Stephanie Greco in HANSEL & GRETEL | ©2013 Asylum

Stephanie Greco in HANSEL & GRETEL | ©2013 Asylum

The classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale HANSEL & GRETEL has been translated on film in many different ways over the years and 2013 looks to be the year of these misunderstood, gingerbread house eating ruffians with four different film versions due out before March (including a big budget one starring Jeremy Renner hitting at the end of the month).

The first to arrive is the true horror film version of the story simply titled HANSEL & GRETEL. In the film, our protagonists are teenagers with Stephanie Gretel playing responsible Gretel and Brent Lydic as the erratic Hansel. After an accident in the woods, they end up at the house of Lilith (Dee Wallace) who just so happens to be a witch that likes to fatten and cook up her captors into delicious meat pies.

For Greco (who previously starred as the heroine in THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE from H&G’s screenwriter Jose Prendes), she found the horrors of the story to be a challenge to play and relished working opposite Wallace who plays a character polar opposite from the loving mother in 1982’s E.T. – THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL.

In this exclusive interview, Greco speaks about her role, doing stunts and of course having worms dropped on her face.

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you familiar with the story from childhood?

STEPHANIE GRECO: I was familiar with it, but couldn’t really remember all the details. I just remembered that there was an old witch that ate children.

AX: Did you find the story scary?

GRECO: Well, as a child I think the idea that a person would eat another person is pretty scary. And that fact that she was eating children and I was a child made it even worse!

AX: How scary do you think the finished film is?
GRECO: It can be pretty intense at times. It’s not your typical horror film where there are jump scares and you are waiting for someone to pop out of a corner. The intensity builds gradually and then it doesn’t really let up. So watching it I felt more anxious and nervous for the characters, even though I knew how it was all going to end.

Stephanie Greco and Dee Wallace in HANSEL & GRETEL | ©2013 Asylum

Stephanie Greco and Dee Wallace in HANSEL & GRETEL | ©2013 Asylum

AX: How do you see Gretel as a character?

GRECO: I saw Gretel as a very strong individual. She was forced to grow up way too fast because her mother died when she was a child and she basically became the matriarch of the family at eight-years old. She worries constantly about her brother and her father. She hasn’t really had a chance to live her own life because she’s been so consumed with keeping everything together for her family. I think that is why Gretel has this longing to get away and start her own life. Her father is moving on and Hansel is old enough to take care of himself. Although, she will always worry about him, I think there is a special bond between them because for so long they’ve only had each other. But Gretel doesn’t want to be tied to that life forever. In a way her relationship with her brother holds her back. She knows there is more out there, but that life is all she’s ever known so it’s hard for her to let go and move on.

AX: How do you feel about what happens to Gretel by the end?
GRECO: Well, I don’t know if I can give away too much, but I think the longing and dreaming that Gretel has for a new life is definitely achieved. I don’t think it is exactly what she envisioned, but the desire and the pressure became so much that she decided to give in. Because of everything she had to endure and again having to be the strong one for so long, she gives in to something that is completely different from who we know her to be. From who she knows herself to be. Why? I think as individuals we are never completely satisfied. We are always searching for something more, something better, and Gretel having lived this very bound life for so long, finally snaps.

HANSEL & GRETEL Blu-ray | ©2013 The Asylum

HANSEL & GRETEL Blu-ray | ©2013 The Asylum

AX: What was the most challenging thing you did on the movie?
GRECO: Oh boy, the worms were pretty gross! At first I think [director] Anthony [C. Ferrante] wanted to use grubs? In the original script it was roaches. Eventually we agreed on earthworms. I was so nervous. And then we were in this really tight space and Anthony was dangling them over my face and he couldn’t really see where they were going to fall. I was so scared he was going to drop them in my eye, but he didn’t. He did a good job. Unfortunately, once they reviewed the footage people couldn’t really tell what was being dropped on my face so we had to reshoot the worms! It wasn’t challenging acting wise, because I was just naturally reacting to something that the character and I had never experienced. It was more mentally challenging in that I had to prep myself beforehand knowing what was going to happen, but I’m glad we did it and I still cringe ridiculously every time I see the scene!

