary, which is why it’s so heartbreaking when she gets her voice taken away. The whole point is that they don’t want them to communicate with each other. This movie poses this question of what do you believe in? How do you communicate those beliefs? Is it coming from a place of love, or is it coming from a place of fear?
I think we have just one final question for both of you: can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects? Isabelle, we are so excited about Orphan: First Blood, is there anything specific you can tease?
ISABELLE: Oh, what can I tease about that? It was cool! I feel like we made movie history. I don’t think there’s ever been an adult who’s reprised a role that they played as a kid, and that’s pretty cool! It’s also trippy to me, because I saw parts of the movie like a month ago, and I was there, and I was like, ‘how did they do this?’ It’s so trippy to see yourself as a 10 year old when you’re grown up. You’re like, ‘oh my gosh.’
Then, The Novice, I’m really excited about as well, and that comes out in December. IFC just picked us up. I really can’t wait for people to see that film. I train and dive in deep for that one. I’m really proud of it.
STEFANIE: I just wrapped a show that’ll be on Peacock this year! It’s called Girl in the Woods, and it’s an awesome show. We have Krysten Ritter directing and Jacob Chase. It’s fun! It’s a lot of action. I have a bionic arm, and it’s a lot of cool fighting and stuff. Very excited!
Thanks again to Isabelle Fuhrman and Stefanie Scott for taking time out of their busy schedules to Zoom with us! The Last Thing Mary Saw screened as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival, and has been picked up by Shudder for release in early 2022. The UK debut is at Arrow Video FrightFest 2021, on August 28th.