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Maika Monroe on ‘Longlegs,’ Almost Quitting Acting, and ‘It Follows 2’

Calling Longlegs star Maika Monroe a “scream queen” might be an understatement. Perhaps “scream empress” is more fitting for an actor who cemented her genre credibility a decade ago with cult hits The Guest and It Follows. Over the past ten years, Monroe has added several more genre gems to her filmography, including Greta (2018), Villains (2019), and Watcher (2022). This Friday, Monroe returns to the big screen in Osgood “Oz” Perkins’ Longlegs, which has already garnered significant critical acclaim, evoking the same level of enthusiasm that It Follows received following its 2014 Cannes premiere.

Monroe’s recent success is even more noteworthy considering she almost left the industry before 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 told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a very weird job and 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 thanks Berk and Olsen for rekindling her passion for acting. Since then, she has been unstoppable. She even reunited with the duo for October 2022’s well-received sci-fi horror film, Significant Other. However, Monroe’s hot streak was nearly interrupted when she met with Perkins about the role of FBI agent Lee Harker in Longlegs.

“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 a seasoned actor like Monroe, she usually doesn’t need to audition as newcomers do. However, she was willing to make a tape for Longlegs without a moment’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 of scenes from the script and sent in a tape, and that’s how I got the job.”

Set in 1993, Monroe’s FBI character is tasked with pursuing the Satanic serial killer known as Longlegs (Nicolas Cage). As the marketing material indicates, Harker and Longlegs eventually confront each other in an interrogation room. Monroe and Cage were kept apart throughout production, heightening the anticipation. When they finally shot their confrontation scene, it was also the first time Monroe met Nicolas Cage.

“When we finished the last take and called cut, that was the first time I heard [Cage’s] real voice. He leaned over the table and said, ‘I’m a real big fan of you,’” Monroe shares. “I just looked around and was like, ‘Did everyone just hear 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 that the indie studio would bring Monroe and Mitchell back together for They Follow, the long-awaited sequel to It Follows. When discussing her role in Watcher in 2022, Monroe mentioned that Mitchell had been missing in action since his It Follows follow-up, Under the Silver Lake (2018). The film, starring Andrew Garfield, had a lukewarm commercial response but quickly developed a cult following. Mitchell is now working on Flowervale Street starring Anne Hathaway and Ewan McGregor.

Monroe revealed that it was her initiative to reach out to Mitchell that got the ball rolling on the sequel.

“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.”

Although Monroe never expected a sequel to It Follows, the story took her by surprise. “I definitely was surprised when I read the script. It was not what I expected.”

Discussing her performance in Longlegs, Monroe highlighted her character Lee Harker’s quirks.

“On day one of filming, she’s thrown into her first FBI mission. She zones out, but the zoning out is her intuition kicking in. So we found these little quirks and what makes her tick on that first day. It was very cool.”

In addition to her experience with Perkins, Monroe also shared memorable moments working opposite Cage.

“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,” Monroe says. “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.”

Curiously, one of the film’s props was a box containing Lee’s teeth, hair, and nails from various ages, items sourced from the props department’s own family members.

“You hate to hear it,” Monroe laughs. “Oz told me that as I was picking them up in the scene. So I dropped them quickly. But the dedication that they had on this film ran deep.”

Monroe also confirmed that Kiernan Shipka played Carrie Anne Camera, a detail so well-concealed that it surprised even her.

From nearing the brink of quitting acting to starring in critically acclaimed films, Monroe’s journey is a testament to resilience and passion. As Longlegs hits theaters, audiences will get another opportunity to witness her compelling performances in the genre she has come to dominate.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter