The Host: Maryam Hassouni on Making a Serial Killer More Relatable [Exclusive]

The Host Banner

The Host Banner

The Host Banner with Maryam Hassouni
The Host Banner with Maryam Hassouni

Never trust strange visitors. Better yet, never trust overly kind hosts.

From director Andy Newbery, The Host started off as a blackmail scheme and ended up with horrific twists and turns. It stars Maryam Hassouni, Mike Beckingham, and Dougie Poynter. The screenplay is written by Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop, and Laurence Lamers.

Here’s the short synopsis:

A disturbing tale of a London banker and an unassuming Dutch femme fatale, The Host follows Robert Atkinson and Vera Tribbe, two strangers with dark and disturbing secrets. When Robert flees London with a briefcase of stolen money, he seeks refuge in Amsterdam at Vera’s home. As they try to suppress their inner demons, a course of destruction emanates from their hidden secrets that can never be escaped.

LRM Online spoke with Dutch actress Maryam Hassouni over the phone. We discussed her performance in her first English film, preparations of a serial killer, and the canal houses in Amsterdam.

Maryam Hassouni has appeared in several Dutch television shows over the years, including Oogappels, Voetbalmaffia, and Flikken Rotterdam. The Host is her first English-language film.

The Host is playing in select theaters across the country and also available On Demand tomorrow on Friday, January 17.

For more information on The Host, visit its official web site by clicking here.

Read the exclusive interview below. Be warned towards the end of the interview contains spoilers.

LRM Online: Congratulations on The Host. I’ve seen the film. It’s terrific. You did an excellent job.

Maryam Hassouni: Good. Are you scared?

LRM Online: It was very unexpected. Tell me, Maryam, why did you want to be in the movie like The Host?

Maryam Hassouni: Normally, I do realistic drama and comedy. In my almost 20 years of acting experience, I never played in this genre. When they asked me to play this part, I read the script. As an actress, you want to stay challenged, and you want to discover new characters. To me, it was an opportunity to work on other stuff. That’s why I chose to be part of this film.

LRM Online: How did you want to approach to play this character? She’s a mysterious and very suspicious character in this film.

Maryam Hassouni: Funny enough, it was essential to make her relatable. [Laughs] It sounds weird, but it’s effortless with a character like this to be a cold, calculating character or as a femme fatale with being a super-hot, sexy, crazy, dangerous woman. I wanted to do the opposite. Keep her warm, charming, relatable, almost the girl next door type. That was something that I kept in mind to keep her authentic and very relatable.

LRM Online: You could have fooled me. If I’d visited you, I probably would have been killed. [Laughs]

Maryam Hassouni: [Laughs] Right? That’s what you want to want to tell because if you read about or hear about people who have a narcissistic personality or psychopaths–they are very charming and very nice people. The predator is hidden. It’s not shown. They wear a charm mask. They learn the their victims with their charm. They study human behavior because they don’t feel anything. They don’t have feelings. They don’t have empathy. They don’t feel love. So they have to study human behavior to fool people, trap them, and do whatever they want to do with them.

LRM Online: Did you do additional research for this role? It sounded like you did.

Maryam Hassouni: A little bit. I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with psychopaths, narcissists, and crazy people. As an actress, it’s very important to know about the people who suffer from trauma. You have to study psychology, behavior, and greed in a way. It’s by watching a lot of documentaries and films to learn about human behavior.

LRM Online: I do have to admire your English is pretty good. Is this your first English film or have you done this before?

Maryam Hassouni: Well, thank you. The Host is my first English film, but I lived in New York for three years. I did-off Broadway show a couple of years ago in New York and studied English. That’s why my English is kind of okay. The thing is that I don’t speak English every day. It’s not as good as it used to be, but it’s better than 15 years ago.

LRM Online: Could you tell me about the set? Was that a real house in the Netherlands?

Maryam Hassouni: Oh, yes. That was a real house. That’s a very old house, which oversees the canal. They call it the canal house. You can compare it to the brownstones in New York. These homes are like huge mansions, and only the rich of the rich lived there. With this woman, that’s her design. That’s her creation. She’s super-wealthy. It houses her life work and her pieces of art.

We’re so grateful that we were ever able to shoot there because you already have a set. You don’t have to build a set. That house is almost a character by itself. The place is a leading part in the film. Without that house, it would’ve been a different film.

LRM Online: That house is so big. It has an indoor swimming pool. I could never imagine houses being that big in Amsterdam.

Maryam Hassouni: No, me neither. I was born and raised in Amsterdam. It is the first time that I entered such a huge mansion. It’s incredible. Now when I walk around the city and see these canal houses, I keep wondering what’s behind it.

[Next questions are spoilers. Do not read the next part of the interview if you do not intend to be spoiled. You’ve been warned.]

LRM Online: In the basement scenes, you get to play with a lot of tools. Do you know what you were doing when you held those tools in your hands?

Maryam Hassouni: Yes, of course. I knew what I was doing. It was a bloody mess. It’s very important to know what you’re doing because otherwise, it becomes super messy. I also wanted to show that she’s been doing this often. It’s like, preparing a sandwich. She doesn’t think about it. She knows what to do. It’s a standard process for her. It’s second nature.

LRM Online: It’s funny that you mentioned about making sandwiches because this entire story has to do with you making sandwiches. What did you think about that twist when you got to read it?

Maryam Hassouni: I was disgusted. [Laughs] I played a twisted character, I’m not thinking about was I do with these people and where they end up. They end up in a sandwich, or they become hamburger. I don’t think about that part. The only thing I think about is with this scene, how can I make her more relatable? How can I be nice, and when can I reveal a little bit of the craziness? At some point, you have to decide to reveal something very small, just with the eyes. I don’t think about what I do in the cellar.

LRM Online: You make me think twice about having a burger. That’s for sure. Was it very convenient to do this film in the Netherlands for you, since that’s in your hometown backyard?

Maryam Hassouni: Oh, yes. It’s just the 15 minutes ride by bike. It’s very convenient. But, I wouldn’t mind to go to another country to shoot a film if I liked the story and I liked the people that I work with. For me, it was super convenient.

LRM Online: Excellent. I’m going to start wrapping things up. Did you enjoy the experience of doing a movie in English? Do you want to do this again in English?

Maryam Hassouni: Of course! I would love to play in more international films and use plain English. English is a worldwide language. Everyone uses it. It’s also fun to play in another language. Since I studied English, it’s good for me since it keeps me practicing with speech and grammar. I would love to do more work more in English. Why not?

LRM Online: Thank you very much, Maryam. Thank you for having this talk about the film, The Host. I’m going to remember this for a very long time.

Maryam Hassouni: Cool. Thank you.

The Host is playing in select theaters across the country and also available On Demand tomorrow on Friday, January 17.

For more information on The Host, visit its official web site by clicking here.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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