How did you put yourself inside the head of Sara, a very careful, repressed kind of individual who then finds the strength to search for her sister?
It’s the kind of thing you do when someone you love or care deeply about needs your help. It’s a situation where you get a call and you’re forced to overcome your fears and go against your better judgment in order to help a friend or family member. You don’t have a choice.
Normally, Sara would never expose herself to anything frightening or dangerous in life. She is someone who always plays it safe and never steps outside of her comfort zone. She only enters into this mad journey out of pure love for her sister, even though the prospect of going into the forest terrifies her.
You’ve said you enjoy scuba diving. What about hiking through dense forests?
That’s not something I would enjoy. Forest are freaking scary! I can imagine how terrified I would be if I entered a forest, my cell phone stopped working, and I couldn’t find my way out. It’s a chilling thought. And there are many stories of people who go into forests and never come out.
So what made you want to try your hand at the horror genre, especially when the idea itself makes you uncomfortable?
(Laughs) Well, that’s the whole point. I’m always game when it comes to pushing my own limits. I had never done a horror film before, but I’ve always been intrigued by the genre. Horror is a metaphor for our fears and pain and many other aspects of life. Sara and Jess suffered a severe trauma in their childhood, and Sara has spent her entire life trying to repress and escape that experience. The forest is the place which forces her to confront her demons, and that’s the brilliant part of the script where your deepest fears are reflected back onto you.
You didn’t actually get to shoot in Japan’s so-called ‘suicide’ forest?
No, we shot in Serbia’s Tara National Forest, which is plenty scary, too… It reminded me of when my grandmother would read to me Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. There’s this great tradition we have in fairy tales where the protagonist goes into the forest to meet their fate and face their demons.
You’ve visited the real Aokigahara forest?
It’s a sad place when you consider that people go there without the intention of coming out. My guide never left the path through the forest because it has this perverse and eerie reputation. But it’s overwhelming when you think of the emotions that go into that kind of choice. You feel tremendous compassion.
How do you feel about the coming Season 6 of Game of Thrones? Margaery isn’t in very pleasant surroundings, is she?
Margaery’s been in a jail cell, and she has to find a way to get out. She’s a bit broken by everything that has happened to her, and you wonder whether she’s changed as a result. It was liberating to be able to show her in that dishevelled state, instead of always being very elegant and sure of herself.
I’m excited that audiences are going to be able to see what happens and then I won’t have to keep refusing to answer all the questions about her and also about Jon Snow! (Laughs)