The most strong-willed people often ambitiously fight their internal demons and subsequently embrace life again after overcoming a difficult situation. But it isn’t until they’re unexpectedly forced to face off against an ancient external evil that relentlessly wants to control them that they undergo a stunning epiphany, and realize who they truly are as a person. That’s certainly the case with the captivating male protagonist in the new fantasy thriller, ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty,’ which was directed by Pearry Teo, who also co-wrote the script with Josh Nadler. The XLrator Media-distributed drama, which is now playing in select theaters and on VOD and iTunes, shows that even the character’s most courageous efforts to defeat his demons can’t keep them at bay forever.
‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ follows Thomas Kaiser (Ethan Peck) as he relentlessly tries to determine the meaning behind the recurring dream he has been having recently. In the dream, he encounters a sleeping woman as he wanders around in a desert. The woman, who he begins regarding as the title character, is sleeping in a canopy bed that’s surrounded by Egyptian-style figures. Just as he tries to wake her up with a kiss, he awakens in his own bed.
While struggling to understand the nightmare and reconnect with society as he changes his solitary ways, Thomas learns that he has inherited an ancestral mansion that has been in his family for generations. He received the mansion, which is regarded to be cursed by the local community, from a recently deceased uncle he never knew existed. Despite his initial hesitance to finally reenter the world, following a recent traumatic emotional experience, Thomas ultimately decides to travel to the house and explore the property.
After arriving at his family’s mansion, Thomas receives a visit from a local real-estate agent, Linda (Natalie Hall), who offers to help him repair and sell the house. The broker has ulterior motives, however, as she has a personal connection to the mansion, and is eager for the chance to explore it. The two eventually decide to help each other and become allies when they realize they both need to uncover the mystery of the mansion and it’s purported ancient curse. They determine that he has become the property’s new protector, and is the only one who can set free Briar Rose (India Eisley), the Sleeping Beauty who’s been haunting both his dreams and the mansion.
Hall and Eisley both generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ during separate exclusive phone interviews. Among other things, the actresses both discussed how they were immediately compelled to take part in the fantasy thriller, as they felt that their characters and the story were distinctly unique and creative. They both also noted how they not only appreciated Teo’s passion for the emotional arcs and visuals that he included in the movie, but also Peck’s strong natural abilities as a lead actor.
Eisley began her conversation by explaining what she liked the fantasy film’s overall story, and why she was drawn to her character of Briar Rose in particular. “I have never done anything like this film before,” the actress revealed. “Also, Nancy Nayor, who’s the film’s casting director and is wonderful, called my manager and said, ‘Would India be interested in being a part of this project? It’s very unique.'”
After the performer spoke with Mayor, she discussed the idea of joining the cast with Teo, and “I was sold. I thought the character was very interesting.” Eisley then revealed that she thinks the thriller’s co-writer and director “is a very unique person, and is highly creative. Unfortunately, I didn’t work too many days on the job,” as Briar Rose served as a supporting character in the film’s narrative. “But overall, Pearry was wonderful to work with.”
Hall also first delved into explaining why she was interested in portraying her character of Linda in the beginning of her conversation. “I was sent the script by my agent, and I loved it as soon as I started reading it,” the actress revealed. Since she was instantly drawn to the story that was presented in the script for ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty,’ she immediately “went through the audition process. I put myself on tape, since I was in New York, and sent it to L.A.” After sending her audition tape in to be considered, Hall then spoke with Teo “over Skype, and we had a long conversation about my character and the script, and we connected over the story. I then flew out to L.A.”
Eisley further expressed her appreciation of the co-writer-director’s work, as she divulged that “Pearry’s very visual.” Continuing the discussion of the drama’s visuals, the performer then noted that throughout the majority of the film, she wore a gown that was created by costume designer Erin Layne. “My costumes help me connect to my characters very much. On this film, I constantly looked in the mirror to check my posture while I’m wearing the clothes, as I had to wear corsets underneath,” the performer revealed. The costumes “definitely change the way you hold yourself, especially when you’re walking and moving…Playing up the physicality was definitely fun.”
While the success of ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ does rely on its stunning visual nature, its story is also largely propelled by the emotional relationships between the characters. While speaking of her connection with Peck, her main co-star who she interacts with throughout the film, Hall praised his work. She described him as being a “great and serious actor. He’s talented, but also very humble. I knew about him because of his grandfather (Academy Award-winning actor, Gregory Peck) and their family’s legacy, so it was great to meet him. He takes acting very seriously…and wants to give the best version of himself in every role.”
The actress added that she and Peck were able to talk about their characters’ relationship. But overall, “our relationship truly developed while we were making the movie. Since our characters meet for the first time in the movie, we didn’t have to do a lot of backstory together. But he was so great to work with on set, and was also making sure that I was okay and comfortable, especially since we had to do a lot of stunts ourselves.” Hall also described her co-star as “such a giving actor. I’m grateful that I was able to work with him.”
