Malin Akerman & Lorenza Izzo Open Up About Filming The Aviary - Exclusive Interview

Running away from something is easy, but escaping the confines of your mind is a completely different kind of escape. The new film "The Aviary" explores exactly that.

Jillian and Blair have finally built up the courage to escape the corporate cult they've found themselves living in for the last few years. With nothing but the bags on their back, the two venture out into the desert in hopes of starting fresh after escaping Skylight. The only problem is they're running out of food, and they can't seem to shake the thought that someone is following them — someone that has already made their way into their minds.

For the actresses involved, filming the thriller was no easy feat. Malin Akerman and Lorenza Izzo not only had to get themselves into the emotional mindset of cult survivors, but they also had to withstand the same landscape that their characters do: brutal heat, freezing nights, and loads of bug bites.

We had the opportunity to sit down with the duo to hear all about it. In an exclusive interview with The List, the two leading ladies discussed the difficulties of making a movie in the desert, what it was like working with each other, and the lessons they hope audiences learn after watching "The Aviary."

Here's why they wanted to star in The Aviary

What drew each of you to this script?

Malin Akerman: I love a good psychological thriller. It's what I prefer to watch if I'm going to watch anything that has a bit of a scary tinge to it. I love when it's character-based, you know? As an actor, you get a lot to dive into with this. It's a really well written script by Chris [Cullari] and Jennifer [Raite]. I had a nice chat with them from the very beginning, and they had their heads screwed on in the right places, and I felt like these are two people that I could trust-fall into, because you really have to trust your directors in a scenario like this when it's a two-hander.

It always comes down to the script from the get-go, and hopefully, what I can bring to it as an actor, or what I hope to bring to it, and what the challenge would be, and I felt like this was a great character to dive into. I've never played someone who's been brainwashed before and trying to escape her own mind, so that was my draw to it for sure.

Lorenza Izzo: You brought it all, Malin. [Laughs]

Same for me, actually. I read the script, and I hadn't done horror in a long time, and I agree. I find mind-horror to be the scariest. Human nature can be a minefield, no pun intended. [Laughs] There was something really scary about not trusting your mind when escaping a cult, and going on this really arduous physical journey of living in the desert while trying to run away.

I've been obsessed with Malin. I hadn't gotten the chance to work with her, and she was attached, and they met with me, and I was like, "Have me. I want to do this." [Laughs]

It was right in the middle of COVID and with movies like this, there's so many opportunities for it to not go great. Small, indie filmmaking is a precious craft and art, but it can go so many bad ways. This was one of those rare cases where it everyone was there to make the same movie: the crew, our incredible directors, our producers. We were in the same frequency of what we wanted to make, and we were all really there to get our hands dirty for real in the desert [Laughs], and it was a wonderful experience.

What it was like filming a movie in the desert

How did you both prepare for not only emotionally challenging roles, but physically demanding roles out in the elements?

Akerman: It was definitely both of those. You're right. Being out in the deserts, it's extremely hot temperatures during the day. It gets up to 100 degrees, and then at night it falls down to 32 degrees.

Izzo: And the bugs.

Akerman: Physically, it was challenging, but everyone was wonderful, and we had heating tents, and we had everything set up and ready to go as much as we could.

The challenge is always getting into a character, and especially the psyche of these girls who not only are physically escaping a cult, but psychologically escaping it as well, and learning how to trust themselves. There's a parallel in life, too, in life's journey, of trusting your own gut, and building yourself up, and believing in yourself.

It's drawing from that in building this character, falling into the confusion of the situation and trying to find the truth within it, within her own head as well as her partner Blair, and figuring out where the truths lie. Maybe not always succeeding –

Izzo: [Laughs]

Akerman: – but that was the fun of it. [Laughs]

Malin Akerman & Lorenza Izzo talk working together

For a majority of the movie, you two are playing off of each other, so what was your process like working together?

