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Selma Blair talks “In Their Skin,” horror and indie filmmaking

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A family alone in a house. A stranger comes knocking. Terror ensues. This describes the plot of many a horror movie, yet somehow the concept still feels terrifying in Jeremy Regimbal’s debut feature “In Their Skin.”

The film stars Selma Blair and Joshua Close, who also wrote the film, as a couple recovering from a tragedy that pushed them to take their son Brendon to their country home for some quality family time. But not long after they settle in do their neighbors — Bobby, Jane and their son Jared — come to visit. What starts off as an uncomfortable, forced dinner turns into the previously mentioned terror as the three people turn out not to be who they say they are.

IFC had the pleasure of speaking with Blair in a phone interview in anticipation of “In Their Skin’s” release. During our conversation, we touched on what makes this type of thriller so consistently scary and what her experience has been like in the independent film industry.

IFC: I had the pleasure of watching “In Their Skin” last night not really knowing anything about it going in, and it was a lot scarier than I expected. You’ve worked in horror films and thrillers before, but I was curious what in particular drew you to this project?

SELMA BLAIR: Josh is a friend of mine and he wrote it and he had Jeremy come on, who has a great eye, and I thought he made the film look beautiful. But it was just a little project and I support these projects and, before I had the baby, I had the luxury of getting to be a part of them. I think the first film for first-time writers and directors is quite crucial, and to get it out there and start careers and hope for the best and see what their vision is is really exciting for me.

And I like the family drama aspect. I mean, this isn’t like a big horror, gory movie. It’s more of a quiet, scary family drama, almost. It took its time, which you don’t see in films a lot. Really just letting you watch these people instead of just action, action, which I like. I think there’s not a lot of those movies anymore. It’s kind of poetic and took its time. I haven’t seen the final cut of it, but just the idea that you’re not safe in your own home and that you’re already dealing with sadness, it was a very scary idea.

IFC: In your opinion, what do you think makes this kind of movie where, like you said, you aren’t safe in your own home so consistently scary?

SB: There are so few of us that actually live so far off in the country alone now, that on its own is a big luxury, and you think, “Ah, I’m going to get away from it all and just be with my family.” But when there’s not a chance of that, and you don’t have alarm systems and you’re trying to be polite to your neighbors and just have people in your house quietly without thinking anything’s going to happen, yeah, it’s just scary. We’ve all had those nights with uncomfortable people and you wish they’d leave, and that’s just a pain in the butt, but when you wish they’d leave and they come back and try to take over your lives, that’s horrifying.

IFC: Have you ever been in a situation similar to that, or are you just speaking broadly?

SB: Yeah, no, no, god forbid, but it’s my biggest fear. Being at home with the baby and alone at night, I hear a noise and I just pray that I would have what it takes to protect my child and myself. It’s in my mind. It’s every grown-up’s fear.

IFC: When I was watching, I couldn’t help but notice that James D’Arcy was channeling a serious Norman Bates vibe, and then I realized that he’s playing Anthony Perkins, the actor who portrayed Bates, in the Anthony Hopkins “Hitchcock” movie.

SB: I know. Isn’t that perfect?

IFC: It really was.

SB: Yeah, to see him in the Madonna film [“W.E.”] and then to see him in in this and then Norman Bates, I can’t wait. But it’s so crazy to think that he’s British. I mean, he’s so versatile. But yes, I am excited to see him as Norman Bates.

IFC: Well I was curious if you knew if that vibe was intentional, because there sort of is a parallel in the characters.

SB: I don’t know what was going through his mind. I know he hadn’t booked the “Psycho” job yet, but maybe all creepy people are Norman Bates-ish. [laughs]

IFC: I guess so! You spoke earlier about how you support independent filmmaking and I actually just saw you in “Kingdom Come,” the Daniel Gillies documentary, talking about the same thing. Can you talk about some of the struggles and successes you’ve had in independent filmmaking over the years?

SB: I go back and forth. I make films like “Cruel Intentions” and “Legally Blonde” and “Hellboy,” which is a huge film, but then I make a ton of independent ones. They’re hard. You have the luxury of not having huge studios and huge dollars telling you what to do so you get to do what you want to do, but usually it is with first-time directors and people figuring it out and it’s a real labor of love. There are long days on set and everyone’s kind of learning.

The film business’s harder than ever right now. Getting people to go see movies, I just, I want filmmakers to be able to tell their stories. I worked with Todd Solandz, and he’s kind of like the indie king, and he jokes that each movie makes less than the last, and I’m like, god, if someone as amazing as Todd has those movies come out in fewer and fewer theater, oh my god, this is such a dying breed. Is it just going to be “Transformers” are the only movies that are going to be available for us — which are great and fun and I would love to be a part of that too — but it’s so scary to think that independent films are dying.

