Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Meet Alisha Weir: The Young Ballerina Vampire In “Abigail,” Hits Cinemas April 17

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Meet Alisha Weir: The Young Ballerina Vampire In “Abigail,” Hits Cinemas April 17

3558

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Nicknaming the different personas of her character really helped Alisha Weir channel the innocent little girl / centuries-old vampire that is the center of the blood-drenched horror movie “Abigail.”

Calling the frightened, kidnapped child version of her character “Abby,” and the alpha predator “Abigail,” helped Weir approach the character as two entirely separate people. For scenes where she plays Abigail, she even altered her voice to sound “not so much like an innocent little kid, but more like a confident adult,” she shares.

Weir plays the titular character in “Abigail,” a blood-thirsty gore-fest that begins with a high-stakes heist, a dangerous mission that, if all goes according to plan, could net six strangers a staggering $50 million. Recruited for the job by a mysterious fixer, the team comprises the driver, the sniper, the medic, the muscle, the hacker, and the thin man, aka head of ops. Their real identities are kept secret from each other as a kind of insurance – should one of them be caught, that person would be unable to implicate her or his co-conspirators. Together, they must infiltrate the well-appointed home of a reclusive kingpin who presides over a vast criminal empire. After sedating and abducting his pre-teen ballerina daughter, Abigail, they must safely transport the girl back to a remote mansion, then settle in to wait for the sun to rise and the cash to turn up. But once inside the isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, and they discover, to their mounting horror, that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton in “Abigail”

For directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (“Scream” 2022, “Scream VI”), Weir, most familiar to movie audiences for playing one of author Roald Dahl’s most beloved characters in “Matilda the Musical,” was a godsend. From the outset, the team had worried whether they’d be able to find a young actress who could believably be both earnest and sympathetic in the early scenes and terrifying and sadistic as the marauding vampire. An exhaustive search conducted with casting director Rich Delia led them to Weir, and after the filmmakers saw her audition opposite Melissa Barrera (the medic) over Zoom, they knew they’d found their girl. “She’s remarkable,” producer William Sherak says. “She’s talented and professional and engaged and excited, but still a kid. She just delivered.”

“I’d never done a character like this, and I’ve always loved horror films,” says the now 14-year-old Weir. “Everyone’s going to feel bad for her because she’s this sweet little girl who’s been kidnapped. Then she turns out to be so much more.”

Movement coach and choreographer Belinda Murphy (“The Last Duel,” “Vikings”) worked with Weir to develop vampire Abigail’s graceful physicality and to teach the actress how to perform the ballet sequence that opens the film. Murphy began by focusing on exercises that would build strength and stamina, which were critical, as Weir wanted to perform as many of her own stunts as possible. “I love trying new things,” Weir says. “Anything that I can do, I will do it. I’m determined. If I can’t do it, I’ll try again until I can.”

Alisha Weir in “Abigail”

Murphy developed a particular style of movement for the film’s first half, before Abigail is revealed to be a vampire. “That movement is very beautiful and very soft, as she appears to be just a little girl who simply loves to dance,” Murphy says. “Then when she’s vamped out, the movement became sharper and faster with more purpose and with a maturity beyond that of a little girl her size… An energy fueled by a vampire’s thirst.”

Even then, vampire Abigail moves lithely, with a feline grace. “When she’s running, she has elegance even when it’s fierce,” Murphy says. “It has a feeling of a performance which is full of calculated mischief. She’s playing with them and loving every moment! She constantly has a lovely line. Because, as Alisha is a dancer, it was just natural for her to do that. So even when she was running, jumping and attacking, she always maintained that elegance. This was Abigail’s biggest recital, if you like.”

“Abigail” also stars Kathryn Newton (“Lisa Frankenstein,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”), Dan Stevens (“Gaslit,” “Legion”), Melissa Barrera (“Scream” franchise, “In the Heights”), William Catlett (“Black Lightning,” “True Story”), Kevin Durand (“Resident Evil: Retribution,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and Angus Cloud (“Euphoria,” “North Hollywood”) as the kidnappers and Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad,” ”Better Call Saul,” “The Mandalorian”) as the mastermind.

Fangs out and get ready for a bloody time at the cinemas when “Abigail” opens April 17 only in cinemas. #AbigailMoviePH

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