Izzo: Awful. It was awful. The worst time. [Laughs]

Akerman: [Laughs]

Izzo: It's not work, because like you said, like Malin said earlier, it's a two woman act, and that can be an incredible experience, and it's certainly a delicious gift as an actor, to get to only rely on the words and your performance and your acting partner. It only works if there's chemistry and real trust between those two people.

It was so liberating. What was so scary was that it was actually easy. There were so many challenges of finding the character and portraying those words that were on the page, but the mix of the beautiful directors, the beautiful writing, and my beautiful co-star was what put it all together. That wasn't so hard for me, because you need a lot of trust to be able to do something like this, and there was all the trust in the world. Then we were — It was like playing.

The stars share the challenges of filming The Aviary

What was the toughest scene you had to film?

Izzo: Oh, there was a lot of tough scenes. [Laughs]

Akerman: I feel like every scene was pretty tough. [Laughs]

Izzo: This job is a lot about enjoying pain. [Laughs]

Akerman: God, I feel like the later scenes were, as we were getting more and more confused and realizing how messed up we were in our heads, those were the ones that were hard to hold onto just because the stakes, where the stakes are at, and what this meant for the characters. It's hard. Like Lorenza said, too, it's all pretty high stakes, because the whole time we're escaping, we're not sure if we're going to get caught.

Izzo: It's so heavily layered. At any given moment, there's three different storylines happening in our heads.

Akerman: It was hard to keep a track. It got confusing at some points, but it really truly was — the elements again. Truly, it got real hot, and it got real cold, but everyone was doing their best.

We really did have a great time. In between takes, there was a lot of laughter because of some of the silliness that ensued, and we were all losing our minds at certain points. We said, "Alright. We're going to keep going. [Laughs] Don't know what we're saying anymore, but let's keep going."

Izzo: Malin, remember my bug situation? My bug on my bottom situation? [Laughs]

Akerman: Yeah, sure do. She got bit so bad. [Laughs] First day, wasn't it?

Izzo: I got bit on my bum, and that bite kept on growing and developing, and there wasn't much to do, because I still had to wear the not-appropriate clothing, and I had to be sitting on my butt. That was an actual real painful situation that we laughed about the entire shoot.

Akerman: Growing butt situation. Bug bite butt. [Laughs] I felt so bad. We had the medic there all the time doing different ointments.

Izzo: It was wonderful. [Laughs]

How the film changed the way they feel about the world

What theme or message resonated with you guys the most after walking away from this movie?

Izzo: Great question.

Akerman: The constant search in our lives. Everyone's searching for the answer, and there's no quick fix, and if someone ever presents themselves to you saying that they have the answer, and they'll help you find yourself, it's not what it seems. The only person who can figure it out is yourself. It's like you say, "You have to learn to love yourself before you love others. You have to figure yourself out and help yourself before you can help others," and having a support group is different than having people who tell you that they have the answers. [Laughs] Don't trust that.

Izzo: Red flags, red flags.

Akerman: Yep.

What about you, Lorenza?

Izzo: It's a very similar answer. The whole time I was there, there was a lot of questioning of identity, and finding your identity as a human being. There's so many — there were parallels for me, in that sense, of when our identity gets fragmented as we grow older. We have to figure out what we want to hold onto from when we were kids, what was given to us, what we actually still stand for, your value systems, how that can so quickly change.

In the research and in playing Blair, being out there in the desert, our whole lives are about questioning who we are and figuring out who we are. Like Malin so beautifully said, this is about figuring that out and trusting yourself first, and that can be really hard if you're at a vulnerable place.

Unfortunately, there's situations around us constantly telling us and manipulating us into different places, especially today in this day and age with influencers, and social media, and so many different news outlets that you don't know what to trust. I look at my 21-year-old sister, I'm in my 30s, and there's this generational gap of mistrust, and it's incredibly difficult today to find. I can't imagine what it's like to be young today and try to find your community and your crew and your group that's a safe environment to develop that identity, but that was a theme that really stuck with me.

"The Aviary" hits theaters on Friday, April 29. The film is also available on digital and on demand the same day.