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 the Soska sisters to talk about how American Mary parallels their Hollywood career and the steps they took to make it a different aesthetic statement after their last film, Dead Hooker In A Trunk.
I talked to Katherine Isabelle and she said she thinks this film represents you guys becoming acclimated to Hollywood. At first you’re wide-eyed and idealistic, but then you get a bit more wary.
Sylvia: That is absolutely accurate. We didn’t even realize at the time how much of ourselves and our personal journey we were putting in there. When we were making our first film we were so broke and we realized how much of show business was “show.” We gave ourselves two weeks to write this and everything we were going through at the time made it into the script through different analogies. The body-mod community is really representative of the horror community, the indie scene. And the mainstream doctors – the ones that you’re told you should trust your life with – were representative of the big Hollywood industry. It’s very much where we were two years ago, it’s very much what we needed to say.
Jen: It feeds very much into our tagline of “appearances are everything.” A lot of times people who appear normal are just trying to project that image. We’ve met some absolute monsters where everyone goes around talking about what wonderful people they are. You really can’t judge someone by what they put out there.
Did you write this with Katherine in mind?
Sylvia: The script was definitely written for her. We’re huge horror nerds and loved her performance in Ginger Snaps and after that we were obsessed with watching her in different productions. I thought she was so talented and was being underutilized. The scene she has with Al Pacino in Insomnia is incredible. Everything in this film is something I wanted to see Katie do.
Jen: As a rule, we never ever write for a particular actor. We have types in mind, but we’re trying to create characters. We totally broke that rule with Katie because we’ve been watching her for so long, she just has this presence.
Tristan Risk plays such an interesting character, this Betty Boop person. But that’s a huge risk that paid off because it could have taken people out of the movie.
Sylvia: It was such a difficult part to cast. We saw 60 different actresses, we had lord of people coming in and tapings around the world. It was really hard to find someone who could make that real. And dealing with prosthetics, we wanted her to have scars. We didn’t want her to look perfect. Originally Tristan wasn’t even in the call, she was hired to be our staff coordinator and choreographer, and I couldn’t stop staring at her. I was like, “it’s too bad you don’t act” and she said, “oh, I act.” And then I said, “it’s too bad you don’t do voices” and she said, “oh, I do voices.”
Jen: We really wanted to open up a conversation about cosmetic surgery vs. body modification. Body modification isn’t accepted because it isn’t seen as a necessary change but cosmetic surgery like botox and breast enlargement is seen as necessary. As I see it, cosmetic surgery is about fitting into the overall ideal, or North American ideal, of what is beautiful. But with body modification people are trying to extend their own relationships with themselves and what they think is beautiful.
Can you talk about your approach to the visuals? The film is quite stately and striking.
Sylvia: It’s more of an homage to Asian and European cinema. When we were trying to pitch the film people were like, “oh, that’s Hostel, that’s Saw. That’s gross no one can look at it.” But I thought, “what if we take that as a focal point and really focus on appearances and try to make it a stunningly beautiful movie.” We have a clitorectomy in the film that I challenge anyone to tell me a more beautiful body modification scene. We wanted to bring the art into that.
Jen: With the tagline “appearances are everything,” it was so important for the film to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. We had two nickels to rub together for all of our departments, but the work they were able to pull off was just phenomenal.