Dasha Nekrasova’s directorial debut The Scary of Sixty-First is now available on digital platforms and in theaters.
“While out apartment hunting, college pals Noelle and Addie stumble upon the deal of a lifetime: a posh duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But soon after moving in, a more sinister picture of the apartment emerges when a mysterious woman arrives and claims the property used to belong to the infamous and recently-deceased Jeffrey Epstein,” says the official synopsis. “With this news, Noelle becomes obsessed with the visitor—to the point of infatuation. As the pair plunge deeper into the conspiracies of the Epstein case, Addie falls into her own bizarre state: a pseudo-possession complete with inexplicable fits of age-regressed sexual mania. As they peel back on these strange occurrences, the truth reveals itself to be more twisted than they could have ever imagined.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with The Scary of Sixty-First director and star Dasha Nekrasova about her horror flick, her role in Succession, and more.
The subject matter in The Scary of Sixty-First is very current. For a horror film, nothing’s kind of scarier than a real-life monster, like Jeffrey Epstein, but what, what inspired you to go in that direction?
I was really obsessed with Jeffrey Epstein. I was very wary of his initial arrest, and then when he died, was murdered, under very mysterious circumstances. I lived really [close], I lived less than half a mile from the prison where he died. I’ve said before, his death really felt like the CIA slapping me on the face basically. Probably due to other things in my past that I don’t wanna get into or what was going on with me in my life the, but it triggered a kind of manic episode of sorts. Madeline Quinn, my writing partner as well, we both were just really obsessed with the Epstein stuff and we wanted to collaborate together for a while. So we decided that maybe a film would be the best way to channel that fervency.
I wanted to ask about working with Madeline because she’s great in the film, but she also co-wrote the script. How did you two meet and when did you realize that you had such great creative chemistry?
We’ve been friends for a long time. We kind of met on Twitter a decade ago, and we both lived in the bay area and then L.A. We’ve overlapped in cities at various points. Then when I moved to New York in 2018, she was living here, so we really started to spend a lot of time together. We just were very close. We talk a lot, we have a real rapport and idiom between us and a shared sense of humor and appreciation for the same kind of references that are made in the film. So it was a very fruitful collaboration.
What did you take from your past work, like Wobble Palace, and being on those sets that helped you prepare for directing your first film?
I learned a lot about directing from acting, especially working on something like Wobble Palace, which I co-wrote as well, but working on low-budget films is a very collaborative process. I felt like I knew my way around a set, that I had intuitive strengths as a director from my past as an actor with things like blocking and working with other actors. Working with myself as an actress, which is something I maybe wouldn’t do again.
What impressed me here was that you very smartly shot within your budget and you kept the ambition in check. How difficult was it to find that balance with your creative ideas and then knowing what was feasible?
Well, the script was written with location in mind. It was written originally for another apartment that we lost access to. So I did a lot of very frantic rewriting right before we went into production, basically for the space that the apartment does take place in and Wobble Palace actually, too. That’s a great hack for first-time filmmakers or people who are interested in making independent features. If you can secure a location, and kind of write around it, you will cut a lot of your costs. Then a lot of our exteriors and secondary locations were stolen.
You mentioned starring in a film that you also directed. How difficult is that and what was the most difficult part of that process?
It was very difficult. It’s something I’m surprised people don’t talk about how hard it is more. Maybe it was made harder by the time limits and the limited resources that we had. In particular, I guess the last act of the film wherein my character is basically hysterical. [It was] hard to keep your wits about you and manage a set when you’re trying to whip yourself up into a convincing hysteria. The fight scene I’m very happy with how it turned out. I guess a bit of a spoiler, but there was a fight sequence during which I think I hit my head twice very hard. That also made directing pretty challenging. I think there’s a behind-the-scenes shot of us filming that sequence. I’m literally fetal positioned. Just directing a lot of film literally on your hands and knees is challenging.
Your Red Scare co-host, Anna Khachiyan, has a great cameo in the film. How great was it getting her involved? This movie clearly has subject matter, that’ll appeal to the fans of your podcast
She was a really good sport about it. We thought it would be funny to include her as this Ghislaine Maxwell doppelganger. She’s not meant to actually be Ghislaine Maxwell. The idea is sort of that our characters are in such throws of amphetamine psychosis, basically that they’re seeing signs where there aren’t any. Anna was just a really great sport and she looks beautiful on that 16 millimeter.
You’ve been great on Season 3 of Succession. How rewarding has it been being on that set?
Immensely. I love working on Succession so much. The quality of the writing is so good and the actors are so talented. When I started shooting in December, and basically throughout, there was a lot of COVID regulations and I was really impressed with how efficiently the crew and the cast and everybody was able to work even within those confines. It was really a dream come true. ‘m a big fan of Jesse Armstrong in general.
I really liked the role you played in Disco Elysium before it got updated. How was it like working on a video game and doing VO?
I don’t play video games, so I really just went into a recording studio [laughs]. I think that I was cast alongside with the Chapo [Trap House] guys. The big note for my character was basically that she should have a tremendous amount of vocal fry, which is kind of my expertise. So yeah, it was easy. I just spent a day. Doing VO, it’s not like doing ADR for a film where you’re trying to match dialogue or supplement things that were lost in production. Really you’re in a booth, just recording what will end up in the game that you haven’t even seen yet. So it’s a very alienated process.
I also wanted to hear about some of your inspirations. What are some of your favorite horror films? This gave me a 70s paranoia film vibes, so what helped The Scary of Sixty-First?
The Tenant by Roman Polansky I think is the most overt reference and the film that I looked to the most in terms of storytelling. I’m a huge fan of genre cinema, horror movies. Some of my favs are Hellraiser, Hellraiser 2, I’m a big fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise as well, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 weirdly was maybe was an influence in Tobe Hooper’s humor in that and his kind of sense of playfulness and irony in making a sequel to Texas Chain Saw. But the more kind of references for Maddie and I in scripting were things like Todd Solondz’s movies or Ghost World or Withnail & I. Things that were not specific to genre, but that had to do with our sensibilities.
You’re balancing a lot of endeavors right now. Obviously a super successful podcast, you’re doing films and TV. What are your ultimate aspirations in the film industry? Do you want to primarily act, keep a mix of things, or where do you see yourself?
I love acting, I see myself continuing to balance those things. I’d like to make another film. I have a script for a second feature that I’d like to make called Total War. That’s also genre, but period. It takes place in the aftermath of the American Civil War. I also really do enjoy acting and it’s very nice to be of service to a project that you believe in that isn’t your own as well. I see myself kind of just more broadly, I guess, as a filmmaker rather than like a director or an actress per se.