She grew up with her co-star in Ginger Snaps , had
a part in the X-Files and is in a film next spring
with Al Pacino. For one so young Katharine Isabelle has had
a whirlwind career. Keri Allan finds out what her secret is...
Allan: What was your reaction when you first read the script
for Ginger Snaps?
Isabelle: When I first read a few pages I didn't like it at
all. Emily Perkins [Brigitte] and I first got two or three
scenes, and they were out of context. They were early drafts,
and we didn't like them at all. We thought it was like some
cheesy B-movie, I mean we hated it! But we auditioned for
it, and they liked us and they sent us a script to read. After
we read the script we totally, totally loved it. Just because
it was so different from what you usually see - it was a horror
movie but it was completely character driven with strong independent
females, which is something you don't see very often. It was
intelligently written, it was funny and it sounded like a
lot of fun.
And was it fun or was it a lot of hard work?
Hmm, sometimes it was fun. (laughs) But on the whole it was
probably the most difficult thing I've done in my life, and
I think nearly all of the crew came close to dying. We were
filming in Toronto in the middle of winter outside for most
of the time, and I seemed to spend the majority of that time
being soaking wet! Every week there'd be a new disease going
around the crew. One week everyone had flu! Then the next
week everyone had bronchitis, then everyone had laryngitis.
Oh it was terrible. We were working for about 18 or 19 hours
a day and then sleeping for around two hours, and we weren't
eating anything. We survived somehow, but just barely!
How did compare to other films you've done then?
While it was one of the most difficult thing I've ever done
it was also one of the best things I've ever done. It toughened
me up. Now I'm prepared for anything - I cant complain about
anything anymore, because I will never be that cold, never
be that wet, never have to endure the five hours of prosthetics.
I will also never have to go home with blood all over me and
hopefully I will never have to work 20 hours a day for six
days a week again.
What was it like with all the make-up?
It was interesting. It took five hours to apply and two hours
to remove. It was incredibly tedious to sit still for five
hours while someone puts a little paintbrush in the corner
of your eye. The special effects guy was really great. He
would bring in a laptop for me and let me watch DVD's. So
it wasn't too dull. Because my whole face was covered my skin
couldn't breathe, so my nose would run constantly. As a result
I had to have Q-tips stuck up my nose the whole time! I dread
to think what people thought when they saw this wolf walking
around with 2 Q-tips up her nose! It was fun though.
So how did you get on with Emily Perkins, your costar?
We're actually from the same agency. We did the initial audition
together. The two of us go back a long way. We went to the
same private school, same elementary school, the same pre-school
and we were born in the same hospital! But she is five years
older than me, so its kinda weird because I followed her.
But we get along great. We're like bonded sisters now. We
both had a lot of fun. I had it a bit harder than she did,
but it was a lot of fun. She'd laugh at me and make fun of
me and I told her to shut up (laughs).
What was it like doing all those death scenes at the begin?
It gave a really creepy overtone to the film...
We did those scenes on one of the first days and it was OK
because when you're on set everyone's laughing and having
fun. But we were covered in blood, and in the house we were
shooting it in was a four year old boy. He was watching Teletubbies
in the living room. Our changing room was in the basement
of his house so every time we finished filming one of the
death scenes we'd have to go through the house. We'd have
to send someone in to make sure the little boy was still watching
TV so we didn't traumatise him completely! It was so bad!
my favourite part of the movie is the opening credit sequence.
most difficult death scene to film was the one where we were
lying face down in water. I was in the water and Emily had
already done this one. Emily had left her nose and her mouth
open - I don't know why she did that. It must have hurt a
lot. So now it's my turn and the director said to me: "OK,
open your mouth." And I think: 'but if I open my mouth
the water will shoot up my nose, up my brain!' (laughs) And
he said: "Emily did it." But Emily's Emily. I really
didn't want to do this - I was scared (laughs). I tried and
I choked in two feet of water, so that was the worst part
of filming. Oh, and close second was having to wash after
each scene because the blood was so sticky. It was in my hair,
up my nose, in my eyes and in my mouth. Oh,it was horrible!
So how did you think the film would be received when it was
released? Did you have any idea it would be so popular?
No, I didn't. Especially when we were shooting. Canadian independents
don't usually get big exposure. But this one blew up completely
for everybody everywhere. I was amazed, actually, by the amount
of people who wanted to talk about it, wanted to see it. I
mean I got a free trip to Spain. I got a free trip to London
so I was happy. (Laughs)
So did you really enjoying doing a horror? Had you ever done
a horror before?
did an X-Files episode [playing Lisa Baiocchi in the
season five episode Schizogeny], but nothing like a
full-out horror movie turn into a werewolf eat people kinda
Would you be able to do something like that again? Go through
with all those prosthetics?
