Sometimes you see a bravura performance and you know you’re discovering a powerful new presence in movies. Louisa Krause made a big impression on me as the title character in King Kelly. Kelly is a webcam girl with big dreams of having her own porn site, and in between online peep shows she films everything she does with her cell phone. We got to chat with Krause about her role, and we do discuss some specifics, so spoiler warning. The specifics won’t spoil what the movie’s really about though, which is this teen girl relentlessly turning her real life into a web show. The film opens in New York Friday and VOD Dec. 4.
CraveOnline: This is a very revealing role. What was your first approach to that aspect of it?
Louisa Krause: Throwing myself into it. [Laughs] After reading the script I just thought, “Oh my God, what an unlikeable character. How fun would that be?” I definitely saw it as a challenge and I would not have done the film if it wasn’t making the comment that it’s making on our “me” generation. Yeah, she’s this feast your eyes, all out, walks all over everyone and a true schemer and ruler, she’s a beast. But she’s super funny. It was exhilarating to play that kind of a character and there are very few moments, because she is this online persona, she herself is playing a character and there are only a few moments where you see maybe a glimpse of some real person there, but they’re few. It was really interesting to discover those moments and just commit and surrender to the part.
Which are those moments? I was wondering, do we ever see who Kelly really is under all of this bravado?
Yeah, yeah. Feeling it and going through it, the moments where I felt the most not King Kelly completely there… I feel like she never really left the role of King Kelly. Even in the end, those last two lines of the film, those are my lines actually. I had to say those. I’m so glad they used that take, but she’s still King Kelly. But the moments where you see through the character a little is when she first meets Poo Bare and she’s just standing there waiting for him to get out of the trooper car. At first she’s [thinking], “I’m going to look hot for him.” And then she’s just standing there because it’s face to face all of a sudden. It’s not this superficial world of online personas. It’s real people meeting. And then when her camera gets taken away from her in the motel room with Poo Bare, because all of a sudden she’s not controlling it anymore. He’s got it but whatever, the camera’s rolling, he’s like, “Strip for me.” And she’s just like, “Oh my God, he’s holding my phone. Fine, I’ll strip for you.” It’s kind of a tug of war, but then when she’s got the camera again and she’s shooting the sex scene, the power’s back in her hands and it’s back to this instant gratification online fakeness bizarre FUBAR’ed world we’re living in, the shock factor that is the internet.
Were you wearing your own clothes or was there a wardrobe putting together King Kelly’s outfit?
Yes, there was a wardrobe department that put together the one look I have really in the entire film, which is the star spangled underpants, jean skirt and a white T-shirt.
Did you work on your pouty face?
Did I work on my pouty face? [Laughs] I didn’t really work on it, no. I feel like so many girls have that. That’s something lots of girls do. Every girl knows the pouty face. It’s part of the me generation, I feel, the pouty face. It would be interesting to find out how far back the pouty face dates. When did that start and with who? That would be really interesting to find out. What if it’s some really old thing that was just brought back?
I don’t know, we don’t see sepia tinted old time photos with that face.
Right, right. [Laughs] Yeah, that’s true, that’s true.
Did they put your real baby pictures in the movie?
The first photo that you see is actually a photo of Libby Woodbridge who plays Jordan and then the other photos along the way that I look at, those are my photos, my little princess kid photos.
Was it exhausting to always be on, performing? I guess that’s what you do as an actor, but in this extreme case as Kelly.
You know, it was really exhilarating actually, and energizing for me. In the mornings when we’d be driving in, I’d just kind of be meditating and thinking about the scenes of the day in a meditation. As soon as I got on set, I tend to with every character I play, I zone into that energy so I was Kelly. I was totally Kelly in the makeup chair and [director] Andrew Neel was so wonderful to work with. He and I work so well together because we have very similar energies and we feed off of each other. He gives me exactly what I want and need. The script was amazing. It was all there in the script too. Then the fact that we’re shooting it just makes it even more real. For me it was more exhilarating to play that kind of a character. It was such a fun time too. I don't think people realize how funny the movie actually is because my parents, I told them, “You guys, it opens with, you know.” I had to explain to them and they were totally supportive of me doing the film because I told them the meaning behind it. Then they saw a screening of it in Brooklyn and they’re going to come. They’re also coming to see the premiere but they saw the screening in Brooklyn and thought it was hilarious. They couldn’t believe how funny it was. So each day on set I’d be cracking up. It was just a fun time.