IFC: I know a lot of filmmakers are turning to VOD as a way to distribute, so do you think that could be the way of the future?

SB: I mean I think any way that people can see movies I’m all for, but I had one of the first movies that ever came out on iTunes, and that was Ed Burns’ “Purple Violets.” It never got a theatrical release, it just debuted on iTunes, the first movie to come out on iTunes, and it did okay, but you’re not going to make that huge money unless you’re out there and getting people to see movies in the theaters and really having that movie experience, so I don’t know about the Video On Demand and I don’t know how actors will ever make a living when it just goes straight to On Demand because I think the only people who get paid for that are producers, and I don’t even know how much that is. So great, I’m glad they’re available, but I don’t know how people are going to make a living.

“In Their Skin” comes out in select theaters on November 9.

What did you think of Blair’s thoughts on the independent filmmaking business? Do you agree with her about VOD? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Southern Fried SNL

Watch Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in SNL’s Southern Rock Supergroup

Fred and Carrie kept it mellow on the SNL season finale.

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Photo Credit: Saturday Night Live / NBC Universal

It was a veritable “band from comedy heaven” this weekend as a myriad of comedians assembled for a feel-good musical sketch in the Saturday Night Live season finale. Guest host Fred Armisen was joined by Portlandia cohort Carrie Brownstein as well as Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Larry David, and members of the SNL cast to form faux-southern-rock supergroup The Harkin Brothers — a band whose members managed to outnumber its audience.

If The Harkin Brothers’ smooth vocal stylings remind you of The Blue Jean Committee from Documentary Now!, that’s probably not a coincidence. The BJC first appeared in a different, more regionally-specific form in a SNL sketch with Sudeikis on drums.

Watch an all-star SNL cast perform a mellow tribute to Arkansas called “Summertime in Fayetteville” in the video below.

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Farewell Mr. Fred

5 Funniest Sketches From Fred Armisen’s SNL Season Finale

Is "Farewell, Mr. Bunting" the best SNL sketch of the season?

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Photo Credit: Saturday Night Live / NBC Universal

The 41st season of Saturday Night Live drew to a close this past weekend, and star of Portlandia and Documentary Now! Fred Armisen hosted the occasion. A former SNL player himself, this homecoming allowed Fred to show off the comedy chops and character skills he’s honed since leaving Studio 8H.

Here are the 5 funniest sketches from the season finale of Saturday Night Live hosted by Fred Armisen.

1. Farewell, Mr. Bunting

What appears to be a straightforward take on the maudlin climax of the 1989 Robin Williams classic Dead Poets Society takes quite an unexpected turn. But if you’re really watching, you’ll realize it’s completely organic and integral to the plot.


2. Fred’s Monologue and One-Man Show

Actor, writer, producer, musician, impressionist — Fred can do it all. So tackling the many characters in the story of his life is a cakewalk for such a talent. Here, Fred takes us on the emotional journey through the day he got the job at SNL and luckily he leaves no detail, however minor or insignificant, out of the performance.


3. New Girlfriend

We were wondering what characters Fred would bring back, but we didn’t predict Regine. Fellow SNL alum Jason Sudeikis appears in this sketch as Regine’s new boyfriend, who introduces his pals to his snarky, raunchy lady. Watch Aidy Bryant try not to crack up at Fred/Regine’s joygasms.


4. Expedition

Three of the biggest stars in American colonialism are Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea. But what most history books choose to omit is the simmering sexual tension between the three explorers. Fortunately, a group of community players illustrate the historical figures’ lustful dynamic to a high school class in graphic detail.


5. Escape Pod

As an interstellar ship begins breaking apart, Fred plays the lucky member of the space crew who wins access to the last escape pod. But a heartfelt goodbye is mitigated by the pod’s virtual assistant ensuring all the luxuries and pampering are to the occupant’s liking.

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The Crying Game

10 Things You Didn’t Know About A League of Their Own

Batter up for A League of Their Own this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

While there may be no crying in baseball, lots of blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of A League of Their Own. From sweltering July heat to concussions to the Material Girl causing trouble, making the hit film wasn’t exactly a homerun. Before you catch A League of Their Own on IFC, check out some dirt on the making of this sports movie classic. Hear that call! The time has come for one and all to play ball!

1. The cast really had to play baseball.

League of Their Own Quotes
Columbia Pictures

Director Penny Marshall was adamant that all of the actresses cast in the film could really play baseball. Prior to the start of filming, the cast (even Madonna!) trained eight hours a day, six days a week for over seven months to hone their skills and bond as a team. They initially practiced sliding using a Slip ‘N Slide, but that method was abandoned when both Tracy Reiner and Megan Cavanagh suffered concussions.


