MoviePulse (MP): What did you get to watch while screening films at Quentin Tarantino’s house for preparation for Grindhouse, and how did they influence your performance?
Vanessa Ferlito (VP): We watched so many! We watched about 20-30 trailers, the original Friday the 13th, a Raquel Welch “rollergirl” weird one and we watched Vanishing Point. The script was very true to Quentin Tarantino. I think [grindhouse films] are more of a look as opposed to writing; it’s so distinct, I felt I wanted to do the best job for the role. When you think of Grindhouse movies you think of bad quality and bad acting, so I don’t know if it applied as far as an acting sense, but it was definitely a look.
MP: How did you get the role of Arlene?
VF: I met Quentin a couple of years ago shooting Man of the House and we’ve been friends ever since. He just called me one day and said he wrote the role for me, and I didn’t believe him even though he’s a man of his word. I thought he was kidding. He would check in month to month and say “I’m going to send you the script” and when it was time to shoot he said, “Are you ready to go to work?”
MP: What does “grindhouse” mean to you if you were to explain it to someone who was unfamiliar with the term?
VF: They were 60s and 70s exploitation movies and they had theaters called grindhouses, where they would play two movies for the price of one. They were low budget, had bad acting, and they had crazy trailers in between. There were missing reels, so it would jump to a totally different scene. It would start in New York and travel to the west coast, and by the time it got over there it wasn’t even a movie it was so cut up because the projectionists would steal all the good parts… sex scenes… nude scenes. I had no idea about it until I got the part, and then we went over to Quentin’s house and he showed us a bunch of grindhouse movies.
MP: Can you tell us a little bit about your role?
VF: I think it’s very empowering to women, when I read it, it was sort of refreshing because it’s very rare in Hollywood right now. Most of the time it’s supporting roles but I’m in the beginning part where we had no idea we were being stalked or were prey. It was great to play a strong woman and also be very vulnerable.
MP: As an actress, is it intimidating at all to work with a director like Tarantino, known for being meticulous with movies?
VF: Certainly at times, but for me no matter how many people I work with, before every movie I always question whether I can do this. I’m totally paranoid, but then you work with someone like Quentin who’s a perfectionist, so meticulous, so perceptive, he knows women in and out, and he can tell me how I feel, or what to do. The energy around him is very comfortable and he’s an actor as well so he can relate on both levels. He tries to make it as comfortable as possible for us. He’s very specific and he’ll tell you exactly what he wants; he’s going to shoot it until he gets what he wants.
MP: Were there any scenes that were overly difficult or time consuming?
VF: No, actually. He’s very prepared. One scene would turn into a much bigger scene because as we were going along he’d decide that he wanted to add things or switch something up. The whole crash scene was amazing. He has a great crew behind him.
MP: Do you prefer working on television or in feature films?
VF: I’ve done 3 or 4 TV shows (I was on CSI for a year and 24). Even CSI compared to 24 was very different. CSI is procedural and it’s the same thing every day. I was doing movies before I got on CSI. I felt like I wasn’t ready for that sort of life; after wrapping Shadowboxer, I’d had a taste of the movie world and it was a little hard for me to be on a show like that.
MP: What do you think Grindhouse will do for the horror genre?
VF: There are people who try to fight Quentin’s style, but this is very unique. It would be preposterous if a person tried to make another grindhouse film. Death Proof is not really a horror movie; it’s scary because it’s real, it’s like watching the news. I see stories like that all the time. Horror films are just so big right now; every week there’s a new horror film out. Robert and Quentin are paying tribute to grindhouse films because they grew up watching them and love them so much. You never know with the business; it’s fickle.
MP: Why do Tarantino and Rodriguez work so well together?
VF: They both have a real love and passion for movies and they go to the beat of their own drums. Nobody is their boss, they do what they want to do and they take chances. They’re so unique and come up with new ideas and run with it. They’re very similar in a lot of ways.
MP: How did you approach acting in a film style that is known for, or attempting to emulate, bad acting?
VF: It’s hard to act bad because his writing is so good. You might get bits and pieces where you feel it’s a little bit campy, but you can tell his dialogue from a mile away. It’s more of a look, how things were grainy and cut out. He’s such a good writer!
– Mike Massie, MoviePulse