Goodnight Mommy, the Austrian horror film that creeped out American audiences a few months ago with its unsettling trailer, hit select theaters in the US over the weekend. The movie is receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews and I had the opportunity to speak with leading actress Susanne Wuest about her work on the film, her relationship with co-writers and directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, and the important connection between fairy tales and horror movies.
When I spoke with actress Susanne Wuest on the phone for our interview, she was energetic and conversational and it quickly became apparent that she was thoughtful and kind. For those who have seen her work in her latest film Goodnight Mommy, this might be hard to believe, so I began by asking Wuest how she became involved with the project that’s making waves in the States in the first place.
As she revealed, it all began with a dinner between her and writer/ director duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. “We had dinner and all of a sudden Veronika looks at me and says, Suzanne, you should be in a horror film. And I was laughing and I said, If you really think so then you should write me a script, and she really did so,” Wuest told me. “One year later she called me and she said, Suzanne, we really did write the script and now you have to do it because we did it for you and so this is how it all started.”
Wuest continued, “At first I didn’t believe it, I thought she was joking! I thought, this is just too strange to be true. She invited me over and she would never show me the script but she told me about it and I thought this was the most beautiful thing a director can do to an actor: to tell a story with their own words. I thought it was very romantic. It was very sensual, in a way, and I would love to do that kind of work more often where you just sit down with the director, who is basically the storyteller, and that person tells you the story, the fairy tale, they want to tell.”
On the subject of fairy tales, many creators working in the genre agree: they are the ancestor to horror films, and Goodnight Mommy is no exception. “I think the best stories told are – the German word is ‘Parabel,'” Wuest explains. “I think if the story is well told or a fairy tale is well told, then we recognize each other in those characters. Which is why, for example, I think Guillermo del Toro’s work is so important. I deeply believe that fairy tales help people to feel less alone and in that case, I think a lot of women out there struggle with being mothers who have to educate and raise their children all by themselves,” Wuest concluded.
“The beauty of fairy tales is that you can be a bit more extreme and exaggerate everything a bit and then everything gets more colorful and more light and this is what I love so much.”
Without giving anything away, Wuest’s role in Goodnight Mommy was both physically and emotionally exhausting. I asked her, after all she went through for this role, would she be up for making another horror movie? The actress giggled a bit and enthusiastically replied, “I think it would be really hard to top it but I would appreciate another chance, that’s for sure!”
Goodnight Mommy, written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, and starring Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz and Elias Schwarz, is in select theaters now.