In her latest film, a sexy mystery of slipped-knot, unraveling sanity entitled “The Stranger Within,” Estella Warren plays an acclaimed actress, Emily Moore, who repairs to a remote Mediterranean island with her psychiatrist husband Robert (William Baldwin) following a traumatic incident. When a mysterious young woman (Sarah Butler) who claims to have just survived a terrible hiking accident with her boyfriend shows up, however, it makes Emily wonder if she might be a threat to her marriage, and indeed her life. For ShockYa, Brent Simon recently had a chance to speak to Warren, about the film, social media, amazing pool tricks (though not the kind you’re likely thinking of), cooking and more. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: The film has a lot of twists and turns, so I was wondering how it read on the page, and maybe how your first conversations with Adam (Neutzsky-Wulff, the writer-director) went.
Estella Warren: When I read the script I was thrilled, because on the page it was gorgeous — and for a female actress especially, to have that many layers in the character was a great opportunity. I think Adam wrote a great script and did a good job of getting it onto the screen. I think stylistically it was so beautiful. And it came together in a way that I think and hope people will respond to.
ShockYa: When you’re an actress playing another actress — and a famous one at that, who’s been oppressed by that fame but also suffered this traumatic incident — and there may be additionally scenes where she is purposefully acting or feigning emotions, do you go to a lot of lengths to plot out a whole series of different, trap-door motivations, or is that just too far down the rabbit hole?
EW: (laughs) I think that just went too far into it. For me, it’s not that bad or hard to get there. The more difficult things, for me at least, are the more immediate — when it’s three o’clock in the morning and you’re shooting and everyone is exhausted and you’re in a coffin or body bag and you’re trying to keep up a heightened tone of suspense. That kind of intensity is sometimes hard to carry through an entire 18-hour day.
ShockYa: What was the shoot like? It was gorgeously shot, and that must really help positively impact the movie’s believability on a certain level.
EW: We shot mostly in Copenhagen and Majorca, an island near Spain. … When we would drive to our locations in the morning it was [amazing]. And then the main house where we shot was ominous — it was stunning, but kind of ominous. Having that as an actor is a gift, to have that extra tool. It was large — there was an echo to it. The house created this perfect backdrop for the film, where emotions like fear and pain came from. It was a perfect location — all these beautiful trees on the top of this hill overlooking a piece of water.
ShockYa: There’s a certain metaphorical quality to “The Stranger Within” — Emily has had this trauma, but … it’s also about an actress threatened by a younger woman, which tracks roughly with the plight of an actress in Hollywood, where you’re always surrounded by people who are going to remind you of the fact that you have to worry about image and that there’s a crop of younger actresses always coming up. Were there any discussions with Adam about that element, or is that merely something that one can imprint on the film if they wish?
EW: (laughs) I think that was known and on the page, it was obvious in reading it. And for me it was easy to bring it in because it’s so relevant nowadays, particularly with the way that media, and social media, works in our business now. As an actor you kind of have to be part of it to survive. And when I started you didn’t have to do that at all. It still doesn’t make complete sense, but you evolve and develop. In your mind you don’t want to do certain things to be an artist, but sometimes you do — and sometimes your agents tell you you have to. (laughs)
ShockYa: You’re on Twitter: how do you draw a line and figure out parameters of what you’re going to share and what you’re not?
EW: Well, I think that it’s had a big impact on my life. But I never answer a question that I don’t want to answer, still, to this day. I don’t feel interested in (the gossipy stuff), I just don’t get it. Some people love that kind of stuff — and it’s not a judgmental answer, like I’m better than somebody else because I don’t have any interest in it — but I just don’t care about it personally, it kind of amazes me. (laughs) And as far as Twitter, I personally haven’t been able to keep up the level of intensity as some others have, but I commend those who can, and enjoy doing it.
ShockYa: You were an award-winning synchronized swimmer as a teenager. Can you still do an awards-worthy routine?
EW: (laughs) I don’t know if I can pull off a whole routine, but I can do some amazing pool tricks. I rarely do that nowadays. But I do scuba dive and surf, and in the next film I’m doing, “Undateable John,” which co-stars Joan Jett, I surf in that film as well. So that’s been interesting and fun for me.
ShockYa: What else is on tap for you?
EW: I’ve been developing some cooking shows… and I think one of them I may star in, we’re not sure. I’ve been trying to do this for about five years because cooking is such a big passion of mine, so I’m really excited about it. And next Thursday I’m going to be a guest star on “Hell’s Kitchen.” So I’m starting to kind of enter that world, and it’s really fun for me — I don’t know, it’s kind of like eating chocolate.
ShockYa: So you’re a total foodie?
EW: Oh yeah, absolutely.
ShockYa: Well then, what’s a good recipe, because I have a limited rotation of only about five or six main dishes — including every guy’s go-to, which is spaghetti.
EW: Oh no — don’t make a girl spaghetti.
ShockYa: Well, I wouldn’t say I’d make that one first, no. I have this black bean cake —
EW: (alarmed) Black beans!
ShockYa: It’s kind of like a crab cake, but with black beans, or crowders — and then red peppers, bell peppers, some cumin… you’re laughing.
EW: (laughs) Oh no, it actually sounds really good. I swear!
ShockYa: Your fingers are totally crossed right now.
EW: (laughs) No, no, it sounds good. I think cooking is super sexy — and just the art of sitting down and enjoying each other’s company. We live in a world where we do have use technology because it’s so much more convenient, but it’s nice to sit down. I was at a restaurant last night [with some friends] and [the food] was stunning, it was beautiful. …And I think for a man to cook — in America it’s a little less prevalent than in Europe — but it’s just really sexy. And I think anything that’s simply done, and done well, is perfect — just the ingredients themselves have to be really fresh. And so if you can do chicken or a really great steak or fish — like a salmon and some steamed vegetables in a great olive oil — that’s delicious and healthy. That’s the best.
NOTE: “The Stranger Within” is available on DVD today.
Written by: Brent Simon