While Eisley’s title character also forms a strong connection to Peck’s character of Thomas, particularly in his dream world throughout the story, they weren’t able to have rehearsal time before they began filming. The actress revealed that she didn’t meet her main co-star on the thriller until they “began filming together. During the first couple days of shooting, we shot the scene were Ethan has to wake me up. So we just lept into it,” she also divulged. “He was a joy to work with, and I hope that I can work with him again in the future.” The performer laughed when she added that she hopes that they can work on something “for which I’m not throwing him against the wall.”
Eisley added that she embraces performing her own stunts and action sequences whenever possible, as she finds that connecting to the physicality of her characters “lends itself to the emotional arc. Nothing makes as in touch wit your feelings as being physically active. So I love mixing the highly emotional aspects with the highly physical aspects.”
Hall also described the process that the actors took in approaching their characters’ physicality. “We had a stunt coordinator (Van White) on the set, and that’s always very helpful when you’re doing high intensity work,” the actress revealed.
“Pearry was also so great on set,” especially in creating the action sequences, the performer further noted. “He’s one of my favorite directors to work with. He always made sure that we were safe,” Hall added. “There was a lot of kicking, and I also had to pick up an ax. There was also a lot of running, which is always fun to do.”
Hall added that she thinks that “as an actor, it’s always fun to challenge yourself, and it was great to challenge myself in that way. I was happy to play such a bad-ass woman who developed into this strong woman throughout the film. It was nice for me to not have to play someone who was scared or nervous; when something was thrown at her, she went right towards it.”
‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ mixes reality and the subconscious dream realm, as Thomas is constantly questioning the truth after he inherits the mansion, and begins interacting with Briar Rose in his dreams. Eisley revealed that she’s a fan of watching these types of fantasy films. “I love ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’ When I had my first conversation with Pearry, he mentioned ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ as well as ‘Silent Hill,’ and discussed how they served as inspiration for what he wanted our movie to visually look like. That really added the appeal for me, as I love all of those dark fairytales.”
Also expressing her appreciation of the movie’s genre, Hall added that she “loves the horror aspect of this fairytale world. I’m a big horror fan, so it was fun for me to become involved in a project like this.” The actress added that Linda’s “also super fascinated by this whole world, because she’s strongly connected to the house that Ethan’s character also becomes connected to. So going into filming, I wanted to make sure that I understood the entire paranormal world, as well as Linda’s past,” and how she’s connected to the mansion.
While the majority of ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty,’ particularly the scenes that Eisley is featured in, are set in the Kaiser ancestral mansion, the actress expressed regret that she wasn’t able to shoot any of her scenes on location. “The crypt where my tomb was in a completely different location from the mansion, and we filmed those scenes in a basement in Downtown L.A.,” the performer revealed. “That’s predominately where I shot my scenes. I also filmed my scenes that take place in a forest in a nature reserve.”
Hall also discussed the process of shooting the fantasy at several different locations throughout L.A. “We specifically filmed at this house in Downtown Los Angeles. I didn’t even know that the house existed” before the movie began filming there, she revealed. “I have lived in L.A. during several different periods of time, as I’m based in New York. So I had no idea that this area of L.A., where all of those old mansions, exist. But it was cool to be working on a set in a mansion that’s said to be haunted,” Hall admitted.
The performer added that the cast and crew also filmed in several other locations throughout Downtown L.A., and the “overall environments really help the actors, director and everyone else who’s working on the movie achieve the main vision. So everyone created a really creepy, small-town world in Los Angeles.”
With the fantasy thriller now playing in select theaters, as well as On Demand and iTunes, Eisley noted that she’s a supporter of having independent films being released on VOD. The actress laughed as she said, “I’m obsessed with Apple TV. Watching movies has always been a very big hobby of mine. It’s good fun to watch films on all the different kinds of mediums.”
Now that ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ has been released, the actresses are both looking ahead to the potential of expanding the fantasy film into a potential series. The ending of the thriller is set up in a way that the main characters can be featured in a sequel, and expand upon the Kaiser curse. Eisley noted that she would be interested in reprising her ole of Briar Rose in a follow-up film to ‘The Curse of Sleeping Beauty.’ She divulged that she “would be curious to know what the storyline for a continuation would be.”
Hall added that she “loved working with Pearry and the rest of the cast and crew, so I would be honored to come back and work with them again. Pearry did mention that a sequel may happen, and that there’s a potential to make this into a series. He hasn’t confirmed anything with me yet, but I know that he plans on creating something more off of this film. So I’m excited to hear what Pearry has in store.”
Watch the official trailer for “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty’ below.
Written by: Karen Benardello