Cailee Spaeny is a star on the rise. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with the actress about her breakout role in ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising,’ the ‘extreme’ training process, and working alongside John Boyega! Plus, watch an EXCLUSIVE video!
Pacific Rim: Uprising is available now on digital and will be released on 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, and DVD on June 19. In honor of the film, HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Cailee Spaeny, who plays Amara in the film. She’s the female lead in the movie, and the role marks her major feature film debut.
Getting the role in Pacific Rim: Uprising was the last thing Cailee ever expected. The 20-year-old hails from Springfield, Missouri, and she admits that it’s still “so hard to put into words” what it means to her to be a part of the Pacific Rim family. Plus, she walks us through her training process, including a fight with co-star John Boyega!
What was the audition process like?
Cailee Spaeny: Well, I had been performing anything I could get my hands on basically in Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up. I did theater, I was in a cover band, I wrote my own music. I was also driving back and forth to Los Angeles every summer for four years. I auditioned for this and went pretty full out. It was an action scene and called for action, so instead of just standing behind a white wall with good lighting, which is usually what they recommend to do, I threw myself on the floor and used remote controls as a Jaeger button and a step stool to get into my Jaeger. A couple weeks later, I got a call that they were going to fly me out to meet with the director and have a screen test with John Boyega the next day. And then I went home and got the news that I booked it. My whole world was spinning, and my family started crying. It felt like a dream. It was absolutely insane. For four years, I was auditioning, and my parents were so supportive. I never thought it would really happen, and if it did happen, I was just hoping some small role on a show where I would be a guest star. I could never have imagined being the lead female in a sci-fi franchise. That was the last thing I thought would happen. It’s still so hard to put into words.
John is one of the biggest stars in the world. To know that you were going to go and audition with him, that must have been a little intimidating.
Cailee Spaeny: I had just seen Force Awakens that past winter, and then when I found out I was reading with him, I was so terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how he was going to be. He was so good to me. He gave me a huge hug before we started. We improved some stuff, which I didn’t know was going to happen. He was right there with me, and made me feel like I was actually collaborating with him, unlike other auditions where I felt like they were looking down on me or that I didn’t know what I was doing. I had nothing on my resume. I was a nobody. I had two short films that I did back home, but I wasn’t even the lead of those. He didn’t treat me like that. He was asking me questions and [director] Stephen S. DeKnight was giving me notes in between and making me feel so comfortable in the room, so it felt like I was family right then.
Tell me about the training process.
Cailee Spaeny: I trained for four months before we started shooting, and it was full body training with a diet. It was very extreme. That was one part of it, and then there was the stunts. I was always so confused. They could have cast anyone in the world, and they cast the most uncoordinated person. There was a lot of stunt training involved. I remember one they were training me for my first fight that I have with John Boyega’s character in the film, I had been training for a week prior, and then they finally wanted me and John to get together and train for it. I was trying to get into character, and I was really into it. I have this staph, a foam staph, but I just went for it and whacked him as hard as I could in the back of the head, and I almost started crying. You know what you get that lump in your throat and you start crying? Of course, he was so sweet about it. Then the Jaegers are a whole other story. You’re basically on a treadmill but you also have to sync up your movement to the person right beside you, which you can only see in your peripheral. That took a couple of months to get down. It was definitely a unique experience that I don’t know if I’ll ever have again. It feels good that I got it and have it under my belt.
What stood out to you about the character of Amara?
Cailee Spaeny: The fact that she was a character that I knew was going to be exposed to a lot of young adults or kids throughout the whole world. That was a big deal for me and that she stood for something that was really powerful in my eyes. She took this tragic past and made it work for her and pushed herself forward. I was really excited for kids to see that and for kids to relate to that. Also, Guillermo Del Toro made such an amazing movie with the first one. When I watched it, I loved it. The cast is so diverse, which was exciting. It just stood for so many good things.
What made you want to become an actress?
Cailee Spaeny: I think I always felt like I wanted to explore the world, and I wanted to use art. I wasn’t very good at school at all. I was getting straight Cs and Ds and failing all my classes, and even at a young age that always really bothered me. I knew that I had something else inside me. I was always begging my parents to put me in some sort of classes. The only time I felt like I fit in was in theater or the music class or doing something creative. I knew that I wanted to explore the world and not stay in my small town. I wanted to find something that I could feel like I was giving back somehow.
The bonus features on 4K Ultra UD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital include the following:
· Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Steven S. DeKnight
· Hall of Heroes – John Boyega takes us through the awesome weaponry and cutting-edge enhancements of the latest generation of Jaegers featured in the film.
· Bridge to Uprising – The cast and crew discuss how the world of Pacific Rim has changed in the ten years since the events of the original film.
· The Underworld of Uprising – Humanity won the Kaiju War, but every war has casualties. John Boyega and Steven S. DeKnight give a tour of the coastal “Relief Zones.”
· Becoming Cadets – Step into the Shatterdome, and learn the grueling physical and mental preparation required of the young actors who portrayed the PPDC cadets.
· Unexpected Villain – Learn the secret reason that turned one of the most beloved heroes of the original film into a villain obsessed with humanity’s destruction.
· Next Level Jaegers – The cast and crew discuss the amazing technological advances of the Jaeger program in the years since the events of the original film.
· I Am Scrapper – Actress Cailee Spaeny shares the backstory of Scrapper, Amara’s incredible self-built Jaeger and its many unique abilities.
· Going Mega – Filmmakers take us through the technical and creative challenges of creating the most deadly threat the Pan Pacific Defense Corp has ever faced: the Mega Kaiju!
· Secrets of Shao – Meet the woman behind Shao Industries. Actress Tian Jing shares her insights on the enigmatic tech tycoon Liwen Shao.
· Mako Returns – Actress Rinko Kikuchi and director Steven S. DeKnight explain the significance of Mako Mori’s return and her importance to the events of Pacific Rim Uprising.
· Feature Commentary with Director Steven S. DeKnight.