In talking about The Haunting of Sharon Tate this week, I was given the opportunity to talk to Lydia Hearst, who plays Abigail Folger within the film. She took some time to talk about historical representation, film in an era where violence against women is discussed, and more.
What enticed you to want to do this film?
What first intrigued me was the fact that it’s based on an interview that Sharon [Tate] gave to Fate magazine where she had these premonitions of her own death. And then when I had the opportunity to read the script and audition for the role and became a part of the cast it was fascinating how it’s much more psychological; it’s not autobiographical. I loved that idea that it’s more spiritual and deals with the question of fate and whether or not we each have the power to alter the course of our destiny.
Abigail Folger is often overshadowed. Did you do any specific research on her?
I did, yes, because Abigail, like all these characters, is real and when you’re portraying a character like that part of the job becomes anthropological, in a sense. It’s important to do your due diligence and put in time and effort learning about who the person is you’re playing, who the other people are that they were surrounded by at the time. I really wanted to do my best to respectfully portray the person I was hired to play.
Can you be more specific on your research methods? Were there specific things you found?
The family is very private, but I know she was from Hillsborough, California, not too far from where my own family was from and she actually was quite close with some family friends of mine, one of my relatives. So I was able to get background based on that. I learned she used to do lectures on women’s studies and politics at high schools and various universities. She was just starting her career as a woman’s activists and for civil rights. She was well-educated, very well-spoken, loved her family, loved her friends. I did as much as I could to try to understand who she was as an individual.
Where is the line for you between historical accuracy and entertainment value?
What was important, especially with this film, is that it didn’t sensationalize what happened to them. It’s only a horror film because the events that took place, that actually occurred, are so horrifying. But in reality this film is much more psychological and doesn’t mock, doesn’t trivialize, anything that happened to them but that’s also secondary. The main story is the spirituality and question of fate, and also the relationships between the people in the house.
Was there hesitation to do this story in a time where women are talking about violence and exploitation? Particularly with so many Tate movies out?
There’s always going to be reservations and hesitations that people have when any film is about someone that’s real. I can honestly say I’m more sensitive to that based on everybody wanting to tell stories about my own mother. I understand the want and desire to move on, but I also understand the curiosity and intrigue of story, and one of the important things is that this was a real interview that Sharon gave, and I know that it’s a real interview because I happen to own a copy of the original Fate magazine where Sharon gave it. One of the things I discussed with Daniel [Farrands, director] is my sensitivity to the telling of the story where I would not be a part of something that would sensationalize and glorify any horrific moments that occurred. Obviously you have to touch on that, but I appreciate that wasn’t the main focus of the film; it was the relationships and the way that it ends, that’s how you wish it really would have ended for her.
What was it like recreating some of the harsh scenes in such isolated landscape?
There were definitely moments where you realize just how horrifying the events that took place were. It was a different time and people back then were more accessible, in a sense of person-to-person, not on social media. It was easier to access someone’s home and in real life. If anything, I hope this film [lets] someone take away [the fact] that if you’re watching these stories, remember this story so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
What was it like working with Hilary Duff on this?
Hilary is a phenomenal actress. She was incredibly wonderful in this role and put so much love, effort, and care into portraying Sharon. It was remarkable and refreshing to do that, and because she’s such a lovely person the scenes where our characters are bonded were the most fun and natural to film.