There’s a scene in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria that is so bone-crunchingly visceral and stomach-churning that the woman next to me in the cinema is cowering behind cupped hands, murmuring, “Oh my god,” over and over again.
Achtung! There be guts. And hooks. Dance voodoo. Tilda Swinton as a choreographer. Tilda Swinton as an old man. But at the centre, a coven of witches fronting as a Berlin dance school – all in Guadagnino’s sumptuous feminist reimagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror.
And bolstering the v. hype cast of Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, is indie queen Mia Goth, who we know by now specialises in roles of the hair-raising variety (ahem, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and A Cure For Wellness, to name only a few).
We chatted to the actress about Suspiria below…
How did you first get involved with Suspiria?
I had a Skype with Luca, and he told me he’d been a huge fan of Dario Argento’s Suspiria since he was a little boy, and now he had this opportunity. That what he wanted to do was less of a remake and more of a reimagining. He wanted dance to be a central theme and it was going to be an all female-led cast. I was incredibly excited about all of this, but didn’t hear anything for a while. Then 10 months later I was in Brazil and ended up auditioning and got the job. I cut my trip short and 2 days later I was in Italy learning how to dance.
Did you have any dance experience before?
No, and I sort of told Luca I had. So it was a lot of pressure. I had to play catch up very quickly. But it was so enjoyable, and one of my favourite parts of that whole experience was learning to dance, and incorporating myself into this world.
How gruelling was the training process?
It was hard, especially the first week. A complete shock to the system, because they train like athletes. They’re in the studio from 9am to 5pm and they have one lunch break and that’s about it really. I was exhausted and my body was sore. But you kind of break your body into it, so by week 2 you start to move differently and you take certain precautions and use epsom salts and tiger balm and things like that.
You’ve spoken about the physical process of preparing, but did you do anything mentally to prepare?
It’s all sort of mental. A lot of it was helped by the fact that we were on location, and it was this abandoned hotel. You were able to literally step into the world whenever you needed to. We had these incredible costumes, all from the 70s. You put them on and that helped you find the character. You do your own studying, you go over the script, you ask questions and you do research.
So no weird or creepy stuff on set?
It was eerie. It was abandoned for close to 40 years and there was something very untouched about it, so when we got there it felt like we were going back in time.
So Nymphomaniac, A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria – it seems like you gravitate towards dark roles…
I think they’re just the films that I enjoy watching. I like movies that challenge you, movies that are trying to say something. When I watch a film I don’t ever really just want to be entertained. I enjoy films that engage with you in some way. I love movies that are about people. I think that’s why I really love European cinema. They have smaller budgets and the result of that is that they have to be more people driven, as opposed to plot-driven.
A lot of people would say Suspiria is about women and empowerment and female strength? Is that something that drew you to the film itself?
The fact that it was an all-female cast was very exciting to me. And the fact that it was headed by Tilda Swinton, of all actresses, was a really exciting prospect for me. And it was also really comforting being on a set like that where you’re actually in the majority. Typically, in a filming situation like that you’re in the minority and you just kind of go about your business. But it was such a family and we really supported one another. We were all there for each other.