2. Geena Davis auditioned in Penny Marshall’s backyard.

Geena Davis
Columbia Pictures

The Fly and Beetlejuice star was the last person cast in the film after several other prominent actresses like Debra Winger, Laura Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Demi Moore passed. Davis had never played baseball but won Marshall over through a game of catch in her backyard. A natural athlete, Davis was outplaying most of the other actresses on the film. (Though she did use a double for the sliding portion of her infamous catch in the splits.)


3. Tom Hanks entertained the extras with puppet shows.

Tom Hanks
Columbia Pictures

Over 1,700 extras were used throughout the shoot, enduring long hours and occasionally extreme 100+ degree summer heat while on location in Indiana. To keep them entertained in between shots and scenery changes, members of the cast performed. Tom Hanks did puppet shows behind the dugout while Rosie O’Donnell would perform stand-up. Madonna reportedly refused to perform (what a shocker!), leaving the rest of the cast to perform imitations of her. Geena Davis suggested they perform “Bohemian Rhapsody” and songs from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, assigning Tom Hanks the role of Caiaphas.


4. Madonna wasn’t exactly a team player.

Madonna Bosoms
Columbia Pictures

To say the Material Girl was a bit of a handful during the shoot is an understatement. In addition to refusing to perform for the extras and ignoring requests for autographs, she often complained about coming into the film a star but being relegated to the background. According to costar and friend Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna brought a boombox to set the first day and warned everybody that if they broke it, they’d have to buy her another one. She also wrote a somewhat scathing letter about her experiences to a friend, calling Geena Davis a “Barbie Doll” and lamenting the lack of “beautiful men” in Chicago.


5. All of the injuries in the film were real.

Bruise League of their Own
Columbia Pictures

The real women of the All American Girls Pro Baseball League were tough, but their onscreen counterparts were equally as tenacious on the field. Penny Marshall had the actresses play a lot of real games with multiple cameras set up in order to get enough footage for montages, and they didn’t go easy on one another, jamming their shoulders, spraining fingers, and nearly breaking noses. The giant strawberry bruise Alice gets while sliding into base was a real injury actress Renee Coleman sustained during filming, and it lasted for well over a year.  Ouch.


6. Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell were the real most valuable players.

Rosie O'Donnell
Columbia Pictures

Though Geena Davis showed natural ability and was supposed to be the “best player in the league,” on-set coach William E. Hughes was most impressed by Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell. Petty could actually outrun Davis, so she was forced to slow her pace during the scene where the two race so as not to appear faster than Davis. She wound up throwing more pitches during filming than most Major League Baseball pitchers do in a full season. O’Donnell had actually played Little League baseball with her brothers growing up, so she excelled during training camp, learning how to throw two balls at once from one of the real AAGPBL players on set. O’Donnell and Petty often had hitting competitions and could hit the fences at Major League parks with little difficulty.


7. Even Tom Hanks didn’t know how long he would pee in the locker room scene.

One of the most memorable moments in A League of Their Own occurs when Jimmy Dugan introduces himself by bursting into the locker room in a drunken stupor and relieving himself in front of the rest of the Peaches while Mae times him. To keep both Hanks and the actresses on their toes, Penny Marshall stood in a stall off camera and made the noises with a hose and a bucket for maximum comedic effect. The actual length of Dugan’s epic #1 is an impressive 53 seconds!


8. Jimmy and Dottie had a romantic subplot that was cut from the film.

A League of Their Own Spit

The initial cut of the film clocked in around four hours before being cut down to its more slender two hours and eight minutes. Among the footage left on the cutting room floor were scenes depicting a growing romantic relationship between Dugan and star player Dottie. The conversation on the bus left in the final cut of the film hints at tension, but in a deleted scene the pair shared a passionate kiss late one night on the field which is what originally led to the scene with Dottie telling Lowenstein she was going home.


9. Jon Lovitz was almost upstaged by a cow.

In the scene where Lovitz’s character, baseball scout Ernie Capadino (a role specifically written for the SNL star), visits Dottie and Kit at their family dairy farm, the girls are seen milking cows. Unbeknownst to Lovitz, one of the cows off-screen was giving birth and mooing loudly, causing him to ad lib the line “WILL YOU SHUT UP?!” It was only after they finished filming that Lovitz found out a calf had been born, which the farm named Penny after director Penny Marshall.


10. Some of the cast reprised their roles on the A League of Their Own TV Show.

CBS aired a TV version of A League of Their Own for a brief period in 1993. Cast members Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner and Jon Lovitz reprised their roles, with former “Bond Girl” Cary Lowell in the Dottie role and Sam McMurray channeling Hanks as Jimmy. As you can imagine, it only lasted five episodes.

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