The Stepfather Is More Hitchcock Than Horror” width=”560″/>
Sela Ward isn’t a scream queen, but she takes a stab at it in The Stepfather. A remake of the 1987 movie, which itself was based on the real-life story of John List, the story is based on a man convicted of murdering his family, but only after he established a new identity and life with a different family. Ward explains why the remake is a cautionary tale.
Q: Are you a fan of horror flicks and did you watch the original movie to prep for this role?
A: Well, I didn’t see the original movie that this is a remake of, but this is not truly a horror movie or a slasher movie like a Freddy Kruger kind of thing. This is more of a psychological thriller, more like a Hitchcock or a Fatal Attraction, and that’s more my kind of movie. I don’t go see the horror flicks, but suspense thrillers are really fun, because they’re kind of a roller coaster, where you’re on the edge of your chair. I like that. But this was a challenge for me, because I’ve never done one. It was a challenge to stand there and scream at a rubber knife or a rubber saw. That’s not really my forte — Southern women just don’t scream in public!
Q: Dangerous infiltrators that break up suburban families — from the nanny you hire (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) to the orphan you adopt (The Orphan) — always make for popular movies. Why do you think we keep reverting back to these stories?
A: I think they’re cautionary tales. Intrinsically, we want to
think the best of people in situations, but we get fooled a lot. I know
I do. I think I’m an intelligent person, a savvy, street-wise woman,
but I’ll get taken in by people — not say, serial killers, but the
not-so-extreme Machiavellian types, who can be very charismatic and
charming. That’s part of their M.O. And the family unit is vulnerable.
I just think there are so many women who are single parents looking for
someone to fall in love with. And here you are in a grocery store of
all places, and some charming man tells you, “I just moved here, can
you tell me where the peanut butter is?” and you go, “Yeah! And would
you like to have dinner with us tonight?” I can just see that happening
When people are lonely and vulnerable, they don’t want to see
things. And let’s face it — you might suspect your husband’s cheating,
but you wouldn’t think he’s a serial killer! In that way, this movie is
a really great lesson for women, to be cautious about whom they let in
Q: If your character had been more cautious, she might have done a little background check on this man she plans to marry.
A: I wouldn’t think to Google him! In real
life, it just wouldn’t occur to me. It just was not part of my
generation. And its better that she doesn’t, for the movie version. It
just wouldn’t have helped the storyline! That was one of the challenges
with me in the role, “What can I do to not really see a lot of these
things so she doesn’t suspect?” So I made it a point for my character
to be really busy, [tapping her watch] “I got to be here, I got to be
there.” So I wouldn’t notice certain mood changes, or anything subtle.
Plus, Dylan Walsh’s character, seemingly, has very noble
intentions. He wants them to be together as a family — and his
behavior towards her kids in front of her is very loving and inclusive,
and I think she’s seduced by that, by what she wants to see, the
picture she wants to create for herself, the Hallmark card. And when he
turns away from the camera, with that dead cold look in his eyes, he’s
switched a gear that she isn’t really privy to.
Q: Since it’s more from his point of view, in a way, he’s like an amoral protagonist…
A: And isn’t that always more interesting? One-note characters
are never as interesting. Because the truth is, every human being has
an underbelly, and all of these pieces — the wolf, the lamb, the
killer, the victim — we all have these pieces.
Q: So when are you going to play someone like that?
A: Like an evil stepmother? That would be fun. I’ve never done
something like that. I think I have enough of an underbelly to give an
interesting performance, so it would probably be very easy for me to