[Interview] Kyle Gallner for SMILE

[Interview] Kyle Gallner for SMILE
SMILE l Paramount Pictures
In Parker Finn’s debut feature film, SMILE, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain after witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Prior to the film’s release, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew e-chatted with actor Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body, Dinner in America), where they discussed everything from his character Joel to working alongside Sosie Bacon, and how the film made him look inward regarding trauma and mental health.

SMILE heavily involves topics pertaining to suicide, self-harm, and mental health. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

It’s such a pleasure to be speaking to you today, Kyle! To kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character, Joel, and how he relates to the story in SMILE? 

Kyle Gallner: Joel is a detective and he is Rose’s ex-boyfriend. You see them have a little bit of a run in and you realize there’s probably some tension there. As things progress, Rose doesn’t really know where to turn so she comes to Joel and he becomes the only person that’s willing to really listen to her. I don’t necessarily know if he fully believes everything she’s saying, but Joel’s a little bit more of a ride-or-die type of guy who’s like, I’m gonna help you in any way that I can. 

That’s a perfect segue into my next question. Why do you think he goes so hard for Rose? Especially considering she’s an ex. 

Kyle Gallner: Everybody deals with things differently, right? You have people who need hard proof. You need people who need evidence directly in front of them. And then you have people who just are willing to accept whatever the other person’s experience is and not deny them that experience. I think he’s that kind of person. I think they have a strong foundation with their past, however rocky it was. They probably went through a lot of growing pains and probably dark times as you do when you’re younger. So there’s a history there of probably being there for each other for a lot of different and difficult things. When she shows up at his door he’s maybe not immediately… he’s a little taken aback but you know it’s not in him to let her go through this alone or suffer alone. 

Sosie Bacon and Kyle Gallner star in SMILE

Speaking of Rose, how was it working so closely with Sosie Bacon?

Kyle Gallner: I would just like to put on record that she absolutely destroyed every frame of this movie. She worked incredibly hard. And then to take the time with everybody and their character to build each relationship independently, she was very graceful with her time. We get along really well, me and Sosie. We were able to sit down and discuss these two and what the relationship probably was and what that means for them now. And we really wanted it to come across like there’s a history between the two of them that was really important to the two of us to differentiate this relationship from everything else.

Because of that, we tried to find some comedy in it a little bit. You know, two bickering exes who know everything about each other and drive each other crazy. It was really just fleshing that relationship out. And working with Sosie was really enjoyable in building that relationship. And then, also just getting to be scene partners on set. She’s so prepared and just so fucking good. She’s just there to play and it was really, really fun which doesn’t happen all the time. 

When doing a film like this that features themes of trauma, even if you haven’t experienced it personally is there some type of catharsis that happens to you as an actor taking on these types of roles? 

Kyle Gallner: You can’t help but start to think of things, you know, think about your past, think about things in your life. It’s a very heavy movie that deals with some very heavy themes. You can’t put a blanket statement on trauma, you know what I mean? Everybody deals with things their own way and goes through things their own way.

But working on films with themes like this, whether it’s trauma or past relationships or, you know, it could be abuse versus something that could be very joyful you can’t help but start thinking about your own life and maybe incorporating things from your own life into your work. But, at the same time, while this film does deal with some kind of entity or something, there’s still the thing that nothing is scarier than your own mind.

And I think that’s part of what the fear is. Is this real? Is this not? Am I crazy? Am I not crazy? Why does nobody believe me? How do I get somebody to believe me? And that’s just as scary as anything else. It’s almost like you’re bringing life to it and you still don’t know if it’s real or not, you’re creating this monster essentially. 

Have you watched this film with an audience yet and/or were there any scenes that scared you or were your favorite to do? 

Kyle Gallner: There are so many great sequences in this. I think Parker did a really great job. He did a really special thing with the way he crafted his jump scares as well, like setting up jump scares and then not letting them happen and waiting and then having it happen somewhere else. That got me once or twice and I knew the script [Laughs]. There were one or two moments where I actually jumped and was like, Holy shit!

I thought he did a great job with the sound design, it almost felt like its own character. He did so many interesting things with the way it was shot, the way the camera flips and moves, and keeps you as an audience off kilter. As a whole, it’s a really well thought out, well-crafted film and there were a lot of things that surprised me.

On the day you’re shooting these scenes you don’t actually know what they’re gonna look like. You don’t know what they’re gonna sound like. You don’t know how the scares are going to work. So to see it come to life and to see it come to life in a really unique way was very cool. For someone who knew the script, it was still pretty unpredictable to me.

SMILE is now available in theaters. To learn more about the film, check out our review.

Shannon McGrew
Follow Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *