Original-Cin Q&A: Assassination Nation's Hari Nef and Suki Waterhouse on 8-minute sex scenes and dealing with the paparazzi

Assassination Nation is one wild ride. The film - which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and presented at TIFF as a Midnight Madness offering - centers around four internet-obsessed girls, whose lives revolve aroundtexts, posts, selfies and chats. 

But their small town gets turned upside down when an anonymous hacker starts to reveal personal messages and secrets of thousands of people. As anger erupts into full-blown violence, the four girls soon find themselves in a fight for their lives against an armed mob.

Our Bonnie Laufer spoke with two of the film’s stars model/actress Suki Waterhouse and Hari Nef (TV’s Transparent) to get their take on the film and how they deal with internet bullies. 

(You can also click a link below for Bonnie’s interview with writer/director Sam Levinson, son of director Barry Levinson, and star Abra).  

Abra , Odessa Young, Hari Nef and Suki Waterhouse) in Assassination Nation

Abra , Odessa Young, Hari Nef and Suki Waterhouse) in Assassination Nation

Original-Cin: This movie is quite the roller coaster ride! Suki, let’s start with you. What was your initial reaction after reading this script? 

Suki Waterhouse:  I  couldn't stop reading it. I literally had a hard time putting it down because I honestly could not believe what I was reading.  It felt shocking andevocative and reflected the way I would sh-- talk with my friends about boys and everything. It felt like real life, so I felt drawn to it instantly. I wanted to meet (writer-director) Sam Levinson very much and I nailed the audition and now here we are talking about it!”

OC: Hari, how about for you? 

Hari Nef: My initial reaction to the material was, ‘Oh jeez, are they really allowed to do this?’ I’m going to be honest and say that I was scared! The material is hardcore  and i was thinking, ‘This is good but is it too much?’ I was thinking if it's good it's going to be really good. But it had the potential to fail. So I was willing to take the  risk because it just felt right. There's so few scripts that even make you feel any kind of way at all, and I couldn't stop thinking about this one.”

OC: Four female leads may not always work but it seemed as though it did with you girls. Was there an instant bond when you all met?

SW: “It actually was very fast yeah it was pretty natural.  We actually all met each other for the first time at a nail salon.”

OC: Well, if you can’t bond over manicures then I guess there’s no hope.

SW: “Exactly! We all needed these long crazy acrylic nails for the shoot so we had fun doing that. Then we all went out and, since we were shooting in New Orleans, it happened to be Mardi Gras at the time. So there was a crazy energy going on.  We spent the night dressing up and taking silly pictures of each other. It was crazy fun.”

OC: This film is pretty out there. Was there anything that you had to do that, when you first read it, you were in anyway hesitant or just thought, “This is nuts?”

SW: “I had this 8 minute sex scene with Lukas Gage that ended up mostly getting cut where I made him lick an ashtray that had cigarettes in it.  That really grossed me out but he did it.”

OC: Hari, this is your first big feature film so did you find yourself learning anything from your co-stars? 

HN: “I learned a lot from them.  I was nervous about doing some of the stuff, but they totally put me at ease.  I trained in theater before this, so I knew how to act. So I just sort of used that to get me through.”

SW: “Hari's the Queen of improvisation. She added so much to every scene she was in.”

OC: I was going to ask you that Hari, because you have so many great lines in this movie. I guessing that Sam Levinson gave you all a lot of freedom. 

HN:  “He gave us a ton of freedom. He wanted  us to try whatever felt comfortable.  Some of it stayed in the film and a lot didn't but it was great that he allowed us to try.”

SW: “He wanted us to feel comfortable with who we were playing.”

HN: “He wanted it to feel as natural as possible. There are so many parts of this film that are so fantastical and are from this action fantasy world. So his main objective was to make the relationship between these four girls rooted in this sort of like raw real exchange that is very much from the world of indie filmmaking.”

OC: The film has a lot to say about internet shaming and transparency,  Being in the public eye, did it make you more wary or nervous about what is out there and how you are portrayed and perceived online? 

HN: “Suki is definitely a target, she brought the paparazzi to New Orleans.” 

SW:  “I've gotten more resilient. But there was definitely a time  a couple of years ago when things would kill me.  It’s hard sometimes not to read some of the stuff that is out there about you. But I have just managed to ignore most of it and go on with my life. Unfortunately you can’t really control it.”

HN:  “When I when it comes to  being online, and people's perceptions of you online, you have to understand that people think that they know you, and that they know what your life is like just based on the things they see that are presented as reality. They don't actually know you. They know this girl who looks like you, and has the same name as you. But it's actually a different person who is an amalgamation of quotes, videos and  photos, and pieces of art. So being able to live in that boundary and understand that there's you and then there's the capital YOU, that gives me some degree of comfort.”

Click HERE for Bonnie’s interview with writer/director Sam Levinson, son of director Barry Levinson, and star Abra.