Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
“It feels good if you’re a person getting scared, scaring other people.”
Eleven-year-old Lulu Wilson hasn’t been at her profession for very long now, but she’s got the demeanor of an long-time pro. She’s quick-witted, smart, adorable and supremely skilled at scaring us to bits. She’s even written a TV script. But before she runs Hollywood, she stars as “Doris” in director Mike Flanagan’s OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. In the horror film, Doris becomes a possessed conduit for a malevolent spirit after she plays with her mom’s (Elizabeth Reaser) Ouija board.
We spoke to the talented actress at the film’s Los Angeles press day about everything from the spooky sign that she got the part, to the STRANGER THINGS she does (cough, cough, writes) in her off time, to why she loves scaring people.
Please take this as a compliment, but you totally creeped me out in this movie.
“[laughs] That’s a good thing though.”
Did Mike (the director) give you any homework to watch any scary movies?
“No, he didn’t give me homework, but I would actually love that because I love scary movies. I like scary TV shows too. STRANGER THINGS is one of my favorites right now. I love it so much that I wrote a script for the second season.”
“I had a character idea and I sent it to The Duffer Brothers. Hopefully they will get back to me soon, because I just sent it like a week ago. I’m really excited to see what they say.”
That’s awesome! What was the most memorable day on set – either the best or the most challenging?
“I have a couple; the most fun day I had was– OK. Everyone was really stressed out because we were doing this super hard scene and everyone was focusing on their lines. I was like, ‘I’ve got to lighten the mood.’ So I did this thing, [mimics a silly voice] ‘Now watch me get funky.’ And it made everyone laugh. That was the most fun day I’ve ever had on set, because I made everyone happy and that’s what I love to do.
The hardest day was probably when I was on the ceiling. I did that myself. They didn’t fake it in any way. I had to walk on the ceiling. It made me feel so woozy and sick, to the point I had to say, ‘One more time.’”
Were you in a harness?
“Yes. They had to pull me up and put me on the ceiling. It was so hard, but it was still a lot of fun.”
Speaking of, you get to do some pretty awesome stunts. Were there some you wanted to do more than others? Obviously not the ceiling walking.
“My favorite stunt was the big back bend when I get possessed. That was the first stunt I ever did in my whole life. Some stunts I did were the back bend, the climbing on the walls – crawling – and on the ceiling.”
Did you have to practice with yoga to do that bend?
“No. I didn’t.”
You’re just flexible.
“I’m not flexible at all! I can’t even touch my toes. It runs in my family too. No one is flexible but my mom. They just pulled me back. It was hard at first because all my muscles were all tense, especially in my back. When I got used to it and had done it a couple of times, I was good.”
Was the stuff with Marcus (Doug Jones) scary in person as it plays on screen? How did they prepare you to do the more intense scenes?
“He was so nice. For that scene where I get possessed, he was there and he was next to me. He had to just fake that his arm was going into my mouth.”
What was your experience like with Mike as a director?
“He was awesome. His direction was crystal clear. He was one of the directors that you can really understand. He didn’t say all those fancy movie words. He really just talked to you like you were a real person – some directors don’t do that. He told me that I could do anything with my character. He made it a safe place to explore new ideas and develop my character.”
Did you audition? What was that process like for you?
“I did the audition and I felt so great. I heard that I got a call back – the possession scene was my call back scene I had to do, and I physically did it. I didn’t do a backbend. I fell on the floor though and I started to convulse. After I had the call back, I was really stressed because I wanted this role.
We went to my favorite antique shop to de-stress and as we were walking in, this person at the front desk was taking out a Ouija board and hanging it up on a wall – and it didn’t have “Goodbye” on it. It was one of the first Ouija boards ever made. I was like, ‘It’s a sign. It’s a sign.’”
Since there were a lot of practical effects, did you wear special contacts to get the white eyes or was that done in post?
“No. It was done in post. And the mouth thing I obviously had to do in post. I do have a really big mouth in general. Some people may not know that about me, but I do.”
When you had to scribble on the paper…
“That was hard. I had to be in a certain position – a sitting position. It was so hard because I had to be [twisted].”
Did you actually try to write legibly?
“No. I just kind of scribbled around.”
You also have a few scenes with Henry Thomas, who was also a child actor. Did you talk about that commonality?
“We really didn’t. As an actor, I know it’s weird, but I don’t like to talk about acting. It’s weird. I just don’t. To me, it’s strange. A lot of these actor kids are like, ‘Oh. I love acting. It’s my hobby.’ I’m like, ‘It’s not my main hobby, but it’s one of my hobbies.’”
Had you played with a Ouija board before? Do you even want to now?
“I have never played with a Ouija board and I never will. No. Way too scary and way too risky too. What is going to happen? Is it real? Is it pretend?”
When you have to do more of the emotional scenes, do you come in and them or do you have to get into a specific mindset?
“In OUIJA, I don’t really cry or get that emotional. But in ANNABELLE 2, I cry all the time. All. The. Time. Spoiler alert, but I do. I cry. I actually just learned how to fake cry recently right before I shot ANNABELLE 2. I have this technique that’s hard, but kind of obvious. I open my eyes really wide, but that’s not all it is. You have to be thinking about something that happened in your life that might be really sad or emotional.”
As you mentioned, you’re in ANNABELLE 2. Why do you like scaring me?
“[Laughs] I don’t know. It just feels good. It feels cool. I do not like getting scared. So it feels good if you’re a person getting scared, scaring other people. It’s a lot of fun to hear that reaction too. It gives you a rush in your heart.”
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL opens on Friday, Oct. 21.
- Interview: Cigarette burns and childhood dreams: A conversation with ‘OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL’ director Mike Flanagan
Header Photo: Lulu Wilson in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.