Be careful who you befriend on social media. The new friend could be some powerful demon.
South African actress Liesl Ahlers stars as the antagonist villainess named Marina in the horror film Friend Request. She plays this lonely and extremely shy goth-like girl, who just wanted a friend. She became friends with a popular girl Laura (played by Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey), but later unfriended her due to peer pressure and the weirdness of their relationship.
And that’s when things turned to the worse.
Marina commits suicide and becomes some kind of demon attached to the Internet. She stalks Laura’s friends one-by-one as an act of revenge for their lack of friendship.
The film is directed by Simon Verhoeven. It also stars William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Connor Paolo (Mystic River), Brit Morgan (She Wants Me), Brooke Markham (Foursome), and Sean Marquette (The Goldbergs).
LRM had an exclusive interview with Liesl Ahlers earlier this week to talk about her experiences for this project. She told us the amazing stories of transformation into being the character Marina and being the evil demon.
Friend Request is playing in theaters nationwide today.
Read our interview transcript below.
LRM: I just want to remark that you are wonderful in the film, because you gave me a lot of “Oh, shit!” scares throughout the entire movie.
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] I’m so happy to hear that. That was the goal. So that’s great!
LRM: Literally. I actually shouted out, “Oh, shit!” That’s what I mean by “Oh, shit!” scares.
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] That’s amazing! Awesome.
LRM: Tell me on why you were attracted and how you were approached to this project.
Liesl Ahlers: Well, I remembered getting a phone call from my agent. I live in South Africa, so I auditioned here for this horror film. I read for my character Marina. There were so many words that stood out to me on the why they described her. Mysterious. Dark. Traumatized. They used the words that are the embodiment of loneliness. I thought that captured me. I really need to delve into this character. I felt like I knew on who she was.
I liked the fact that she was so fragile—childlike and sensitive at times. Then she transitioned into someone who was very powerful. So as an actor, that’s a character you want to play. I was immediately drawn to this character. I thought it would be so much to play.
LRM: I had to Google yourself to see what you really look like in real life. And you’re gorgeous yourself!
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] I like to think so. [Laughs]
LRM: Tell me about the transformation they made for you on this film.
Liesl Ahlers: I had an amazing special effects team throughout the shoot. It took hours to transform me into [the demon] and into Marina as well. [For Marina], they added a couple of patches on my head that you probably saw in the film. I looked a bit bald.
For the demon, it was insane. I had also walked on stilts. It was very tricky, but a lot of fun. They basically made a cast out of my whole body. I was wearing gloves that was like mechanical arms. There were prosthetics on my face and on my neck. And I even had these sharp teeth. [Laughs] Oh, and there were these contact lenses.
I was basically so constricted. I was covered in this super-tight suit with prosthetics, arms and teeth. I was so constricted that I was trying to figure on how to play this really powerful and scary demon. The fact that I was so constricted that it made me feel that I wanted to overcome it. I wanted to feel powerful. I used that feeling to my advantage.
LRM: How long did this typically take on the makeup chair? Was it like around four hours?
Liesl Ahlers: I was on set around 3 or 4 a.m. So yeah, we’ll be done around 7 a.m. It did take like around a couple of hours. To remove the prosthetics was quite a thing. [Laughs] I had to get all these things off my face. I was quite thankful for that experience. I don’t think a lot of people get to do that. It was so much fun.
LRM: I’m just curious. To pass the time in the makeup chair, what do you usually do? Are you on the phone, social media or even reading magazines? What would you like to do?
Liesl Ahlers: That’s a very cool question. I usually drink coffee, because I love coffee. I will have my headphones on with a playlist that will make me feel connected to the character. It would be a song that will evoke some sort of emotion—like feeling lonely or sad. It’ll be something that will complete my process. I have to do that especially for Marina, because she is so intense. I would have to do that every day to sit there with my headphones in.
LRM: How long did it take you to learn on how to walk on stilts? Was it really necessary for this character?
Liesl Ahlers: Wow! I had a very short time to learn on how to walk on stilts. I would say about in three days. I think it was necessary. For all the shots, you’ll see that the demon is very tall. I feel that this whole process—it transformed me as the person as well. It’s like an exercise that transforms you in a way that you can’t describe. I felt like that I needed that, because it’ll come from within me. Now I feel that I can play this character fully.
It’s tough. It’s a daunting role. There are a lot of horror fans out there. You have to live up to their expectations of the demon—this scary part of the film. I think it was very necessary personally to be walking on stilts.
LRM: Do you think you can still walk on stilts today?
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] Actually, I think I can. I’m very confident.
LRM: Are you a fan of horror movies?
Liesl Ahlers: I am quite a fan of horror films. I would be more drawn to thrillers. I love a good psychological thriller. My favorite horror film would be the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s one of my favorite films all time.
It’s interesting that for this film—the director told me to watch a lot of horror movies. I usually won’t go against a director on what he asks me to do, but I felt very strongly about not being informed too much with other performances or influences from other films. I just remembered not watching any of the movies he recommended.
I just wanted to focus on trying to do something new. I wanted a new perspective. I didn’t want to be [influenced] by the other horror movies.
LRM: It seems that director Simon [Verhoeven] put you through a blender for this film. Were there any other challenges you had to face for this movie?
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] Simon is amazing. I love him. No, I would say most of the challenges were demon-related. It’s the walking on stilts or drinking from a straw cause of the sharp teeth. He was saw kind. I remembered him being in awe of the demon. He had this love for this demon. It was the best part of the film. He was always so supportive. It was great to embody the demon in the way he envisioned the demon.
LRM: Do you use social media yourself? Are you a popular person on the Net?
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] I wouldn’t say I’m a popular person. I do use social media. I have Instagram. I would say that I shy away from being on social media too much. I do have Facebook since 2008. It’s something that I don’t go on to everyday. That’s something I liked about this film, because it was creating something for us to be aware of Internet addiction. It’s very relevant in this day and age.
LRM: Awesome. Let me start wrapping things up. Can you talk about any of your future projects that you may actually have?
Liesl Ahlers: I’m really excited that I booked the lead in a new drama for a series. The working title is called The Crossing, but it’ll probably will change. It should be released internationally in 2018. I’m really excited about that. We’re shooting in South Africa for this project.
LRM: One more quick question—did you keep any souvenirs from the set? Maybe your teeth?
Liesl Ahlers: [Laughs] Yeah, I did. I did keep my teeth. I got the gloves that I was wearing. Those demon arms. I also kept the face mold—the mold that they made of my face. I also have parts of the demon suit as well. I tried to keep as many things as I could to remember this amazing experience.
I also took things from restaurants that we went to. But, most definitely, the demon teeth and the demon arms.
LRM: [Laughs] I knew it. I knew it. Thank you for speaking with me. You’re such a lovely person. I love this conversation.
Liesl Ahlers: Thank you so much! [Laughs] I was awesome. It was so much fun talking to you.
Friend Request is now playing in theaters nationwide.
Source: Exclusive for LRM