Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

How Lucy Hale has completed her transition from gossip queen to scream queen

'Fantasy Island' is a horror remake of the classic television series of the same name that ran from 1977 to 1984

Lucy Hale, right, stars alongside Portia Doubleday in a horror film remake of the classic TV series ‘Fantasy Island’. Courtesy Christopher Moss
Lucy Hale, right, stars alongside Portia Doubleday in a horror film remake of the classic TV series ‘Fantasy Island’. Courtesy Christopher Moss

It’s a huge week for Lucy Hale. She’s sitting in Los Angeles, celebrating the launch of her latest series Katy Keene, a spin-off to the global sensation Riverdale, bringing to life another classic Archie Comics character. Only days later, her latest film, Fantasy Island, will debut in theatres across the world. It’s her second collaboration with director Jeff Wadlow and Blumhouse Pictures, the renowned horror film production company founded by Jason Blum that was behind Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Insidious and the Oscar-­winning Get Out.

Hale’s previous Blumhouse film, 2018’s Truth or Dare, grossed $95 million (Dh348.9m) on a budget of only $3.5m, proving Hale to be equally adept as a scream queen as she was a gossip queen in her starring role in Pretty Little Liars from 2010 until 2017. Wadlow was so impressed that when his next project started coming together, a horror remake of the classic TV series Fantasy Island that ran from 1977 to 1984, he wanted to cast Hale.

“I remember filming Truth or Dare and he was telling me he was writing a script for Fantasy Island and I was like, ‘oh that will be really great.’ Then about a year later he told me, ‘I have a character that I wrote specifically for you, would you give it a read because I’d really like you to be a part of it’,” she tells The National.

Hale says she was surprised, because no one had written a role with her in mind before. Others had talked about the possibility of doing so, but Wadlow had faith in the young star of his biggest hit, and showed his commitment to her in his actions.

“In Truth or Dare I play the ‘girl next door’ type and he had been a big supporter of mine and wanted to write a character that was a little bit different and would really challenge me,” Hale says. “It was very flattering … it was a challenge as an actor because I don’t think I’ve ever played anyone quite like her.”

Hale says she was on board from the moment she was told they would be filming in Fiji for two months, but as soon as she read the script, she connected with the character Wadlow wrote for her. The girl on the page was funny, forward and ironically detached – a quintessential millennial, as Hale puts it. To top it off, the character also has a compelling arc, one with a dark transformation as the island’s secrets unfold.

Fantasy Island, after all, has always been a property that has the maxim “be careful what you wish for” as its ethos. At the beginning of each episode of the TV show, a plane landed on the island, complete with the character of Tattoo screaming “the plane”. On the plane was someone with a single wish and that wish would be granted by the magical island. Not every fantasy plays out well, of course, especially those with negative intent.

In the film, Hale’s character Melanie arrives on the island with a wish for revenge. She was bullied as a child and wants to enact retribution against those who wronged her. The dark side to the role allowed Hale to drop the innocence she portrayed in Truth or Dare to give her character a lot more edge.

“Anyone in their right mind would just move on and let it go, but with Melanie there’s something slightly off about her and it’s really just consumed her whole life,” she says. “She’s really traumatised about what happened to her. In her mind, I think revenge was the only option for her. I don’t think she was thinking rationally.

“Of course, they don’t think the fantasy is real in the beginning, Melanie is a little crazy, so if even if she knew it were real, she still might go for it.”

For the horror genre traditionally, especially in the types of films that pack cinemas, characters have been much lower on the list of priorities than jump scares and shock violence. Blumhouse has found success by consciously bucking that trend, making stories about people rather than the monsters chasing after them. Fantasy Island is no different.

When fans go to see Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, they’re going to see this situation that, except for the island where wishes come true, feels very grounded, it feels very real. And because of that, it feels much scarier.

Jason Blum

“The reason this is a Blumhouse film is that we try to focus on character and drama and story – anything scary is organic to the storytelling and to the dramatic arcs of the characters,” Blum says. “When fans go to see Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, they’re going to see this situation that, except for the island where wishes come true, feels very grounded, it feels very real. And because of that, it feels much scarier.”

Hale was a fan of the genre from a young age, ever since her grandmother let her watch The Exorcist when she was 7. It’s still her favourite horror, but is followed closely by classics such as The Shining, Halloween and Friday the 13th, as well as the Saw franchise.

Hale didn’t initially intend to be an actress – she moved to LA at the age of 15 to get a record contract, but she began taking acting more seriously.

“Now I’m like, what seems the most challenging? I’m looking to try different things and take on roles that I haven’t taken on before,” she says. “I think, if anything, I’m constantly growing and evolving and learning something new from every job and experience. I’m older now and I put a lot more work into it than I did when I was a teenager.”

Fantasy Island is in UAE ­cinemas now

Updated: February 12, 2020 07:25 PM

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