Sara Paxton on ‘The Innkeepers’

The magnetic star of Ti West's new horror film talks about her Shark Night rap and why Hollywood wants to imperil her so much.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

I don’t know how many people know this, but most press junkets are held at hotels, and when you interview the stars and celebrities of, say, The Innkeepers (opening this Friday!), you usually do it in a posh hotel room. Often they sit on a chair, or a couch, and you have a casual sit down, but every once in a while they decide to recline slightly on the bed. Watching the irrepressibly adorable Sara Paxton – the star of The Innkeepers (opening this Friday!) and last year’s Shark Night – sit on a bed and knowing that I’m expected to sit on the bed right next to her brought back a lot of awkward yet intrinsically exciting memories from high school. And just like high school, there was absolutely no kissing involved. Grumble-grumble…

Sara Paxton is absolutely magnetic in Ti West’s latest horror film The Innkeepers, a film about minimum wage workers trying to prove that their place of employment, the historic Yankee Pedlar Inn, is haunted. We had a lovely chat about why directors want to imperil her so bad, the kinds of stupid questions actors are forced to answer at press junkets, her upcoming projects, Paula Abdul music videos and why people suck.


So before we get going, I have a confession to make – I haven’t seen Shark Night. But I understand that you rap at the end.

I do, yeah.


About sharks.

I wrote my own rap, as well.


You did not!

Of course I did! We all wrote our own rap. It wasn’t for the movie, it was something that we were doing on our own, as the cast, for fun, and then the director liked it so much, he put it in the movie.


Yeah, he’s a fun guy.

He is.


Now, you’re making another movie with him, right?

Well…maybe. It’s like super pre-production right now. We haven’t really talked that about it. David sent me the script, which wasn’t finished, and I just love him so much as a person that I was like, “I would love to work with you again, and if this Briar Lake thing ever happens, I’m there,” you know.


It’s on our radar!

It’s on our radar, yeah.


Cool! Well I won’t press about that, I was just curious since we’re on the subject. So anyway, The Innkeepers. How many interviews have you done for that lately?

We were in New York on Monday, and we were there all day, got back really late last night, and we started at like 8:00 this morning.


Do you get a lot of non-question questions, like “Do you believe in ghosts?”

Yes! Dude, I get the non-question questions so often that like, it’s such a simple question that I’ll be like, “I’m not sure what you’re asking me.” You know what I mean? Like I don’t even get it. I’m like, “Can you repeat that?”


“How are you gonna use this? Where is this gonna go?”

They’re like, “Was it scary in real life?” and I’m like, “What…?” I just, I don’t get it.


A friend of mine was working on a low-budget horror movie, and they worked at this insane asylum that’s supposedly haunted. And they’re just like “Hey guys, this place is haunted, it’s really scary!” and they were like, “It’s a f*cking building. We’re shooting a movie, will you shut the f*ck up?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big baby. I do get scared about things like that, but like, in the middle of the moment, when you’re getting along with people, you’re cracking jokes, and it’s not, like…


Yeah, I’ve been on sets. It’s so boring, half the time you just have to amuse yourselves. Now, you had a small cast on The Innkeepers. What was it like? Did you get to hang out with Kelly McGillis at all?

Well, I’m sure you’ve heard, because… did you talk to Pat [Healy] or Ti [West]?


Not about this, no.

Well, we all lived in the inn. We all lived together, right? And the Yankee Pedlar is a real place, you can go to Torrington, Connecticut right now, walk in there, and feel like you’re walking into the movie. Nothing has changed. So we all lived there. So this is a testament to Ti, I think he really put together a group that he knew would all get along. And that’s awesome – I knew every single crew member’s name, we were all close, we all got along. And Pat and I didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time to get to know each other – I flew in on a Saturday, we started shooting Sunday morning. So I think Ti really just put together such a good group that Pat and I just really got along. Our chemistry just started building right away.


How do you develop a character with that little build-up?

Well, the reason I wanted to do the movie was because, when I read the script, I think Claire is so relatable.


She is. And not in a cypher-ish way, either. She’s actually a unique person, but she’s likeable.

Yes! So I could totally relate to her position of, like, working at this dead-end job, and being like, “Where am I going with my life? Should I go back to school?” Whatever. So I didn’t have to draw on too much, I really just put myself in the character. This is the closest to myself that I’ve ever played.


She’s very neurotic. Are you that neurotic?



So am I. You ever have that moment at the coffee shop where you’re just like, “I don’t wanna talk to you!”

Every day.


Yeah. I hate people so much. [Laughs]

I say that all the time! [Laughs] That’s what I say. Literally, I’ll be driving in my car, and I’ll be like “I hate people.” Before I go into meetings and stuff, I have to literally talk to myself, pump myself up. I’m in the car, and I’m like, “You’re about to interact with human beings.” [Exaggerated deep breathing.]


I just did that in the hall.

Dude, I get it. Trust me. I’ve been there. I get it.


Tell me about Pat. What was it like? Because you have a really interesting sot of relationship with him, a sort of almost-relationship. You almost look up to him, but at the same time, he’s kind of the guy who’s there to rag on.

I love their relationship, because I think that she’s sort of oblivious to his – obviously she’s oblivious to his… he has a crush on her. And she’s totally naïve about it, and guileless. I just think that’s so funny, that moment where she says, “I have an idea!” and he’s like, “I do, too. What’s your idea?” and she’s like, “Get the f*cking ghosts!”


That killed me! I’ve been in that moment.

We’ve all been in that moment.


And then she got killed by ghosts.

I know. That stupid bitch…


What was the thing with the bell?

I think it was just supposed to be… I mean, maybe that was from Ti’s personal experience or something. But I think it was just supposed to be like, “Look at us, we’ve worked here for so long that we have this little thing we do.” It was written into the script.


Okay, yeah. That struck me as something you might have found on the set. Like, “Oh look, there’s a bell! We can totally get five minutes out of that.”

I mean, it was written in the script, but we had to find a way to block it out. You know what I mean? So I don’t know, it just sort of worked. I would just come back and ring the bell, and Pat and I sort of already had that relationship, like “Hehehehe…”


What is coming up next for you? Because I expect big things, and you have to deliver.

Oh, man. All right, well, 2012, you know, New Year. I’m really actually excited for this year. I’m curious to see what’s going to happen to me. Last year I did a few independent movies – I did a movie called Static, which is another ghost movie, sort of similar to The Others. So I guess that comes out this year. I did another movie called Liars All, which is a murder mystery. “Sara Paxton in the Drawing Room with the Pipe.”


What is it about directors that they want to imperil you?

I don’t know why that is…


You seem so nice! It’s like, “Don’t hurt Sara!”

“Look how innocent she looks! Let’s f*ck with her.” I don’t know. [Laughs]



You know what I mean? I don’t know what it is. But whatever, it’s fine with me.


You don’t have anything in the future where you get to just dance with a talking cat or something?

Dance with a talking cat, no. I’ve got ideas now, I’m gonna start writing the script for that.


You’re gonna do That Paula Abdul Music Video: The Movie.



How cool would that be?!

Oh my God, that would be amazing. With the animated cat?


I wanna play the cat.

You’re hired.


Yeah, I'll do it with motion capture.

You’re hired.