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Longlegs Star Maika Monroe Talks Nicolas Cage Movie, It Follows 2

Longlegs Star Maika Monroe Talks Nicolas Cage Movie, It Follows 2

Calling Longlegs star Maika Monroe a “scream queen” is a bit of an understatement at this point. Perhaps the term “scream empress” is more appropriate for an actor who already solidified her genre cred a decade ago with the one-two punch of cult classics, The Guest and It Follows. In the decade since, she’s added a few more gems to the list including Greta (2018), Villains (2019) and Watcher (2022). And, as of this Friday, Monroe returns to the big screen in Osgood “Oz” Perkins’ Longlegs, which already boasts critical acclaim and hype on the level of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows following its 2014 Cannes premiere and 2015 release.

Monroe’s recent run of good fortune is all the more significant when it’s contextualized with the fact that she nearly quit the industry prior to shooting Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains in 2018.

“I think I overworked myself. I was in this phase of wanting to take every job, and I felt like that’s what I had to do. I did about seven films back to back, and they weren’t all great experiences. Some good, some bad,” Monroe tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a very weird job and it’s a very weird industry, and there can be a darkness around it. So I was just in a mental state where I was like, ‘This isn’t feeling good to me anymore.’ And so I just needed to disconnect for a second.”

The Santa Barbara native credits Berk and Olsen for helping her rediscover her love of acting, and since then, she’s been firing on all cylinders. She even reteamed with the underrated directing duo in October 2022’s well-received sci-fi horror film, Significant Other. Not long after, Monroe met with Perkins about the role of FBI agent Lee Harker in Longlegs, but she soon heard that her recent hot streak would be coming to an end. 

“I left the meeting feeling great, and then my team was like, ‘Actually, Oz is not sure if you’re right for this role. And I was like, ‘No! I have to play this role,’” Monroe recalls. “That happens sometimes where you’re sent a script. You just get this feeling that it’s a necessity.”

For an actor like Monroe who’s been working steadily for over a decade, the advantage is that she doesn’t have to put herself on tape as often as newcomers do. She’s performed so much material in a wide variety of genres that filmmakers and casting directors know what they’re getting at this point. There are always exceptions, of course, and in the case of Longlegs, Monroe was willing to make a tape without a second’s hesitation.

“I talked with my team about it. I was like, ‘What can I do? I will send in a tape. I’ll do whatever,’’’ Monroe says. “So I ended up picking a couple scenes from the script and sent a tape in, and that’s how I got the job.”

Set in 1993, Monroe’s intuitive FBI character is tasked with pursuing the Satanic serial killer known as Longlegs (Nicolas Cage), and as the marketing for the film indicates, Harker and Longlegs eventually come face to face in an interrogation room. Monroe and Cage had been isolated from one another throughout the entirety of production, and once they wrapped their confrontation scene, Monroe finally met Nicolas Cage for the first time.

“When we finally finished the last take and called cut, that was the first time I heard [Cage’s] real voice. He leaned over the table and he was like, ‘I’m a real big fan of you,’” Monroe shares. “I then just looked around and was like, ‘Did everyone just hear that? Did everyone catch that? Because Nic Cage just said he’s a big fan.’ So it was a pretty insane moment for me.”

Six months after wrapping Longlegs for Neon, it was announced the indie studio would be bringing Monroe and Mitchell back together in They Follow, the long-awaited sequel to It Follows. When this THR writer spoke to Monroe for Watcher in 2022, one point of discussion was about how Mitchell had been missing in action since his It Follows follow-up, Under the Silver Lake (2018). The Andrew Garfield-led pic underwhelmed commercially despite quickly developing yet another cult following for the filmmaker, who’s now in production on Flowervale Street with Anne Hathaway and Ewan McGregor. 

Well, at the time of her last THR interview, Monroe acknowledged that she needed to reach out to Mitchell, and she did exactly that. 

“I did reach out to [David Robert Mitchell] and we started a communication. He actually wasn’t the first person to bring to my attention that a sequel was in the works. I think that was because he wasn’t sure yet. He was probably working on the script at the time, and he’s very particular, but my team started [talks],” Monroe says. “There was just this little buzz in the background of what he was currently working on, and then it became very real. I was sent the script, and it’s incredible. Neon then came on board, and here we are.”

While Monroe never truly thought a sequel would ever come to fruition, she reveals that the story is definitely something she couldn’t have predicted, adding, “I definitely was surprised when I read the script. It was not what I expected.”

Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Monroe also breaks down her idiosyncratic performance as Lee Harker in Longlegs, before addressing her need to inquire with The Guest filmmaker Adam Wingard about his own long-gestating sequel.

When I last spoke to you for Watcher, you dropped a bomb at the very end of our interview, and I didn’t have any time left to really dig into it. You essentially said that right before you shot Villains (2019), you nearly gave up acting. 

Yep!

What was going on at the time? 

I think I overworked myself. I was in this phase of wanting to take every job, and I felt like that’s what I had to do. I did about seven films back to back, and they weren’t all great experiences. Some good, some bad. It’s a very weird job and it’s a very weird industry, and there can be a darkness around it. So I was just in a mental state where I was like, “This isn’t feeling good to me anymore.” And so I just needed to disconnect for a second.

You then gave credit to Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains for helping you fall in love with your job again. Now, you have Watcher, Longlegs, They Follow and several other great projects to show for it. Was this also a reminder to remain patient?

Absolutely. This industry and this job can be really hard on you, mentally, and I just needed to take a step back and then enter in again. I’m now having such incredible experiences on movies that people are connecting with, so taking my time, being patient, not needing to do everything and being picky has been key. 

Maika Monroe in Longlegs

Courtesy of NEON

Did Longlegs begin with an email like most things? 

It certainly did. It all begins with a simple email. I was sent the script, and I absolutely loved it. I then met Oz, and I was just enamored by his vision and his ideas for this. So I left the meeting feeling great, and then my team was like, “Actually, Oz is not sure if you’re right for this role.” And I was like, “No! I have to play this role.” That happens sometimes where you’re sent a script. You just get this feeling that it’s a necessity, and so I talked with my team about it. I was like, “What can I do? I will send in a tape. I’ll do whatever.” So I ended up picking a couple scenes from the script and sent a tape in, and that’s how I got the job. 

You’ve worked with a number of genre filmmakers at this point: David Robert Mitchell, Chloe Okuna, Adam Wingard, Berk and Olsen, Neil Jordan. So what makes Oz Perkins Oz Perkins? 

He’s very, very funny. He has a great sense of humor. Normally, there’s a darkness that comes with genius, and while Oz is a genius, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. So his great sense of humor was nice to have on a very dark set.

In his scripts, he’ll actually write out a character’s thoughts, not just their dialogue and action. Was that really helpful for a character who doesn’t talk a lot?

Oh yeah, for sure. It’s so informative, and it helps you build out this character while knowing what Oz’s vision for it is. 

Lee often zones out in scenes, even when other people are talking to her. Where did that choice originate? 

Some of it was definitely on the page, but I do think we found Lee and her oddness [later]. On day one of filming, she’s thrown into her first FBI mission, and she’s with another young FBI agent, knocking door to door to find this guy. And, on that day, she zones out, but the zoning out is her intuition kicking in. So we found these little quirks and what makes her tick and her physicality on that first day. It was very cool. 

Maika Monroe in Longlegs

Neon/Courtesy Everett Collection

Similar to me before this interview, she does this really sharp breathing when she’s scared. 

(Monroe keels over with laughter.)

Did it take rehearsal to find that exact rhythm? 

No, that just came out of me on the day!

Dolls are a motif in this film, so did hair and makeup try to design Lee’s hair and makeup to look like a porcelain doll to some degree? 

Wow, that’s very interesting. It wasn’t a choice, but now I wish that it was. That’s a great thought and idea, and if it was intended, I was not aware of it.

I’ll follow up on it with Oz. 

Please do! [Writer’s Note: I did, and Oz was also unaware of any intention.]

Nic’s character hangs over the movie for quite a while, so did they try to create that same dynamic by keeping the two of you separate for most of production? 

Yes, they did. I did not see him or any photos of him. I did not meet Nic until they called action. That’s when I opened the door to a room and saw him for the first time.

As the marketing shows, there’s a big interrogation scene between the two of you. How did you keep it together when you were opposite such a big performance? 

(Laughs.) I have no idea. I think I blacked out because it was probably one of the most insane experiences I’ve ever had on a set. Nic Cage is just such an icon. Everyone knows him, everyone knows what he looks like and how he talks. He’s Nic Cage. So I was put into this room, and while I knew that it was him, there was no resemblance at all. And, as you know, his performance is absolutely insane. So I was opposite this monster, and it was so surreal, making it very easy to tap into my character that day.

Maika Monroe as Lee Harker in Longlegs

Courtesy of NEON

Lee’s mom (Alicia Witt) is a hoarder, so there’s a box in the film that contains Lee’s teeth, hair and nails from different ages. What was your reaction when you learned that the props department took it upon themselves to recruit these bits from their own family members? 

You hate to hear it. (Laughs.) You really hate to hear it. Oz told me that as I was picking them up in the scene. So I dropped them quickly, and I was  like … (Monroe imitates her visceral reaction to such a revolting concoction.) But the dedication that they had on this film ran deep.

Are you willing to take a polygraph that Kiernan Shipka actually played Carrie Anne Camera? I couldn’t believe it when I saw her name in the credits.

(Laughs.) Yes, I am willing and able to do that for you. 

Did you check under the wig to make sure? 

I did, yes. 

Amazing work. 

I couldn’t agree more. It was impressive. 

Last time we spoke, I also remarked that it seemed like It Follows director David Robert Mitchell had fallen off the face of the earth, and you agreed by saying that you’d been meaning to reach out to him. Well, you must’ve reached out to him because all of our hopes and dreams are now coming true in the form of a sequel known as They Follow. How did all of that go down?

Well, I did reach out to him and we started a communication. He actually wasn’t the first person to bring to my attention that a sequel was in the works. I think that was because he wasn’t sure yet. He was probably working on the script at the time, and he’s very particular, but my team started [talks]. There was just this little buzz in the background of what he was currently working on, and then it became very real. I was sent the script, and it’s incredible. Neon then came on board, and here we are.

See Also

Maika Monroe as Jay Height in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows

RADiUS-TWC/Courtesy Everett Collection

You’ve had all these years to imagine what a sequel might be like, so does it align with what you expected? Or is it nothing like you expected? 

No, nothing [like I expected]. There was also never a thought in my mind that there would be a continuation. So I definitely was surprised when I read the script. It was not what I expected.

You were practically born in the water, but are you going to start swimming laps again to get back in Jay’s headspace? 

I think I’m going to have to, yes. I recently moved near the ocean, so I plan to start a pretty strict regimen to get myself prepared. 

She likes to float as well, so please remember to do lots of floating exercises. 

(Laughs.) I’m definitely going to mix it up and try to get a good balance.

Last time, I also whined to you about how I had recently talked to The Guest brain trust and that they seemed to have little interest in a Guest sequel. Well, I just spoke to Adam Wingard and Dan Stevens again recently, and they were still pretty blasé about it. But Adam did say something that was both sad and interesting. He said that the late great Lance Reddick would’ve been involved in whatever idea he did have, even though Lance’s character died protecting your character.

I had no idea! This is my first time hearing about this. There’s always rumors of a sequel, but that’s interesting. I’m going to have to talk to Adam about this.

Yes, you’ll have to take the same approach that you took when you tracked down David after our last interview.

Clearly, I have some pull, so I’ll get on it. You’ve really started a chain reaction here. This is good.

A question in Longlegs is whether Lee can remember her 9th birthday, but I don’t think I can remember mine either. Can you remember your 9th birthday? 

No, I definitely can’t. I don’t even know why I pretended for a second that I could remember. But I remember my 13th birthday. That was the first one that I really remember because I broke my arm a week before it. So I made all of my friends wrap their arms up and put slings on so they could feel what it felt like to not be able to use their right arm. 

Was this the result of a kiteboarding mishap? [Writer’s Note: At one point in her life, Monroe was basically the Caitlin Clark of kiteboarding.]

(Laughs.) No, it was a scootering accident. I ran straight into a garage, as happens sometimes.

Maika Monroe as Lee Harker and Nicolas Cage as Longlegs in Longlegs

Courtesy of NEON

Decades from now, when you look back on Longlegs, what day are you going to recall first? 

Of course, it’s annoying to say this again, but it has to be when I walked into that room and I saw Longlegs. It’ll be a memory that I’ll probably carry to my deathbed. It’s ingrained in my brain.

Does Nic make small talk in between takes? Will he ask about kiteboarding and the weather? 

No, not until it was his last day of filming. Throughout that whole day of shooting, he was in character with the Longlegs voice. And then, when we finally finished the last take and called cut, that was the first time I heard his real voice. He leaned over the table and he was like, “I’m a real big fan of you.” I then just looked around and was like, “Did everyone just hear that? Did everyone catch that? Because Nic Cage just said he’s a big fan.” So it was a pretty insane moment for me.

Have you ever tried going that deep into character? 

I’m not much of a method girl. Mental health is important for me, and since a lot of the roles that I do are incredibly dark, it’s just much healthier for me to step out of it.

***
Longlegs opens in the movie theaters on July 12.

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