37 year old Monica Potter hardly looks old enough to play the mother of a teenager, but that's the role she takes on in the 2009 remake of Wes Craven's first film, the 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left. This Last House on the Left finds Potter and Tony Goldwyn (American Gun) out for revenge after their beautiful daughter (played by Sara Paxton in a departure from her usual light comedy fare) is kidnapped and tortured by an escaped convict and his crew of merciless thugs.
Potter, the mother of three in real life, believes she'd turn into a real tigress if her child was harmed the way her onscreen daughter is in The Last House on the Left. Asked if she could go as far as her character does, Potter quickly replied, "Oh god, yes, probably further. No, if somebody hurt one of my kids… I watch these shows on CNN sometimes and what's this channel with all the trials? Court TV? And I'm like, 'If I were that person’s mom that defendant wouldn't be sitting there. I would be in jail.' Do you know what I mean? And someone just said, 'Well, then you're no better than the person that is doing the bad.' I said, 'Yes, I am, because they started it.'"
Paxton endured a lot of physical punishment in her scenes with her kidnappers, and the way the young actress looked really helped Potter get into character as the protective mom. "[It helped] a lot, a real lot," said Potter. "You know, when we shot those scenes it was smart how Dennis [Iliadis, the director] did it. You know, we shot that towards the end and we were all pretty tired. We were all missing our families. I was missing my daughter. Sara and I had a relationship now for, you know, a month and a half so when I saw her like that it was like, I'm pretty sensitive anyway to anyone that looks bad or like’s having a bad day – I started to cry, a little emotional. Plus, I had PMS. It was fine and it worked, it totally worked. I didn’t take my Midol and it was fine. Just kidding…"
"Towards the end of the shoot when you get pretty tired and you're just like, 'Okay…,' and you draw from everything that you can possibly draw from to try and do the best job in that scene," added Potter. "And I had trouble with that scene at first. I was just like, 'Something’s really false to me about it.' I talked to Dennis and there was some dialogue in there that I thought was too expositional and I thought, 'Let’s take this out and not say anything. Why do we have to explain things?' because to catch the audience up to speed. So I asked him to take out words and he was like, 'I think you're the only actress I know that wants to take words out.' I do that. I like saying not a lot sometimes."
The Appeal of The Last House on the LeftPotter's no stranger to the horror/thriller genre having starred in the original Saw, but it was the opportunity to work on a Wes Craven film that drew her to The Last House on the Left. "Wes Craven, and I do like scary movies," revealed Potter at the film's LA press day. "I like comedies better, but I read the script and I thought I could relate to the mom a lot, to Emma a lot, because I have children and if somebody were to do that to one of my kids, they would be done for. And I thought it would be cool. And also to shoot in South Africa would be neat, and I liked Tony Goldwyn. It was just a lot of variables."
Potter hadn't seen the 1972 film before beginning work in this 2009 version. "I didn’t see the original because I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions of who this character was. To me, this felt like a totally different film. You know, it was shot, what, 30-some years ago, so I didn’t want to come in with an inkling at all of what to do or how to do it or to mimic anything because I think it’s different in a sense."
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The Last House on the Left hits theaters on March 13, 2009 and is rated R for sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use.