The Lazarus Effect - Frank (Mark Duplass) and Ava (Sarah Bolger) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, photo by Justin Lubin

Irish actress Sarah Bolger made an award winning debut at the age of 11 in Jim Sheridan’s movie In America. She’s gone on to star in The Spiderwick Chronicles, as Mary Tudor in Showtime’s The Tudors and as the Sleeping Beauty ‘Aurora’ in ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

She is currently starring in the new sci fi/horror film The Lazarus Effect, directed by David Gelb, which opens nationwide on February 27th. In the drama she plays Ava, a young filmmaker brought in to chronicle the scientific efforts of a group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde), who are attempting to achieve the impossible – bringing the dead back to life.

When a horrific accident happens in the lab, leaving Zoe dead, Frank does the unthinkable – making her the first human test subject. At first it seems like a success, but it only takes a few minutes for the team to realize there is definitely something different about Zoe.

I spoke with Sarah about the movie and her blossoming career at the press day for the film.

The Lazarus Effect – Clay (Evan Peters), Frank (Mark Duplass), Zoe (Olivia Wilde), Niko (Donald Glover) and Ava (Sarah Bolger) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, photo by Daniel McFadden

With Ava, did you do a back story for her, even though the audience really doesn’t know a back story for any of the characters?

Yeah, we don’t really know back stories on anyone because we wanted to keep it in the moment and keep people trapped within these couple of days.

I think Ava has a fascination with death, I don’t know if she’s had an experience in her life of any illnesses herself. There was talk of her at one point having a congenital heart defect.

I think it’s really human to want to understand the afterlife, and I think her idea of death and God is right on track with these scientists, and I liked the fact that she is studying them whilst they are studying this other world.

In some cases, actors who use video cameras as part of their roles have their work used in the movie. Were you really filming?

I did, I was the whole crew. I can’t remember if any of my shots were used in the film. Some of the dog stuff and some of the experiments I think [were used.]. I didn’t get an extra credit!

The Lazarus Effect (2015) – Fifth cog in the Lazarus Project Ava (Sarah Bolger) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, photo by Suzanne Hanover

There’s a very interesting conversation in the movie about life and death and the afterlife. Do you have any strong beliefs?

It’s really hard to know, right, because it’s everyone’s personal opinion on that topic. It’s hard to have a strong opinion because we actually just don’t know. I grew up in Ireland so I’m Catholic, but still who’s to say.

You do a lot of genre/fantasy films and TV, are you looking for these kinds of roles or are they looking for you?

Once Upon a Time is fantasy and beautiful, it has no horror/sci fi element to it at all.

I was thinking of The Spiderwick Chronicles as well.

That’s true. But I feel like I’ve never done anything like this movie before. This sci fi, horror thriller element is new to me.

Making an audience feel scared is something that frightened me because this movie doesn’t have big CGI, it falls upon an actor’s face to portray fear, and that really scared me. It was work and I think it was great to watch the final product and feel jolted.

Did you feel jolted, even when you knew what was coming?

Yeah, I did. I knew what was coming, but in the editing room things are moved around in such a way that maybe I know where it was in the script, but whether it stayed there in the final product is a whole different thing.

You also get jolted backwards by Olivia’s character. Did you get hurt doing the physical stunts in this?

The Lazarus Effect (2015) – Fifth cog in the Lazarus Project Ava (Sarah Bolger) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, Courtesy of Relativity Media

I bruise easily anyway, but when there are stunts you go full force. There was a stunt woman doing the in-between. I went up against the final wall, but there was a woman who was smashed through a door. She did that for insurance reasons.

What was the first horror movie you ever saw?

If we can class Jaws as a horror movie, I think that was one of the first movies that scared me as a child. I saw Poltergeist and The Exorcist when I was young too.

Why do you think audiences love these types of movies?

It’s the feeling of watching something [scary] and being distant enough and feeling safe within yourself to enjoy it and be scared and vulnerable. I think it’s a form of escapism.

Once Apon A Time 322 “There’s No Place Like Home” – Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) ©2014 American Broadcasting Companies, photo by Dean Buscher

Is playing Aurora in Once Upon a Time a dream role for you?

Sleeping Beauty? How amazing. I saw all those Disney movies as a child. Once Upon a Time has given me so many opportunities and made me so happy going up to Vancouver to film. Those people are wonderful. It’s the most fun one can possibly have on a film set.

Last summer at the TV Critics tour they mentioned your new series Badlands during the AMC session. Can you talk a little about it?

As much as I can, because they’re pretty private.

I think it’s going to be a very cool martial arts influenced show about the future that feels like the past, Electricity is not a huge part of life, it’s pretty back to basics, which is why hand-to-hand combat and martial arts seem to be the people’s currency.

Isn’t it mixed martial arts?

I think it’s going to be a fusion of our own to make the show have its own form of martial arts.

Do you have any background in martial arts?

I don’t, but we go for a month of training prior to filming it. It’s going to be amazing. I cannot wait. Any job where I can pick up a new skill fascinates me.

The Lazarus Effect has got sequel written all over it.

The Lazarus Effect – Ava (Sarah Bolger) and Clay (Evan Peters) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, photo by Justin Lubin

(she laughs) . It does end completely on the idea of a potential sequel. I think there’s always the possibility of a sequel, and you go into it hoping if audiences love it that we can give them more.

And it would be a totally different movie.

Absolutely, which is even more interesting. It’s not going to be stuck in the same building, it’s not going to be set in the same world, it’s totally different.

The Lazarus Effect Soundbytes

At the press conference for the movie Mark Duplass was asked about working with Olivia Wilde, especially later in the movie after she is resurrected.
I asked Sarah if she worked like Olivia and could go in and  out of her performance with ease.
Mark Duplass on working with Olivia Wilde
Sarah Bolger on her method of acting
The Lazarus Effect (2015) – Zoe (Olivia Wilde) ©2013 Back To Life Productions, photo by Daniel McFadden

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.