Throughout this Women In Horror Month, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to chat with ladies of the genre from all over the globe. It’s been a fantastic experience and one I’ll always cherish.
One such lady is Maria Olsen, a seasoned veteran on the horror circuit with over 63 acting credits to her name. Those 63 acting gigs have happened within the last four years. She’s also produced three projects. It’s safe to say Maria is slicing and dicing her way through the horror world these days!
Maria has staked her claim in the Hollywood game by appearing in ‘Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief’, while also being a part of the cult that scared the crap out of so many of us this past autumn in ‘Paranormal Activity 3’! You’ll recognize Maria as one of the witches present in all three scenes the witches are shown in during the climax of the film.
Where Maria really makes her name is in the independent horror realm, enjoying success ever since this South African actress first broke into the acting scene.
Take a few minutes to get to know the fanastic Maria Olsen a bit more!
1. Who or what reeled you into the world of acting?
Well, I’ve been on stage since I was six years old, so you can say that my love affair with performing started almost before I could talk…almost, but not quite! When I was growing up in South Africa, I watched as many films as I could, concentrating on movies with strong female leads like Jodie Foster in Nell or Jane Fonda in Agnes of God. I went from film to film thinking that, when I grew up, I wanted to be whatever the particular character was – after I watched Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, for instance, I wanted to be a writer – until the blinding moment when I realized I didn’t want to be all these different things, I wanted to be one thing: an actress who portrayed different, and strong, women on stage and on screen.
2. Are you a big horror fan?
Yes, I’m actually a huge horror fan, although with my busy schedule at the moment, I don’t get to see as many horror movies as I would like to. The first ever horror movie that I recall seeing is the UK late-sixties and now-campy classic The Haunted House of Horror. This film terrified me, but, in my defense, it must be remembered that I was only about 9 years old…I am also deliberately not watching it now that I’m all grown up as I’d rather remember it as the creepy experience that my mind paints it as than have it reveal its – apparently – slighted jaded colors to my adult mind.
3. What are some of your favorite horror films?
I have special places in my heart for both The Exorcist and for Coppola’s Dracula, the first for its stark realism (especially in the hospital scene) and the other for its sheer beauty of imagery (the picture of the ghost-white undead Lucy Westenra with her flaming hair and bloody lips will, I think, remain with me forever). Recent additions to my desert island horror movie list, however, include the Fangoria FrightFest offering Fragile, which pushes the envelope with its creepy-gruesome fusion of flesh and metal, and the visually stunning Trick ‘r Treat, which wows with its breathtaking autumnal color scheme.
4. What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received that has helped you throughout your career?
As Bette Davis said to a starlet: “Always take Fountain”. Apart from the very obvious message of “take that damn street”, this, to me, implies that simple is always better. Fountain is, for instance, a far quieter street than Hollywood, Sunset or Santa Monica and, taking the comparison further, this means that the simpler and quieter a performance is, the better it will translate in that it will be more sincere, more truthful and more able to allow the actor to connect with his or her audience. The moral of the story? I guess it’s always listen to Bette Davis!!! Oh, and for that matter: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!”
5. What is the filmmaking landscape in South Africa like right now?
Um…I don’t really know…as I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past seven years… I do hope to return to South Africa later this year, though, to shoot the first film in the SECOND SON trilogy – a faith-based sci-fi yarn with definite horrific elements including demon possession – and so I may be able to answer that question soon…
6. What makes for a great horror film, in your eyes?
To me, the most important elements are (not necessarily in order):
(1) Story (and also internal story logic because, if your plot has logic holes in it you’ve IMMEDIATELY lost me…)
(2) Visual elements (created by, among other things, visual imagery – and I DON’T mean CGI!!! – an overall color scheme)
(3) Genre (because I’m a thinker, I will ALWAYS choose cerebral / smart psychological horror over slasher movies. I mean, babes covered in blood have their place, but it’s not on my DVD shelf lol)
(4) actors (for me, interesting looks will trump model looks any day, and, as an actor myself, I really like watching performances I can buy into and believe)
(5) Originality (I truly believe the world has enough vampires and zombie movies now; and don’t even THINK of remaking anything else, please! There are soooo many big bads that have never even made it to the silver screen once; just check Wikipedia, guys, it won’t take a second, and you’ll find whole hordes of new monster-threats!).
7. You also have producing credits under your belt. Can we expect more work from you behind the camera?
I actually love being involved in all aspects of filmmaking. On the feature Folklore, which I also co-produced, I was Casting Associate, and I’ve actually just signed up to cast another project, which all translates into I LOVE casting and I have an awesome time matching actors up to roles. I’ve also been directing for stage for at least 20 years so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I make the jump from directing stage to directing screen. I’ve also written a feature film script which, when the time is right, I hope to get around to producing and acting in. There is, actually, no aspect of the industry that I don’t enjoy working in.
8 What advice would you offer a young woman interested in becoming an actress?.
I think my advice would run along the lines of “know yourself and recognize who you actually are with honestly and clarity as it is only through knowing yourself that you will be able to know what type of roles you can best play”. Another thing to work on would be patience. Nothing happens quickly in this industry, and it has been said that it takes an average of 7 years to break into the business. Success is a combination of many factors: luck, opportunity, hard work, who you know, marketing skills and talent; and it’s not by accident that talent is at the end of that list…
9. You’re also going to be a part of Rob Zombie’s latest film, ‘The Lords Of Salem’. How was it working on that set?
I had three wonderful days on set for The Lords of Salem, and I enjoyed every minute of the shoot. The film is, in my opinion, going to look fantastic, and I was even creeped out by just looking at some of the FX makeup the actors were wearing and all I was doing with them was working on set! There’s nothing that quite takes the mystery out of a horror movie as seeing, all up close and personal, how it’s made, but with this one, the FX were SO stunning that it lost nothing during our non-shooting moments. Rob was great to work with; so quiet and always so calm and peaceful. It’s really great when a director can have that sort of aura on set as everyone will, quite literally, take their cue from him or her on how to behave on set.
10. What do you hope your legacy as an actress will be?
When I go to that great horror movie in the sky, I hope the things I leave behind will show that it IS possible for someone, no matter their background or how far they’re born away from Hollywood, to make an impact on the movie industry through sheer hard work, determination and optimism. This would, to me, mean that “the dream” is available to EVERYONE. All you need to do is reach out and grab it…
I thank Maria so much for her time and support with this interview.
Check out her IMDB page at: