Interview: Natasha Henstridge on new horror film Cinderella’s Revenge; “Not the fairy tale as you know it.”

After breaking as the lead in 1995’s Species, Natasha Henstridge soon took the silver screen by storm with roles in such high-profile projects as Maximum Risk, opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme, the comedy The Whole Nine Yards (and its sequel, The Whole Ten Yards), John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, and the Hugh Jackman thriller Deception.

Cinderella’s Revenge – which flips the script on the usual fairy tale, as it details Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters and stepmother pushing her too far, leading her to swap her glass slippers in pursuit of blood-soaked vengeance with the help of her Fairy Godmother – marks her return to the horror genre and cements the star’s status as one of the reigning scream queens of Hollywood.

As the film arrives in US theatres, Peter Gray spoke to Natasha about her relationship with the horror genre, her love of comedy – and why it surprises so many people that she’s good at it – and who her own “Fairy Godmother” was to her across her career.

I feel like we’re starting to see these classic fairy tales be presented through a dark horror lens.  And, in many ways, these films are probably closer to what these characters might actually do.  In the case of Cinderella, if you had the chance to take on your bully, would you actually do so? For you, is that part of the appeal? In taking something so benevolent and making it more twisted?

I think you said that absolutely perfectly.  That’s exactly what it is.  We think about these fairy tales, and so many of them have these dark roots.  The Brothers Grimm fairy tales? They had such darkness to them to begin with.  And then they were sweetened and sugar coated for the Disney audience.  This (Cinderella’s Revenge) is a hark back to that.  A lot of these stories come from a different era, you know? Things were darker and they were handled in a more brutal way, and this is kind of going full circle in a way.

I think there’s also something really fun about an audience that knows a story ahead of time.  They know what’s supposed to happen, and they know where it’s going to go and then…this throws a monkey wrench in the whole thing! It’s the story, but not the story as you know it.  There’s fun in that.  And there’s fun in that for the audience.

I love horror films.  And I love horror films that have a good sense of humour about themselves.  And I think that’s what is enjoyable about this, is that it’s very much winking at the audience.  Your character is the comic relief in many ways.  I think you’re very natural at comedy.  You knew exactly what you were doing.  Do you find comedy easy?

I love that you asked me that.  And I love that you said that, because I have always loved comedy.  I’ve done a little bit here and there.  I did a TV show in the states called She Spies.  And there was actual physical comedy.  I had such a blast doing it.  And then I did The Whole Nine Yards, which was comedic, and I was actually up for Modern Family.  I screen tested for that years ago.  Not for Sofia Vergara’s (character), but for the mom (Julie Bowen).  I’ve always loved comedy.  People are always surprised I can do it.

I’ve played so many strong characters.  The head of FBI, or lawyers, or this and that, you know, these really strict characters…and I guess I have that presence and it’s why I get hired in those kind of things, right?  But what stood out for me in this film was exactly that.  I could see getting on board with this because it’s just fun.  It’s light.  It’s tongue in cheek.  It’s in its own little element.  It’s very much what Cinderella would look like with her costume, and the location, and the accents.  It was fun to be in this little anomaly bubble.  The comedy is what really turned me on to this role though.  They actually offered me a different role, but I just liked this one more.  I really wanted to play this one.

I’ve read in other interviews that you aren’t a horror fan.  Because you’ve starred in as many genre films as you have, do you still feel the need to watch your films at least once? Does it get any easier?

It’s tough for me.  Here’s the thing.  I always say I don’t really watch my stuff.  And there’s a million shows that I’ve never watched, and there are so many movies that I’ve never watched, because, honestly, if I’m not doing press on a film…and there are some (films) that, for whatever reason, just fall by the way.  But when you’re having to talk about a film, it’s really hard to not see it as it is.  I have a hard time watching myself.  Sometimes it’s worse than others.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.

It probably helps that you film something like this on location and when you aren’t filming you can just enjoy the beautiful Somerset countryside.

