As 2011 comes to a close, EW.com wanted to honor some of the unsung heroes of the year for their outstanding achievements in entertainment. Most women wouldn’t relish landing roles with names like “Creepy Woman,'” “Crack Whore Girlfriend,” and “Succubus,” but South African actress Maria Olsen welcomes the chance to scare the bejesus out of millions of moviegoers. Her wordless role as a member of a terrifying witch coven at the end of Paranormal Activity 3 certainly left an impression. So how do you tell a witch? Olsen shares her secrets below. For more behind the scenes access to the year’s best TV and movie scenes, click here for EW.com‘s Best of 2011: Behind the Scenes coverage.
As told by: Maria Olsen
When I was starting off in film, I would watch the footage of the stuff that I shot. I realized I’m really intense on screen. It’s not something I set out to do specifically. It’s just how I come across. Not everyone can do those very intense and scary roles. When I went to the audition, I didn’t even know that I was going in for Paranormal Activity 3. It went out under a code name [Sports Camp], and everything was very hush-hush. I knew the level of intensity I had to bring, so I went there with a completely open mind, ready to give them exactly what they wanted from me and have fun.
I was working on set for one day, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it was the last day of production, so that had a special vibe all on its own. The set itself was dark and creepy. We blocked the scenes in the light, and then we switched off all the lights. We were standing there in pitch darkness waiting for the associate producer to open the door with the camera. There were times when we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.
[Directors] Ariel [Schulman] and Henry [Joost] needed us to be intensely creepy and threatening. It was all in the way that we looked, how we focused on the camera, and how we moved — that sort of stuff. It was all coming from an emotional place. I knew we were a coven of witches and that the little girls were going to be inducted into the coven, but that was really all I knew. We were very much on a need-to-know basis.
I work a lot in horror, so I know the need for keeping the mood light when you’re not in front of the camera. Sometimes it can get emotionally overwhelming. [At one point] we were sitting around, waiting for our scene to be shot, and I was like, “I’m tired. It’s three in the morning. I need some sugar.” A few minutes later, there I was, standing in this pitch-black garage with a handful of jelly beans in my pocket, going, “I hope I don’t drop any of these!” Wrong time to get jelly beans!
After we wrapped, I had to be up in two hours to get to set 100 miles away for another shoot on another horror movie [Bunnyman 2]. I played a bus driver, and they trusted me with a 60-foot school bus. Can you imagine? That‘s the scary bit!
For more on the Best and Worst of 2011, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, on stands now.