Bella Thorne And Melissa Leo Discuss Measure Of Revenge - Exclusive Interview

This interview contains references to sexual assault.

In the new movie "Measure of Revenge," Bella Thorne stars opposite Melissa Leo as the two women embark on an emotionally strenuous journey. The premise of the film is centered around Leo's character, Lillian, who's investigating the death of her son. This investigation leads her to Thorne's character, Taz, and the ensuing series of events is equal parts thrilling and nerve-wracking. Directed by Peyfa, the movie introduces unique elements into the plot to transform the story from something familiar into something entirely its own.


During an exclusive interview with The List, Thorne and Leo discussed what it was like to film this intense thriller. The pair spoke fondly of one another and highlighted the ways in which they learned from each other on set. It's clear that the former Disney star and the "Frozen River" actress formed a close bond while filming "Measure of Revenge," and it's this bond that carries both the conversation and the plot of the movie. Thorne and Leo also talked to The List about what it was like to meet each other for the first time, how they prepared for their respective roles, and much more.

Melissa Leo shared what drew her to the role

Melissa, I think one of the things that's most interesting about "Measure of Revenge" is the fact that it brings all these really unique elements into the premise, which sort of transforms the story into something that people may have heard before into something that's entirely it's own. When you first read the script, was there a specific scene or a character interaction that compelled you to pursue the role?


Melissa Leo: No, but it's a really wonderful insight on the film. It really is. Bella's character and my character form the relationship in the way they form the relationship [because] she's this beautiful young thing that she is and I'm this experienced older thing that I am. It was, on every level, an interesting thing that way. You're seeing things that you don't see in conventional ways.

I remember, at one point, the art department had put a bowl of fruit on a table and I stopped before we started shooting and said, "Who's bringing Lillian fresh fruit for her fruit bowl?" A fruit bowl! Look at movies. You don't get a dining hall without a dining table without a bowl of fruit. It's a cinematographer or art department choice — barely gets looked at. That empty bowl sitting between me and the police who was doing no help to me ... The opportunity for that kind of moment in this film ... Because I was helping Jen [Gatien] with the producing of it, I was able to step in and say, "Let's take the fruit out of that bowl."


I wasn't going to play a killer, like, "Ooh, gruesome!" I'm way against killing, but, there's a funness to [the movie]. It's because of this element, that this actress is getting these visits from her characters. That tips it over from being some movie about murder and death to being a movie that you haven't quite seen yet. That's what Jen and I were looking for because the only movie that's ever worked is the movie nobody's ever seen before.

Bella Thorne discussed the rewarding aspect of filming with Leo

Bella, I wanted to say that your character has this really interesting sense of duality to her, where when you first meet her, you think she's one way on the surface, but then she sort of blossoms into this other version of herself throughout the film. So on a personal level, what was most rewarding to you about being able to play the role and kind of play that out on screen?


Bella Thorne: [Having] my experience with Melissa [was] definitely the most rewarding. For every character, it's very important that you have an arc. You don't want a character that's like this [holds hand even] or like this [holds hand pointed upward], or like [holds hand pointed downward]. You want a little bit of this [moves hand in up and down motion], and then a shoot, and depending on where you go down or up, that was important. Luckily, Melissa and I, when we filmed our first scene, it really was our first scene and first time meeting each other and that played a really big role in what was unspoken between us. 

I got Melissa to work with, who is so open and immediately giving and vulnerable to me. That allowed me to be vulnerable with her, which therefore then plays a big part later on. It worked perfectly. Sometimes, you shoot the end of the movie before you shoot the first scene, and that's always a little interesting. I got lucky on this one.


It's actually so funny you mentioned that because that was the question I wanted to ask both of you because that initial interaction you guys have is so strained, given the initial context. It's funny that it happened to be the first thing you filmed because if you filmed it at the end when you guys were really fond of each other, that would be hard to be in a place where you have to express that animosity.

Thorne: That's acting. We have to do it anyway, no matter what. We're always prepared to bring it in that way, but it definitely was a cherry on top of the experience to start it off like that. It was awesome. Straight up, that scene was awesome. My favorite scene to film. And then, when we're together in, what is it? The restaurant bar thing ... When we're sitting together. That was also another amazing scene to film and to learn from Melissa and her technique.

Thorne and Leo spoke about the magic of their bond

That's so nice that you both had such a positive experience working with each other and working on this project in this great, emotional way.

Leo: It is that in fact, part of that ability to see this tension between Taz and Lillian is that even though we really didn't know each other, we knew what we were there to do on that street, by that car. We had both prepared to meet there. I, as an actor, know that I'm meeting Bella, right? Lillian is meeting Taz. What Bella's talking about is a willingness to use that first meeting for all it's worth. We adored each other.