Well, the prosthetics, it was hard, but you know it was OK.
I've had a lot of people ask me if I want to do a lot of horror
movies, and can't really say whether I do or I don't because
Ginger Snaps wasn't really a horror movie. To me, it
was more like a movie about these two sisters whom I empathised
with. I think it would depend on the individual script, the
individual story. Like if something comes along that's like
that, that is character driven, has an intelligent story,
has strong female characters then I might be interested, but
whether I'd actively seek out a movie just because it was
a horror film, I don't think I would.
What did you think of linking lycanthropy to periods in the
I thought that was great because it is totally what its like
going through puberty. This monster completely invades your
body, you don't know what's going on and no one tells you
in any detail what to expect or what to think. I thought that
that metaphor was really well done.
Did you think you related to the character of Ginger?
Emily and I are very much Ginger and Brigitte Brigitte is
a slight exaggeration of Emily, and Ginger is like a full
out exaggeration of me on a bad day! (laughs) They are very
close to us.
cant necessarily say that my high school growing up was like
that, because it wasn't , my family was great and I didn't
go through that Goth stage or anything. But because growing
up as an actor I went to a different school almost every other
year, I had to kind of adapt and fit in to each school, and
make new friends and that. So I can kind of understand the
whole outsider thing, not necessarily to that level, but we
completely identify with their characters - its kinda creepy
actually! It was a lot of fun, because you could go absolutely
nuts and the director would go 'yeah yeah more. OK, yeah!'
So what have you been up to since Ginger Snaps? Has
it helped your career?
Oh yeah sure, there have been a couple of things which have
come from it. Going down to LA, getting LA representation,
and things like that. I shot another feature, another Canadian
independent, called Turning Page, and that's doing
quite well, but not getting a huge release like Ginger
Snaps or anything. Then next spring I've got a movie coming
out with Al Pacino. I finished shooting that in the spring.
Its called Insomnia. Its directed by Christopher Nolan
who was the director of Momento, its his follow up
picture. Its got Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
What was it like doing that?
It was bizarre!. Completely bizarre! I mean you hear about
things where all these stars, like if you look at me funny
you're gonna get fired, but he totally isn't like that he's
really nice. I ended up playing poker at his house, taking
all his money. Oh it was great! (laughs)
Were you at all star struck?
I was at first because I didn't know what to think, and I
got food poisoning on that first day so I was puking in my
trailer five minutes before I had to go and yell at Al Pacino
. I was thinking 'this is not good!'
first scene we have he is dragging me out of a car screaming
in my face and yelling at me and making me cry. That was the
first thing I did with him, and I was already completely intimidated,
but I got through it somehow.
next day we had a scenes were we had to sit in a car and talk
and stuff, and that was more terrifying, because I was stuck
in a car with 'Al Pacino' and I had to talk, like had to make
conversation. I had no idea what to talk about. What do I
say? Do I ask him about his kids?
just had twins, so I ask him: "What are your kids names?"
and he goes: "Oh, Al and Al after me." My heart
stopped beating and I'm thinking how do I go on from here.
Is he joking, and what if he's not joking and I laugh, I'm
gonna get fired! I'm completely stressing out and he must
have seen the terror in my eyes because he goes: "Oh
no! Ha ha, I'm just kidding, its Anthony and Olivia".
knows he's such he such a big star, such an intimidating guy,
he knows he can just mess with peoples minds for fun. But
he's really a super nice guy, we played poker.
Ah, but did you beat him?
Sort of... they told me there was going to be 20 people at
this thing, so I wouldn't really have to play - which is just
as well because I don't really know how to play.
whole thing came about in the car when he starts talking about
poker and I said: "I can play poker!". I mean I
learned when I was seven and its not like I've played since
then right? So he said: "If we have a game will you come?"
And I said: "Of course!" Ha ha ha!! thinking I wouldn't
actually have to go to a poker game with Al Pacino because
couple of days later I get this phone call, and its like hey,
you're going to Al Pacino's poker game! When I get there its
Al Pacino, myself, and five producers. I was such a fish out
of water! They were all like big LA producers, and I like
totally don't belong there and there I was reaching across
taking Al Pacino's money away. It was crazy, and the only
people that were left with any money was Al and myself!
So what are you up to at the moment?
I'm auditioning at the moment. There's no piles of scripts
lading on my door yet. So It's back to auditioning, and trying
to pay for my horses. I've got a five year old horse in training
so I have to get jobs to pay for her, very expensive!
for your time!
thanks to Hanna at CBC
Snaps is available on DVD and rental video from Mosaic