Edited by { Misty Milioto

Photography by { John Russo

Hair by { Marcus Francis

Makeup by { Kirin Bhatty

Styling by { Petra Flannery

Gifted Australian actor Samara Weaving stars in the gripping horror film Ready or Not. She plays Grace, who is about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), the man of her dreams, which also means marrying into his rich and privileged family. The extravagant nuptials take place in the Le Domas clan’s massive mansion. But the wedding night turns deadly, when Grace’s strange new relatives insist that she participates in a bizarre, high-stakes game of hide and seek—apparently a wedding-day ritual. Playing a kick-ass, resilient heroine, who refuses to become a victim, Weaving gives a powerful performance in the thriller, which is laced with black humor.  

On the surface, it looks like the quintessential fairy-tale wedding. Grace and Alex come from different backgrounds (she’s had to struggle to make ends meet; he’s part of a wealthy gaming dynasty), but they’re madly in love. And as Ready or Not opens, they are tying the knot in the stunning estate belonging to the groom’s highly dysfunctional family. But Grace quickly discovers something isn’t quite right. There’s an ominous atmosphere from the start. Her husband’s relatives are eccentric to say the least—and it turns out they are also ruthless. Late on her wedding night, in the sinister mansion where the Le Domas family has gathered for the nuptials, Grace is told she will have to join in a ritual that involves pulling a card from a pack. Each card has on it the name of a game the family will play. There’s only one ‘wrong’ card and that’s the one Grace inadvertently picks, drawing herself into a life-or-death game of hide and seek with her new in-laws. The action takes place over a single night as Grace’s supposedly joyful nuptials turn into a terrifying cat-and-mouse chase around the house, where untold secrets and dangers lurk in every nook and cranny. 

What distinguishes this highly entertaining film is that, along with the scares, it delivers some deliciously dark comedy as well. There are also interesting questions at the heart of the story about ethics, individual choices and avarice. Irreverent, scary, and stylishly shot, Ready or Not also stars Andie MacDowell as Grace’s new mother-in-law and Adam Brody as her brother-in-law. The script was penned by writing partners, R. Christopher Murphy and Guy Busick, and the film is directed with flair by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. It was shot at Parkwood Estate, a mansion in Oshawa, Ontario, and at Toronto’s historic Casa Loma, North America’s only full-sized castle.

One of the most exciting talents of her generation, Australian actress Samara Weaving started her career in her teens, when she landed a role in the TV series Out of the Blue. She went on to star in the Australian soap opera Home and Away, also the launchpad for many other talented Australian actors. Her first film was Mystery Road in 2013. Later, Weaving had a notable role in the multi-award winning Fox Searchlight feature Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which was followed by a starring role in the acclaimed TV mini-series Picnic at Hanging Rock. She also starred in the TV series SMILF. Weaving went on to play the title character in the hit horror film The Babysitter and after Ready or Not it has been announced she will be starring in the hotly anticipated comedy Bill & Ted Face the Music.  

What drew you to the role of Grace?

I love the genre of comedy horror films and it’s a great story. There are scares, but it’s also very funny. It’s great psychologically, because you are always second-guessing what everyone’s thinking. The theme is interesting too; for me, it’s about the question ‘How well do you really know someone and, under pressure, what choices do you make?’ Mark’s character (Grace’s husband Alex) has to decide between the love of his life and his loyalty to his family. There’s a rumor about a curse (on the family), which may or may not be true. Does he believe the curse is real? That will affect his choices.

Who is Grace and how do you portray her?

Grace has had a hard life; she was in and out of foster homes and has had to pave her own way in the world. We learn that she became a waitress and met her future fiancé. There is this idea that she had her walls up and was really feisty when they met. She actually turned Alex down a couple of times before eventually saying yes to a date with him.

She’s entering a strange family, whom she doesn’t know at all. What’s her motivation for jumping into marriage?

It’s the fact that she lacked a family herself as a child, together with the abandonment and trauma she’s experienced. She literally had to fight to have a home and then get work in hospitality as a waitress. To get that far has taken a lot. So, when she meets her future husband, it’s very appealing that he has a close-knit family, because she really wants the stability she didn’t have in her own childhood.

What happens at the wedding?

