Katy O'Brian falls dirty for love, lies bleed

In a cinematic landscape filled with muscular, under-sexed, military-border-adjacent superheroes, Love Lies Bleeds provides a much-needed contrast: a greasy, unabashedly sexy film that, in the words of director Roth, said, indicting "strength for strength's sake" glass.

Glass' critically acclaimed debut feature Saint Maud (2019) is an '80s steroid-induced fever dream about lonely gym manager Lou (Kristen Stewart) and doing laundry. The story of amateur bodybuilder Jackie (Katie O'Brien). Enter the city. Jackie prepares tirelessly for her first bodybuilding competition, and the two soon begin a passionate romance - but soon Lou's family history catches up with them, disrupting their love story , and pushed them into a darker, stranger, and more dangerous place. Messier.

O'Brien, the star of "The Mandalorian" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum of Madness, " jumped at the chance to dig into his bodybuilding history. (Okay, maybe she didn't actually jump at it, but she did give a Powerpoint presentation about her qualifications for the role.) gave it to me," she tells Busy. "Then the movie came along and I was Thinking, 'This is fate.' '"

The production was grueling at times, as O'Brien worked 12 hours a day on set while training his body, but it was worth it - even if it got a little chaotic.

Love Lies Bleed is not for the faint of heart, as test audiences had a "visceral", headline-making reaction to it, and they'll tell you. But the final cut, while still full of vomit and gore, didn't include all of the disgusting scenes. "Jackie had at least one more fight, and the fight I had with Lou was more violent from the beginning," O'Brien said. "So whatever you see is definitely a watered-down version of what we shot." (Hopefully there will be an expanded DVD version.)

Below, O'Brien discusses her journey into bodybuilding, working with an intimacy coordinator, and her first impressions of Stewart.

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I'd love to start with your own bodybuilding history. I understand that you participated in some amateur competitions when you were young?

Yes, I made a few and they were eye-opening. The first time I did it, I did it with a trainer at L.A. Fitness, and he was great, but closer to my first competition, he said, "By the way, you need a posing trainer." I was like, "This How hard is it?" Turns out, that's actually the hardest part, especially for me, is not being a graceful person. And then I was with a posing coach and they asked, "When are you going to start editing for competition?" I was like, "Am I not skinny enough?"

So I lost the first game. You will be judged for your hair, makeup, and the outfits you wear. My suit didn't fit well so I got points deducted for that.

The next year, I went with Ben Backus, who was Mr. Indiana. The training process was more focused, I ended up buying a super expensive suit, I had a whole hair and makeup job done, and my posture got better. We decided to do a non-drug-tested competition and I was completely devastated. I couldn't maintain that much muscle, lose that much weight, or compete with amazing genetics or unnatural competitors. So I just got over it and stopped, but I still appreciate the art and respect the people who do it. It just doesn't work for me.

Why do you think people still laugh at muscular women?

Challenging the status quo is always met with ridicule. People feel comfortable in normalcy. When you come out of that box, people tend to ask, "Why do you want to look like that?" But I think beauty is very personal and subjective. Growing up, I was always skinny, but when I put on muscle, I felt beautiful.

I have a lot of clients from other countries who are men who don't want to gain muscle because where they come from, it's unattractive. This is too subjective.

At the same time, many bodybuilders were also fetishized. You have two extremes: people will either think you're crazy and vulgar, or they'll be obsessed with you. It’s strange how focused we are on the body.

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The film does seem interested in thinking about that.


What effects do you think it has on the body?

Did they break? They are just flesh as we walk. You start to see Jackie get super big, like this 35-foot-tall woman. That's not reality; that's reality. This is how she sees herself. So the body is your perception, but there's also a [scene] where I pick up [Dave Franco's character] and snap him in half. That's it. His boat was destroyed.

There is literally a lot of liquid in this movie. What was it like on set? Are fakes flying everywhere?

I just threw up...oh, I threw up Lou. It was just mashed banana, which was delicious but disgusting. But then Kristen got covered in, I don’t even know, some slippery slime. It was kind of scary because they had my stunt double grab her and drop her multiple times. I guess they were worried that I would actually abandon her.

The blood exploding everywhere is very sticky. It's very Tarantino. And then, lo and behold, the temperature was 112 degrees. We're in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was sweating the whole time. It's really hard to feel sexy when you're drenched in your own sweat.

Yes, there's a lot of sex in this movie, which is fun. I'm glad we're finally seeing sex on screen again. Did you and Kristen discuss how to approach these scenes beforehand?

We all work together. You start by working with an intimacy coordinator and expressing your feelings. We usually say, "Yeah, we love this scene. It's beautiful. Let's not change anything unless the camera angle [requires it]." Then we discuss the scene with Rose and review it in words. So the first time you really touched each other was when you were recording, and it was the only time you really touched each other.

One of my boundaries is "Don't lick my ears because I can't do the scene because I'll laugh." It's so gross. I hate it. I was adamant about making sure Kristen was comfortable too. I didn't want her to feel any discomfort.

In the first bedroom scene, they dressed me in multiple layers of clothing, with the final layer being a thick, shredded yoga mat to cover my lower body. But the temperature was 112 degrees. Whenever Kristen took her pants off, everything would be ripped off because I was sweating so much. Sometimes I think, “Can I just wear underwear?”

They will definitely go out of their way to make you feel protected so that both parties are like "Okay, we're fine." Even when I put my feet in her mouth, they gave me peppermint spray to put on my feet. There's a lot of really sweet stuff that makes this no longer a disgusting and weird situation.

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What was the most challenging scene to shoot?

The bodybuilding competition was pretty tough because I had a dehydration day, so I lost 8 or 10 pounds of water weight that week and didn't drink any water.

More generally, who would you expect Kristen to enjoy working with?

I always have a little bit of fear, [like] "I want this person to make the scene as easy and comfortable as possible." But even in the chemistry reading, I could tell that was going to be the case. Before I went in to read with Kristen, she was sitting in the lobby, and I was like, "I'm going to go talk to her real quick." She was very calm, laid-back, and seemed like a down-to-earth, completely normal person. That's what I'm hoping for, for someone to be as excited to do it as I am.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.