Anytime I get to go to the UK is such a treat.  I have a heart for the place.  And I’ve spent a lot of time over the years there.  I’m from Newfoundland, Canada, and there’s something about the UK that just always feels like home to me.  On some level there’s a kinship.  So when they offer me something like (Cinderella’s Revenge) and it’s out of the UK, I read this and go, “Oh, my God.  I want to go there!”  I then turn that into a trip to London and I’m working with really talented actors, so it’s just a win-win.

But I flew in, and even though the dialogue doesn’t seem like much, when you condense it into 2 or 3 days of filming, and you’re jet-lagged, and you’re in a different time zone with actors who have all been working (already) and in great spirits…it can be challenging.  I like to try and get there a couple of days before if I can, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  You know, with smaller budgets it’s like, “Get her in.  Get her out!”  But, with this, I got in a couple days in advance and I filmed all of my stuff within a few days.  I think it was 3 days.

Playing the Fairy Godmother here.  Across your career, have you had your own fairy godmother in a mentor or co-star that helped guide you in any way?

It’s so funny that you asked this question after talking about (horror), because I worked with an actress called Joanna Cassidy on a film called Ghosts of Mars.  Oh, my God.  I love that woman.  It’s making me think right now that I need to reach out to her.  I haven’t talked to her in years.  But at the time of filming I had a new baby, and I got sick (on set).  There was just so much.  I was carrying the film.  I was in every shot.  It was a lot!  It was two-to-three months, and (director) John Carpenter only films at night.  It was intense.  And I just remember her having so much advice.

I feel like when I work with older actresses, that’s what I am to a lot of younger women now.  It’s not certain advice, but more life advice or transparency.  (She) offered me real transparency, and I’ve always appreciated that.  For me, I’ve always connected to actors or people that are really transparent and open and honest, and not pretending to be something they’re not.  So, I would say Joanna Cassidy pops into mind.  But there have been so many.  I mean, Donald Sutherland.  I worked with him on a TV show called Commander in Chief.  He and I worked very closely together, and just watching him work and hearing his stories…you know, it happens all the time where I’m blown away by, or I’m garnering new skills, just by watching or hearing them.

Hearing all of that, you’ve worked with so many amazing people across so many genres.  Is there a genre, or even a role, that is one you still want to tackle?

I wish I knew what it was.  The only thing I’ve ever really spoken about, and it’ll probably never happen…although, I should never say never, but Joni Mitchell.  She was such an inspiration to me.  I love her writing.  I love her songwriting.  And even though I don’t look anything like her, I always thought it would be fun to do a biopic about (her).  I’ve done a little bit of singing.  I’m not a singer in any way, but (studios) can work with you.  I thought that would be cool.  But I don’t know what the project is.

I think what’s so cool about acting in this business is there’s all these different elements coming together, and you don’t know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes magic happens.  My boyfriend and I speak about this sometimes, where you’re so excited to see how a scene turns out because I felt so strongly about what I did.  I want to see it.  But then it’s not lit well, and you don’t see anything, and without the lighting hitting you in the right way you don’t see what’s happening across your eyes or face, or whatever.  It’s one of those crafts where everybody has such an important part, and you don’t know what you’re going to get until it comes out.

When Cinderella’s Revenge came to you, was there a part of you that thought, “It’s just another genre movie?” After Species I imagine you probably received a lot of those types of movies.  The genre is always going to be something you’re associated with.

Yeah, I’ve done some.  I’m very grateful for that.  I’m super grateful to my fan base in the world, because the fans are so loyal.  I’m all about it.  But, it’s still a business.  And we still have to make things that we don’t want to make sometimes.  (Cinderella’s Revenge) is not one of them.  This was really fun for me, because I love the writing of the fairy godmother.  I thought it was such a fun concept.  But, I was a single mom with two kids, and I did some films that I didn’t want to do.  Not all the roles I picked are based on the perfect, ideal thing that I would have done.  But (Cinderella’s Revenge) was one where I liked the idea of the humour mixed with the original story.  It was super fun.

Cinderella’s Revenge is in North American theatres from April 26th, 2024.  An Australian release date is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.