‘Lisa Frankenstein’ Stars Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse Discuss Their Characters and Favorite ’80s Horror [Interview]

Horror

A totally killer paranormal love story inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel is headed to the screen with Lisa Frankenstein, written by Diablo Cody (Jennifer’s Body) and directed by Zelda Williams. Lisa Frankenstein comes to theaters on February 9, 2024.

The ’80s set comedy is “a coming of RAGE love story about a misunderstood teenager and her high school crush, who happens to be a handsome corpse. After a set of playfully horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a murderous journey to find love, happiness… and a few missing body parts along the way.”

Kathryn Newton (FreakyAbigail) and Cole Sprouse (“Riverdale”) star as high school outcast Lisa Swallows and Creature, two complicated characters that couldn’t be further apart in personality but are drawn together by bizarre, supernatural circumstances. Whereas Lisa can’t stop talking, centuries of being dead have left Creature a lumbering, zombie-like mute.

Bloody Disgusting spoke with the stars of Lisa Frankenstein about their approach to playing these tricky characters.

LISA FRANKENSTEIN

Cole Sprouse stars as The Creature and Kathryn Newton as Lisa Swallows in LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Michele K. Short / © 2024 FOCUS FEATURES LLC

Lisa Swallows seems like a normal high school outcast at first, though one marred by trauma and tragedy. Yet her journey and character arc in Lisa Frankenstein take some wild swings. When combined with Diablo Cody’s razor-sharp writing and rapid-fire dialogue, that presents an intimidating role for any actor. Was there any specific conversation or movie reference point that helped Kathryn Newton unlock her character?

“That’s such a good question because I don’t think I ever really figured her out, but here we are. The movie’s coming out. Woo,” Newton deadpans.

“I don’t know,” she reflects. “I think that there were a lot of unanswered questions, actually. I remember there was a day Diablo was on set, and there’s a scene where Cole’s character kills somebody, and Lisa’s reaction, scripted, is, ‘Mommy,’ and the character’s not her mommy. It has nothing to do with her mom, but the character, Lisa, is dealing with grief. I asked Diablo, ‘Why do you think she says this? What do you think this is about?” She said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know.’ Some people just do things.

That’s why I like horror films. They do these crazy movies, and you get to go somewhere you’re not going to go in another kind of movie. Even a rom-com or an action film, it’s more of a machine. A movie like this is risky for everybody. Everyone who made this movie took a risk because they love movies like this. So for me, it was about, ‘Okay, if I’m going to do this role, I see how difficult it can be because it’s a weird role,’ right? My co-star doesn’t speak. You have Cole Sprouse in a movie, and you’re going to tell him not to talk. Huge mistake. Huge. But here we are. We did it, and I love it. Yeah, I feel like she’s like me and who I wish I was sometimes, but it wouldn’t really work in real life, and that’s why we have movies.

Lisa Frankenstein Newton Sprouse

Cole Sprouse stars as The Creature and Kathryn Newton as Lisa Swallows in LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Michele K. Short / © 2024 FOCUS FEATURES LLC

Opposite the boisterous Lisa Swallows is her Creature, the straight man to his eccentric, comedic partner. That Cole Sprouse had to play the part strictly through physical performance is no small task. How did he approach the physicality, and did he develop any kind of nonverbal shorthand with Newton for their onscreen relationship?

Sprouse tells Bloody Disgusting, “I think when I first talked about the character with Zelda, we tried to figure out who the character was in each phase of Creature’s humanity. And if there was a through line, why would this gentleman take to violence? That sort of thing. I think for the unspoken thing, that’s not really a measurable thing you can test for beforehand. That kind of chemistry just exists when you get on set. It’s down to how comfortable the two people feel around each other and if that kind of creativity can feel comfortable as well. Kathryn and I have known each other for a while. Zelda and I have known each other for ages. I think that kind of shorthand and that level of communication was something you sort of strive for with any working relationship of any department. But the fact that we had a beforehand was just really nice.”

While Lisa Frankenstein isn’t a horror movie, it does draw from some prominent ’80s genre fare in terms of influences. How well-versed are Newton and Sprouse in ’80s cinema? They offered up two noteworthy favorites when asked about their top ’80s horror picks. 

“John Carpenter’s The Thing,” Sprouse answers without hesitation.

With Lisa Frankenstein set in 1989, Newton unwittingly selects a 1989 dark comedy gem: “Is Heathers an ’80s movie? Heathers.”

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