NATALIE BURN INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Miloš Jovanović
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Natalie Burn is making the transition from acclaimed dancer/choreographer to actor seamlessly. First up, she appears in the blockbuster action thriller Expendables 3 alongside Mel Gibson. She also stars in the horror film Killer Mermaid, which premiered in Brussels at the Int'l Fantastic Films Festivall earlier this year. HorrorTalk's Miloš Jovanović got a chance to sit down with Natalie about Killer Mermaid and her future projects.
Miloš Jovanović: Natalie, can you tell us a bit more how did you get involved with Killer Mermaid?
Natalie Burn: I was at the Cannes Film Festival, where I was introduced to Milan Todorovic. Milan was extremely excited to get to know me and while walking on the busy streets of Croisette, he offered me a part in his next movie. I didn't take his offer seriously. The next day was my birthday, May 20th, and I invited him to my small gathering. During the party, he came in and apologized for not bringing a present. Milan was kind of upset, he told me I could ask for anything I wanted. I quickly responded that the only thing I wanted was an official offer for a part in his upcoming movie. He smiled and said he would prepare it after Cannes. Living in Hollywood for a few years and being a part of this tough industry for several years made me savvy to promises that otherwise would not be followed through. I decided to act on the spot and requested a written offer right there and then. I picked up a napkin under Milan's drink, borrowed a pen, and asked him to put an offer right in front of me as a birthday gift. Without hesitation, Milan put together a small contract, signed it, and gave it to me in front if other people as witnesses. From then on we were bonded to work together. A month later, I got a call from Milan saying he wrote a script called Nymph [original title of Killer Mermaid] with me in mind as one of the leads, and we'd be shooting soon. Funny enough, my little napkin contract was for a completely different movie. ;)
MJ: Killer Mermaid is not the first horror you featured in, but it is your first lead horror role. Are you a horror fan? If yes, what draws you to this genre? Do you have a favorite horror film you can speak of?
NB: Sooner or later, I believe that any actress or actor somehow gets involved in the horror genre. It's a genre that's the most commercial worldwide and has a huge following. Luckily for me, I've been a huge fan of horror movies since childhood. The scary atmosphere, unnatural scenery, and unreal stories attract my attention more than any other type of film. I've always been a child who isn't afraid of the dark, heights, or other scary moments, by the contrary, I was always fascinated by the adrenaline racing through my body when I watch or participate in these types of movies. Crazy enough, these films specifically make me feel relaxed and comfortable. Some of my favorite horror movies of all time are The Shining, Hellraiser, and especially Alien. I just never get tired of watching these classics. It'd be amazing to work with the director Ridley Scott and portray somebody like Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley character, it would be a filming experience of a lifetime. Moreover I just love acting, and no matter what character I play or genre, I enjoy getting deep into my part and hopefully get the audience to feel lots of emotions through my roles.
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MJ: By all accounts, Killer Mermaid was a very physically demanding shoot. Did your dancing background help with this? How did the rest of cast cope?
NB: My transition from being a prima ballerina into an actress gave me a unique physicality and strength to do my own stunts. That definitely helped me with the difficult conditions, long hours, and complicated scenes for the filming of Killer Mermaid. We had one particularly dangerous scene I had to act in. I had to fall abruptly into the dark, cold water of the sea, the scene was shot at night, in a submarine tunnel, and with drizzling rain outside; which definitely made it more difficult and scary to shoot. Gladly the stunt was completed successfully and we moved on with our filming. After that dangerous fall, and despite the frightening situation and the adrenaline flowing through my body, I still knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – "Be An Actress". In addition, my tough discipline and strong technique made the shoot easy and extremely fun. I believe safety is the most important thing on set, but even the most professional movies cannot guarantee that the actors won't get hurt. Our movie, Killer Mermaid, was well coordinated and professionally set up. However, even that didn't stop me from getting a little hurt. From my experience, whenever you are involved in a production that requires you to do your own stunts, you tend to get even a little injured. During the filming of Killer Mermaid, there was a fight scene and after being pushed away from one of my cast members, I fell on top of Kelly's (played by Kristina Klebe) flashlight, which caused my mouth to bleed and made my teeth numb. Fortunately, the feeling came back and we resumed shooting. In addition, one of our leads Boban, played by Dragan Micanovic, a well-known Serbian actor, also got badly injured during his climatic fight. Luckily for production, Dragan stayed on set and completed the filming with the cast on his knee.
MJ: What was it like to be in a movie with Franco Nero? Was it a good learning experience?
