Passionately and selflessly working to protect people you perceive are in need of help can harrowingly become a futile effort when the group you’re trying to save inexplicably begins to gloat about causing you harm. That terrifying experience chillingly and disturbingly drives the protagonists’ frightening plight in the drama, ‘The Green Inferno.’ Actress Magda Apanowicz portrays one of the noble humanitarians who embarks on an international goodwill mission that goes terrifyingly wrong in the film, which is now available on Digital HD. The movie, which is also set to be distributed on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand tomorrow by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, marks the highly anticipated return to classic cult horror from iconic ‘Cabin Fever’ and ‘Hostel’ writer-director, Eli Roth.
‘The Green Inferno’ follows an idealistic New York college freshman student, Justine (Lorenza Izzo), who becomes upset about the lack of health aid first-world countries like America are offering to people in need around the world, after sitting through a lecture on female genital mutilation in one of her classes. After talking to one of her classmates, Jonah (Aaron Burns), about what she can do to help those in need, Justine persuades her father, Charles (Richard Burgi), who works as a United Nations lawyer, to allow her to also fight injustice in the world. After Jonah introduces her to student activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy), who goes on a hunger strike on behalf of their school’s underpaid janitors, Justine becomes smitten with his ideals. Against the advice of her concerned roommate, Kaycee (Sky Ferreira), she agrees to help Alejandro carry out his next project: rescuing an Amazon village in Peru from destruction by a greedy multinational corporation.
But Justine and her fellow students, including Jonah, Samantha (Apanowicz), Kara (Ignacia Allamand), Lars (Daryl Sabara), Amy (Kirby Bliss Blanton) and Daniel (Nicolás Martínez), who survive a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle, all soon regret their decision to join Alejandro on his mission. Justine becomes even madder when she realizes that she was just a pawn in the student activist’s plan. Alejandro knew the logging company they’re protesting against, which is determined to push the ancient native tribe out of the jungle, would only listen to them because they wouldn’t kill the daughter of a UN attorney. The group’s horror grows when, after being stranded in the jungle after their plane crashes, they’re targeted by the very tribe they’ve been trying to help protect, as the group survives by being cannibals.
Apanowicz generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Green Inferno’ over the phone. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play Samantha in the horror film, because not only does she admire Roth’s work as a filmmaker, but she also liked the idea that she would be able to travel to shoot the movie in the jungles of Peru and Chile. She also explained that being on location in the jungle added an extra element of realism, which allowed her and her co-stars to get lost in the experience of connecting with each other.
ShockYa (SY): You play Samantha in the horror film, ‘The Green Inferno,’ which is set to be released on DVD and Blu-ray (tomorrow). What was it about the character and the overall story that interested you in playing the role?
Magda Apanowicz (MA): I remember after I got the audition, I found out the movie was going to be directed by Eli Roth. I got really excited about that, because I really like his work. Then after I read the script, I thought, Oh my gosh, I want to do this! (laughs)
During the audition, they said to me, “Just so you know, it’s going to be made a little guerrilla-style in the jungle in South America.” They said it like it was a negative, but I was like, “What?!? That’s awesome! You’re telling me that if I get the role, I get two of my favorite things; I get to act and travel the world.” So it was a dream come true to do both of my favorite things at the same time.
SY: Speaking of the fact that Eli directed, as well as produced and co-wrote the script for the movie, what was your experience of working with him on ‘The Green Inferno,’ particularly since he’s such an icon in the horror genre?
MA: Working with Eli was fantastic. He knows what he wants, which is so great; you never have to worry that you’re not giving him what he wants. By the end of the day, he makes sure he gets what he needs. So it’s always awesome when you know you can trust the director.
It was also great shooting in the villages, and seeing Eli with the kids; he was so good with those kids. They were always so playful, and were always tackling him. There’s a picture where all of the kids are huddled up on him, and it’s one of my favorite images of him.
SY: Samantha is just one of several of the film’s characters who is captured by the indigenous tribe as they’re trying to fly out of Peru after their protest. What were your working relationships like with your co-stars, including Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns, Daryl Sabara and Nicolás Martínez, whose characters were captured by the tribe?
MA: It was pretty easy to quickly bond and get to know each other, especially since we were in the jungle, so far away from home. That also made the process of connecting to what was going on so much easier. We didn’t shoot on a sound stage on the back lot of a studio, which was helpful. But it is also cool to make a film that way. But being on location in the jungle definitely added an extra element of realism, so we were able to get lost in the experience of connecting with each other.
SY: What was the experience of filming ‘The Green Inferno’ on location in the jungles and rain forests of Peru and Chile, like you just mentioned, particularly since most of the story is set in Peru? Do you have a preference of shooting on location, as opposed to a sound stage, or vice versa?
MA: I really enjoy both experiences. I think it’s incredible to shoot on location. But I’m also the product of growing up loving movies and television shows. One of my favorite movies is ‘Back to the Future,’ which was shot on Universal (Studio’s) backlot. That was so magical, and every time I go on the Universal tour, I just stare at the set. I’m like, Oh, my gosh, that’s where ‘Back to the Future’ was shot! So filming on location and at a studio are both magical.
But for ‘The Green Inferno,’ I think being on location was brilliant for the way we shot it. I think filming on location, instead of on a studio lot, made it a much stronger movie. But I think every job is a little different, and I find the joy in both experiences.