I was so thrilled that she had shown up and that she was really who she seemed she might be, the way she had prepared herself. By the time she came, I'd already been shooting. I didn't get to see her find her costumes, etc. When she appeared there, having seen photographs of her in other roles, I was like, "Oh man, there's Taz!" This delightful little imp inside this hard cold [person] ... When we play that scene with all that tension, it's also because we're like actors falling in love. ... It's because it's all pretend to us, but thank God it's real to you. It's all pretend to us.

What a beautiful experience that you both felt like that right from the beginning. That must be unique, right? When you're on set and you feel like your scene partner's giving you exactly what you need them to give, so you can give your best performance. That must be incredible to experience.


Leo: It's, unfortunately, rarer it might be, but it does happen. It is magic. That's real magic. When you see things crackle between people, it's not something that could be rehearsed or learned, but their chemistry. They talk about it.

Thorne: Yeah.

Leo: For me, it also has to do with, who is that actor opposite? Are they going to go toe to toe? Are they going to really do it? That was it. Talking about her costuming — she was really going to do it. And then she goes along, as I've learned in these interviews today, and she's like absorbing all these things, my 40 years of experience have taught me. This girl's going "Woo!"

Thorne spoke about the difficulties of being fearless on set

Oh yeah. I believe that! I was going to say, what a perfect way to describe her, because, Bella, I feel like you're so fearless in everything you do personally and professionally. I feel like you can see that on screen in this movie, it's very tangible that you're just getting right in it.


Thorne: It's hard to be fearless on set. You are taught to, especially as an actor, to be good, shut up and say your lines. When you point out something like the fruit, like this could be one of the worst things to see in this f***ing scene. No one's bringing her fruit, her son just died. Do you think she's getting fruit? This house should be empty. Disgusting. It should be cold. It should feel like she does, like a loss of life. These kinds of moments are so pivotal. To stick to your guns, watching Melissa, always doing these kinds of things, and sticking to your guns is so important as an actor. It really will push you forward because it's hard to speak up. 

A lot of actors also get fired for speaking up, as well. When you see someone so fearless, like her, you're like, "Wow, I should do that. I can do that. I can do that. Come on. You can do it. You can do it!" It's amazing.


Leo: And you just watched her do it.

They both shared details about the filming process

I know it was such an emotional experience for both of you. What was that like before you would step onto the set to drop back into those emotions in between takes?

Leo: It's very interesting when interviewers ask about the emotional aspect of being an actor. I want to say to you first, you are a very good film watcher.


Oh, thank you! That's so kind.

Leo: You've seen things and asked us things that tell us you're really watching the film. Keep it up. You're right on it. But you asked something else. What did she ask Bella?

Thorne: About getting emotional and getting into character before the scene.

Leo: Oh yeah! So, that's our job. Do you see? As easy as it is for you to watch the film and have these insights, that's what it's like for us to go and be emotional. We know it's coming. We've read the script. We hopefully know how to prepare ourselves. We hopefully have done enough training, so that we know that we're not going to rip our own hearts out, but we're going to allow the character's heart to be ripped out. It's a thin and complicated line, but it's also really important to remember. 


Thorne: I totally agree. To understand that line is so important.

Leo: That's exactly it, that you don't get lost in it. The more experience you have, the more you realize. That's something I'm sure Bella watched in me, as I could be completely lost in Lillian and then turn around and go, "Oh, good, that's my lunch! Come on!" You know, 'cause that's what we do. That's how we do.

Thorne spoke candidly about what it was like to film difficult scenes

Thorne: It takes a long time to learn that and be able to separate yourself, especially when you go through ... I was talking the other day and I was like, "You know, what's f***ed up?" When an actor, for instance ... Okay, I was molested growing up. For me to have to act in a scene where this thing happens again, where you're using this trauma to get back into a place that you've spent so long trying to get out of, that kind of thing ... when you play characters that have been through things you've been through as well, that's when it gets harder to separate. 


That's when it gets harder to tear these characters apart from yourself to shut that off. Like Melissa said, with time, and I'm sure I will get better at that with time as well, the turning off then turning on because it is a little hard to do it. Sometimes, you get lost in it and that's not a good place to be. Don't get lost in it.

Bella, I wanted to say thank you for sharing that. I know it's important to talk about those things and be open about those things and you shouldn't glaze over it ever. It should always be highlighted for the importance of what it is. So I appreciate you both just taking the time to be so honest with me about the film. It's been such a great experience, so thank you.


Thorne: Thank you for all your lovely insights.

Leo: Thank you, and enjoy the film.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

"Measure of Revenge" is now available on demand and for digital rental and purchase.