TORONTO—Considering how many murder scenes have been filmed in and around Vancouver over the years, our coastal forests have seen their fair share of beautiful corpses, perhaps none more exquisite than Juno Temple’s. In Horns, Alexandre (Piranha 3D) Aja’s shot-in-B.C. gothic crime drama/tongue-in-cheek religious parable starring Daniel Radcliffe and Temple, her lovely bones are found among the moss and the trees, setting a very strange story in motion.
The Lower Mainland steps in for small-town New England in this film version of the cult novel of the same name by writer Joe Hill. (Hill is the nom de plume of Joseph King, Stephen King’s son, which is a fun fact since Temple is also the child of a cultural icon: film director Julien Temple.)
Radcliffe plays Ignatius Perrish in the film, getting a Vancouver preview at the Scotiabank Theatre on Monday (October 27) before going into general release later in the year. Perrish’s girlfriend, Merrin (Temple), is found sexually assaulted and murdered in the woods just as he’s about to board a flight out of town. Subsequently, as everyone suspects him of the murder and he’s told not to leave town, young Ig notices that he’s growing horns. Other strange qualities emerge as well, among them that wherever he goes, people seem compelled to tell him about their most savage, evil impulses.
Temple, dressed in high-glamour goth boots during an interview at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, told the Straight that her attraction to the project was twofold. For one thing, she loved the script and the idea of working with Aja, whose previous films she admired.
The other draw, she said, was the name of the town where the film was to be shot: Squamish, B.C.
“What a great name!” she exclaimed. “The local, tiny town near where I grew up in the U.K. is called Spaxton, so I felt right at home. I loved the Shining-type hotel, and everything about it.
“We were also in Vancouver for a hot second,” she said. “Beautiful, endless Vancouver with those mountains that are in the water and in the clouds. I could not stop taking pictures of those clouds! I grew up in a place where clouds don’t come down the mountains. Vancouver feels so vast in comparison.”
Temple—who titillated TIFF audiences the previous year with an ingénue role in another pitch-black comedy, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe—said she loved playing a character who’s been murdered before the movie even starts. Though she plays Ig’s memory of her and not a “real” character, she denied that Merrin is a two-dimensional fantasy.
“You know when you lose someone and they’re in your memory, and you remember moments of them that you loved so dearly,” she said. “The way they laughed, the way they looked. She’s only in the flashbacks, and those are the only scenes when Ig is happy, and she’s the one who is making him happy. She’s not a living, breathing character, and I didn’t want to play her like one.”
Still, she added, it wasn’t easy playing dead.
“The minute I was told to die, my pulse started racing,” Temple recounted. “I’ve never even come close to dying, and because they wanted me to look like a beautiful dead girl, I was wearing tons of mascara, and it kept running into my eyes.”
Which was just fine with her, because she never wanted to play the perfect glamour girl.
“I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to be that in the movies. It’s just not what I’m searching for as an actress,” she said, adding that she aspires to taking on more comedic roles. “I’m never going to be a great beauty who walks into a room and everyone gasps. It’s about the work for me. I want to play characters. Sometimes you look nasty, like you are death, but being a woman, it’s about how you hold yourself, how you act.”