SY: Since Samantha and her fellow protesters are fighting to protect themselves from the tribe that captures them after their plane crashes, what was the experience of approaching your character’s physicality? Did you perform your own stunts in the film?
MA: Yes, I did all my own stunts. I’ve also been an avid actor, who wants to do anything and everything. With a lot of jobs, they say, “Whatever you can do, do it.” So I have put myself in some crazy situations. Looking back, they were probably pretty dangerous. But I was such a tomboy growing up, and was always climbing trees. So I love taking risks and playing things that are extreme. Again, I loved watching movies when I was growing up, especially action sequences. So I always find it impressive when the actors themselves can do their own stunts.
SY: Samantha and her fellow protesters undergo extreme physical and emotional disarray while they’re being held captive by the tribe. What was your experience of changing Samantha’s look throughout filming? Did you collaborate with the movie’s make-up and costume departments about how you wanted her to look?
MA: I love that we all knew that we were going to be in the same outfit for awhile in the film. So we all did little quirks to the outfits to make them our own. I rolled up my sleeves to make Samantha a more athletic and sporty type. Every time there was a scene where we had more blood and sweat, and we showered that morning, or the night before, we were like, okay, get me dirty again! So that experience was exciting, because it helped us get into that mind space. We immediately began to feel different.
I think that if we were shooting somewhere that warm, and it was a normal comedy or drama, and these extreme situations weren’t happening, I’d be very concerned with the fact that I was sweating all the time. I’d want to look decent all the time. So it was freeing to have all of that blood and sweat, and that it didn’t matter what we looked like. The grosser we all looked, the better it was for the movie.
SY: What was your experience of shooting the horror film independently? Did the experience influence the way you approached showing Samantha’s emotions and mindset?
MA: I enjoy shooting both independent and studio movies. There are benefits and negatives from every situation. When a big studio is involved in a film, the director can’t take as much liberty. Even the actors’ opinions can be stifled. The studios can often say, “No, this is what we want. There are the five main important storylines that we need.”
But on this movie, it was very freeing that we were able to play the characters the way we thought they should be. We were also able to collaborate with Eli about our ideas. So it was enjoyable to have independence that way.
SY: ‘The Green Inferno’ is receiving its home release on (tomorrow), after it was distributed into theaters this past September. What kinds of reactions did you receive to the film after audiences saw it in theaters?
MA: I’ve received largely positive reactions. When people talk to me about the movie, they usually say, “Oh, my gosh, that was totally crazy!”
I saw the movie in the theater with about 15 or 20 friends, and we sat in the back row. I was so happy to see all of my friends having so many different reactions. It was this surreal and enjoyable horror comedy to me. The deaths were horrifying, but also hysterical, to me. So seeing my friends almost get sick made me laugh. We went out for chicken wings and beer afterward, but I personally couldn’t eat. But other people were like, “I’m so hungry now!”
SY: What was the experience of bringing ‘The Green Inferno’ on the film festival circuit? Were you able to attend any screenings?
MA: Yes, we went to the Toronto (International) Film Festival, and the movie played in such a big theater there. There were so many people there, and seeing their enjoyment was great. Again, it was just a big range of emotions. Everyone went from laughing to being scared and screaming. It’s always so enjoyable to watch a movie, particularly one that you’re in, with other people, and see how they react to it.
SY: What is it about the horror genre that makes you enjoy starring in it? Are you interested in acting in the genre again?
MA: I love that horror movies make you want to follow the characters. I’d love to do something that’s not just a straight slasher film. The ‘Scream’ franchise is one of my favorites, because it has these characters that you can’t but help want to follow. You get sad when they die, but it’s also really funny, and it also has great dialogue.
Horror is one of my favorite things to watch, and I don’t even know why, because I’m such a scaredy-cat. I want to watch horror movies every day, but sometimes I’m the only one home. But I’ll get so scared that I’ll wait for someone to get home before I turn one on. Even when it’s daytime, I curl up on the catch and am like, I’m so scared! Even if I have seen a movie 10 times, I can still get scared. I think there’s something so enjoyable about suspense, but I don’t know what it is.
SY: Besides starring in movies, you have also appeared on several television shows throughout your career, including ‘Continuum’ and ‘Kyle XY.’ What is it about television that you also enjoy working on? How does starring on TV series compare and contrast to acting in films?
MA: With a TV show, it’s really enjoyable to develop a character over a long period of time. If you go to episode 317, the character’s not going to b the same as they were in episode 102. Instead of only having 90 minutes to develop a character and a story, like you have with films, you can go on this long journey with people, and see how they react to so many different situations. Both mediums are really great, but I find TV to be very enjoyable, because you have time to really work on the character.
SY: Besides ‘The Green Inferno’s home release, do you have any other upcoming projects, whether in films or on television, lined up that you can discuss?
MA: Yes. Speaking of working on location again, I (recently shot) a movie in Italy for about a month-and-a-half. We’re on hiatus right now, and we’re going to go back sometime (this) year to finish it. It’s called ‘Tulips,’ and it’s a Dutch-Italian production. I had to learn some Italian for it. It features such diverse cultures, so it has been a special experience. I can’t wait to finish it.
Written by: Karen Benardello