Perdita Weeks got to literally go “So Below” Paris to shoot the found footage horror flick As Above/So Below and it is clearly something she’ll never forget. We caught up with Weeks, who phoned us from her native England, for an exclusive chat where she took us virtually under the streets of Paris for an inside look at the making of As Above/So Below.
As teased in the As Above/So Below trailer, Perdita plays Scarlett, a multi-degreed academic who is following in her father’s footsteps to prove some ancient historical fact that you won’t hear about here for fear of spoilers! But, her crusade to find the truth to an ancient secret has led her and her team to the catacombs underneath Paris, and as a documentary crew films their every move, it becomes quickly clear that something or someone is seriously messing with their heads.
And yes, horror does ensue. But, As Above/So Below is so much more than a found footage scary flick. Perdita and Movie Fanatic talk about it being a true father-daughter tale, an inside look at an academic whose quest could make her mad and overall, a fascinating and thrilling ride that pumps some fresh blood into the somewhat stale found footage horror genre.
Movie Fanatic: Your character has such a vast and educationally rich background with several advanced degrees in all sorts of areas that would put her on the front lines of what she is doing. What kind of research did you do to get ready for that and at what point do you let that part go and just work on who she is on the pages of the script?
Perdita Weeks: Oh, my goodness, there was so much, I could still be doing it now. From my first meeting with the Dowdles (writer Drew and his director brother John) to shooting it was about two weeks. So, during that time, I read the hell out of alchemy and archeological research, so I had a general knowledge around the specific topics that we talk about. But, I really enjoy all of that and find it quite fascinating. I could have gone on a huge exposition while I was trying to work everything out. That was the most intimidating part so that what you’re saying doesn’t just feel like words or reciting pi to 400 characters [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: One thing that struck me about this movie is, yes, it’s scary, and yes, it’s a thrill ride. But, it’s very much a story about a father and a daughter. Was that one of the things that most compelled you to do As Above/So Below?
Perdita Weeks: In fact, it became more of that when we were shooting. It was a very quick process between getting cast and starting the production. It became this thing where I was like, “There has to something that drives this character. What is her driving force?” It’s almost madness the lengths she’s willing to go to find the truth. It became a useful thing to me, this backstory, that I would have in my head and that she’s out doing it to validate her father’s beliefs. And, of course, it becomes the thing that haunts her with her guilt relating to her father and the way she dealt with him and ran away from her responsibility. It’s so funny, people are talking about the film, and for me, it’s so much bigger because I have all this action in my head that we didn’t shoot. I just did it for me [laughs]. Hopefully we portray some of that and people get a glimpse of what happened before the film.
Movie Fanatic: Well that’s how it struck me, like Indiana Jones had a daughter and his work drove him mad and she was trying to validate his work.
Perdita Weeks: That’s it exactly!
Movie Fanatic: I was so compelled by that fact. Having parents in academia…
Perdita Weeks: They are a certain breed, aren’t they [laughs]?
Movie Fanatic: Oh yes, they are a breed all right.
Perdita Weeks: I found them incredibly obsessive in their ability to be thinkers. It’s quite fascinating to play the daughter of one, who herself is one. It’s almost to a fault, but it makes them brilliant at what they do.
Movie Fanatic: Have you ever been to the Paris catacombs, and two, did shooting there add a haunting layer to the experience?
Perdita Weeks: I’ve been to Paris many times, but had never been there. If you want to go into the catacombs, you have to wait in a line that is almost like five hours long! When you do go, the part that is open to the public is the part you saw in the movie that is lined with bones, but you don’t get to go through all of them. It was only through shooting in several different systems of the catacombs which have different entrances all over Paris. We were running around in areas that tourists aren’t allowed to go, which was extraordinary. There is a sense of history. These are man-made tunnels. You’re also somewhere where at one time people would see them as sacred. Several hundred years ago, people would go there to visit their relatives.
Movie Fanatic: Was it scary?
Perdita Weeks: Well, it is essentially a graveyard. We were all very aware of that and then there are real bones! Real bones, when you see them, it’s quite haunting. You see them and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got those!” We see fake bones all the time, but these are the real things. It’s a very strange thing [laughs]. There was a haunting aspect to it, but it did feel special. It’s very extraordinary to know that no one else had filmed down there. It felt very special and I felt very privileged.
Movie Fanatic: If it’s a five hour line to see the catacombs now, when your movie comes out… it might double.
Perdita Weeks: [Laughs] I’m so sure!
Movie Fanatic: You’re not claustrophobic, are you?
Perdita Weeks: No, thank goodness I’m not -- although, it’s not easy by any means. It’s not the claustrophobia that gets you. It’s knowing that you are so far from the surface or any kind of exit. It gets a bit dicey, mentally. It’s very hard to keep your orientation when you’re down there. It’s not straight lines like underground in New York. It’s up and down, and left and right. You’re all over the place. And… there’s a lot of cracks in the catacombs’ roof! Everywhere you go, there are cracks. So, you tend to look up and say, “Actually, all of Paris could fall on top of us right now!”
Movie Fanatic: Haunting, indeed.