[Nicolas Cage] said something that was really cool: ‘You show me where over-the-top is and I’ll go above it. I’ll make my own over-the-top.”
After a long gestation period came news via Deadline at the end of 2016: “Cruel Intentions reboot TV series is officially dead.” Toplined by Sarah Michelle Gellar, one of the original film’s stars, the cult 1999 film was ordered to pilot by NBC before it ultimately dropped the series. If you were one of the select die-hard fans anxiously awaiting this TV sequel, you probably devoured every piece of information you could find about it. Did you know? NBC actually developed two pilots: one a bit raunchier, the other much tamer. 23-year-old Anne Winters was set to join the series as, in her own words, “the slutty best friend who makes bad decisions.” It seems like a missed opportunity.
By coincidence, Winters is now heading to the big screen with Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad, also starring Selma Blair, the unsung hero of the debauched teen movie that seduced a generation.
Mom and Dad is a nutty B-movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, and never promises to be anything more. Set against a middle class community in Anywhere America, an unexplained pandemic is taking hold of parents—making them fight tooth and nail to kill their children as soon as possible. A bored housewife (Blair) and her disillusioned husband (Nicolas Cage) slowly succumb to bloodthirsty rage as their two children, Carly (Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur), are forced to defend their lives. The filicide virus spreads until kids everywhere are under attack.
From the director of those Crank movies, there’s something just as refreshingly upfront about Mom and Dad. Not only is it unrepentantly mean-spirited, but there’s also a set of throwback credits to clue us in on the film’s grindhouse leanings. Taylor joyfully upends our deep-rooted expectations concerning parental protection with a number of wildly perverse sequences, like the creepily eager fathers watching their newborns behind hospital glass or the woman casually pushing her stroller into the path of an incoming car. It all amounts to a chain of confidently staged chaos.
Mom and Dad opens in select theaters on January 19.
This is a really out-there movie. I’m curious to know what this looked like to you on the page.
It was also crazy on the script. [Laughs] Honestly, watching it, I had no idea. It was funny because we were doing two different movies: Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair were in their own world, and then it was me and my brother [Zackary Arthur]. We were truly in terror the entire time. When I first saw it, it was even crazier and just way more than I expected it to be—in a really great way.
I think you saw this for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I did. I saw this for the first time at TIFF.
I recently learned that you filmed this in Southern Indiana. How do you explain to the locals there what this is? What do you tell them when you’re shooting something like this?
I don’t think we told anyone what we were doing. [Laughs] I don’t think we explained it. You don’t really want to tell them. You just tell them that we’re filming some happy-go-lucky film in this house, while we were literally trashing that house. Thank god we found the house we filmed in because I don’t know what they told those people. We trashed that house. So I don’t know what they think went on in that house. It was funny because we also filmed in Kentucky and people would literally sit out in lawn chairs and just watch from outside. They were just hoping for—I don’t know what. They would just sit out in their lawn chairs and cook and watch the house that we were filming in. It was so funny. I kept thinking, “I wonder what they think is going on in here.”
I know you became fast friends with Selma on this. She’s really unhinged in the movie, and Nicolas is super “Cage-y.” One reviewer went as far as to say, “make America Cage again” after watching this performance. Was that infectious? Did that energy rub off on you?
Absolutely. That’s a big thing that I learned from Nicolas: if it’s crazy and out there, just go for it. He said something that was really cool when I was with him and we were being interviewed. Someone asked him if he ever felt like he was being over-the-top and he was like, “You show me where over-the-top is and I’ll go above it. I’ll make my own over-the-top,” or something like that. He literally does his own thing and I thought that was great. If anything, the craziness allowed everyone else to really give it their all and really go full force. I think the contrast between Selma and Nicolas, and me and my brother, made for a really great balance. That’s why it looks so good.
Can I ask you about Brian? I only know his work. He seems like such a character.
He’s definitely a character. He’s just super nitty-gritty. He’s always going against the grain. He’s always doing something opposite. He’s always going against the stereotypes and throwing out random things for us to try and be crazy, this and that. He really let us have a lot of freedom, but also pushed us to be our craziest or whatever. There were just no limits and I think that’s how he really is. Reading the script is one thing, but him telling us on the day how he wants something to be shot, this and that, and even just how fast-paced the movie is, it describes him as a person. He’s super high energy and insane. That’s just who he is. He’s really fun to work with. He’s definitely a friend to all of us actors. He was close to us on set. He was very good at being friends with us.
What did your parents make of this movie?
I actually took my mom to TIFF. It was interesting… [Laughs] I mean, she loved it. We’re super close, but I definitely warned her like, “Just be aware because it’s pretty intense.” I think she kind of knew what she was getting into. Both of us, no matter what—I was there filming this every day and I didn’t even know it would turn out like this. I was like, “This is crazy!” I had no idea this was gonna be what it was. I was happily surprised what it turned out to be.
It looks like you’re continuing on the show Zac and Mia this year. You’re also heading into 13 Reasons Why with Netflix. But what I really want to know about is your experience on Night School with Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart. That had to be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Yeah, Night School was super fun. It was filmed in Atlanta. It was my first time being on set with so many comedians. I think I was the only person on the cast who had not been on SNL. They’re top-notch comedians. I learned so much from being on set with them. Honestly, I spent so many hours trying so hard not to laugh out loud. [Laughs] I was almost crying. It was really tough to keep it together. I would turn my head away and the hair would cover my face—99.9 percent of the time that was me cracking up. That comes out in September.
There’s a scene in Mom and Dad where you’re chatting with Selma about social media. I know you have a very active Instagram. First of all, I think it’s a great tool for anyone to do whatever they want on there, including promoting projects. But does it ever feel like a chore?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely a bigger thing for our industry. People make fun of me all the time: “Why did you post that selfie?” or “Why do you always post pictures of that?” I honestly think it comes down to your perspective on it. I tried giving it up and stuff like that, and I think it’s really important to value the life outside of your films, but at the same time, it’s such a big deal now and I don’t really see it going away anytime soon. I think it’s best to just embrace it and do it for yourself in a good way, and make a positive impact whenever possible. It’s a really great way to reach out to people and see what people think about your characters or the things that are coming out. It’s a good way to talk to your fans. I really like it. I don’t feel pressured to put up certain things. I just kind of post whatever I want, honestly. To me, it’s just pictures that I like and pictures of things that are coming out that I want people to see. So I like it. I like social media.
Some actors are contractually obligated to join social media and make posts when they don’t want to, to specifically promote stuff. I think that’s when it gets really problematic.
That is weird. I know there’s been talk about people hiring talent based on how many followers they have, or this and that, and that seems a little bit weird. But as long as it’s for you and it’s on the side while you’re doing whatever you’re doing—to each his own!
A lot of people were really anticipating the Cruel Intentions pilot before it was scrapped. Could you talk about your involvement? I have a feeling it’s gonna get leaked at some point.
Honestly, Cruel Intentions was one of my favorite shows and the pilot was so fun. Our director, Roger Kumble, was awesome to work with. It was actually one of the times that I was really shocked it didn’t go because I saw the pilot and was like, “Wow, this is going to be a hit. It’s so good.” But it didn’t go. Filming it, the script, and everything—it was super great. It’s funny also because, right after, I learned that Selma, who was obviously in the original Cruel Intentions, knew Roger. Small world! I still don’t know why that pilot didn’t go. Everyone missed out on this one.
Selma is so sweet. Everyone says that. You want to be best friends the moment you meet her.
She’s so honest, down-to-earth, and so funny. When you see her, she’s kind of a serious person, but when you meet her, you realize that she’s the biggest goofball. I can’t explain it. She has a very dry sense of humor and she’s really good at just laughing at stupid shit that happens to her. But 99 percent of the time that I was off-set with her, I was laughing. She’s super cool. Also, her little son is the cutest thing ever. He came by the set a couple of times. She has a great little fam going on.
So what’s next for you, Anne?
I have a lot of stuff that I filmed last year coming out. I’m really excited for 13 Reasons Why—I think that script was one of my biggest things. Honestly, I’m just really excited about finding a future project that I really love and want to do. I don’t know when that’s going to happen—it could be this week, next week, or months from now—but hopefully, I’ll get a project that I’m super passionate about. I would really love to be the lead and have it be my thing. That’s my goal this year: to be the lead on a TV show or the lead in a big movie, or something. That’s the goal. Other than that, I want to connect to something. That’s always the goal: to do things I really love and things that will challenge me in a different way from the past year. We’ll just have to wait and see.
You’ve been really good about doing very different things so far.
Yeah, the roles that I’ve done have definitely been very different from each other. I’m always looking for something different. That’s why I did Mom and Dad, too. I had to do it.