Starring Katharine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason, Ginger Snaps), Antonio Cupo (“Bomb Girls”), and Tristan Risk, “American Mary is the story of a medical student named Mary who is growing increasingly broke and disenchanted with medical school and the established doctors she once idolized. The allure of easy money sends a desperate Mary through the messy world of underground surgeries which leaves more marks on her than the so-called freakish clientele. Appearances are everything.”
I recently hopped on the phone with Isabelle and we talked about the challenges of portraying such a complex character as well as what it was like to be exposed to all of the freaky procedure in the film. We also talk about her appearance in the now landmark werewolf film Ginger Snaps and how its’ legacy has affected her.
So how did you get involved with all of this?
I got the script about 9 months before we shot it and I was obsessed with it when I first read it. I loved it so much but I didn’t know if we’d ever really shoot it so I was trying to not get my hopes up too much. So I kind of sat with it and thought about it for 6 months.
Syl Soska, one of the directors, will liken this movie to their journeys through Hollywood as enthusiastic girls who can easily get f*cked over and get bitter, jaded and a tad angry. And I think that’s a relatable experience, not just for women but for anyone. There’s a time in anyone’s life when you’re really enthusiastic, naive and bright-eyed and bushy tailed and you quickly learn that you need to be a little more weary.
They were so wonderful and supportive and encouraging in making me more confident day after day that I wasn’t totally f*cking up the amazing character of Mary that I’d been given.
Did you hang out with any med students to gauge their behavior?
No, when I shot Mary it was the fourth movie I had done back to back. So I literally just came in on a plane right after being chained to an abandoned house. We didn’t have any prep time. I was taught how to suture on set, but I didn’t have time to go hang out at any med schools. Plus, I’m not sure that they would have wanted to hang out with me [laughs].
You spend a lot of the movie conversing with someone who is surgically altered to look and sound like Betty Boop. Is it hard to maintain character through that?
Tristan Risk, who played Beatress, is f*cking amazing. Not only did she have to get there 4 hours early to get her prosthetics on, but she had an absolutely stellar shining attitude. She so utterly absorbed the part that there was no disconnect between myself and her, she literally just became Beatress. She came onset literally without any makeup on and people were like, “I’m sorry we’re going to have to ask you to leave.” No one recognized her [even though she’s one of the stars of the movie]. She is brilliant, she exuded Beatress through every pore.
Out of all the procedures your character has to perform in the movie, which one disturbed you the most?
I don’t think any of them disturbed me. There was the clitorectomy scene where I’m dropping bits of bloody vagina on the floor, and if we get a walkout that’s usually when it happens. But I’m not actually performing it, it’s just a tray with little bits of bloody latex. Honestly, I think the suturing of turkey got to me the most, I’m paranoid about raw poultry.
13 years after Ginger Snaps, that movie has made quite a impact. Did you have any idea how special it was at the time?
We had no idea. We thought we would never work again after that. There was a big kerfuffle about casting that movie. They wanted to cast in Toronto and, if I’m not mistaken, a lot of agents and casting directors said they didn’t want to get into it.
This was before vampires and werewolves became such big things again and you’re dealing with menstruation and teenage girls killing each other… Emily [Perkins] and I thought the script was really funny, interesting and unique, but then you get onset and there’s a jock in a werewolf suit and there’s six hours of prosthetics and you look like a slutty werewolf you’re thinking, “this is bizarre. I don’t think anyone is going to watch this.” But fortunately it was everything Emily and I thought it could be.
At first it went to some film festivals and a few critics liked it, but it wasn’t until about 2 years later that I realized anyone had really seen it or liked it. 13 years later I get kids who weren’t born when that movie was made coming up to me and talking about it. It’s amazing how it carries through, it’s a blessing to be a part of something like that.
You had the two follow-ups a few years later, are there any plans now for you to revisit that character?
I didn’t even know we were doing a sequel until I was at a premiere for a different movie and a fan told me. I was like, “what? That’s crazy! No one talked to me about it!” I think a long time ago there was talk of a series, but I think people have new original things they’d rather do instead of going back to that.
I think it would make a great series, but no one talks to me. I’m the last to know anything, no one tells me sh*t [laughs]!