May 09, 2022
By Matt Conner
Over 20 years have passed since Ali Larter achieved a breakthrough role in 1999’s Varsity Blues. Since then, she’s put together an impressive and expansive body of work in both television and film, from comedies like Legally Blonde to thrillers like Resident Evil or Obsessed to horror flicks like Final Destination. And that doesn’t include her starring role in hit shows like Heroes or The Rookie.
For her latest cinematic turn, Larter reaches deep for some “feral ferocity” in The Last Victim (opening May 13) to play Susan, an anthropologist unfairly thrown into a battle between a Southwestern gang of outlaws (led by Ralph Ineson) and the sheriff chasing them (Ron Perlman). The suspenseful neo-western is a story of survival and isolation, and Larter says she’s grateful for such roles that allow her to channel different sides.
We recently sat down with Larter to hear more about her latest movie and to discuss the rarity of longevity in Hollywood, especially in a streaming era with so much change.
Under the Radar (Matt Conner): You have such longevity in this industry which is so rare, so I’d love to start here as a portal into The Last Victim. But first, how much do you reflect on your rare position?
Ali Larter: It’s interesting, because you’re flooded with opportunities in your twenties. I had the opportunity to do every different type of genre and had an incredible time working with great filmmakers. I was in so many movies that deeply, deeply resonated with people, so that kind of kicked off my career. Then I’m into my thirties where there were some movies and more work on TV series and getting into a whole other audience in that way.
Now I’m at this point where when I get a play a woman who is still doing her own stunts, that has that feral ferocity, that oftentimes is a role that could have been written for a man that I get to step in a play, that allows that warrior inside to be exposed, it’s so exciting to me. There aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be. There used to be so many more movies and so many more shows. As the business is paring itself down, there’s a gratefulness that I get to work on projects I’m excited about.
It’s also made me really turn on the producer hat and find the stories I want to tell. It’s like, ‘I’m going to will these things to happen.’ I’ve sold one book that I had to FOX and I just got the IP for another book that is such an extraordinary accomplishment about a mother of a Navy Seal, so I’m growing up with my characters and I’m excited to continue to tell stories about really strong women who go into battle—literal or not.
Was that the major draw for you here?
It’s just something that I love to do and it’s a deep part of myself. So much of me is a tender mom who loves to be with her 7- and 11-year-old kids. I love to snuggle with them at reading time at night. So that’s a part of me, but there’s also a fire that I love to express. Finding that trigger within the character is always what I’m hunting for.
Are you ever surprised by what comes out in the moment, then, if you are allowed to channel this inner fire, so to speak?
It’s not that I’m surprised, because at this point, I’m really an experienced actor. When you’re with professionals on set, you know what to do. So for me, it’s about having the preparation done before I arrive and knowing that when I’m going into those very intense scene, I know how to create an environment in which I feel safe and know I can do them over and over again until we get the shot. I have different tools I use whether it’s writing a monologue or listening to a song or sometimes just simply living in the present moment and feeling whatever is happening in the world around me and allowing that to unfold.
So what did prep look like for The Last Victim?
In those moments when [Susan] felt like she wasn’t going to make it and put out a cry for help, for me it always goes back to those moments as a mother. For me to get there emotionally about what I would be leaving behind and also finding it inside myself to survive. Any mother would do anything to survive and get back to your children, so that was a real driving force for me, even though that wasn’t a linear path with Susan. It got me there so that I could step into her world and express that.
How did you become attached to the movie in the first place?
They offered me the movie and then I had some calls with Naveen. He has such a passion for filmmaking. He’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. He’s exciting about the writing, the costumes, the rehearsals, the set design, the hair and makeup. This was all a dream project for him, and I connected with that and wanted to help him deliver his vision.
That goes into something else I wanted to ask about. You have some wonderfully accomplished actors here and so many who are new. Was there a nurturing atmosphere there when you have that mix?
I think that’s what made Naveen so good is that he hired professionals. When you look at Ralph’s and Ron’s body of work and mine and you bring us onto set, you get an idea of what you’re going to get. With Ralph, I love working with him, because when you take a scene where you can cut things down, he’s a masterful storyteller himself. So it was great to be able to do that together.
If there’s a line that can be cut, please cut my line. I prefer showing things on an emotional level through action, especially in a movie like this where I’m not having to move the story along through dialogue. So that was part of it and I think there was a lot of respect for everyone because of that.
You mentioned doing your own stunts. Is that fun or does it sound more fun than it actually is?
I love it. That’s also something people know about me, going back to Resident Evil or Heroes or Obsessed. I love doing as much as I can. I love wire work. One of my favorite scenes is the Ax Man in Resident Evil where it’s pouring rain and I hop on a skateboard and I do a backflip on wires. I love that stuff! For me it’s just another way of telling the story and to be able to physicalize it is a beautiful dance.
You mentioned how much the industry has changed since you first started, so how does that affect your expectations or hopes for a film like this?
I’m so excited it’s getting a wide release. So much is just straight to streaming now, so that’s incredible. I’m old enough now that I’ve watched the business change. Even just promoting it, I used to be on Fallon and Conan and that’s the way you did it and now that’s not as much of the world anymore. Now you’re doing Zooms from your house and popping in that way. I think it’s interesting to watch it evolve and, with streaming, how much more there is for people to watch. You get to focus on the things that interest you and that has allowed for more to be made, but I think it’s made it harder for something special to find its audience.
So it’s an interesting time in our business. However, I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe you should be able to go to the movies and watch something on a big screen. That will never be the same as watching it at home, because you can get up and make popcorn or have a burrito. [Laughs] I love being in a theater, but for someone who consumes a massive amount of television, I love getting 10 hours of television in a season of something. I love going deeper into the characters. So I think there’s room for all of it. I just hope we get to continue to make movies and shows that are exciting and fun and relevant.
You said you wanted to help Naveen realize his vision. Have you had a moment with him now that there’s a finished product to reflect back on it?
Not yet, and I think it needs to be in person. We’ve talked on the phone a bunch, but I want to give him a hug and really tell him how proud I am of him. With this world and COVID, it’s sad that people haven’t been able to have that connection. I want to complete the circle with this physically. I hope to see him at one of these screenings and give him a greta big hug.