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How to Kiss a Ghost

Rebecca Hall talks about improvising a romantic encounter with a spirit for ‘The Night House.’
The Night House Rebecca Hall
Searchlight Pictures
By  · Published on August 18th, 2021

Entering the Discourse is a thrice-weekly column where we dig into who is saying what about new releases and upcoming projects. Today, we share Rebecca Hall’s experience getting intimate with a ghost and improvising her own stunts in The Night House.

In director David Bruckner’s The Night House, Rebecca Hall plays Beth, a grieving widow trying to pick up the pieces after her husband’s suicide.

She spends her days aimlessly wandering their lakehouse, stuck in a dissociative state steeped in despair. But as the days pass, she begins to have strange visions and ghostly encounters. As she searches for answers, she learns a harrowing truth about her husband and their home.

Hall’s performance is the centerpiece of the movie with her heartbreaking portrayal of Beth. This isn’t just a ghost story, but a story about a woman’s lonely experience with grief. During a recent press conference promoting the thriller, Hall said she expected the role to be challenging, yet fulfilling:

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve never done this before, I’ll give this a go.’ I don’t think I even guessed appropriately how challenging it would be.”

She went on to explain that actors work best when collaborating with another performer in the space. “There’s a sort of strange thing you don’t entirely realize as an actor: you derive an awful lot of energy and stamina and even generate creative ideas from the people that you’re working with,” she said.

“It’s a bit like if you were at a party and someone comes in who’s got a lot of charisma and suddenly the party gets pretty great. You’re all sort of bouncing off that energy. This was a bit like being at a party with no guests, but you still have to make the party good, which is just exhausting.”

The most challenging scene in The Night House: when Rebecca Hall makes out with a ghost. As she put her hands in the air as if gripping the head of her lover, she was thinking: “Is this right, or does this look like I’m just ten years old in the schoolyard, pretending to make out with myself?” 

Joking aside, she explained the process behind such a scene and what it took to make it believable. She didn’t have anyone acting across from her, so the pressure to sell the moment was squarely on her shoulders. And yet, she said that the entire sequence was funny to shoot.

“It wasn’t like there was someone choreographing it,” she revealed. “The initial idea of me having this interaction-slash-romantic encounter with an invisible presence was essentially just me improvising it, which was fairly embarrassing.” 

But, she added, as soon as she got into a groove: “It became strangely liberating. It felt like I’m doing a kind of intuitive dance or something, which was nothing like anything I’ve ever done before as an actor. And it’s nice to use your physicality in that respect.”

That physicality was what Hall ultimately loved so much about making The Night House. It allowed her to portray extreme emotions not just through dialogue but with her whole body, as well. “The physical stuff was really enjoyable for me because it was not something that I’d really done before,” she admitted.

“So trying to convey quite extreme emotions physically, and throw myself around, and do all that kind of stuff, whether it was very carefully organized with a stunt team or essentially improvised by me, was really fun.”

You can see Rebecca Hall’s performance in The Night House when it opens in theaters on Friday, August 20th.

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Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)