Horror Breakout Aisling Franciosi Won’t Be Boxed Into Just One Genre

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Horror Breakout Aisling Franciosi Won’t Be Boxed Into Just One Genre

Aisling Franciosi has done drama and horror, and now, the breakout Irish-Italian star is trying her hand at not one, but two comedies. What else can this indie actress do?

Well, aside from mastering the “addictive” hobby of stop-motion animation for the aptly-titled horror film “Stopmotion,” Franciosi is eyeing a producing debut in the indie film space. It’s all dependent on connecting with the perfect project, something that Franciosi previously found with A24’s “God’s Creatures” which landed her a BIFA nomination alongside co-star Paul Mescal, and Jennifer Kent’s Venice award-winning “The Nightingale,” for which Franciosi was nominated in the Breakthrough Actor category at the Gotham Awards.

“Thankfully, I’ve got an agent who knows me well, and she sent me the script for [‘Stopmotion’] saying, ‘This is absolutely bonkers, but I think you’ll love it.’ And I did as soon as I read it,” Franciosi told IndieWire of filmmaker Robert Morgan’s feature debut during a recent interview. “I just was really struck by how fresh it felt. I’d seen Rob’s short films: They’re very, very creepy and amazingly done. I just thought, ‘Wow, what a cool fun concept to incorporate live action and stop-motion animation in horror genre film,’ and especially when Rob’s animation is quite creepy.”

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And Franciosi was already well-versed in subverting the traditions of horror: She led controversial rape revenge film “The Nightingale,” helmed by horror genre veteran Kent. Franciosi also appeared in monster movie “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” which was released in August 2023.

For “Stopmotion,” though, she sais she could particularly relate to the all-consuming creative process that her grieving character Ella endures. While Ella is a stop-motion animator, Franciosi’s acting career has too hit frustrating lows, especially when she was first starting out.

“Stopmotion”

“I definitely have had that feeling where I want so badly to express something through a creative medium. I guess that’s why when I read certain scripts, I really latch onto them, because it’s the expression more so than even the thought in the first place,” Franciosi said. “It’s really hard when you struggle with that feeling of wanting to get a creative release or feeling like you have a creative voice but not being quite sure where to put it. Figuring out what direction to go in can drive you crazy, because you have all these pent up feelings, knowing that you have a creative ability but not being able to come up with a story.”

She said she also saw parallels in Morgan’s own experiences as a filmmaker. “Robert told me that he’d had a feeling in college where he knew he was going to create something, but the act of coming up with the idea itself was the bit that was really frustrating,” she said. “He knew that he had something he really needed to tell, and that can be frustrating and also paralyzing. I guess it’s like writers’ block, in a way.”

Franciosi added, “I have had that. I love acting and often I don’t get the part or maybe there are dry spells or like that. Not having that creative outlet can be really, really frustrating. … When I saw the film after it had been done, I had that pretty frustrating period work-wise [afterwards] and I was like, ‘This is exactly what trying to do something in a creative field feels like.’”

Would Franciosi ever want to be part of the creative process for films earlier on, and perhaps produce?

“I would love to,” she said. “I think for a long time I didn’t think that I could. I’ve always found that you learn so much as you go along in this, … it’s hard to know what currency is sometimes in this industry and I wasn’t sure that I had whatever that was. But in the last couple of years I’ve thought, ‘Well, you know what, I might as well just read and try and option things if I can and then see if someone’s interested.’ I haven’t yet, though. I would only want to do it if it was something [I really wanted to do].”

Franciosi added, “I have friends who produce and I see how really hard it is, especially if you really are doing it in the proper way, how hard you have to fight to get things off the ground before you can get to the point of casting or making it. It would have to be something that I really cared about, I think. But it would be great to be part of something from the very beginning.”

THE NIGHTINGALE, Aisling Franciosi, 2018. © IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection
“The Nightingale”©IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

When asked if she considers “Stopmotion” to be a “breakout” role, one that could elevate her “currency” in Hollywood, Franciosi replied in earnest, “You really think that it could be a breakout?! Because I’m like, well, I’ve been working for a while. … That would be cool!”

Up next, Franciosi has two back-to-back indie comedies in the works, “which is crazy, because I never really even get to audition for comedy and I really enjoy it.” The first — and only one that Franciosi can contractrally discuss — is Jamie Adams’ “Turn Up the Sun!” co-starring James McAvoy, Lucas Bravo, and Dolly Farzad. The film follows two couples who arrive at a vacation rental house that they unknowingly reserved at the same time. As per Waters’ typical filmmaking style, “Turn Up the Sun!” was entirely improvised, according to Franciosi.

“It was really, really fun. I was scared to do it initially just because it had been a while since I had done improv. It was a really interesting way of working,” Franciosi said. “You just have to completely give over that sense of having any sort of a plan and I absolutely loved it. It felt like playing [but] I don’t know what I was like in it. I have no idea what kind of performance of mine will come out of it because it obviously all depends on the edit, but I had a great time. It was nice to do something that felt like it was kind of on the lighter side for me as well and to kind of stretch that muscle a bit.”

Then there’s “Rothko,” the previously-announced biopic about painter Mark Rothko’s legacy, which follows his daughter Katie Rothko as she’s wrapped in a legal battle with estate executors and gallery directors following his death. Sam Taylor-Johnson was set to direct, with Franciosi confirmed to be playing lead character Katie Rothko.

“It is listed as pre-prod, but Sam is really busy,” Franciosi said. “So I don’t know what the plan is with that, to be honest. Sam has made [‘Back to Black’] in the meantime. I don’t really know what the plan is, but I love that script and the story is really fascinating.”

She added of potentially going into production on the film, which was set to co-star Russell Crowe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Stuhlbarg, and “Mad Men” actor Jared Harris: “Hopefully, but again, you just never know. I mean, I absolutely love independent film, but this is one of the heartbreaking sides of it is that, you know, it’s really hard to get indies made and it’s hard to get anything made actually. I always think it’s kind of like a miracle when gets made. I’m just like, whatever happens, happens.”

“Stopmotion”

Franciosi, whose credits also include “Game of Thrones” and Netflix’s “The Unforgivable,” reflected on her career as a whole thus far. “I’ve been so, so lucky with the roles that I’ve played. They’ve been really satisfying and quite cathartic in many ways,” she said. “But you just never know what is going to happen with a movie. Even if you do good work and you think you’ve done great work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to see it or that just might not, it might not necessarily move the needle for you that much. So I just try and find the next good project that I want to do.”

Would Franciosi return, or rather, continue with horror? “I would always still do heavier, darker material if the writing was great and if the character was someone I wanted to play,” Franciosi said. “I would never say like, ‘Let’s be done now.’ I love genre movies and I love playing roles that I think speak to important social issues like in ‘God’s Creatures’ or ‘The Nightingale.’ I would work with someone like [‘The Nightingale’ director] Jennifer Kent again in a heartbeat no matter what the material was or what the genre was.”

She concluded, “I can do other things too, bring some joy to people. I guess I’m excited for maybe people giving me a chance and maybe casting me in something that I haven’t shown that I can do yet. You always have to hope that someone will kind of take that leap of faith and go, ‘Well, I know we’ve never seen her in something like this, but maybe let’s see if she can do it.’”

An IFC Films and Shudder release, “Stopmotion” hits theaters on Friday, February 23, followed by a VOD release on Friday, March 15.

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