Those with good memories may recognize Kathryn Newton from her roles on the CBS sitcom GARY UNMARRIED or in the Cameron Diaz film BAD TEACHER, but, moving forward, Newton's name will now be synonymous with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4.
As the teenage protagonist Alex, Newton brings a youthful innocence to the franchise that we only got a small minor glimpse of in the second film. However, as the primary storyteller in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, for once we have a target of the demon Toby that we'd like to see survive her supernatural ordeal.
After fighting through some cell phone troubles and managing to get some time before she headed off to homecoming, I had a chance to speak with Kathryn Newton at the beginning of the film's opening weekend about her involvement the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, whether there's a future for her in it beyond the fourth film and more. Enjoy my conversation with this young actress who was as sweet on the phone as she comes across in the movie.
Kathryn Newton - Hi, Billy.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd - Hi, Kathryn, how are you?
Kathryn Newton - I’m great, how are you?
The Kidd - I’m okay. Well, how did you actually spend your opening day for the film?
Kathryn Newton - Oh, the opening day for the film... It happened to be Spirit Week at my school, so it was a really fun day with all of my friends. And then I took a couple of my friends and we went to the midnight showing. It was really fun to see all the fans there and to have so much fun with my friends. They were so excited. It was really fun to see them get so scared and scream and jump. I laughed so hard.
The Kidd - That wasn’t the first time you’d seen it with fans though, right?
Kathryn Newton - No, it’s not. And then they were texting me that night and telling me that they couldn’t go to sleep because they were so scared. They were like, “Kathryn, help us!” And it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it, it was the third time. I went to the cast and crew screening, and then I went to the Want It screening, which was all the hardcore fans, and there were so many people there and that was really thrilling to see all those enthusiastic people and all that love.
The Kidd - Now that you’ve seen it three times, does it surprise you each time you see it how well it plays for the audience?
Kathryn Newton - What do you mean?
The Kidd - Well, you know when things are coming, what the beats are, and especially at least going into the first one, it becomes a little bit... not difficult, but you don’t know how it’s going to play until you actually see it with audiences. So, especially going into that first screening, were you surprised with how effective it was with fans?
Kathryn Newton - Yes, I was thrilled to see everybody so scared. It was perfect. I loved it. The timing was so perfect and it just came together so well. It was like a rollercoaster, it just kept going and going and going and then BAM! It was a thrill. Henry and Rel did all of that, and they did really great.
The Kidd - Let’s start with how you landed the role of Alex, because things throughout this series have been very secretive, as long as each film has gone. So I can’t imagine that they put out this wide search that they’re looking for a teenage girl to be part of one of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies. So how is it that you were approached to be a part of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4?
Kathryn Newton - Well I was on my Spring Break from school, and I was in Florida for a day. And then I got the call to come read for this movie called “Double Decker.” And I didn’t know anything about it. And I went in, and I met Terri Taylor, and they gave me a scenario of me being in a car crash, and losing my little brother. And Terri Taylor interviewed me as if she was a news anchor, and she was like, “Can you tell me what happened? This is live on the news right now.” And I said, “Do you have any Skittles?” She was so confused. Because you can hear everybody in her office, and they started reiterating what the scenario was, and she was so shocked that I had done something completely different, and just freaked her out. She really liked that I took control of the scene and made it different.
The Kidd - How familiar were you with the series going into doing number four? Had you been a fan, because you’re still a teenager, so you probably were like 11 or 12 when the first one came out. So how into the series were you when you finally got notice that the role was yours?
Kathryn Newton - I was a huge fan of the franchise. I went every year as a tradition with my friends for Halloween, and we saw all of them together... With our parents. But I never would have guessed that I’d be doing the fourth installment and it was so much fun. Best summer ever.
The Kidd - I’ve heard that Ariel and Henry liked to shoot a lot and it kind of gives them the ability to experiment with different scare ideas, and from that kinda piece together what works to make the final cut. How much extra stuff is out there that we never really get a chance to see?
Kathryn Newton - Well, Henry and Rel are mega-positrons, and I love them so much because every day they come to set with so much creative energy. They’re always happy and they make me happy. They’re like my big brothers. We’ve got enough footage for like... 14 different movies. Like the same kind of movie with different storylines. Everything we shot was just really great and really fun and always fresh. What I loved about this project was that there was no script. There was an outline but we got to have so much creative and artistic freedom to do what we wanted and say what we wanted. And we got as many chances to make it as good as we wanted. Adam Goodman... That’s another thing... He was on the project, too. He really gives us a lot of leniency to be creative and to make greatness. We do it all for the fans.
The Kidd - Well, when you’re going into a scene... Particularly like a scare scene... How aware are you of what’s going to happen? Like, is it all then planned out in advance? Or is it kind of that you’re set up with something and then they’ll hit the scare beat in order to kinda get the authentic reaction from you?