You seem to really get the me generation and the self-centeredness of Kelly. Do you think there’s any hope for people like Kelly to gain a little bit of perspective?
Hmm, that’s a really good question. I feel like for everybody, it’s a self-realization. I don't know, I want to say there’s hope but it depends on people’s attune-ness with reality. It’s like who are you really? Who are we really? It’s scary and I don't know. I hope there’s hope for those people. I feel like even in Kelly’s case, even in the end, she’s loving that all that happened. It’s somewhat fake. She’s not even grasping the reality of the situation. She’s stuck in that identity that she’s created for herself and the obsession with fame. I don't know, I wonder when she’ll realize. I feel like there’s only so long you can go before reality will smack you in the face.
How old do you think Kelly is? Her profile says 21 but it occurred to me that could be a lie.
Yeah, she’s totally not 21. [Laughs] She’s probably 18 or 19.
I was thinking she could maybe even be younger because the type of person she is, she wouldn’t see anything wrong with that.
No, totally. I feel like the age is up for however old you think she is, but yeah, I definitely think she’s underage.
You shot a lot with the cell phone yourself, but there were credits for boom operators and such. Was there a crew behind you?
Sometimes, yes. In the car, we would be mic’ed, but sometimes there would be a boom but a lot of the time it was just the actors in the room together and the director would be out listening on headphones outside. It was funny, in some of the driving shots, the DP would do some of those where I’m driving but I did have to do some where I was driving. I was like oh God, why? They were like, “We really like it when you’re shooting.” Libby and I shot most of the film but there were some rehearsals before where we figured out relative blocking and then we were set free which was really nice. It was a solid blueprint and everything was scripted. It’d be funny because I know what’s going on, I’m shooting, I know what’s going on but the director has no idea. So we’d do a couple takes and then he’d watch playback and tell us how to make some changes and stuff.
Playback means he took the cell phone and pushed play?
Yeah, do that or we would switch in and out iPhones with Canon Elph cameras because they have a better stabilizer and they can really mimic the look of the iPhone. So they could hook that up to a little playback monitor and watch it.
The first time a lot of us saw you was actually Martha Marcy May Marlene. What was your experience on that film?
That was like camp. It was this nice retreat and everybody was so nice. John Hawkes has a really warm charisma to him, really welcoming and just a genuine guy. All those people, it was like making a movie with friends. Lizzie [Olsen]’s great and Julia Garner’s in that film and she’s like my little sister now. We’re besties. We just did another film together opposite Michael Pitt. I play the female lead and she’s one of my little prostitutes that I take into my brothel. [Laughs] I become a madam in this film, it’s nuts. But Martha’s great. I feel like lasting friendships were made on that movie. It was just really easygoing, super easy, I think one of the easiest films I’ve been in.
Was that an important role for your career too?
Yeah, definitely. I’m just so glad that Sundance took it and workshopped it and sent it out into the world. I’m just glad people saw it because it really is this paranoia trip. It does hold onto you until the very end. Susan Shopmaker cast me in that and I really have Susan Shopmaker to thank because she’s the one who put me in touch with Andrew in King Kelly and also cast me in Bluebird which is a film that’ll be coming out hopefully this coming year. It’ll start to do the festival circuit but that’s with John Slattery and Amy Morton and Margo Martindale plays my mother. So Susan Shopmaker, she has a good eye. She’s put some really great ensembles together. Everything that I’ve done that Susan’s cast me in, I’ve had the time of my life, seriously.
What is next for you? More edgy stuff pushing even further, or getting any easier?
I’m going in all different directions. Bluebird there’s no nudity. I play a young mom in the middle of nowhere Maine and this woman accidentally locks a kid in her school bus overnight. I play that kid’s mom. And Adam Driver’s in that, and then You Can’t Win which is opposite Michael Pitt, it’s an autobiography on Jack Black of the 1890s and it’s actually based on his autobiography called You Can’t Win. Michael plays that. It’s his life story so he ages in the film, I age in the film. I’m Irish, I get to wear a corset. I just want to do as many different things as I can. I just want to do quality and surrender to the work. That’s my favorite. I love just committing and surrendering, just transforming. I love transforming.
Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel