With Smile, Sosie Bacon Takes The (Very Scary) Spotlight [Exclusive Interview]

Sosie Bacon is not necessarily a name that every moviegoer knows (at least not yet), but it seems safe to say that she is firmly in the up-and-coming camp. Bacon (yes, the daughter of one Mr. Kevin Bacon) has been in a string of projects such as the "Scream" TV show and "Mare of Easttown" that have helped to put her on the radar. Now? She's getting the chance to lead a big studio horror movie in the form of "Smile," which recently premiered at Fantastic Fest ahead of its release by Paramount, just in time for spooky season.

The movie is treading on similar ground as "The Ring" or "Final Destination," where crossing paths with something you shouldn't cross paths with puts you in the crosshairs of a curse. In this case, instead of a videotape or the personification of Death, we have some more innocuous: smiling. But these are some deeply unsettling smiles that Bacon is on the wrong end of. For her part, Bacon is put through hell for most of the movie's runtime, making for one heck of an anxiety-inducing performance.

I had the good fortune of speaking with Bacon following the premiere of "Smile" at the film festival. We talked about how it felt to carry the movie on her shoulders, the difficulty of having to choose between projects, and whether or not she might return to the role of Dr. Rose Carter in the future, if "Smile" ends up becoming a franchise.

'I was a lot more nervous than I really knew'

The movie premiered at Fantastic Fest last night. How are you feeling?

Good. Good. It was fun. It was cool to be able to be there with all of the genre people. I think that's the best crowd to see it first.

You've definitely done a bunch of stuff before, but this movie is on your shoulders, and now you've seen it with an audience. How does that feel having that kind of responsibility?

Yeah, it is a lot of responsibility. I think I was a lot more nervous than I really knew, or than I thought I would be. I mean, I definitely feel like I did the best that I could, and I'm hoping people respond to it, but it is definitely a different thing to have that all riding on you.

I'm not an actor. This is the most stressful thing I ever have to do, but I imagine when you get into acting, that's kind of the thing you would chase, right? "I want to lead a project." But then, is it one of those things when you actually get it, you're like, "Oh ... Now I actually have to do the thing?"

Totally. It's hard, and exhausting, and also, I was so grateful to have been given the opportunity. Then once you get there, you're like, holy s***, this is really hard. I could kind of relax being three or four on the call sheet for a little while. Yeah, no, it's a ton of work.

Especially in this movie, I really don't want to spoil much for anybody, but it's a pretty wild ride. Your character doesn't really get a moment to relax.


Are you at least still able to have fun while filming it, even though you are just kind of dialed up to 11 in terms of the anxiety on screen the whole time?

Well, it was fun in certain ways, but the actual going to work and being in that physical state constantly day after day, that's not really fun, just because you're just physically triggered and anxious the whole time. But there's a lot of fun things about it. A lot of cool things that you're noticing as you're seeing it all come together. 

'It almost feels like you're never really done'

Do you have trouble shaking that off? Because me, I leave work, I'm like, cool, I'm going to go play video games or whatever. After you're done with work, are you just still locked in that space for a while?

It almost feels like you're never really done just because you're there so often and all you're doing when you're off is just trying to get some sleep and trying not to think about it. I think I watched a lot of reality TV shows. I usually like to read a lot. I don't think I picked up a book. I think I had to just totally try to numb, numb, numb when I was not on set.

You've definitely been in horror stuff before, but what was your relationship like to horror as a viewer before you started acting? Did you like genre filmmaking, or was it something you just kind of fell into when you started acting?

No, I loved it. I've seen them all. My brother's a big horror guy. He made me watch stuff way too young. I was resistant to it, and then I was like, if you can't beat him, join him. So I've seen them all. It's been a big part of my life. I love horror movies. I love the darkness, or how funny they can be, and really funny, and really gory. I mean, I love it, and I always knew I was going to do one eventually.

This movie has a good balance of horror and humor. But it's interesting, because all of the moments that are played for humor, you are still playing it straight.

Yeah. It's funny. A lot of the stuff that I saw as kind of funny, by the time I watched it after I was laughing almost at myself a bit, because I was like, wow, this was really far into it and I am fully committed, fully believing my own bulls***. And to everybody else is funny, and I'm laughing at myself. I didn't think it was funny all at the time, but watching it I'm like, this is almost ridiculous.

I don't even want to say the cat's name, because that's a funny moment in the movie, but it's so funny when you're then sitting there saying your cat's name out loud and the audience just keeps laughing, but you're so serious. "Where's my cat?"

Yeah. You have to go fully for it. I mean, you can't be ironically winking because you're the one that's supposed to be going through it. But funny for me to see later.

When you're watching horror movies as an audience member, you're always like, "I would do this differently." Your character, she's in this big house at night, lights always off. Am I weird for having lights on all the time? Do other people just sit in their house with the lights off all the time?

Not at all. I always have my lights on. Then recently, my partner's like, "You leave lights on all the time. It's really wasteful." And I was like, "Ooh, right. That's part of being a grownup. You have to turn off the lights." So now I try to as much as possible.

'I basically did anything that I ended up getting'

It seems like your journey's very much been taking all these steps up this ladder, leading up to this moment where you're heading up this big studio movie. How does that journey feel to you?

I mean, there's just so many parts along the way of the journey that, what's that quote? You can connect the dots looking back, but you have no idea how your dots are going to connect. For me, it was a lot about, I've got to make money, I have to build this career. I don't think I ever turned anything down. I basically did anything that I ended up getting. You never feel like this is the thing, or I got there, anything like that, but yeah, it's been 10 solid years of just working when I could.

I feel like "Smile" is going to do very well, and you said you've taken every job you've ever been offered. Do you feel like you'd have trouble now if you end up in a champagne situation where you get to be selective about the stuff you take?

I actually think that this was the first time, with "Smile," I was also offered another role. That was the only time I've ever been offered two conflicting jobs at the same time. So that was a major champagne moment. I chose to take this one because it was a lead, and it was so specifically following this woman's journey, and it's kind of like a dream to play a part with that much history and that much life to it. So this was the first time that kind of happened, I think, so maybe it'll happen again. It doesn't feel as good when it's happening, because you kind of want to do both. You know what I mean? And especially me, who's like, "I have to work, but I have to work." You know what I mean?

Yeah, you have that survival instinct kicking in where you're just like, "I'm turning down work."

It really feels disconcerting.

Your character ends up in, let's say, an interesting place. If they come to you and they're like, "hey, we found a way for you to come back in this sequel," would you do it?

Gosh, I have no idea. I mean, I'm sure if they did ask that it would be in a great way. So yeah, maybe. We'll see.

'Run and gun'

You've got this movie, it's in the can, it's about to come out. Do you know what the next thing is? Do you know what you're moving on to? Do you have something else coming up?

I don't know. I just did a movie in Kentucky, a really small movie that's totally different. That was really fun. And then no, I have no idea. No plans.

What was the small movie? Can you talk about the small movie?

Yeah, I can talk about it. It's called "Hazard." Well, I mean, I'm not really sure what it is yet. We'll see. We're figuring it out.

Figuring it out. Okay. But what was the story behind that?

It's a small indie movie that was shot very authentically in Kentucky in this small town called Hazard. And it's kind of about this guy, played by Alex Rowe, and then this girl played by me, but it's sort of a small tonal love story to that area of the country. It's awesome. It was so much fun.

There's always the common saying that there's the movie you shoot and then the movie you edit. So is that weird for you as an actor when you shoot something, but then you have no idea what you're getting until the edit shows up?

Well that's why I kind of went with something like this just because it was so sort of run and gun, we all were a part of making the movie, it was a very collaborative experience, not a huge budget. So with something like this, yes, it's hard to say, because with "Smile," it's a horror movie. But with this movie, I don't know. I'm not sure what it is yet because I don't think any of us are.

"Smile" hits theaters on September 30.