Lauren Bittner discovers demons while making a sex tape in Paranormal Activity 3, on Blu-ray January 24th
The highest grossing horror film of 2011 is set to unleash its wicked ways on Blu-ray and DVD, as Paranormal Activity 3 comes home next Tuesday, January 24th. A prequel that finds young Katie and her sister Kristi coming in contact with the supernatural for the first time, this crowd-pleasing thriller proved to be a huge hit amongst fans and critics alike when it took theaters by storm back in October.
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To celebrate the upcoming home video release, we chatted with the talented and very beautiful Lauren Bittner, who plays mom to two young daughters terrorized by an unseen demon. For her thoughts on making a sex tape, the impact something like this might have on a real mother's life, and her expectations for the recently announced Paranormal Activity 4, read our conversation below.
I over heard you talking about Paranormal Activity 4. Do you have any idea where that story might be going? Are you going to be involved at all?
Lauren Bittner: I don't want to touch that. I don't know where that is going, and I don't even want to speak on it. Because they've got this covered. They know exactly how to do it. Even if they don't know where the story is going, yet, necessarily...Whether or not Julie is a part of it is a complete mystery to me. I have no idea.
When we see Julie and Dennis making a sex tape in 1988, that predates Rob Lowe's infamous sex tape scandal of 1989 by a whole year, which kicked off the whole sex tape fad of the late 80s. This couple, Julie and Dennis, they are really forward thinking individuals...
Lauren Bittner: They are innovators! (Laughs) The thing about that scene, at the end of the day...Moms and dad, boyfriends and girlfriends...Even if you have kids, you are still human. You're still vulnerable. You still take chances. So, for me, it was like...Julie is cool enough to be a good mom, and to still have a great time. That's how I made sense of that scene. I didn't think too much about them being forward thinkers. Looking back on it, yeah, Julie was pretty progressive...
It would be fun, in one of the upcoming sequels, to have someone here in 2012, find one of Julie and Dennis' sex tapes at a Good Will. They are watching it, and they see the demon in the back ground...
Lauren Bittner: That would be pretty amazing. Sex and a demon. It's like finding two for the price of one!
In terms of the horror genre, moms usually get the short shrift. But Paranormal Activity 3 gives Julie a fully fleshed out character. Was that always on the page, or did you guys develop her through the process of shooting what was, from what I understand, a mostly improvised script?
Lauren Bittner: It was great. I was so fortunate and lucky that they really wanted to explore the character of Julie. She is at an interesting point in her life. More so than, maybe, if she were a twenty year old mom, or a forty year old mom. She is still young, yet she has all these responsibilities. You are young and fresh and you still have all of this energy. But you have to control a household. That is a really interesting place to be in life. I'm glad they allowed for that. I didn't know, at the start, where the Julie character was going to go. I don't think anybody knew. Things were changing with each day. I was just lucky enough that they wanted to learn more about Julie, and through that, I got to learn more about her. Which was pretty great. I like her.
I haven't gotten a chance to see the supplemental materials on the Blu-ray yet. Are there any extra Julie scenes? Did you get to participate in an audio commentary, or anything like that?
Lauren Bittner: I have to tell you....I just received a copy of it. What I saw, there were no extras that included me. But...There is a whole second disc worthy of stuff that I haven't gotten to see yet. I know there is a whole other feature that I wasn't able to play, because I didn't have the Blu-ray capabilities at the time. I know there is a lost tape feature. But I haven't watched it yet. I'm kind of excited to see what is on there! I'm jazzed about it.
This sequel was made by the two directors behind Catfish. That was supposedly a real documentary, but a lot of people have accused Catfish of being fake. Here these guys are again, making what looks like a real documentary. But we know for a fact that it is a fake. How does the process of shooting a film like this, one that is intended to look like a real documentary, change your perspective, if at all, as an actor?
Lauren Bittner: Hopefully, working on something like this makes me better at what I do. Whenever you are acting, you have to believe it. You have to believe what you are selling and what you are saying. The process of shooting a movie like this didn't change anything for me. Because I wanted it to be rooted in as much reality as possible. Whether or not the circumstances were actually occurring, I thought it was important to bring vulnerability, and as much humanity, to it as possible. So that people could relate to it. And jump into it as if this could possibly be happening. That's the key to these movies. People are always looking over their shoulder saying, "This could happen." Or they're saying, "This did happen to me. These things do happen in my house." For me, it was about creating a world in which that seemed possible. To myself, and the people who might be watching. The directors really helped with that. They are so curious...So you become curious, too. "What will happen if we turn this corner?" You never really know, do you?
Did they ever throw anything your way in the middle of scene that you weren't expecting?
Lauren Bittner: Oh, all the time. All the time! Please, some days, I felt like it was "Let's scare Lauren" day. But at that, they were very respectful towards my acting. They were great. They would always throw things my way that I wasn't expecting. My reactions gave them a laugh or two at times.
Over the last ten or twelve years, these faux-documentary, found-footage thrillers have become more and more prominent at the box office. I've spoken with some older actors, who can't quite grasp the skill set of acting as though they're being captured in real-time. Its sort of a whole new angle to the craft of acting that younger actors must now have. Its an acting style that demands a lack of theatricality..
Lauren Bittner: Yeah. I think it is a different style. For me...I can't speak for other actors...But I think it's always important to be as real and believable as possible. I think that's the key. To make people forget, for a moment, that you are even in a movie. But I definitely think that it's a different style. I think that it is stripped down. It's no fuss. You have to be willing to look real. And look ugly. Not that real is ugly. But you have to let down your guard. You have to be willing to be seen in a way...That maybe you're not seen in every other genre of filmmaking. I certainly think you need to be seen in the way you are putting yourself out there. But in these movies, there is less between you and the audience. It is very stripped down.
Did you think about which horror movies Julie may have seen in her own life, before all of this happened to her?
Lauren Bittner: What horror movies she'd seen? No, I never did...That is a great question. That is something I will be thinking about...For me, it was more thinking about what she'd been through in her life. The burden that she is carrying, being a young mother, having to juggle everything. For me, that was the anchor, from the very beginning. But that is a great, great question...
Its like, with my mom. She'd have Showtime on in the background in the 80s. She would hear bits and pieces of all these horror movies that we'd watched as kids. But she didn't necessarily watch them herself. It was background noise while she got the house in order, or made dinner. Like, Poltergeist. She listened to that who knows how many times. But would it make her better at dealing with the situation? The mom is not like the kids in Scream. A mom might not have the genre suave that people expect in horror movies in this day and age...
Lauren Bittner: Right. Exactly. I am sure that Julie has seen pieces of those movies. Dennis is probably the one that can quote all of the horror movies, but Julie probably had them going on in the background of her life. She had definitely soaked in some of that. No one has ever asked me about that before. It's a really good question.
You and your on-screen boyfriend Christopher Nicholas Smith have such great chemistry together in this very real environment. For a faux-documentary such as this, was the process of rehearsing, and getting to know each other, different than some of the previous movies you'd worked on?
Lauren Bittner: Christopher Nicholas Smith is wonderful. The funny thing is, Chris and I met in high school. We'd actually done a play together. When we walked into the audition, we were like, "Oh, hi!" It was such a coincidence. So there is that. Right away, we had that hometown rapport. He is hilarious, and kind. And so supportive. He and I would talk about things in the morning. We'd say, "This is what we need to do today!" We'd figure it all out. He was very ready for anything. Which made me want to jump right in there with him.
Having watched Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Catfish, I have to wonder how much of a coincidence that actually was, the fact that you both went to the same high school. Do you think they may have done some research on you guys before hand? That would fit their profile as directors...
Lauren Bittner: I have no idea...I wouldn't put it past them to know a ton. They are super smart. But I don't think they knew this about us. Chris and I did inform them of our past during the audition process. I think it was one of those things. Even if we hadn't met in high school, we would have had a natural, easy chemistry. I find him very easy to be around...But, you know? I don't know. That is an interesting point I haven't thought about. I have no idea what goes on with these guys...
Did you see Catfish?
Lauren Bittner: Look, I did not know these guys at all before making the movie. I watched Catfish only after the whole process had started. I felt like I should get educated. I actually watched the movie while on a plane flight out to do a screen test for Paranormal Activity 3. I was blown away. I found it so interesting. It was so compelling, I couldn't stop watching it. I personally didn't care...People kept saying, "Is this real, or isn't it?" I really didn't' care about that. I just thought it was brilliant. These guys are amazing. But no, I did not know them before taking this on.
Did watching the movie change your perception of them at all?
Lauren Bittner: Um...It didn't. Because I just got to know them as my directors. I didn't know them as anything else. Other than that. Even though I saw the movie before we actually shot anything, I felt like they were unique to this experience. Because I had nothing to compare it to. Like with Chris, I felt comfortable with them right away. They were really easy going.
Last question. Watching the movie today...Do you feel you would or wouldn't react the way Julie does to the things that happen in Paranormal Activity 3?
Lauren Bittner: I think it's a bit of both. There were times when I felt as though I reacted as any normal mother would. Then there were times when I stepped back, and I realized this wasn't me...This was Julie, and Dennis, and these two girls...This is the circumstances that they are dealing with...I think it was a little bit of both. Ultimately, hopefully my reactions came from a place that many mothers could relate to. That was my goal.
Paranormal Activity 3 scares its way onto Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, January 24th.