Read our exclusive interview with actress Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight, New Moon), who plays troubled divorcee Mary Kee in the upcoming mystery thriller ‘The Caller.’ The film, which was directed by Matthew Parkhill and hits theaters on August 26, 2011, follows Mary as she receives a series of threatening phone calls from a mysterious woman named Rose, played by Lorna Raver, after she moves into a new apartment. Mary learns the hard way that Rose doesn’t like to be ignored, and she seeks her revenge in a terrifying way. Lefevre discusses with us, among other things, what attracted her to the role of Mary, and what her real-life relationship with Lorna was like.
Shockya (SY): ‘The Caller’ tells the story of your character, Mary Kee, who is tormented by a series of phone calls from a stranger, Rose, who reveals she’s calling from the past. Why does Mary almost readily accept the fact that Rose really is calling from 25 years ago?
Rachelle Lefevre (RL): She doesn’t readily accept it, she doesn’t actually accept it at all, and that’s when the problems start. Mary is being harassed by the phone calls. In the beginning, it doesn’t really start out that way. She thinks it’s a wrong number. Then Rose says something that catches her attention, about Mary’s own problems. They sort of start to bond over life and their own difficulties. They have these conversations with a complete stranger, and start this bizarre relationship, based on Mary’s need to connect with someone after her abusive relationship (with her ex-husband Steven, played by Ed Quinn). It’s only when Rose says that she’s calling from the past that Mary really, really wants her to stop calling, and that’s when the harassment begins, because Mary doesn’t believe her.
SY: What was it about Mary’s personality and background that attracted you to the role?
RL: Everyone has something in their life that is a difficulty or has something from their past that is haunting. It certainly is for Mary. I think everyone has something in their life that gets inside their head that’s disturbing. We all have something that when we’re left alone, we think about it, and it gives us a hard time. In Mary’s case, it’s extreme, and it’s an abusive relationship. It keeps coming back to haunt her. That’s what I really love about Mary, and that’s what I love about the film, that it plays on something that I think is very real. It plays on the possibility that something can be happening inside your head, and maybe not in reality, and it sort of plays with that. There are parts where Mary thinks she’s going crazy, because obviously she’s not going to believe that someone can be calling her from the past. She thinks that she’s going insane, and that starts to torture her. Obviously, we don’t all have those extremes. But certainly I think everyone has something in their life that gets inside your head and starts to play with your head, if you’re left alone with it. I think it’s a psychological thriller that plays on tricks of the mind that we all have.
SY: What kind of research did you do before you began filming ‘The Caller?’ Did you do any kind of research into the possibility of time travel?
RL: No, no I didn’t do that, I just accepted the premise for what it was. The real work for me was just finding out who Mary was, and why she would handle it the way she did. Everyone handles the situation differently, so for me, it was just the way she handled it, and finally getting the courage to tell someone. She tells Stephen Moyer’s character (John Guidi). She finally gets the courage to tell someone and asks for help. She basically tries to take care of herself. She doesn’t get protection from her abusive husband, she just hopes it’s going to go away. All the choices she made, those were the things that I tried to dig deep and figure out why she would be the way she was. As far as the time travel goes, I just believed that the film works on the premise that there are certain things that we don’t understand in the universe, which is true. Sometimes wires get crossed, and I just took that as a possibility.
SY: One of the main elements of the film is that Rose starts to take revenge on Mary for ignoring her, and starts to change the future. How did you get into Mary’s mindset when she starts to realize Rose is changing the future?
RL: Again, it’s sort of the same thing as believing in the premise of the phone calls from the past. It’s one of those things, you know the good old expression “seeing is believing.” Mary has that experience. You know, she doesn’t believe at all, and then the evidence starts to pile up. Rose actually starts to change her life from the past. Things start to happen in her life that she can’t deny. All these things that she does, and all the ways she starts to torture her, those things are undeniable because they’re actually happening. I look at it like Mary has two possibilities: one, she believes that this is happening, take it seriously and figure out how to fix it, and get her life back. Two, how much would a person think they’re actually going crazy, and that it wasn’t happening, and that they were going mentally ill, that they were having a break down, that they would be having hallucinations, that they might be doing it for themselves. I had to entertain all those possibilities. So it was really about finding what a person would go through, what would be the steps that a person would go through if they were being tortured like that, the whole mental journey.
