The Grudge Interview: Don’t Call It A Reboot — Star Tara Westwood On The Horror ‘Simulquel’

It ain’t a horror franchise until it gets rebooted at least once, right? Except, don’t call next year’s The Grudge a reboot. I had a chance to speak with one of the stars of the film, Tara Westwood, and discuss the film, and she’s actually coined a term for the film, calling it a “simulquel.”

So, how does it all connect? Check out our interview with Westwood and find out.

And, of course, don’t forget to check out The Grudge when it hits theaters on January 3, 2020.

LRM Online: Well, first of all, I want to congratulate you because it seems like you’re starting 2020 with a film right out there within days of opening, starting the year.

Westwood: Yeah. I’m so excited. Well, I was going to say I’m excited for everyone to see it, but I’m so excited to see it!

LRM Online: Oh wait, you haven’t seen it?

Westwood: I have not seen it. No, I haven’t. I don’t know if any of the cast actually has seen it yet. Yeah, I have not seen it and I normally think it’s weird to watch myself in anything, but I loved filming this so much, that I actually can’t wait to see it.

LRM Online: Oh, wow. I got to see it.

Westwood: Wait! What?

LRM Online: Yes. I got to see it. We’ve had a chance to attend the junket a couple of weeks ago.

Westwood: Oh. Oh, my gosh. Oh, that’s right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right. So I know John and Lin were there … Oh my gosh, how is it?

LRM Online: It was great. Let’s just say that that night, the next day the junket took place and I had very dark circles. I could not sleep. It got me.

Westwood: Oh, my gosh.

LRM Online: Yes.

Westwood: Oh, wow. I mean that’s what I’ve been telling people. It’s really not, or at least the version that I read (the way that I filmed it), I don’t feel like it’s a movie that’s just ‘jump out horror’, because it has layers in it and the whole psychological story, interwoven. I feel like it’s going to affect people more.

LRM Online: Yes, definitely layers. I mean, you have all these characters with the different effect of the, obviously of the story.

Westwood: Yeah. Yeah.

LRM Online: So let’s get started talking about your character. I mean, I know that you can only say so much because you’re a girl, your character’s quite key in there. So what can you share about your character for those that will be checking out the film?

Westwood: Yeah, no, I appreciate it. It’s so funny, I signed an NDA before I got on the film and I was so diligent. I literally didn’t tell my family. I didn’t tell my best friend. I didn’t tell anyone who I was.

LRM Online: How did you keep that in?

Westwood: They tried, they would try to trick me, be like, “Well, do you think you’ll make it to the trailer?” Then they tried all these different ways to figure out who I was. “Are you living or dead?”, and I’m like, “Guys, it’s a horror movie. Everyone dies!” I just wouldn’t say anything. I’m like, “I don’t know, you’ll have to see.” But that said, I think if anyone watches the trailer or some of the vignettes that they’ve been putting out, you do see me at one point in Japan alive and well, and then you see me later on, going after Demián Bichir while he’s in the car, or drooling in to Lin Shaye’s mouth and I’m in a much different state. So I think it’s fair to say that I definitely get infected by the Grudge and bring it back to America.

LRM Online: Well, yes, you definitely did. So how did you get involved and got this character?

Westwood: I was given the audition, I went on tape, I sent in my tape, which happens so much now for auditions and then, I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks. You try to send it, then you let it go. Then I got a call that I was getting a Skype callback with Nick, our director, who is so great. And I had, I mean I had wanted to work with Nick already anyway, because, I don’t know if you saw his first film, The Eyes Of My Mother? It’s a really special movie and when I saw that movie on Netflix, I was like, “Who is this guy? What kind of brain made this movie?” So I was already intrigued and then I got the callback and we did it over Skype, which I didn’t even have on my phone. I had to download it and everything. It was interesting because I couldn’t see Nick during the Skype, except when he would come on to talk to me. What I could see, was that he had a reader. We did some scenes and we did some improvising and then I got off the Skype call and I had no idea if I’d be given the part. Then I got the call that I had the offer and I was thrilled! I mean I was thrilled, because the script was just such a great script and then of course to be able to work with the likes of Andrea Riseborough, Lin Shaye, John Cho, Demian, the great Jacki Weaver, even Bill Sadler, who’s someone I’ve always really admired. So I was very, very excited to be able to work with this cast.

LRM Online: So tell me about the filming. Where did it take place? Was this like a known haunted house? Or how did, where was it? How long did it take?

Westwood: It was filmed up in Canada and we were in this, this old house, and I must say we all felt like bad things had happened there before. You always hear about this when people are making these kinds of movies, but it really did feel like it. It was next to a private, I think Catholic girls school, which just kind of like fed into a weird story of like… things that could have happened. But, it was definitely this big abandoned, creepy as heck house.

LRM Online: Oh.

Westwood: When we would go into the basement for hair and makeup, I would want to make sure someone was down there before I went down. Because as soon as you got down there, you had goosebumps and it wasn’t cold. It was just an eerie feeling.

LRM Online: Oh, wow. Well, do you believe that there are ghosts or the possibilities of spirits being around after death?

Westwood: I’d always been hesitant to believe that, then when I first moved to New York, I moved into a building that’s at 72nd and West End and there were weird things that would happen. I’d be looking for something for days and then it would show up in the middle of the dining room table or… this was a long time ago and I had a stereo system where you had to actually physically push the play button for the cassettes, but the music would come on in the middle of the night. And I would be in my bedroom going, “Oh, please no, please no, please no”, because I knew that no one was in the apartment and I knew that I hadn’t pushed it.

Then I actually went on a trip and while I was away, a friend of mine was going to stay in the apartment and she was supposed to be there when I returned. When I got back, there was a note on the table that said, “Hey T, couldn’t stay. Your place is haunted. Call me.” So I went to my doorman and I said, “Listen, I know this is going to be strange, but I keep having weird feelings in the apartment and whenever I go to the basement I get the chills. There are so many strange feelings down there and I know that this is absurd, but I just felt the need to say that” and he said, “Didn’t they tell you before you moved in? Legally they have to.” I was like… “No.” And he said, “Oh because you’re renting, you didn’t buy.” I Said “Yeah.” “This used to be a hospital and the basement was the morgue.”

LRM Online: Oh.

Westwood: So I must say that year, that moment, I got converted, where I believed that there was something.

LRM Online: That’s crazy. And did you still stay?

Westwood: I did. I did. I just started saying, “Hey, good morning, I could use some rent.” I was just kind of joking with the ghost going, “Just be nice.” Or I’d make sure that I put something in the cassette player that I wanted to actually hear at three in the morning.

LRM Online: Yes. That’s, oh, that is so funny that you’re described a little bit about my childhood, the house I actually grew up in. That’s funny that you’re talking about it.

Westwood: Oh, so you, do you believe?

LRM Online: I do. I do because of the house I was born in. I mean I grew up in. Apparently later on we found out, but the thing is that the little boy that they didn’t tell us is because the little boy died of sickness. But growing up all our television, stereos and it was like back then you had to literally push the buttons. They would randomly turn on, turn off or the volume super high or super just on mute and we didn’t understand. We just thought all our systems were not working. Later on we found out that little boy died and that from, he was sick and we figured out, “Oh my gosh, it’s him. He’s just messing with us.” And after that, kind of like you have like, “Hey, what are you doing now? All right. You want, you want to play?”

Westwood: Well, maybe if someone had just spoken nicely to my character in The Grudge

LRM Online: Right.

Westwood: Everything would been fine… I don’t think so!

LRM Online: So you’ve done a lot of TV or drama. What is the most challenging part doing horror versus to regular drama?

Westwood: What was great about the script, is it’s because of what we we spoke about earlier, just the psychological layers of this. It really just had to be addressed for what was on the paper there. We didn’t have to go for… I didn’t have to ‘imagine’ (and I don’t think the other actors did as well), trying to address the ‘horror’ aspect of it. It was just on the page, literally. I mean, Nick wrote such a fantastic script. I approached this more just like it was a really emotional, dramatic piece. I mean even in the scenes when I don’t have dialogue and I am in a different state, it was important to Nick that I have a lot going on emotionally, because of the trauma that I had experienced earlier on in the film and that has to show through. So I just always had a lot of emotion, kind of going through myself throughout the film. It did feel more like a dramatic piece, than playing the horror. Although I must say, that there were times when I filmed something, that I got scared and I know, like Betty Gilpin for example, is not a huge horror fan. I know 100% she had a moment on set when she looked at me and she might’ve had nightmares that night afterwards.

LRM Online: Oh, my. Okay. So, okay. So there was a scene like you were saying where you’re in the back background of Demián Bichir in one scene from what we saw on the trailer. Can you describe a little bit of the work, the makeup and all that fun stuff?

Westwood: Yeah, I mean our makeup and special effects guys were unbelievable. We had Toby and Matt and then Brandi was head makeup and the three of them, we bonded a lot, because we spent a lot of time together! Although we definitely cut down how much time was required in the makeup chair and what I love about it, is that they chose to do makeup instead of a prosthetic or anything else like that. Because I think that it really allows the emotion of the character to come through, this is not like a ‘wispy’ ghost. It’s a human being that’s gone, meaning it’s dead, but there’s a real thing standing in front of you, experiencing something. I was glad that that was ultimately how the film ended up looking. But yeah, we spent a lot of time in the hair and makeup and I was so scared at first like, “Can I touch things? Can I not? Am I going to mess up my makeup?” But they spray stuff on, that makes it stay on pretty, pretty long and sometimes it was a little hard to get off. I’m from Winnipeg, Canada where we filmed (again, I never told anyone who I was), and I remember going to see family at a family function after I had wrapped for the day, hours before. I looked down and I had dried blood all over my leg and I was like, “Oh, my gosh!!”, so I ran to the bathroom to wash it off before someone noticed that I had blood all over my leg.

LRM Online: Yeah, that’s funny. They did such a good job.

Westwood: They did.

LRM Online: So I read somewhere where you’re mentioning that this film shouldn’t be thought of as a reboot, but they should be calling it as a simulquel? Can you, I don’t know if I’m saying the word correct. Can you explain that?

Westwood: I will. I will. I don’t know how Nick or our producer Sam or anyone would feel about it, but it’s not like a prequel or it’s not really a ‘reboot’. This story takes place in America at the same time as the 2004 film took place in Japan. So I have been calling it a ‘simulquel’, because it simultaneously is happening. While that’s happening there, this is happening here. So I’ve coined it a simulquel.

LRM Online: Okay. I like that. Makes sense.

Westwood: Maybe it’ll catch on!

LRM Online: Yes. Yes. I actually did, I was looking up some stuff and then I was like, “Oh, this is interesting. I’m curious to know.” Because yeah, a lot of people just automatically get to, it’s a reboot. Oh, it’s just a reboot type of thing.

Westwood: Right, right. No, it’s a simulquel!

LRM Online: Okay. I like that. Is there anything else that you can share that you may have worked on that’s being released next year or that you’re going to be starting to work on for next year?

Westwood: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’ve got another film. Well, I was just cast in something about assisted suicide, which is, I think, a really interesting topic. So I’m looking forward to start filming that in February. But I do have a movie that I’ve wrapped called Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story. This is a story about this really great… like whenever an ESPN or a sports magazine, writes about the ‘best street ballers’, he is the number one white street baller. His name is Jackie Ryan. And Greg Finley, this amazing actor, plays him. David Arquette plays his father, I play his mother; they aged me a bit for it. Ashley Green is in it and she’s his love interest. It’s a really wonderful little story about this guy (who’s a real guy), who tried out for the NBA later in life than most athletes do, at 28 years old. He made some choices… and ended up not getting in, because he made some negative life choices. Then he turned his life around and now works for the Harlem Wizards and does a lot of work with kids and basketball. He’s really making a difference and bringing joy to these kids’ lives and to be able to be a part of the film, I was proud of it and I’m looking forward to seeing that too.

LRM Online: Oh, that’s nice that we could use some warm, fuzzy films. True story at the same time.

Westwood: Right? Yeah. I know. I would like to do a comedy or something. Something light at some point. I’m going from The Grudge to a film about assisted suicide…

LRM Online: Well, you never know what’s next. And just to final lap before, since we did cover The Grudge, a horror film, mystery. Is there one of your favorite growing up?

Westwood: Well, The Exorcist always really freaked me out because anything devil wise, just… I can’t! I don’t know why, I didn’t grow up in a religious home, but it completely freaked me out and it totally stands up by the way. I watched it recently and it TOTALLY stands up. So I love that one and then I also love Seven. What I love about that movie is that, again, it’s not just a ‘horror’, it’s got a really great story. When people ask me about The Grudge, I kind of feel like it’s in that same world as Seven, because there is just such a good script and great acting. So I think that it’s a similar kind of thing. Also The Conjuring freaked the heck out of me, but I was at a theater with a bunch of people and there was a man next to me who just kept uncontrollably screaming, so that impacted me as well. He was six foot five, he probably was 320 pounds and he was a large, tall man that would scream like, “Ahh!” Sounded like a four year old girl’s scream. So the first time he screamed, we all kind of laughed. But then he kept making all of us scream and it became this this thing that changed the whole experience of the movie.

LRM Online: It sounds like you guys had like a little choir of screams.

Westwood: What your favorite horror?

LRM Online: You know what? I stopped watching scary movies after The Ring.

Westwood: Oh, really?

LRM Online: So this was my first one since The Ring and that was a very long time. I don’t ever, since I don’t do scary movies, I filled in last minute. So believe me, this film got me. Yeah. My hallway, my apartment that night I slept with all my lights on because I was afraid of seeing a shadow.

Westwood: Oh, my gosh.

LRM Online: Yes, yes. And then the day of the junket, they actually did a standup and to scare us and that video will never be seen ever, ever. I will take it with me to my grave.

Westwood: Well, I would like to apologize, but I think it’s kind of great!

LRM Online: Yeah, it definitely got me. But yes, that was the point to The Grudge to get people to feel like me and it was successful. So. Yes. A compliment.

Westwood: Okay. All right.

LRM Online: Great job.

Westwood: It infected you. We did it! We did what we want to do. Perfect.

LRM Online: For sure. For sure.

Westwood: Well, what’s great about this movie is, Sam Raimi really wanted to do an R-rated Grudge and he made it happen. What’s also great is that Nick was able to really push the gore, the scare and the psychological aspects of the script with that R rating. I think it really makes a big, big difference. I think it’ll not only bring back that that old Grudge audience, but bring in people that are new too, because of that.

LRM Online: Yeah, definitely. And the aspect when you take a shower and now you’re paranoid, you’re going to feel something random in there. I mean, yeah, some of these things do stick in your mind and then you’re just kind of like, okay, “I’ve got to remind myself. It’s just a film. It’s just a film.” But your mind still has a way of messing with you.

Westwood: I’m slightly concerned about how people that know me will be looking at me afterwards, because I look like me in that movie. So if they run into me on a dark street, are they going to scream?

The Grudge hits theaters on January 3, 2020!

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