Exclusive Interview with Sophie Curtis about ‘Innocence’

Innocence movie poster

She has played supporting roles in “The English Teacher,” “At Any Price” and “Arbitrage,” but now Sophie Curtis finally gets her first leading role in the horror film “Innocence.” Based on the book of the same name by Jane Mendelsohn, Curtis plays Beckett Warner, a young woman who has just moved with her father to New York City after the tragic death of her mother. Once there she is enrolled in a super elite Manhattan prep school where she makes the acquaintance of the school’s nurse Pamela Hamilton (Kelly Reilly) who helps her settle in to her new environment. But as Pamela begins to insinuate herself into Beckett’s life even more, Beckett comes to discover that the school harbors a deep, dark secret that may end up claiming her life.

It was a lot of fun talking with Curtis back in 2014 on the phone as she was about to start college at UC Berkeley. We talked about how she got cast in “Innocence,” how the movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” was a big inspiration for her in playing Beckett, and of what it was like working with established actors like Kelly Reilly and Linus Roache.


Ben Kenber: Congratulations on this being your first lead role in a movie.

Sophie Curtis: Thank you. I’m very excited.

BK: You’re welcome. This is one of the few horror movies I’ve seen recently where a teenager having sex can actually save their life instead of end it because it’s usually the other way around (Sophie laughs). How do you feel about that?

SC: I felt like it was empowering. I think it’s good for kids to see both sides, and I really enjoyed playing a character who wants to overcome all the things that are thrown at her. My experience and my courage for it to be my first film, because I was very nervous about that while I was filming, I think that kind of adds to the veneer throughout the film and I hope people pick up on that one while they’re watching it.

BK: How did you get cast in “Innocence?”

SC: I went through the normal audition process, and then Hilary Brougher, the director, had it down to me and I think two other girls, and she met with all of us separately through lunch. We weren’t really auditioned or reading lines. We were just talking about our perspective of who Beckett is and what she’s struggling with and what that means to us. I think we really connected on our views of Beckett and I think we had an understanding. Hillary is awesome. She actually wrote my college recommendation for me so we were very close on set, and I think that we had an immediate connection and that probably helped with me in getting the role for Beckett. She helped me a lot in getting this character.

BK: Kelly Reilly plays a very enigmatic character, and I loved watching how she was able to say things without speaking a word. You look into her eyes and you know she is trouble. What was it like rehearsing with her? Did she surprise you when it came to certain scenes in the movie?

SC: Yes. It’s really funny because she’s actually super, super sweet when she’s not playing a bloodsucking witch and she gives a very raw performance. I think that really helped me with my character because her and Linus Roache who played my dad are very established actors and it was my first leading role, and I think they knew that everybody has to start somewhere so they were very accepting of that and just helped me to do the best that I could do with my performance.

BK: How long of a schedule did you all have to make “Innocence” in?

SC: I think it took us a month and a half, and we were filming really, really long days. Going in at four or five a.m. and finishing once it was dark out was really intense for me, but it was one of the best summers of my life so I’m absolutely grateful for that.

BK: You said “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” was a big inspiration for you in playing Beckett. What was it specifically about that movie that inspired you so deeply?

SC: I think it’s just the idea of going back to the source of horror. I think that “Dracula” and films like “Frankenstein” are films that have been drawn from so much to create today’s horror films and today’s horror novels. It’s kind of like the grandfather of horror and I think it’s the idea of supernatural love story with a normal girl, Winona Ryder who is one of my favorite actresses, just being trapped in a hyper reality and being misunderstood. I liked the simplicity of it and I like seeing how it’s transformed throughout in trying to create new movies like “Innocence.” That was the inspiration for Beckett.

BK: Are there any movies out right now that you feel are as good as “Bram Stoker’s Dracula?”

SC: Honestly, I really like old horror movies. To me, “Innocence” is not as much of a horror movie. It’s just more of a thriller and a coming-of-age story.

BK: What’s great about Beckett is that she is one of the more down to earth teenagers that we’ve seen in movies recently. Did you add a lot to this character that wasn’t in the script, or did you mostly stick to the script?

SC: She is really down to earth and I think she just has a very innocent demeanor. Hilary had adapted the script from the book as written by Jane Mendelsohn, and Jane was a producer on the film so she was very involved with how she wanted her story to be portrayed in the movie. I think Hilary kind of changed it from the book and she really involved me in that she starts off solemn and at other time she’s very happy. I kind of gave her my opinions on the script and how I felt Beckett should be represented after reading it and studying the character and just having an insight of being a teenager and how I felt Beckett should come off. So I think I did help or least I hoped I helped. I think I tried to make Beckett as much as my own character because she’s just a really awesome character and I had a really fun time playing her. She definitely taught me a lot while I was filming.

BK: Your character goes through a wide range of emotions throughout this movie. What was it like juggling all those different emotions while playing this role?