I am meeting my future family for the first time. The wedding is beautiful but a bit weird. But I’m so excited that I’m going to be a part of this great new family that nothing else matters. They tell me there’s a casual game we will play at midnight, but that there’s no need to worry about it. Little does she know that they have this very strange tradition of playing games and that this will take a very hard left turn during the course of the night. We find out there is a back story to the Le Domas dynasty and their gaming empire which plays into this tradition. You take a card with a game on it and the idea is that whatever card you pull, you play. I pull out hide and seek. I am laughing—thinking it’s funny—then it slowly unravels that this is not just hide and seek, it’s hide or you will be killed! I think that’s when her childhood fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in.

She’s a tough bad-ass heroine isn’t she? Was that challenging to play?

The action involved a lot of running and fighting, and I’m wearing a ripped wedding dress in minus 20 degrees—it’s snowing outside at two in the morning. But that wasn’t the hard part for me. The real challenge was that the cast and crew couldn’t stop laughing in very serious, scary scenes; we were in hysterics the whole time!

Explain more!

Well, it was one of the best productions I’ve been in, where everyone got along so well and we just couldn’t keep a straight face because we kept cracking each other up. For example, one time it was 3 a.m. and we were shooting a tiny scene, which should have taken max 20 minutes. Mark and I were in a car and Mark (as Alex) was wearing a mask, which looks terrifying on screen, but close up—I was standing two centimeters from his face—I could see he was trying not to laugh.  We were hysterical; we could not stop for at least half an hour. Then, as we did more takes, the anticipation made it worse. When I knew he was going to look at me, I would laugh. The crew needed a good laugh too, but after half an hour they said, ‘Could you please just get your shit together. Let’s do it!’ That was the hardest scene to film, much harder than the action.

Were there other serious scenes that made you laugh? 

There are so many funny moments. Some involve Melanie Scrofano, who plays Emilie Le Domas—she is trying to kill me, but she keeps killing the wrong person. She’s a brilliant actor, so funny. Adam Brody (who plays Daniel Le Domas) is so funny too.

Andie MacDowell is great in the film as your eccentric mother-in-law, Becky Le Domas. What was it like working with her?

She’s amazing. Becky is evil, but she’s delicately evil. She genuinely sees herself in Grace at the beginning of the film—that’s how she was when she was younger. It’s not until Grace pulls that wrong card that it switches for Becky; she changes her attitude towards Grace, and for various reasons that we find out, she knows what has to be done … she thinks I need to die and that she has to be the one to do it! There is a great scene with Mark and Andie in the film, where she’s genuinely loving, but we also see how manipulative she is. Andie is hysterically funny, and she’s so sweet and surprising. We really connected.

What was it like working with the two directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett?

It was fantastic because they had a good system. Tyler was more involved in the technical side and Matt focused on the performance side. They worked really well together as a team and you can see that on screen. The film is shot beautifully and everyone did a spectacular job with their performances.

Was it frightening at all, filming a horror film in a big mansion?

It was spooky sometimes, especially at night when you hear creaks in the floor and you think: ‘Is that someone walking around or is that a ghost?’ That’s especially true because of the nature of the film.

Did you play any games other than hide and seek?

We did, because we were filming in two beautiful mansions—and on those locations you are sort of forced to all hang out in one room together. Sometimes on sets people like to go off and do their own thing—go to their trailer and read a book—but we all connected so much that everyone stayed in this room and hung out and played games.. I introduced people to backgammon. I’m a big backgammon player—I love it and I’ve got a couple of good sets.

This isn’t your first experience starring in a psychological thriller or horror film. What’s the attraction?

I like doing them and my role in The Babysitter opened a lot of doors for me. Filmmakers in the genre gravitated towards me, because I think they thought I could do it well.

Why do people enjoy being terrified at the movies?

I think it’s partly because you are seeing these amazing stories that originated in someone’s imagination. It’s not escapism exactly, because you’re almost a part of the filmmaker’s experience when you are watching the film. You’re transported into another world. I like scary movies with comedy, when you have the adrenaline rush and the jump scares, and then you have that relief as well [Weaving starts breathing heavily, acting as an engrossed audience member] … ‘Aagh, what’s going to happen? Don’t go behind that door! Why are you running upstairs?… Go the other way!’

Which horror films and thrillers do you particularly like?

Personally, the horror movies I really enjoy are from the 80s, like the Freddy Krueger [A Nightmare on Elm Street] films. My fiancé, [writer/producer] Jimmy Warden, loves the genre and sat me down and we watched all the ’80s classics together. I like the ones with weird monsters that look a bit like puppets but I’m sure were terrifying at the time they came out. Films like Carrie and IT are too scary for me. I like the horror comedy genre films like The Cabin the Woods, where the tension is broken by laughs. It’s the same with dramas; I like the relief provided by comedy. I worked on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and, in that film, you’re about to cry and then you find yourself laughing. That’s because Martin McDonagh [the writer and director of the film] is the most amazing screenwriter and filmmaker and he can weave that fine line between drama and comedy.

How did you initially get interested in drama?

We moved around a lot throughout my childhood because of my parents’ work. At that time my dad (who now teaches film) was a business consultant. As a child, I was very shy and such an introvert, and it was hard for me because we were moving around all the time. My parents put me into a drama class when I was about five years old to bring me out of my shell. There was something so freeing for me right away about being on stage. For my first role I played the Grinch, which was funny. Everyone was quite shocked at the performance asking: ‘Who is this tiny little shy child suddenly transforming into this over-the-top character?’ Drama became really important to me.

Your uncle is the acclaimed actor Hugo Weaving, who has starred in so many indelible films. How inspirational has he been?

As a child, I was too young to watch a lot of his films, but I saw him in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Matrix and in lots of plays. And now I love his work of course. He’s just the most beautiful, amazing uncle and a fantastic actor. He’s been helpful… but to me, he’s Uncle Hugs, Uncle Hugo. We were both in a film called Mystery Road, but we didn’t have a scene together. Uncle Hugo’s son, my cousin Harry Greenwood, is also an actor. The whole family are artists and performers. My mum works in art therapy and teaches museum studies, and her mother was an artist, so it must be in the genes. But we don’t discuss acting a lot, when you’re with family, you’re just happy to be around them; you don’t want to talk about work.

It sounds like your parents were encouraging when you decided to act professionally? How did it happen? 

They have been so supportive. I am the luckiest person I know. Honestly, it was a fluke. I remember loving drama at school. I think my dad thought: ‘Oh all right, we’ll play with the idea.’ I said: ‘I’d like an agent,’ so they arranged a meeting, thinking nothing would probably happen. But I got an agent when I was 13 and then straight away I got an audition for a show called Out of the Blue and then the role in Home and Away.

Was your starring role as the aristocratic Irma Leopold in the mini-series Picnic at Hanging Rock one of the defining moments in your career? It’s also scary in parts.  

Picnic at Hanging Rock was definitely defining for me. It was something I’d always wanted to do. I think it’s chilling and kind of creepy more than scary—I would say it’s unnerving and disturbing. Larysa Kondracki [director] was so great to work with; she was loving and welcoming. It felt really collaborative. And it’s such a big part of Australian culture. In the story, a group of schoolgirls disappear mysteriously—and I thought it really happened until my sister said: ‘Google it—it’s not true!’ You grow up and learn about it in Australia; you have to read the 1967 book by Joan Lindsay.

You mentioned Three Billboards—that must have been exciting for you? 

Oh my goodness, that was an amazing experience and it was nerve-racking. I had a small role, but you know what they say, ‘There’s no small role, there are only small actors!’

After that, you’ll be starring in Bill & Ted Face the Music, a sequel to the cult classics, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, starring Keanu Reeves as Ted and Alex Winter as Bill?

Yes, it’s so exciting. Keanu and Alex are both back and it’s going to be absolutely amazing. I play Alex’s daughter, who his character, Bill, names Thea, after Ted. Bridget Lundy-Paine plays Ted’s daughter, who’s named after Bill—so she’s called Billy!

Do you have a 5- or 10-year plan?

I don’t even dare to do that. But I do have goals. I know that there’s a big difference between being famous and being successful. I want to be successful, fame is so fickle—and, in terms of roles, I want to do things that challenge and scare me. What I learned from Home and Away was that playing the same role [Indi Walker] for three years, you get to know the character and then you’re itching to do something new, something different, and you learn from every experience—and that’s what I want to do, keep learning.