The Uninvited's Elizabeth Banks in control

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      The fast-rising actor came to Bowen Island to play the wicked stepmother

      LOS ANGELES—It’s been almost 18 months since a film called Two Sisters was shooting on Bowen Island. Two interesting things have happened since then. The name of the movie has been changed to The Uninvited, and one of the supporting female actors has gone from a recurring role in the TV series Scrubs to playing lead roles in hit films.

      Watch the trailer for The Uninvited.

      Since she was here working on the film (which will be released Friday, January 30), Elizabeth Banks has had good parts in several comedies, including Meet Dave, Role Models, Fred Claus, and Definitely, Maybe. She received strong reviews for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, in which she played the female title role, and W. playing Laura Bush. In The Uninvited, based on a Korean film called Janghwa, Hongryeon, she plays a nurse who married the wealthy husband (David Strathairn) of a woman who died in her care. Her new stepdaughters are not dealing well with the death of their mother. Anna (Emily Browning) has just been released from an institution and is having a tough time adjusting to her new home, her cruel stepmother, and the ghost that is roaming the corridors.

      Banks says that if she was known at all in the summer of 2007 on Bowen Island, it was for Scrubs, but she was looking for roles like the one in The Uninvited that would help to alter her image. “I am best known nowadays for doing comedy, so just the idea of being able to play someone who’s a little edgier really appealed to me. I feel like her sexuality is right out there. When I met with the directors [Charles and Thomas Guard], we talked a lot about all the great female performances in classic suspense films, people like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. I think it’s just a control issue. I think when women are in control, it throws off the historical bounds of power that men are so comfortable with. I asked myself, ”˜Who are the role models for this archetype?’ So we discussed the performances that I admire. I think these cruel characters are really interesting. I think the audience gets a kick out of them too.”

      Her decision to work with the Guard brothers was also affected by the roles horror and suspense have played in her life. She says that when she was a child, she made an effort to scare herself. “I was watching Poltergeist, and the freaking clown doll under the bed blew my mind, as well as, like, the tree branch outside the window. Then there was JoBeth Williams swimming around with a bunch of dead bodies. That was too much. The whole thing got to me. I was right at that age when I wasn’t allowed to watch it, but we got HBO that year and I turned it on and watched it from behind the couch where no one could see me. If my mom came into the room, I would hide so she would think that the TV had just been left on.”

      Banks had worked in Hollywood for several years but was 31 when she got her breakthrough role in Judd Apatow’s comedy The 40 Year Old Virgin. In 2007, she had a role in the horror film Slither and signed up for The Uninvited. She says that although the latter movie used computer graphics to a great extent, the acting experience was the same as in other movies.

      “There was a lot of gross stuff but it was CGI–ed later on. So, it was still just about being in the moment, dealing with the other actors, figuring out what we’re doing, and how to move the story forward.”¦There’s less humour, but I’m having a fun time finding moments where, at the very least, I’m entertaining myself. When I approach any character, I have to be able to see their whole life. Even the character I played in 40 Year Old Virgin was real to me. [She played a quiet bookstore clerk who becomes sexually aroused by literary references.] I thought, ”˜Okay, I know this girl. She lives in the valley. She graduated from Claremont College [outside L.A.], and it’s the same thing here with The Uninvited. I feel I know exactly where this girl came from and where she wants to get to in this particular time in this particular story that we’re telling. I feel comfortable with her now.”