Samara Weaving on the ‘Masochism’ of Playing Real Women, from ‘Chevalier’ to ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’

Weaving cemented her status as a scream queen because she "needed to pay rent," but the rising star tells IndieWire she's now taking on biopics of every variety.
Samara Weaving at the L.A. premiere of "Chevalier"
Samara Weaving at the L.A. premiere of "Chevalier"

Samara Weaving has been a scream queen, an action star, and now, the embodiment of multiple real-life feminist icons.

First up, the “Ready or Not” breakout star portrays French aristocrat Marie-Joséphine de Montalembert in this week’s new release “Chevalier” opposite Kelvin Harrison Jr. After that, Weaving will transform into former Playboy bunny Holly Madison for limited series “Down the Rabbit Hole,” and will then travel back in time once more to play Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte in “Liz.”

Maybe I’m a masochist. You read a really good script or a really good pitch and you can’t say no to it,” Weaving told IndieWire of her period piece nods to real people. “Elizabeth Bonaparte, I’m a huge fan of [director] Adam Leon’s work. ‘Italian Studies’ is one of my favorite movies, so just working with him is going to be awesome. And Elizabeth Bonaparte is so dope. She’s the first American socialite, first American female millionaire who made every penny on her own.”

She added, “And, I mean, Holly Madison, are you joking? She’s so cool. She’s the best. I’m nervous about Holly Madison, because people have their own idea about who she is, whereas period pieces, people don’t know who these women are and there’s no footage of them. It’s a little less stressful for me to do them justice.”

Portraying Marie-Joséphine in “Chevalier,” set during the French Revolution, proved to be more of a physical challenge for Weaving, given the restrictive costumes of the era, which paralleled the rebellion of her character driving the suffragette movement.

“Corsets are intense but it was really helpful. [Costume designer] Oliver Garcia is a genius, and Roo Maurice, the hair and makeup designer, had the best tools for getting into character because it was such a good reminder of how women just had no autonomy over anything, because you couldn’t move,” Weaving said. “You had to rely on someone else to get dressed. To go to the bathroom, you had to have someone help you, which is what they did back then. So that was really influential to just remembering that. These women had no rights at all.”

The “Scream VI” star added with a “Beauty and the Beast” nod, “I felt like a Disney princess, especially in that yellow one. It was like full Belle!”

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Samara Weaving in "Chevalier"
Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Samara Weaving in “Chevalier”screenshot/Searchlight

Weaving noted that it was “Atlanta” writer Stefani Robinson’s script that inspired her to sign on to the historical film centered on the lesser-known story of composer and colonel of the first all-Black regiment in Europe, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, as portrayed by Harrison in the feature.

“Every character in it is so well-rounded and felt really 3-D. There weren’t any period tropes that she fell into or stereotypes,” Weaving said. “When Marie-Josephine gets up on the table and sculls a beer and is like, ‘What about women?!’ I was sold. I was like, ‘That is the most risky thing a woman could do back then and she’s doing it and she doesn’t care.’ I think she’s a mixture of naïve and so brave. I was sold. Sign me up.”

Working opposite Harrison as his onscreen love interest was easy, thanks to their effortless chemistry, said Weaving. “He’s incredible. I love him. It was so easy to fall in love with him,” she explained. “He’s so talented and such a hard worker and set a really good tone for the rest of the cast and crew. We didn’t get that much time to hang out because he was working so much, but when we did, we had a great time. We’ve hung out since. He’s marvelous. He’s really inspiring.”

And while Weaving is ready to do a more straight-forward romance story soon, the “Babylon” actress admitted it’s difficult to find the right rom-com script. “It’s just hard. They’re hard to get right these days,” Weaving said. “But if a funny, good one came along, I would totally do it.”

Jimmy Warden and Samara Weaving at the "Cocaine Bear" premiere
Jimmy Warden and Samara Weaving at the “Cocaine Bear” premiereGetty

Until then, Weaving is living out a real-life rom-com with husband, screenwriter Jimmy Warden, who will soon make his directorial debut with “Borderline” from a script he wrote. Weaving, who will star in the film, previously collaborated with Warden on “The Babysitter: Killer Queen,” and Warden recently penned hit film “Cocaine Bear.”

For “Borderline,” Weaving stars as a pop star who is stalked in 1990s Los Angeles, along with her athlete boyfriend and their bodyguard. Eric Dane, Ray Nicholson, Alba Baptista, Billy Magnussen, and Jimmie Fails co-star.

“It was the most fun. [Jimmy is] incredible to work with. He’s so driven and so ambitious and a bit of a perfection, almost to a fault,” Weaving said. “He’s in the edit [room] right now and it’s just looking cooler and cooler and cooler every time. The whole cast is just so good. Ray and Alba are the best. It’s so weird and bonkers. Oh my god, and Jimmie Fails, incredible!”

She teased, “I think people are going to be like, ‘What am I watching?!’ You’ve seen ‘Cocaine Bear.’ It’s a mixture of different genres and ‘Borderline’ is the same thing, if not more insane. Well, it’s hard to top a cocaine bear, ain’t it? But [Jimmy] has got a mental brain and I think people are going to love it.”

Samara Weaving at the Sydney premiere of "Babylon"
Samara Weaving at the Sydney premiere of “Babylon”WireImage/Getty

And Weaving is deepening her action star roots with upcoming revenge films “Azrael” and “Bella.” So, what about the genre attracts Weaving to keep spinning her web deeper and deeper into twisted thrillers?

“I think at first it was just what I was being offered, because ‘The Babysitter’ was my first breakthrough American role and that was a horror-comedy and so after that, indie directors saw me in that and very kindly offered me their roles,” Weaving said. “That’s what happened with ‘Ready or Not.’ So from there, I just fell in love with it and kept going. But yeah, at first it wasn’t so much a choice, as I needed to pay rent.”

Six years after her 2017 stateside breakout film, and Weaving isn’t shying away from leading bigger blockbuster franchise, perhaps even alongside uncle Hugo Weaving. “Let’s get down and ‘Matrix’-y, sure,” Weaving joked. Ready or not, it’s Weaving’s world.

Searchlight Pictures will release “Chevalier” in theaters on Friday, April 21.

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