Kathryn Newton - Well, it’s all about the surprise factor. So I never really knew what was going to happen... Like “3, 2, 1” was when I was doing the levitation scene because I was doing my own stunts, and James Armstrong, he set that up for three days and tested it with one of the ADs, Megan, who is also a stunt person, and so that was the only time I knew what was going to happen, and it was so much fun to do.
The Kidd - That was one of the things that, in watching it, I was actually somewhat disappointed because I had seen the trailer in advance, which has the levitation scene in it. Because it’s so different from anything that had been in the previous three films.
Kathryn Newton - Yeah. If you notice, a lot of our trailers... None of our trailers are actually in the movie. I think some of our fans really wanted a little sneak peek, so I think we gave them a pretty good bite.
The Kidd - Was there then anything in particular that you were disappointed didn’t make the final cut? Or at least this version of the film. Because you said there’s kinda... That there could be literally 14 different versions of the film, and 14 different paths that the franchise then takes with each film. Was there anything in particular that, when you saw this, you were like, “Aww, damn, I wish they could have figured out a way to work that in"?
Kathryn Newton - There’s so many different paths, but there’s just lots of things that we could have added or taken out and just changed the storyline in little pieces, but I really love the way it turned out, it was perfect. But what I wish had made it in that you guys didn’t get to see is Ben and Alex have their first kiss, and that did not make the final cut. And it was also actually my first movie kiss, so I was really bummed it didn’t make it in.
The Kidd - That’s actually one of the things that stood out to me in the film is that at least with Alex, for one, we kind of have a likable protagonist. All the other previous films have kinda had people that were pushing the boundaries as far as their interactions with the demon, so when things happened to them, you didn’t necessarily feel horrible that bad things happened to them. But for some reason here, with Alex and Ben, there’s kinda this innocence to what it is that they’re doing, and they’re not annoying, either. So can you kinda discuss, just a little bit, the chemistry that you had in kind of making this teenage relationship work?
Kathryn Newton - Well, Ben and I... Matt! I always call him Ben, but his real name is Matt Shively. I always call him Ben though. He was so great, and everything we did was always so fresh and spontaneous... We really just had fun. I mean, I feel like they really tapped into the vulnerability of being a teenager and being alone in your house, and it was really relatable. I mean, being a teenager, I get scared all the time, and I know how it feels for it to be difficult to explain something to my mom or my dad. It’s hard to communicate, going through high school. And it’s hard to even talk to my friends sometimes. You feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. So, think about it. Being a teenager, struggling to find who you are and also struggling to communicate while you have a demon trying to get you. I mean, it’s quite some problems Alex was having.
The Kidd - One of the overall things that keeps coming up in the films is that no one listens to these poor people who have actual video evidence that crazy things are regularly occurring in the house.
Kathryn Newton - Well, it’s just that... My dad [in the film], Stephen Dunham, he didn’t understand. He didn’t believe me, he didn’t think it was real. I couldn’t get his attention. As a teenager he thought I was just doing something really cool with my computer. He was distracted with his own life, so it’s hard for somebody else to put themselves in somebody like Alex’s shoes and really understand what they’re going through.
The Kidd - It’s kind of become a rite of passage of sorts in the PARANORMAL films to get dragged by the demon. How, I guess, excited, or terrified were you to get your moment in this long line of dragged victims?
Kathryn Newton - I loved it! I loved being dragged. My favorite scene to shoot was definitely the garage scene. That was my favorite scene, I think, action wise, and getting really excited about.
The Kidd - Things are left a little bit open ended as far as where they end... You kind of assume how things are going to go, based on the previous films, but have there been any talks with you about whether or not Alex would actually make it through?
Kathryn Newton - Well it’s however you want to see it. You can use your imagination, and I think... I like what you said how nobody really wanted... Which I thought was really nice of you, that nobody wanted to see me die. And I don’t know if I died! I don’t know if I lived. I don’t know if I became a demon. It’s fan-driven. So whatever the fans want, we’ll give it to them.
The Kidd - So the possibility does exist that we may not have seen the last of you in these films yet?
Kathryn Newton - Well... I can neither confirm nor deny that statement.
The Kidd - [laughs] Well played. Let me just ask you about the last sequence, too, which is I think one of the more intense set-ups of the franchise, which is, at least once the dragging happens and you’re out of the house, kind of then the build toward the end. And I think what really makes it work is that it doesn’t cut. It’s just kind of this one perspective shot that continues throughout. Is that one shot throughout? Or is that just the magic of making it look that way?
Kathryn Newton - I’m trying to remember... We shot out of sequence really often, so I can’t actually remember if we shot that whole ending in one take... No! We didn’t. Because we had stunts involved. And we shot a lot more than you guys got to see, but that’s just the magic of the movie.
The Kidd - Okay. Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I know it’s Friday night, you’re getting ready to do whatever...
Kathryn Newton - It’s my high school’s football homecoming game.
The Kidd - Oh, well, there you go. So go enjoy it, and good luck with this weekend, and hopefully we will see more Alex in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.
Kathryn Newton - If you want it! Thank you.
The Kidd - Alright, thank you very much.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 in in theatres now.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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