AX: What were the hardest stunts for you?
GRECO: I did more stunts in this film than I had done in any other film. So it definitely was a physically challenging role for me. I feel like I am running and being pushed around and thrown all over in every scene. Probably the scenes toward the end when — spoiler alert — we are running from John [Jasper Cole] and then I get shot with the arrow were pretty challenging. Also, the scene in the car was pretty intense. I definitely finished each day with more bumps and bruises than when I had started.

AX: What was the most emotional scene for you?
GRECO: I’d say probably the scene when I confront Hansel after our Dad tells us he is getting married and moving away. There are other emotional scenes like when I discover what Lilith is doing and also when I reconnect with Hansel in the dungeon. But I think more so when we were shooting that confrontation scene Brent and I just really connected. If you are lucky, you get a few of those moments on set and that was one of them. You know, it can be so challenging sometimes with the camera in your face and the lights blinding you and the blocking and all the choreography that goes into it, that to have those moments when you really connect and emotions start coming up that you didn’t plan or that you didn’t rehearse it’s just really special. It’s why I do this, and it’s why I think most actors do. For those moments when you connect so genuinely to the character and to the other actor. I remember Anthony afterwards was like jumping up and down he was so excited with what we did. The scene is significantly shorter in the film as opposed to when we shot it, but I hope people are able to connect to it regardless.

AX: How did you like working with Dee Wallace?
GRECO: Dee was great! Such a pro and such a wonderful actress. I learned so much just by watching her. From the moment Anthony called action she was on and she made it look so effortless.  I loved watching the transition of her character and the little nuances she infuses into her performance. She really makes the movie and I am so grateful for the experience of working with her and hope to have the opportunity to do it again one day!

AX: How immersed do you get into your role? How much research do you do? Do you get lost in your roles this way?
GRECO: Well, the thing with the Asylum is that unfortunately you don’t get much time to prep. I found out I booked the role three days before I started shooting. Which beyond getting the lines down doesn’t give you much time for anything. I went back and read the original Grimm’s tale just to remind myself of the very basics of the story. Then I read and reread the script several times.  I was hoping I would meet the actor playing my brother before we had to shoot, but that didn’t happen since Brent was cast literally I think six hours prior to shooting. I honestly had no idea who I was going to be working with and how we were going to pull it off. The same with Dee, I met her the morning we were supposed to start shooting. Luckily both Brent and Dee were amazing to work with and we just fell into the relationships pretty easily. The thing was, we all wanted to do good work. We knew the odds were against us and we pushed through. I mean I think the script was rewritten three times while we were shooting! I tend to be an over preparer and I literally had to throw that out the window. Scenes were changing daily and we were shooting 10 scenes a day sometimes so we just had to roll with it. I do get immersed in my characters and it’s like I want to devour their lives in a way, which sounds creepy I know [laughs]. And I try to do as much character research and prep as I can, but at the end of the day especially on a shoot like this you just have to trust your instincts and focus on the moment. It was a great experience and really forced me to work outside my comfort zone.

AX: You previously worked with writer Jose Prendes on THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE. Did he put in a good word for you to get the job? How different were the two roles.
GRECO: Yes, Jose told me that he always knew I was going to play Gretel. When he wrote the screenplay he saw me in that role. I didn’t know this until later. He also put in a good word for me with Anthony since we had just worked together on WHALEY HOUSE. For this film though, I figured they were going to go with the blonde haired, blue-eyed stereotypical HANSEL & GRETEL. Anyway, they were casting and Jose sent me the script. I read it and I really liked the character. So I went in for the audition and as I suspected there were a lot of blonde haired, blue-eyed girls in the waiting room, but then I got a callback to audition for Anthony the director. So I had prepared the same scene from the initial audition and they come out into the waiting room and ask me to cold read two other scenes that were about 10 pages long. I had a tiny moment of panic, but calmed myself and went in and gave it my best shot. They called me about week later and offered me the role.

