Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg (Actor, Heart of the Home)
The Horror Revolution: What's your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg: There are so many great Horror movies! I love the original Halloween, Poltergeist, Psycho, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Grudge. The Ring, It, Train to Busan. Truthfully it is hard to pick one. I could probably add more to the list of favorite horror movies. The movie that scared me the most was The Birds by Hitchcock. I saw it pretty young and had a fear of birds ever since! I also simply can’t watch movies with dolls in it . I tried to watch Annabelle but didn’t get through it.
THR: I really enjoyed Heart of the Home, it’s a nice blend between legitimately funny and a horrifying situation. What inspired the film?
ESN: Thank you that was kinda what I was going for. A campy horror comedy. I always find the funny in tragedy. It has been a life long coping mechanism when life hits, therefore not surprisingly this is the way I express myself artistically also. Heart of the Home is based on true events, it’s a true story. Of course not the murders but most of it was pretty much reality! It was a brief roommate stint in real life but as you can see quite dramatic and also annoying. When it was all over I said to a friend I just lived through a roommate horror film. It was a very easy write together with Sami Sonnesso my co-writer. Sami added a few fictional things but I wanted the story to be as close to reality as possible, as it was weirdly funny and scary enough in itself .
THR: You wrote Heart of the Home and were the lead as well. Which role do you prefer?
ESN: I am a classically trained actress and got my feet wet during childhood. Acting as the lead in a feature movie was something I just had to create for myself as other doors didn’t open for that. It was a very important thing for me personally to accomplish. In the process I realized that I love storytelling. Actors communicate someone else’s story or their own story masked in someone else’s words and in their own secretive craft. It was not a shocker to several of my childhood friends who reminded me that I wrote books for them in elementary school. I really enjoy creating my own material and the two kinda go hand in hand now .
THR: Your character is really interesting because, even though she is just one-half of the roommate pair, she’s in almost every scene. Was it difficult having a movie that almost entirely depends on your performance?
ESN: It was very hard to wear so many hats on set. It was a very low budget so me and the director ran the whole show. I did everything from set design, script supervising, overseeing other actors etc . It was a lot of responsibility. For my emotional scenes I would have to go off by myself and focus on diving deep down into my mind. But I knew it would be intense on set and I handled it by being extra prepared . Even though the words and experiences were mine I still worked with my acting coach prior. Since I experienced the movie in real life I know no one would be able to play it like me. I basically just had to relive it . And that is, I think, the whole purpose of writing and creating parts for yourself. It’s custom-designed so it will fit you perfectly. This made it easier on me of course.
THR: One question that I’m definitely left with is about the chemistry between your character and the one played by Matthew Ryan Anderson. I was sure a few times that we were headed into much raunchier territory. Do you guys know each other off-set? ESN: I meet Matthew Ryan Anderson once before on his film premiere in LA. He was the only actor I did not rehearse with in person before as he lives in Colorado . We didn’t have the chance to test our chemistry in advance but this is normal for actors . Your job is to find it or create it with whoever. At the time I was madly in love with someone else who was very upset about me shooting that scene with him. Even that didn’t hinder me, it was a part of the story, the script- hence the job.
THR: The ending of the film is batshit crazy, and it’s based on real life events? Can you tell me more about the true story behind the film?
ESN: There was a lot of truth to even the crazy ending but like I said not the murders. The actual physical fight between her and I was fictional but I’m sure if we had the chance with no consequences we would have haha. Different scenes carry more truth than others . Some carry symbols of the true scenario. I was closer to the Kimiko character in the movie than in real life, for instance. Other scenes or moments in the scene were 100% truth.
I guess the mystery left to the audience is how much and what was real or not!
THR: I think for all of us who love film and desire to work within the film industry, there’s one (or a handful) of films that inspired our love of cinema. Do you have any films in particular that you feel made you want to work in the industry?
ESN: There are films I have seen where I said “oh, this role would have been perfect for me!” But there was not one particular film that inspired me to enter the business. It was the self-realization that I am a chameleon and been practicing the craft of acting naturally on my own - as well as writing- authentically since childhood. I also come from a line of creatives with both my parents being piano players . My mom was a teacher and my dad is a classical renowned pianist . Amongst his accomplishments is that he was knighted by the King of Norway. So I just followed the family path of believing in my own artistic expression.
THR: Are there any inherent difficulties in breaking into film as a first generation American immigrant? Has that made it harder, or do you think that it is easier to come across as unique in auditions?
ESN: I think it’s a harder path, especially since I have an accent. It will type cast you. Also, I lived my first 6 years in the US on a student visa. I could not pursue acting even if I wanted to, and my English was way too broken then. Unfortunately, I experienced being bullied by an acting teacher as well as by some casting directors. It affected me deeply as a younger actress. I am a rebel by nature and spoke up against many of them but inside I was vulnerable and insecure. The good news is that times have changed a bit, the world has gotten smaller and having actors that are unique ethnically are hotter now so there are more parts available. . Also since I cast my own movie I understand the other side a bit better also. For my movie it was the opposite - I wanted authentic Japanese actors, the fresher off the boat the better, because it matched the reality of the movie. I turned down very talented American Japanese actors because they didn’t align with my vision, and I believe actors have to respect the filmmakers vision.
THR: What’s next for you? Do you have anything coming soon that you’re excited about?
ESN: Sami and I have a script ready to go, the financial backing is the only thing slowing the production down a bit now . It’s called Its Fate. Also a horror comedy but way darker! I am writing my first films solo (films because there are three of them). One horror comedy again and two dramatic movies. As per usual, I like to use real life experiences, but the next horror movies are mixed with more fiction. I am very excited about all of these projects!
THR: Finally, what’s the worst way you’ve ever hurt yourself while trying to dance in the shower?
ESN: Hahaha, that’s funny. I never had an accident in the actual shower even though there has been a ton of rocking out moments there! But a year ago (November 2021), I was in a horrific accident where I dislocated my elbow from sliding on a wet floor in the locker room in a Korean spa. So not exactly the same, but good to remember It’s slippery when wet! ( Slippery when wet …. Sounds like a horror in the making!)