The wide-eyed Suspiria star on Luca Guadagnino’s mesmerising horror remake.

Mia Goth as Sara stars in Suspiria
Mia Goth as Sara stars in Suspiria

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.

Mia Goth as Sara and Dakota Johnson as Susie star in Suspiria
Mia Goth as Sara and Dakota Johnson as Susie star in Suspiria

I read that the choreographer wanted all the dancing to be really sensual but not sexy. So no element of the male gaze. Did you feel that?
It never felt voyeuristic in any sense and I felt very powerful dancing. There was something very raw and primal about it. What I ended up loving so much about dance is how poetic it is, and how expressive it can be. You can tell so much through a hand being tense or in a more relaxed kind of position. I think it’s one of the most vulnerable art forms there are out there.

What was your biggest challenge? The more gruesome scenes?
I actually find those scenes easier because you’re being more reactive. There’s less thinking involved, so there’s less chance it’s going to end up coming across as fake. It’s kind of like working with a child or an animal, or if you’re in water, it’s just happening and there’s little chance of it coming across as insincere. It was more what I described with the dancing and the environment we were in that was more challenging. I mean obviously the painful, violent scenes were hard, but not as hard as you might think.

And have you watched the film back?
I was so proud. I thought on an aesthetic level, the film is gorgeous. Luca just has impeccable taste. He just understands composition so well. The film is so poetic and it’s saying so much, and it’s very much Luca’s movie, he puts his own stamp on it.

Did Luca really push you?
He did.

In what sense?
Well sometimes you’d think you did the best that you could do, and then he’d ask for more. In every way, in all types of scenes, in the more dialogue-based ones, or in the more violent scenes. He wanted to have different options, and he would ask you “do you think Sarah would do that?”

Your character Sarah – did you relate to her?
I definitely connected with Sarah. She has quite an innocence to her and I think I do too, and I connected with that. You can turn certain things up and certain things down in your own life to try and fit with the character that you’re playing. She comes from a very affluent, well-to-do family, she’s quite a privileged young woman. That was perhaps a more challenging aspect, understanding that world, because I don’t come from that at all.

How else did you research?
I looked into the 70s a lot. I looked a lot into [German choreographer] Pina Bausch and [American modern dancer] Martha Graham, these huge dance pioneers at the time. And that helped.

Suspiria is out in UK cinemas today

Sandro Kopp

Sandro Kopp
Maybelle Morgan

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