The fact that Amy Smart cites scaring people as her favorite pastime is odd since the actress also admits to being utterly incapable of sitting through most of the horror movies she (or anyone for that matter) makes. But she's back in the "boo!" business this week as "Dead Awake" -- a supernatural tinged thriller revolving around a funeral employee -- opens in select theaters.
Having been a fan of Amy's since 1999's "Varsity Blues," I was excited to find her as charming as her comedic characters, as vivacious as her tweaked action flicks and as excited about death scenes as I am.
PopWrap: What attracted you to "Dead Awake?"
Amy Smart: The director made a film called ‘The Final Cut,” which I just loved. It was so original and then I read the script for “Dead Awake” and I could feel him [Omar Naim] in it. Feel the way he was going to direct it. I loved Natalie's journey and liked that it’s a hybrid movie -- it has supernatural, thriller, comedy and romance elements. I was really excited about this one.
PW: But I had read that you aren't a big fan of these kinds of movies.
Amy: I just get scared easily. I actually have never finished watching “The Shining” because I started it at my parents house in the woods of Michigan. It was the worst place to try and watch that movie. It felt like I was in “The Shining” watching “The Shining” [laughs] I was just waiting for Jack Nicholson to bust through the door.
PW: And yet you make a lot of horror movies -- what's attracted you to the projects you've made?
Amy: Well, like everyone else I grew up watching "Poltergeist" and films like that. I tend to be drawn to movies that make you think about your life in a deeper way. The ones that make you ponder choices and where you’re going – to figure out what sabotages you in your life. I think this movie has a great journey the main characters go on in terms of growing and figuring themselves out.
PW: To that end, if you had to revisit a character you've previously played, who would you like to embody again?
Amy: You know, I had such a great time making “Just Friends” that I’d love to make a sequel. Where are they now?
PW: What do you find more taxing -- doing the emotional scenes in a film like "Dead Awake," or the high energy required to film "Crank?"
Amy: The emotional drama for sure because it requires so many more layers to a character. When your’e doing action, or sometimes comedy, you are mostly reacting in the moment – just throwing yourself in blindly. With dramatic material, you’re called upon to access more of yourself. It’s gut wrenching.
PW: I'd ask if you go home and take a bath to relax, but after "Mirrors," I can't imagine you're a big fan.
Amy: [laughs] That’s awesome.
PW: I recently did a story on the 31 Best New Horror Movie Deaths, and that easily made the Top 10.
Amy: Yes! I love that you say that because I actually made that movie specifically so I could do that scene. I felt like, if I’m going to do a horror movie, I had to have that scene. It was just too good.
PW: Is bringing a violent death like that to life an odd experience?
Amy: We filmed in Romania, in the basement of a haunted old building. It was just an eerie place – but dying in that tub was such a great experience. And I smile so big knowing that it freaked everyone out. Because, can I be honest? One of my favorite things in life is scaring the s*** out of people.
PW: Oh really? Are you an elaborate prankster?
Amy: Not really. I just hide behind doors and jump out. Simple but terrifying. Scaring people is one of my favorite things to do.
PW: What's the best scare you've done recently?
Amy: Well, it's not that creative, but I was in the car with my best friend and her husband, driving around on a quiet Sunday night. Dead quiet in the car, I was sitting in the back seat while they were in their own worlds. I just put my head in between theirs and screamed bloody murder at the top of my lungs [laughs]. They shivered and looked at me with pale faces. I just love doing anything that’s completely unexpected.
"Dead Awake" is now playing in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Houston.