My character Penny in THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE is different than Gretel but they also share some similarities. Both Penny and Gretel are forced to step up and literally fight for their life. They are both strong women and they are both protectors. I feel like Penny was a more emotional character for me and required me to stay in a pretty dark place throughout the entire shoot. Gretel on the other hand was a more much action-oriented role. Yes, she was fighting for her life like Penny, but Gretel literally went hand-to-hand with her tormentor. Playing the role of Penny was very emotionally draining and playing the role of Gretel was very physically draining. I loved playing both though and am grateful for the two different experiences as an actor.

AX: You and Dee Wallace really look like you’re going head to head in some of those scenes – was it as intense shooting them as it looks on screen?

GRECO: Yes, it was pretty intense. I’m so glad it comes across on screen! Dee and I really went for it in those scenes. I know I just wanted it to be as real as possible and trust me, it felt like it! When Dee got into character she was scary. She’s so sweet in person and then she transforms into Lilith and it’s something else. I mean if you think about it, if you are fighting for your life it’s almost like a different person emerges. And I think with Gretel she’s fought so long and so hard to keep her family together and make everyone happy that she is not just going to sit back and let some witch ruin it. And what’s interesting is that Lilith is the closet thing to a mother figure Gretel has and when she finds out the truth it’s a huge betrayal. I think one of my favorite scenes with Dee is when we are on the porch steps and she is feeding me “Dana”. It was really easy to get into those scenes with Dee because she is just so good.

AX: How was it working with the director on the film?

GRECO: Anthony was great. He’s goofy, and funny and really enjoys actors. He appreciates our process and makes himself available for questions even though we were rushed on time and things were crazy. And one thing I really liked was even after shooting for 12 hours and prepping for the following day, he called me almost every night to see how I was doing and if I had any questions or concerns. Sometimes after those long days you can be so tired you are almost delirious, but Anthony still made sure to check in on us and see how we were doing. I really liked that. He cares and that makes a difference.

AX: You really go through a huge arc in the film – after friends and family have seen the film, do they look at you differently? Do they keep meat pies away from you?

GRECO: Ha! Well only a few people have seen it so far but I am very interested to see how my family will react. Especially with some of the pretty intense scenes and the things Gretel is forced to do. It’s so hard for me to watch myself on screen so I will probably be watching them and their reactions more than the movie. They will probably keep forks out of my reach for a while!

AX: How do you hope audiences react to the movie?
GRECO: We had a small screening recently and I would love it if all audiences reacted the way they did. I feel like they just genuinely enjoyed it and laughed and cringed and gasped and squirmed. It was so much fun to hear and watch them! You know, it’s a horror film and we shot it in 12 days. I think under the circumstances we made a pretty enjoyable film and I just hope that in the end people are entertained.

AX: Do you have any upcoming projects you want to talk about?
GRECO: Hopefully I will have a release date soon for one of the films I worked on in early 2012 called CHEMICAL PEEL, which was directed by Hank Braxtan. We had a private cast and crew screening this past October and I am very excited for people to see this one! It is a totally different character from any that I’ve played before. Also, I will be shooting the last episode of the web series REST FOR THE WICKED this month. The series is written by WHALEY HOUSE director Jose Prendes. I play a villain in it and it’s been a really fun character to tackle. Besides that I’ve been prepping for pilot season and looking forward to a successful 2013. That’s the wonderful thing about living in Los Angeles, you never know what tomorrow may bring!

AX: Anything else you would like to add?
GRECO: Just that I hope everyone enjoys the film and for future updates and news you can check me out here: http://www.facebook.com/officialstephaniegreco. Thanks!

HANSEL & GRETEL is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and iTunes

Click on link to Purchase HANSEL & GRETEL [Blu-ray]

Related: Exclusive Interview with HANSEL & GRETEL star Brent Lydic

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Article: Exclusive Interview with HANSEL & GRETEL star Stephanie Greco

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