In "The Magnificent Seven," Haley Bennett played the frontier woman who hires Denzel Washington to avenge her husband's death. In "The Girl on the Train," she plays Megan, a woman with a seemingly perfect life who goes missing and now her husband (Luke Evans), her neighbor and former employer (Rebecca Ferguson), and a voyeuristic train rider Rachel [Emily Blunt] are all suspects.
Both roles boost Bennett's profile significantly in 2016, making her the next "one to watch" in Hollywood. The actress talked to Moviefone about her complex character in "Train," the similarities to "Gone Girl," and shooting her new movie's infamous shower scene.
Moviefone: Which was harder to film -- "Magnificent Seven" or "Girl on the Train"?
Haley Bennett: "Magnificent Seven" was a really physical role and there was a lot of action and then this is a psychological thriller and a very emotional roller coaster.
Had you read the book?
Yes, I read the book prior to knowing anything about the film or the fact that it was a huge phenomenon.
Did you have a fave character when you were reading it?
I think the reason I liked the book so much was because I liked all of the characters. All three of the women had strong personalities and I think I'm drawn to all of their stories.What did you think of the comparisons to "Gone Girl?"
Obviously, it's a female-driven thriller much like "Gone Girl" and there's the title, of course. No denying that [Laughs]. And they both explore the underbelly of domestic life. It's easy to draw comparisons, I liked Gillian Flynn and I liked "Gone Girl" and there was a parallel that I could identify with, which was that Amy seemed like the perfect woman with the perfect life, but in reality she was a very complicated character.
And Megan also looks like she has the perfect life from the outside, but she has a lot of secrets.
Yeah, Megan seems to be the perfect wife and have the perfect life, but she has a terrible secret that she's carried around for 10 years. She has an enormous amount of guilt and she hasn't told a soul her secret. Usually you can tell one person, I can't imagine holding onto a secret like that for so long. It was shocking for me when I discovered what it was and I can't imagine not telling anyone.
I talked to Luke earlier and he said you both got drunk before your shower scene.
There's scenes that we filmed which were more observations from Rachel's point of view [from the train]. So there's a scene where we're drinking wine outside and we're having a fire and we're enjoying ourselves. I think it's supposed to create a sense of separation between Rachel and any relationship she's had -- create more of a void for her. So they're carrying on and enjoying each other's company. The set designer gave us a really nice bottle of wine. It wasn't a scene where we really had to dig in, since it was [shot] from afar.
So did you also have some drinks before the shower scene or is Luke wrong about that?
Oh, absolutely, it wasn't a shower scene. We were shooting in the house and there was a scene that we were getting frisky, but it was not the shower scene. No way.
Was this the first time you had to strip down for a film? How nervous were you?
It's a racy thriller, but a lot of the context around the nudity has very little to do with sex. Even those in scenes where she's engaging in those activities, she sort of detached, so it's more of a character trait than an act. The way that Megan uses her sexuality is basically the way that Rachel uses alcohol. It's to numb herself.
So in a way, could you see them switching places?
Yeah, I think with any type of addiction, it's a device to escape reality.
In one of your nude scenes, you're out in the pouring rain. I hope you weren't out there too long. I was a bit worried for you.
Awww. It was a very emotional scene, so I didn't really notice that I was nude.
You have another movie coming out this year, Warren Beatty's "Rules Don't Apply."
It was such a thrill to be part of that wonderful ensemble class -- I was able to sing in the movie and just to work with Warren Beatty is a dream. It's set in the '50s, so it's a period piece and I love the Golden Era ... this is a throwback to those films that I love so much.
He plays Howard Hughes in the film. Is your character also based on a real person?
No, she's fictional. Her name is Mamie and it was nice because it's a lighter character and it was a nice contrast from these much darker films and characters experiencing loss. It was fun to sing and to have some comedic screen time. And Luke got to do a musical (2017's "Beauty and the Beast"), which is so cool. We spent time on set singing. We would put on little duets. We would sing a little bit of "The Lion King" and songs from "Beauty and the Beast." I think that helped loosen some of the tension.
Would you also want to be in a Disney musical?
I think they've all been made. They've remade "Cinderella," they've remade "Beauty and the Beast," what's left? I think they've done it all. I like animated films a lot. I don't know that any of the films I have coming out will get me any offers to do those kind of movies.
Like the Terrence Malick movie, "Weightless," which I imagine is not very light.
No, not at all. It's been quite the journey with that film. It was like five years ago, when we filmed it. Terrence has been a massive advocate of my career. He was responsible for getting Antoine Fuqua to see me in a different light. He was generous enough to write Antoine a letter of recommendation, I guess you could call it after we worked together. In true Malick fashion, I think it's our responsibility to protect how he prefers to work and to keep that sort of private in a way.
Do you have any idea what the finished film will look like?
Last I heard it was maybe six hours! He shoots a lot of footage. He shoots all the footage and then he takes it back into the editing room -- he's the master.
"Girl on the Train" is in theaters now.