KRISTEN BELL on 'PULSE' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
July 28, 2006
Technology meets the supernatural in Pulse, a horror film in which the internet and wi-fi serve as conduits for the restless spirits of the dead to encroach upon the world of the living. Propagating wherever a wireless signal can be found, these ghosts spread like a disease, infecting both man and machine.
Based upon the Japanese film Kairo, Pulse stars Kristen Bell (TV's Veronica Mars) as Mattie, a young woman who first encounters the paranormal phenomenon when her boyfriend hangs himself, leaving behind an infected computer system.
In this interview, Kristen talks about shooting Pulse in Romania, keeping up with the scheduling demands of Veronica Mars, and making the most out of the little downtime that she has.
MEDIA: Have you seen Kairo, the Japanese film upon which Pulse was based?
KRISTEN: Yeah. I didn't watch it till after I was cast in the American one, but I loved it when I saw it. We changed a lot of things, I think mainly to condense the characters, because I think that American audiences are more used to following one character, whereas they would view Kairo as like a series of vignettes because there's so many more characters. So they condensed it a little bit.
So your character Mattie is an amalgam of Kairo characters?
Yeah. I think she's definitely the two girls that you're following, just sort of as one. [They] also made her a little bit of what people are expecting when you have a female heroine--they kind of made her a little tough.
Do you think technology is bringing people closer together or forcing them further apart?
I think it's a combination. I think that, obviously, it's done great things for us. But I think there is a point when it does start to make you reclusive because you're concentrating so much more on the device than you are the actual communication. Like when you're at the computer and all of a sudden, you're like, "Oh, it's 4:00 a.m. I've been here for nine hours sitting at my screen." [laughs] And I know everybody has done it! And that's strange, that it can suck you in because you're not thinking anymore. And I think sometimes, the idea of text messaging and e-mailing is supposed to [create] more communication, but it doesn't because then you don't call people, you don't see them. Like the idea of writing a letter is just ancient now, which is kind of crazy because five years ago, it wasn't. It's strange. [laughs]
Director Jim Sonzero said there were some rough working conditions in Romania. What was it like for you to have to shoot Pulse there?
Romanian movies are not made the same way as American movies are, only because it's newer. Like for instance, cigarettes over there [are] much more prominent, and Americans aren't used to that. Especially in LA and New York, where it's outlawed everywhere. And I remember when we did the scene where I open the fridge...The maggots were an insert. That was a totally different shot. But when you see the wide view of the fridge and you see all the junk that's dripping, I swear to God, they used real food and just let it rot. The smell was outrageous. It was like nothing I've ever smelled before. And I don't know if the props guys were like, "You know what? We don't have anything that looks like it. Let's just use real food and let it rot." It was really hot, there was no AC, and there were a lot of stray dogs everywhere.
As an animal lover yourself, how did you deal with the dogs?
I know they looked at us like we were crazy, because Christina and I, and Ian, would be playing with them, and I would let them run in and out of my trailer. That's just because I love them and I don't really care if they had fleas. Whatever, I'll take a shower. But I ended up finding a puppy, and I took him and washed him in my sink, and all the Romanians were like, "What is wrong with her?" Because they look at them like rats. But the dogs would walk in and out of the building, and in and out of the shot. There was a dog in a shot one time, and they were like, "Shoo the dog outside." It was like no big deal to them.
What were the working conditions like for the crew?
There was no craft service for those poor people. The crew worked so hard--as hard as any crew works, which is really hard, manual labor--and there was no craft service. All they gave them was peanuts. I swear to God, all they gave them was peanuts, and coffee in little Dixie cups. So we bought a lot of food. I would go to the grocery store after work and buy cookies and stuff to feed them. I mean, how are you going to work a film schedule where you're on your feet for 12 hours if you don't have sustenance?
Christina Milian talked about the Benihana over there...
Benihana rocked our world while we were there. I had never been to Benihana before. As Americans, we felt like such wimps because some of the restaurants we went to...We were really picky, and a lot of the food, we weren't used to tasting it. And so it was hard to find a comfort zone. It wasn't that we were trying to be not open-minded, but we went to Benihana. And Benihana over there is like a 25-star restaurant. It is like out of this world. And they had all these fresh vegetables and they'd fry them in front of you. And we were there like every night...It was at the hotel around the corner, and we would all just walk there. We were all obsessed with Benihana.
Were there any scenes that were particularly challenging or difficult for you, as an actress?
Definitely the one where I see [my character's boyfriend] hung in the beginning, because as an actor, I use a lot of substitution. Like, "What if this had happened to me?" And it was hard to go there and think about what that would actually feel like, to see your boyfriend, or anybody, hung right in front of you. So that kind of rocked me. She went through some traumatic events. And also seeing the person jump off of the water tower. When we actually had to see the dummy fall, it was a little unsettling.
Between Veronica Mars and movies during the show's downtime, your work schedule has been pretty full these past few years. Have you been able to take any sort of significant break?
I had a movie set up and it got postponed, which I think was divine intervention because I needed to take a break, and I wasn't mentally able to--I wanted to keep working. I'm getting opportunity that I really appreciate now, and I have the ability to be up for parts that I really want, so I want to work to get those parts. And I think that I needed to be forced to take a break. So I took a break this summer and saw family and my parents. I'm kept so busy on the show that I really lose touch with a lot of people that I miss and adore very much, so I got to actually like be a human being this summer, which was so nice. [laughs]
Being so identified with Veronica, are there certain roles you are looking to do?
I would like to just start playing characters that don't have the parents involved, because I know that it's hard for people to picture me older...I know I'm still viewed as being a lot younger, so if I start playing characters that are still young, but their parents aren't characters in the [story], that would help. And then, eventually graduating into an adult, and maybe playing a young mom.
Do you have any upcoming theatre projects?
I wish! I wish I could tell you yes, but literally, I have no time because of the show. I'm in every single scene, and on the weekends, it's usually press stuff for that or just complete comatose time. But the minute I get a free break, I would love to go back on stage. There's nothing I'd love more.
What do you like to do when you get short breaks, and you're not comatose?
[laughs] I love to just lock my doors and just stay at home. I love to just read in the backyard. I don't have a lot of alone time, so when I do have it, I really cherish it and the privacy that that brings. I like to be in the comfort of my own house. My house is like my security blanket. I like to have people over. I'm also very outdoorsy, so I love to like go hiking or take the dogs to the dog park or something.
A lot of fans might think you spend your off time doing more extravagant things...
I'm a Blockbuster girl at heart. [laughs] I'm serious. I barely get out of bed when I don't have to. I don't usually wear make-up on the weekends. I just wear jeans and a t-shirt, if you can get me into jeans--if I'm out of sweatpants, you know? Sometimes I'll want to go to a movie. It's not reclusive in the bad sense of the word, it's just I really don't get that much alone time, so when I do, I don't have to be on for anybody. So I just want to be with close friends and have a more low-key lifestyle. I guess that's a good way to describe it. Because everything is so fast-paced, I crave something that's just very mellow and low-key, I think.
Do you avoid going out because of the fans and the publicity that brings?
Oh, no! Not even because of the fans. Just because it involves actually getting up and going somewhere. It's just laziness! I'm telling you that to be totally truthful. Like when I come home, usually I've been on my feet for 18 hours a day. And that's shooting time. That's not counting getting up in the morning, getting in hair and make-up for all five days. So when I come home, I just want to stretch out on the couch. I just want to make grilled cheese, or something that's really comforting.
For how many seasons would you want to continue working on Veronica Mars?
I don't know that I've really thought about that. I mean, as hard as Veronica Mars is to shoot, I do love it. I don't know, I feel like if I say that expectation out loud, I don't want to get set on it. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so if it takes us to seven years, it takes us to seven years, you know? If it's done this year, it'll be a sad thing to lay down, but I'm sure that everybody will have learned a lot and had a great experience doing it.