SY: While Rose is the main antagonist in ‘The Caller,’ she really isn’t seen for the majority of the film, and instead is just heard on Mary’s end of the phone calls. Do you feel that not showing Rose adds to the suspense and questioning of what she wanted from Mary?
RL: I do, because the movie is basically from Mary’s point of view. There isn’t a single character in the film, unless they interact with Mary. There aren’t any scenes that Mary’s not in, there’s nothing outside of Mary’s world. The movie is really from her point of view, and she doesn’t get to see Rose, so I don’t think the audience should get to see her either. You don’t get to see Rose until Mary does. The glimpses you do get of Rose are times when she is in the background, and Mary could have seen her, but she didn’t notice her. So the audience might notice her. There are scenes where Rose may be lurking in the background, and some audience members will notice her, and maybe some won’t, it depends on how involved they are in Mary’s point of view.
SY: One of the ways Mary is able to cope with Rose’s stalking is through the relationship she’s building with Stephen Moyer’s character John. What was your working relationship like with Stephen?
RL: It was the best, he’s absolutely hilarious. He’s really funny and incredibly smart. He has a great sense of humor, so I was really laughing all the time. It was funny, because we were a very difficult, very grueling and intense movie, and between takes (we’d be laughing), expect for scenes where it was too hard to come out of it and we stayed in it. But there were a lot of scenes that weren’t as intense, or we’d take a break and laugh a lot. He’s really, really nice and has one of the best senses of humor I’ve ever encountered.
SY: ‘The Caller’ is unique in the fact that it doesn’t only focus on the main conflicted relationship between Mary and Rose, but it also puts emphasis on the relationships between Mary and her ex-husband Steven and Mary and John. Do you feel that including the latter relationships helped build Mary’s character?
RL: Yeah, absolutely. You need to see Ed (Quinn), you need to see that relationship at some point. I don’t think it’s enough to say that she was in an abusive relationship, I think you need to see the threat, so that you can understand the possibility that this might be him, that he might be haunting her. Being able to see how menacing it is, so that you can understand why she’s so terrified all the time, why she scares so easily. I think that John represents hope and the possibility of getting out of a dark place, and having love and a future. I think that relationship shows her ability to survive, and so that she can look forward and move on. George, played by Luis Guzman, shows friendship and her trying to form relationships, and not trying to seclude herself, even though that is what she wants to do. I think all the characters are really important in showing all sides of Mary.
SY: Mary’s ex-husband Steve acts as a secondary antagonist in the movie, showing up at Mary’s apartment unannounced, despite the restraining order she has against him. What is it about Mary’s personality that makes her so vulnerable to harassment?
RL: I don’t think that Mary is so vulnerable, I think it’s the ex-husband that’s the threat. He is who he is, because that’s the character. He’s a scary guy, and he’s a bad person. Sometimes people have bad judgment. Mary didn’t know what she was getting into, and was stuck in a really bad relationship. Now she’s still paying the price for it.
SY: There are several scenes in the movie where Mary is alone on-screen, including when she’s talking to Rose on the phone. What was the filming process like during these scenes?
RL: I think it was really interesting, because I didn’t meet Lorna (Raver, who plays Rose on the phone) until we meet in the film, or at least until we share space in the film. It was interesting, because I would be in one room, talking on the phone, and she would be in a different part of the studio, talking on the phone. So that was really cool. It really felt like, to me, she was just a voice on the phone.
SY: So when you were filming the phone calls, were you actually talking to her? Was she on the other line?
RL: Yes. Matthew (Parkhill, our director), who’s amazing, never once made choices like “Oh, this is a psychological thriller, we’re just going to play the fear, we just need to make people scared.” It wasn’t like, “Oh, we just need to be scary.” He respected that the more real, the more believable something is, the scarier it is. So the performances were so important to him, and I think he understood that the best way to get a performance out of both Lorna and I was to have us really interact, and to play off of one another, so we were always on the phone.
SY: So you had a good working relationship with Matthew while you were filming?
RL: Yes, he’s an absolute joy to work with. He’s one of those directors who doesn’t just work hard, he lives and breathes and sweats the movie. It’s an amazing gift to work with a director like that, particularly on a film like this, because I’m in every scene of the movie. That was a very difficult schedule, a grueling schedule, long hours, and I was in an emotional, tense state, and Matthew was there every step of the way with me. He slept less than I did, and thought about it more than I did. It was like being right there in the trenches with me. I would work with him again in a minute, he’s incredible.
Written by: Karen Benardello