Sara Paxton didn’t have much time to think about moving into an infamous haunted inn, The Yankee Pedlar, when she got the role of Claire in The Innkeepers, as she flew to Torrington, Connecticut, and began shooting the movie the next morning.
The Yankee Pedlar Inn was built in 1891. Director Ti West learned about its haunted history in 2008 while he was making the movie The House of the Devil in the nearby town of Lime Rock. He vowed then to come back and make a film that focused on the Inn.
In The Innkeepers, which was shoot at The Yankee Pedlar, Sara’s character Claire is one of the few remaining employees of the venerable Inn, which is about to shut its doors for the last time. But before it closes down, Claire, along with Luke (Pat Healy), the desk clerk, become ‘ghost hunters,’ determined to discover the truth of the hotel’s long unexplained history.
Sara spoke of the creepy feeling she had living and shooting in the real Inn.
What was it about this project that sparked your interest?
I liked the script – I liked the idea that a huge chunk of the movie just asks a simple question: ‘Are there ghosts?’ What attracted me to my character in The Innkeepers is that she’s very likable. She’s just an ordinary girl living in any town being scared in a hotel.
Did you enjoy the short hair, no make-up non-glam look your character has in the movie?
Yeah. I loved it. I didn’t cut my hair for the movie. I happened to have short hair and when Ti called me for the movie, he said, ‘What do you look like right now?’ and I said, ‘I look like a little Dutch boy,’ and he said, ‘Perfect!’ [she laughs] so he called me ‘Dutchie’ the whole film.
The whole shoot was just so easy and awesome. We stayed at the hotel where we filmed so we just walked downstairs to the lobby to go to work. I put on the same outfit every day and wore no make-up so it was brilliant! Ordinarily I do three hours in hair and make-up at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Did you have something weird happen in the supposedly haunted hotel?
Oh yeah. I don’t know if it’s ghosts but the whole hotel is so weird. It’s such an odd place. It’s 1800’s with a ‘70’s bad renovation. My phone would ring and nobody would be there. My doors would violently fly open. The lights would flicker on and off. It’s an odd place.
Every night, every night, I would wake up in the middle of some vivid, weird dream! And I wasn’t the only one – so many others were having them, too.
Anything else happen when you were living and shooting there?
It was unsettling living in that inn. One night I was in my bed reading a book after dinner; the windows were closed and suddenly the bathroom door slams and the light flicks on! It freaked me out – I was frozen. It must have been a breeze, I thought, but how could there be a breeze when the windows are closed?
Do you believe in ghosts?
I don’t not believe in them. I’ve never actually seen a ghost, but the day a ghost just pops out and goes, ‘Hey there!’ I’ll go, ‘Oh s**t, there are ghosts’ [she laughs]. That hasn’t happened. I am a big baby. I do get freaked out. The woman next door to me just died, rest in peace.
All last night I’m like, ‘Don’t come over here’. I’m a little superstitious but I don’t know. I’m half a skeptic, I guess.
Do you think your character Claire wants to help the ghost of the woman who died in the hotel or what?
I think it all ties into the fact that she’s stuck in this dead-end job at the front desk and she’s like, ‘Should I go back to school? I don’t know.’ I think when the ghost stuff starts going crazy, she’s totally invested.
‘This is the thing I can do [hunt for ghosts] because everything else is so lame.’ She really gets involved and stuff starts happening and it gets crazier and crazier.
You didn’t have any real time to get to know your partner in this film, Pat Healy who plays Luke. You guys are hilarious. Was it easy to act with him?
It was great working with Pat. Zero rehearsal period. I flew in on Saturday on my [22nd] birthday and started shooting Sunday morning. ‘Nice to meet you. Let’s do this.’ So I think that was a testament to Ti.
He works with people he gets along with. Everybody on this movie I’d like to be friends with in real life. That made it all flow.
What pet project you have in a drawer. Is there someone you want to play someday?
I feel like I grew up with all these ideas, then I see them get made and my dream is crushed. My big idol growing up was Goldie Hawn. I read her books. I love her, so I would love to re-make the movie Overboard.
When I was a little kid I loved the film Roman Holiday and I wanted to do an American version and then they made it and Katie Holmes was in it. I was like “s**t”! Aren’t you playing a lead role that was once played by Linda Evans on the TV series in a movie version of The Big Valley?
Nothing’s happened yet. They’re waiting for everyone’s schedules to match. Jessica Lange (who will play the family Matriarch) was in American Horror Story on TV so we are still waiting to do it. It’s still in the works. I would love to start that tomorrow.
I made a few independent films last year and I’m waiting for those to come out. I’m excited for this year!
The Innkeepers is in theaters from February 3, 2012. UK release is June 8, 2012. In Australia the film was show at film festival on July, 26, 2011 but still awaits a fuller release.