The COVID-19 pandemic happened at an inconvenient time for Elsie Fisher’s career. The teen actor, who has been working professionally since she was five, had her breakthrough in 2018 as the lead in Bo Burnham’s hilarious and squirm-inducing “Eighth Grade.” A stint on season two of Hulu’s “Castle Rock” as the daughter of “Misery” villain Annie Wilkes followed, along with a voice role in the 2019 “Addams Family” adaptation. But just as she was lining up new projects for herself, quarantine happened, putting most of her plans on indefinite hold.
Now, Fisher is making her belated return to film acting with “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the latest entry in the iconic slasher series and a direct sequel to the 1974 original. Fisher plays Lila, a moody teenager who gets dragged along with her older sister Melody (Sarah Yarkin) on a business trip that takes them to the abandoned small town of Harlow, Texas, where the notorious serial killer Leatherface has been hiding for over 40 years.
The film, releasing on Netflix Feb. 18, will be something of a reintroduction of Fisher, now 18, to audiences who know her best as the awkward 14 year old vlogger in “Eighth Grade.” And Fisher, a fan of the original film who also has the horror comedy “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” lined up for release sometime this year, is pumped to start earning her scream queen credentials.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” shot in Bulgaria. What was that experience like?
I’ve never actually really been to Europe before, so that was a really cool first experience. Especially because Bulgaria has their language that uses the cyrillic alphabet. But then, a majority of the country is also English speakers. So that was really fun to have both experiences. But shooting there was awesome because they built this Texas town on the set in Bulgaria. It was fun to feel like I was back home every weekday while we were all getting slaughtered.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging or enjoyable about acting in horror films?
It just kind of is a good challenge in general, because these are often such unrealistic circumstances, so it’s really fun to explore where the human psyche would go, because these are experiences that are just incredibly unrelatable, so I think that’s really fun. I feel like I’ve just been doing horror forever. “Eighth Grade” to me was very much a horror film. So I’ve always felt really drawn to the genre. It’s also a very therapeutic genre, you get to scream a lot and shoot guns sometimes. It’s pretty cool.
Your character in the film, Lila, is a school shooting survivor. As an actor, how do you handle approaching such an incredibly sensitive topic?
That topic was actually a draw to me for the role because I know a lot of survivors of trauma are very drawn to horror. So it’s really interesting to see the connection between those two things, and explore that within the actual story. It was really important to me to treat something like that with nuance, even though we are making a spiffy little film, that’s obviously a big topic. So I watched a lot of videos about survivors talking about their experiences. And for me, it was very important that she’s not completely defined by that, because people shouldn’t be defined by their trauma. My character, Lila, is defined by being a little asshole.
The film was originally set to be directed by Ryan and Andy Tohill, who were fired a week into production and replaced by David Blue Garcia. How do you navigate that change in leadership as an actor?
Obviously that’s something that’s kind of beyond my power. But thankfully, I feel like most of the sets I’ve been on, this one included, are very collaborative environments. And regardless of who it was, I feel like people were willing to listen to me and have an open line of communication. There was a lot of that, and you know, whatever. They just pay me to put my silly face in there and say the words, you know?
As you’ve gotten older, what has the transition from child to teen actor looked like for you, and how has it changed the roles you’ve been offered?
I’ve been really fortunate with the opportunities I’ve had and I always just try to pick things that are fun and seem interesting to me. Especially because up until recently, I haven’t really had to feed myself. I have my wonderful parents do that. So I could afford to be a little more picky and have fun and kind of craft the career I’m interested in having. But I’m really enjoying growing up and getting to do roles that are a little bit more my age range now. I’ll probably be playing teenagers for a while, but it’s time to start playing more mature characters, if you will, too.
Things You Didn’t Know About Elsie Fisher
Hometown: Riverside, C.A.
Favorite horror movie: “Gravity” (2013)
Director she’s dying to work with: Sean Baker
Childhood dream: To become an animator