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Jenna Ortega Gets Her Thrills From Radiohead and ‘Paris, Texas’

There’s horror, and then there’s terror. Jenna Ortega now knows the difference. Since her introduction to the macabre as a child in “Insidious …

Jenna Ortega Gets Her Thrills From Radiohead and ‘Paris, Texas’
25.01.2022 22:01

There’s horror, and then there’s terror. Jenna Ortega now knows the difference.

Since her introduction to the macabre as a child in “Insidious: Chapter 2,” the former Disney star, now 19, has shrieked her way through “The Babysitter: Killer Queen,” “Scream,” now in theaters, and the upcoming “X.”

“Horror to me, it’s kind of like a second home,” Ortega said. “It’s so comfortable, because you’re not trying to impress anybody.”

But her latest role, in “The Fallout” — Megan Park’s examination of trauma in the aftermath of a school shooting — out Thursday on HBO Max, was an exercise in paralyzing silence.

Ortega plays 16-year-old Vada, who early in the movie hides in a bathroom stall with her classmate Mia (Maddie Ziegler), hands over mouths and sobs stifled, as a gunman picks off his targets outside; any sound could give away their location. What’s not said in the wake of the violence is nearly as excruciating.

“With a film that weighs a lot emotionally, it can be very, very draining,” Ortega said of her first time leading a movie, which is why shooting “Scream” on the heels of wrapping “The Fallout” was a relief.

The Return of ‘Scream’

Twenty-five years after Wes Craven’s original picture, the franchise is back with another sequel.

  •  Review: The latest “Scream” is a slasher movie so enamored of its own mythology that its characters speak of little else, our critic writes.
  •  A Familiar Cast: The film brings back Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Here is what the actors had to say about their reunion.
  •  The Legacy of ‘Scream’: The reason the original endures is that, for all its humor and self-awareness, it’s an actual horror movie.
  • From the Archives: Read what Janet Maslin wrote of the film when it first came out in 1996.

“The incredible thing is that people who are on horror sets tend to be a fan of horror — they love the blood and the gore and the monsters,” she said. “You wake up and, ‘Oh man, I can’t wait to go to set and get stabbed.’ It’s incredibly exhilarating.”

Ortega now finds herself faced with another daunting task: to reimagine the deadpan, smart-mouthed Wednesday Addams as a teenager in “Wednesday,” Tim Burton’s upcoming horror comedy for Netflix.

“It’s terrifying,” Ortega said in a late-night video interview from the set in Romania, her hair long and black with a fringe and her eyes ringed in dark circles. Still, Ortega was determined to go big. “Just give it your all, even if it’s too much,” she said.

Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

1. Antique shops I consider myself an amateur antiquarian book collector. I developed a fascination with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I found a collection of his essays from 1879. And not only was I obsessed with the way it looked, but the pages smelled different, the texture was different, and I realized, “Oh, I want to protect this book.” I like having to take care of something, but it’s much easier than a plant because plants can die.

2. Wim Wenders’s “Paris, Texas” The first time I watched “Paris, Texas” was the first time I was emotional over a film. It’s just aching with vulnerability. I haven’t seen a lot of slow-burn movies, so I wasn’t expecting it to be as heartbreaking as it was. It doesn’t explain itself too much. You follow Travis [Harry Dean Stanton], and you slowly peel back the layers. Every time I watch it, I forget where I am.

3. Avocado rolls I went vegetarian, and any time people asked me what my favorite food was, I’m so indecisive I couldn’t give them an answer. So I would say, “Oh, I love avocados.” And people would say, “But that’s not a meal.” Well, I love sushi and I love avocados, and now it’s my go-to. You know how kids always go with chicken tenders and French fries? Those are my chicken tenders and French fries.

4. My Sony headphones I just got them. They’re noise canceling. The sound is amazing. I never have to talk to people when they’re on because they’re big and bulky. I’ve been called “perpetual headphone head” by multiple people because I always have them around my neck. I could not imagine walking around life all day without some sort of background music. Even just feeling the weight of the headphones on my chest brings me some sort of relief.

5. Mathieu Kassovitz’s “La Haine” If I were ever going to direct something, it would have to be similar to this. You feel like you know the characters. It exudes life. It’s three boys in Paris talking about police brutality and the struggles they go through in their days. Something that strikes me about this film is that it’ll always be relevant. That’s kind of unfortunate, but I think that there’s something meaningful about that because of how much energy it has.

6. Radiohead’s “OK Computer” I was shooting a film called “X” in New Zealand, and I became really, really close friends with Jim, one of the P.A.s [production assistants] on set, who was a huge Radiohead fan. Jim had said that his favorite album was “OK Computer,” and he explained to me the impact that it had on him as a kid growing up. And it became pretty much the only thing I listened to. I was out of the country by myself for the very first time. I had just turned 18 so had that newfound independence. You’re slowly becoming an adult and the world becomes scarier, to be so far from home and learning to do things on my own. So I think because I’m so nostalgic for that time in my life, that album will forever hold immense significance.

7. Driving I couldn’t sleep because of the time difference going from Eastern Europe to the West Coast of the U.S. So I was going out every night and driving, and I realized that’s probably when I’m happiest. I’m not talking to anybody. I’m focused. I can roll down the window and taste outside. It’s a freedom that I wish I could experience all the time. That’s another thing, too: You capture some insane views. You become very observant because there’s nothing else to do, especially when you have nowhere really to go.

8. Outkast Childhood — that’s what I associate them with. I’ve been listening to them more because, to be honest, I’m very, very tired, and listening to Outkast in the morning is a nice way to wake myself up. My favorite album, at least right now, is “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”

9. Dancing in public One time, I had just arrived in this sleepy town. It was raining really badly, and I ran out into the middle of the street. I had my headphones on, and “You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters was playing. I just started swaying to it, and then I started spinning to it, and I ran into the grocery store, and I came around the corner, and I saw this old woman. And she was laughing at me, and we both just started dancing together right next to the watermelon. And then when the song was over, I did a bow and she did a bow, and we went our separate ways.

10. Charlie KaufmanI don’t think I’ve ever seen anything of his that I haven’t liked. Oftentimes you get that question, “If you could play any character in the world, who would you play?” And I always say, “I don’t know exactly who that would be. I just know that they would be written by Charlie Kaufman.” He’s one of those people where you hear his words or you hear the message he’s trying to get across, and that’s when you realize things about yourself.


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