NB: Franco Nero is a talented, very experienced, and highly trained actor. His technique and professionalism is a huge inspiration to me. I felt while watching his work that each word had some hidden depth and darker meaning to it. He spent a great deal of thought into creating his character and developed it from head to toe. It was fascinating to see the character that I read on paper become a reality and being portrayed by Franco Nero, who made it even more complex and layered. I would be more than happy if my career will end up being as fulfilling as Franco's. He told me once that he had a choice to be an actor who plays only leading man roles or becoming a character actor but be less successful in the end. He said without hesitation that until now he believes he made the right choice by choosing to be a character actor that got to do it all. He has played every type of part and character, which to me seems like the biggest success there is. He had many lives that he had lived through his roles, which will continue their existence for many more years to come even after he is gone.
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MJ: You had a brief appearance in the Expendables 3. What was it like jumping from a small indie horror film to a major league Hollywood production?
NB: Being a producer myself, I develop my own projects that requires controlling the filming, setting up the sets, picking the locations, hiring the crew, and plenty more important responsibilities. It taught me that the process of filmmaking, whether it is a big or small production, it still requires the exact same amount of work. Therefore, my experience on the set of Killer Mermaid and Expendables 3 was more or less similar. I still had to memorize my lines, portray a character, get ready for a scene, and be a little nervous in front of the camera. Of course, Expendables 3 has well-known actors that I only dreamt of meeting, let alone acting with. Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson were my inspiration since childhood. During the shoot, while walking up to my husband, Mel Gibson in the movie, made me feel special. Truthfully, I just love to work, whether it's a big production or a small one. In the end there is nothing more fulfilling to me than being a working actress.
MJ: You must like working with Milan Todorovich a lot, as you have already committed to his Wrath of the Dead. Are you looking forward to working with Ken Foree, an absolute legend of the zombie genre?
NB: I had mentioned earlier how I got the job for Killer Mermaid. The truth is, the contract on Milan's napkin was never for Killer Mermaid but for the sequel to his Zone of the Dead movie, which is now called Wrath of the Dead. That being said, the movie wasn't ready to be shot. Since Milan had agreed to make a movie with me that year, he then wrote a movie with me specifically in mind, which was Killer Mermaid. Cut to the present, Wrath of the Dead is in pre-production, and it's ready to start shooting soon. I'm looking forward to see my terms and conditions that was once written on a bar napkin, finally be put to good use. Ken Foree is an actor that I feel challenged by and incredibly lucky to work with. I look forward to the filming of the movie in Belgrade and I feel extremely happy to be back there soon. Knowing that Ken is attached as a lead, such a skilled professional in the horror genre, makes me feel confident that the movie in the end will be worthwhile to make.
MJ: Being Ukrainian, you were surely brought up on Slavic folk tales, many of which have fantasy and horror overtones. Do you think there is material for a good film based on such stories? I bet you would like to star in such a production!
NB: My career as an actress started in theater, where I was very much attracted to Eastern European playwrights, especially Anton Chekhov. I love portraying his characters, making them become alive by using my own interpretations. It would be my pleasure to develop a script by one of great Russian playwrights. In fact, there are a few scripts that I've been asked to co-produce and star in that are based on famous Russian novels. I feel it's my responsibility to bring some of Russian or Ukrainian history alive by developing a story that will be worth sharing with the world.
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MJ: You're quite busy lately, with IMDB reporting you will feature in no less than ten upcoming films in the next two years. Few of them are listed as horror titles, can you give us a sneak peek?
NB: I'm very fortunate to be asked to be a part of those films and I'm grateful for the opportunities that come my way. At this stage, I'm not allowed to disclose any information about upcoming productions. However, there's a few films that my company, 7Heaven Productions, that are in pre-production with and will be shooting very soon. One of my movies that has already been completed is called Awaken. My character Billie and a group of random people wake up on this secluded island. Our group discovers a scary truth. There is a gang that wants to steal our body parts from us in order to sell them in a black market. Awaken stars Jason London, Edward Furlong, Daryl Hannah, Robert Davi, and Vinnie Jones. The film will be released in 2015.
The second film that's set to start shooting in November is called Devil's Hope. My character is a gypsy girl named Divinity, who wants to know about her mother's mysterious death. Divinity discovers a world full of terrifying voodoo, sex, drugs, and a disturbing conspiracy to overthrow the natural order of things. Furthermore, the film tackles the concept of the devil: Does the devil win because he is too strong or because we aren't strong enough? A psychological thriller film noir that will be out on big screen next year.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Natalie for her time. Make sure to read Miloš' review of Killer Mermaid HERE, and check out the movie when you get a chance!
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