SC: It was really intense, but I think that me being nervous and excited and scared and happy and all of those things in real life as Sophie for being my first film and just being in this really intense working environment that I wasn’t used to. I think that really added to Beckett’s character and it helped me. I was going through similar emotions to what she was going through just in different circumstances, so you just try to draw from that and apply it to her situation.

BK: I understand that you are now starting college at UC Berkeley. How is that going for you?

SC: I’m here right now in my dorm, so if you hear other people it’s just my roommates. I’m in a triple so it’s really very crowded.

BK: What do you have planned next other than school?

SC: I’m just seeing what happens with “Innocence” right now. It’s just a really exciting time so I’m just reviewing a few possibilities, and there’s some really great opportunities. I just have to figure out which ones are the right ones for me. You have to be really, really dedicated to the project you take on because it’s really long hours and you have to really invest yourself in the character and become the character. It’s hard to wake up every single day and play somebody for hours on end that you don’t enjoy playing. I loved playing Beckett and I’d love to play her again if there’s a possibility of doing an “Innocence 2.”

BK: Well thank you for your time Sophie and good luck at school. It will definitely be a fun time for you for sure.

SC: Thank you, I’m very excited and happy to be here. It’s far from home so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment, but I like it a lot.

Innocence” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.


Sarah Hyland and Graham Phillips Discuss EDM and ‘XOXO’

XOXO Sarah Hyland and Graham Phillips

The Netflix drama and music film “XOXO” follows six strangers whose lives collide at a most vibrant EDM festival. Among those strangers are Krystal (Sarah Hyland) who is hoping to find true romance in a place she expects to find it, and Ethan (Graham Phillips) who is about to make his DJ-ing debut at the biggest EDM festival of them all, XOXO. During their time there, Krystal and Ethan come to find now what they wanted, but what they need most as will the other characters around them.

“XOXO” offers a cinematic glimpse into the world of EDM which has gone from being played in illegal underground rave parties to becoming a major part of musical festivals around the country. We see all the characters get dressed up in exotic costumes as if they are headed to another planet, and drugs of all kinds are in heavy supply to where some innocent fans don’t realize right away when they have just been given some. Either way, they are all there to experience the glorious emotions EDM gives off, and none of them can wait for the bass to drop.

Both Graham Phillips and Sarah Hyland recently dropped by the London Hotel in West Hollywood, California to talk about their experience making “XOXO.” Courtney Fairhurst Howard from Sassy Mama in LA asked them both if they had knowledge of EDM music and if they had attended any EDM festivals before shooting began. This would soon lead into my question about the preparation Graham underwent to become a truly talented DJ.

Sarah Hyland: I have been a fan of EDM music for a while. I had never been to a rave so to speak, but I have been to places like Coachella where there’s always rave tents. So I kind of experienced something like that before, but it was really cool to just indulge myself in this culture. It was great. I learned a lot from it, and it was a lot of fun.

Graham Phillips: I too have enjoyed EDM for a really long time. I’ve sort of been drawn to more of the sweeping symphonic vibe of EDM like Above & Beyond or Madeon. Whenever they can integrate some organic sounds as well into all the electric sounds, I tend to really like that. I came from a musical theatre background as did Sarah, so maybe that’s why. I actually started DJ-ing my freshman year in college just to meet the social chairs of the eating clubs at Princeton and just because as a freshman male you’re the bottom of the social ladder and you can’t really get access to any of these clubs until you’re in a fraternity. And so I learned to DJ and they needed DJ’s so I was like okay, I will learn to DJ. I like the music anyways. I did start liking it more and more, and I started to throw some parties in Orange County with some of my friends who actually liked the music even more than I did. They were the people who were finding these new tunes as they were coming out. I loved hosting parties and still do, and that’s sort of what it grew from. I guess sophomore year it kind of petered out, but when I got this script at the end of my sophomore year I found it so funny because this was just what I experienced but on a much smaller level. Actually Chris, the director, didn’t even know that I had any DJ-ing experience when he cast me, so that was kind of a fun surprise for him. He didn’t have to teach me everything.

Ben Kenber: Was there any specific research you had to do in terms of understanding the equipment your character uses?

GP: I actually used almost all my own equipment for this. I just brought it to the set and asked if I could please use this instead of something completely foreign (to me), and they were like yeah, sure. It didn’t require a lot of research for me which was really nice because a lot of the shots we grabbed at real festivals where we had a five-minute slot onstage in front of 80,000 people. So when you have just a small amount of time to get the shot, the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around with the knobs. It was nice that I had some background in it.

It was great to learn how Phillips had plenty of experience in DJ-ing before filming “XOXO,” and his expertise with it certainly shows when you watch the movie. “XOXO” is set to debut on Netflix on Friday, August 26. Please be sure to check out the poster and the trailer below.

XOXO movie poster