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  • Bailee Madison: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s diminutive damsel in distress

  • 23 AUG 2011|BY JOE NAZZARO
  • Don't Be Afraid Of The DarkSitting down for a conversation with Bailee Madison, the first impression one gets is a 30 year-old trapped in the body of an 11 year-old. With a wit and intelligence that belies her young age, Madison has already been acting for more than half her life and as the old saying goes, success hasn’t spoiled her yet.

  • After roles in Lonely Hearts, Bridge to Terabithia, Phoebe in Wonderland and Brothers, not to mention numerous TV appearances, Madison takes on the lead role in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, directed by Troy Nixey and produced by Guillermo del Toro who also co-wrote the screenplay. She plays Sally, who is sent to live with her dad (played by Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in their sprawling New England mansion, only to run afoul of the nasty creatures living in the basement.

  • During a recent New York visit to promote the film’s release, Madison talked about the challenges of working on her first horror film, including the difficulties of working with invisible co-stars…


  • How did you get the role of Sally in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark?

  • Troy and Bailee
    Director Troy Nixey and actress Bailee Madison

    Bailee Madison: I was filming at the time, so I auditioned with Troy Nixey the director afterwards and I remember being so excited, because Troy is such a wonderful man, and I could see his excitement for the character of Sally and for the movie so I was really looking forward to that and then I went through some more auditions and I finally had a director’s session with Troy and later on in the day I had a chemistry read with Katie Holmes to see how our chemistry was for the film and that was the exciting part, because it was a make-it or break-it deal, so I left there with the most wonderful memories of getting to meet Katie and knowing that I would have a blast with her and how sweet she was, so I just knew whatever happened would happen but I was crossing my fingers that I got to go to Australia and shoot there.


  • Did anyone show you the original film?

  • Madison: I actually watched the original the night my script came to me, because my upstairs neighbor at the time came down and said, ‘Oh my goodness, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark; that’s what I saw with my sister when I was your age!’ so we sat in bed and watched it and ate popcorn and I was so looking forward to reading the script and seeing how close it was and much we would keep from it, and when I found out that I was going to be Sally, I was so excited, and I loved the original. I thought it was a fun film.

  • How did you see the character?

  • Madison: I saw her as a girl who stays to herself. She doesn’t ever try and give anything away that she’s thinking about. She lives in her own world and especially if you think about your mom shipping you off to someone like your dad who you had no relationship with whatsoever and on top of that, he has a girlfriend, so you’re in this huge mansion which just doesn’t fit into a little girl’s world and it’s really a little bit too royal for Sally’s taste, so I feel like I had to put that in my mind. When Sally thinks that she actually has some friends who are calling her down to the basement, she’s going to take advantage of it, so she has this whole scheme in her head but you can’t really tell.

  • So for the first half of the film, she thinks they’re her friends?

  • Bailee MadisonMadison: Exactly, and I felt that’s the cool part too. She already has so many layers and emotions and then once she discovers that these are bad, she goes right down into desperation. Her parents don’t believe her and her mom doesn’t care at all; she won’t talk to her on the phone, so there are so many things for this girl to handle and when you add all of that to these creatures haunting you and wanting you to become one of them and saying they’re hungry and you’re not knowing what that means; it’s a real chiller.

  • There are two specific scenes in the film I wanted to ask you about, starting with the bathtub scene.

  • Madison: I had a feeling you were going to say that. I always knew that it was a really important scene too, and once it came time to film it, I was ready for it and I was looking forward to it. I knew it was a really big scene and that the work on it was going to be crazy. We had the shower curtain fall and the big creatures crawling around it, so for me, it was all about trying to make it look realistic and looking around at all the right places and looking around as much as I needed to be able to make it look like there are actually creatures crawling around on the floor.

  • Bailee Madison
  • The other scene I was thinking about was the library scene.

  • Madison: I knew it! Hold on, there are two library scenes; the big action scene or the mom calling?

  • The big scene where you squish the creature.

  • Madison: That’s a big moment for Sally. It took four days to shoot that, because there was so much work to do on it to get the picture frame to fall and they had to get the candles to burn and the doors to shut precisely when I hit my mark, so it was such a technical ordeal, but it was very exciting.

  • Had you done any acting work before where nothing was there?

  • Madison: This was my first time dealing with having to be scared with nothing there, so that was very different.  Before the bathtub scene I remember asking my mom the night before how it was going to happen and what I was supposed to do and my mother said, ‘You’re fine Bailee; you’ve got this!’ I was taking a bath that night and all of a sudden the lights went off for a split second and I knew my mother was standing there but my heart was beating so fast and I thought, ‘Okay, I just have to imagine that with monsters coming after you with razors and knives and things like that!’ But the set was so realistic that when you finally got yourself in that emotional stage that you really got to become the character.

  • How do you feel about comparisons being made between you and Ivana Baquero from Pan’s Labyrinth?

  • Madison: Oh my goodness, I actually haven’t heard that, but I have heard wonderful things about her. As odd as it sounds, I haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth yet, but I know as soon as I get older I will watch it, but wow, thank you to anyone who says that, because I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about her, so thank you!

  • Do you have a favorite scary movie outside this one?

  • Madison: I’m allowed to see PG-13 movies, not R movies of course. I think the first scary movie I saw was The Shining and the reason I like that kind of movie and the reason I was so interested in doing Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was because it’s not gory or gross or bloody. It’s a thriller and it has such suspense, you’re on the edge of your seat the entire team, so I was really excited to be able to work in one of my favorite genres. I’ve already seen this movie four times.

  • So what lessons did you take from this experience?

  • Madison: I take so many things from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Getting to work with Guillermo who taught me some things to do before each take that were very helpful for me that I’m definitely going to keep for myself. And just being able to work with something that’s not there; to learn that at an early age, I was really thrilled about that, because at age 11 I already know how do deal with that, what’s going to happen, where they’re going to put the tracking lights, so I got to learn so much and I got to be scared for four months and learn a lot. I never had nightmares, which was great, but it sometimes took a little time to just leave Sally on set, but I would just have a hot fudge sundae and I’d be fine.

  • You’ve just done the pilot for Powers, based on the popular comic book. How did that go?

  • Madison: It went really well. It was really cool to be able to sit down with the entire cast, go through the comic book and then look at our script and be able to film it every day. The special effect are going to surprise everyone, because it’s so detailed and so real. And of course getting to work with the director Michael Dinner was a huge honor. He’s an amazing guy and [writers] Brian Michael Bendis and Charles Eglee; everyone. I loved it. It’s an FX pilot and if it gets picked up, it will go to series. I play Calista, who basically goes to live with the main detective, Christian Walker after her mom gets killed. When he finds her, she has this big secret that she doesn’t reveal in the pilot, but you know she’s hiding something. She’s a really cool and quick girl, so it’s very exciting. I love her.

  • So you’ve done horror and now comic books.

  • Madison: I’m trying to check off everything. I want to be able to show some variety!

  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark opens Friday, August 26th.

  • END