Imogen Poots: I think everyone was kind of suspicious how I was going to be a sexual being, missing key pieces of equipment
Imogen Poots claims to dislike watching scary movies, preferring film noir and Faulkner to the normal diet of sex and violence. But the 22-year-old British actress has adapted to both equally since she debuted in the dystopian terrorism film V for Vendetta (2006) and appeared in 28 Weeks Later (2007), the sequel to Danny Boyle’s zombie-virus thriller 28 Days Later (2002). But it was Poots’s turn as a barely legal vixen who outsexes a lecherous Michael Douglas in Solitary Man that proved pivotal to jumpstarting her career. Since then, she has supplemented hyper-literate roles in Jordan Scott’s schoolgirl drama Cracks and Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre (both released earlier this year) with blood-and-guts material like the Internet thriller Chatroom and a TV remake of the controversial incest drama Bouquet of Barbed Wire. In August, Poots will appear in Craig Gillespie’s reboot of the cool-before-its time 1985 horror comedy Fright Night, about a teen (Anton Yelchin) who suspects his neighbor (Colin Farrell) might be a homicidal vampire. She also appears alongside Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Catherine Keener in Yaron Zilberman’s forthcoming A Late Quartet, which charts the tensions that threaten to divide a group of celebrated classical musicians. Poots recently connected with her Jane Eyre director Fukunaga.
CARY FUKUNAGA: Poots—that’s your real last name?
IMOGEN POOTS: That is my last name.
FUKUNAGA: Is that short for something?
POOTS: Unfortunately, Poots is the name that I’ve been graced with for my life, but it’s not short for anything—apart from Imogen Poots.
FUKANAGA: Let’s talk about Fright Night for a second. First of all, do you like scary movies?
POOTS: If I’m really honest, I’m not a huge fan of scary films. I remember being a teenager, and people getting out like Halloween  or Saw , and watching them, and I’d kind of just stare at the television logo and blur my eyes and pretend I was watching but I wasn’t because I just found that I would take the movie home with me. I can scare myself like a pro. So I’m not a huge fan of scary movies, but I love doing them because your character arc gets condensed, and everything is elevated, and so you kind of have this amazing opportunity to go in many different places. But then I do love sinister films. Anton Yelchin, who is in Fright Night, got me into film noir, which is where a lot of these scary movies are derived from—as well as the silent films.
FUKUNAGA: Can we talk about boobs and why they’re necessary for Fright Night?
POOTS: Oh, the boob situation. I had to have a bra that made me look like I had bigger boobs because, you may know from being my friend and hanging out with me, that’s not a big situation, regarding my bust [laughs]. So we had to try all these props. I think everyone was kind of suspicious how I was going to be a sexual being, missing key pieces of equipment.
FUKUNAGA: Did you feel like somebody else?
POOTS: I did. The first bra we tried on was so big I got kind of emotional, and Craig Gillespie, the director, was standing there, and the tears were brewing in my eyes—and I’m sure I was blushing so much. I said, “I just feel like a cartoon.” And Craig turned to me and was like, “Okay. We’ll take them a size down.”
FUKUNAGA: Are big boobs necessary for scary movies?
POOTS: They probably should be, but I was glad, at the end of every day, to be able to remove them.
FUKUNAGA: You just worked with Christopher Walken on A Late Quartet. How is your Christopher Walken impression?
POOTS: I wouldn’t even dare to do one. But I do admit to being slightly in love with Christopher Walken. He made me laugh to the extent that I was kind of shaking. I remember a moment, it was about 5 a.m. and everyone was really tired. We were going to be filming, and the violins that we played in the scenes were the real deal—like, these very special violins—and I kind of set mine down on my chair and started to walk away, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Chris was about to sit down on the chair where I’d set this really expensive violin. I was almost at the door, so I swung around and was like, “Chris!” and sort of shocked everyone. Then he stopped and looked at me and pointed at me with both fingers like he did it on purpose. How was he to know that I’d be watching? He just knew.
FUKUNAGA: What about the other cast members?
POOTS: Catherine [Keener], I’d safely say, is the most inspirational actress I’ve ever met and worked with. She’s changed my perception of many things. There’s also a real sense of play that she and Phil [Seymour Hoffman] have because they’re friends. So it was quite an extraordinary experience on an acting level to be with them and with Mark Ivanir, who is the other cast member. We were all learning these instruments in a space of a couple weeks, so there was this real kind of support network.
FUKUNAGA: Those are all very nice things. Can you think of any person you’ve worked with where you were like, “I do not want to be like that person”?
POOTS: I don’t think I’ve ever met any single person who has been vulgar. But you know, you learn along the way that some people are going to be very generous and other people … It’s just not innate within them. Sometimes I think you just have to decide if you’re going to stand up and get on with it or if you’re going to be crushed and threatened.
FUKUNAGA: Before I met you that first time, I watched this TV movie you did called Miss Austen Regrets . There was this inspired moment in the beginning, when you’re peeing in the bushes with Olivia Williams in your Regency dress, and then you run back to the carriage and the dress is tucked into your leggings. And then, as I got to know you, I noticed you do that all the time. Like, you literally always walk out of the loo with your dress tucked into your leggings. Was that your idea?
POOTS: [laughs] I think it was. Jeremy [Lovering, the director] supported that because he saw it happen in reality. Even today, I was in a department store in London and I left the loo, and I walked out and I went back in again to double check in the mirror —and I was wearing trousers.
FUKUNAGA: One of the first things we talked about when we first met was music. You’re a major fan of Mumford & Sons.
POOTS: My boyfriend at the time was really close friends with them.
FUKUNAGA: Is this the same boyfriend that gave you a foster penguin in a London zoo?
POOTS: No, no, no. He adopted me an otter.
FUKUNAGA: You are a foster parent of an otter in a London zoo? When was the last time you saw your otter?
POOTS: I went to see him once. He’s called Harry. My boyfriend kept pointing him out, but I kept tying my shoelace and missing the otter. There were many otters. It could have been any of them.
FUKUNAGA: Let’s talk about your exes. What have you learned about yourself through the people you’ve dated? Have you found a pattern yet?
POOTS: I can safely say that every one of them has been extremely different. But they’ve all been very creative and they’ve all been bright, with that kind of cerebral nature that’s a bit goofy.
FUKUNAGA: You know what else I remember from first meeting you? Your blushing syndrome. Are you blushing right now?
POOTS: I am. I do blush very easily, and it’s a lose-lose situation because you feel it coming on, you get really hot, and you look shit. It’s not even normal blushing. It’s not like a nice English Rose blush.
FUKUNAGA: So, why do you act?
POOTS: I love the unpredictable, precarious part of it. It presents these highs and lows that are unbeatable, in what I perceive to be a normal day job. There’s an addiction to it, which is probably unhealthy, but can be rewarding if it’s the right situation.
FUKUNAGA: You’ve totally answered that question before.
POOTS: No, I haven’t! I’m just so articulate that you can’t function.
FUKUNAGA: Can actors and directors ever really be friends?
POOTS: I believe they can. I’d say a good couple of my closest male friends are directors. Your vision has to, hopefully, meet somewhere with your director, which must mean a kind of mutual discovery.
FUKUNAGA: So if I was to ask you to jump into a lake full of alligators, you’d definitely do it?
POOTS: If you asked me to jump in a lake full of alligators, I would. But I’d have grasped your collar and you’d be in the water, too.