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'Longlegs' draws from 'Silence of the Lambs,' but stands on its own terrifying feet

 Actor Maika Monroe plays FBI agent Lee Harker in the new film <em>Longlegs.</em>
Actor Maika Monroe plays FBI agent Lee Harker in the new film Longlegs.

Updated July 12, 2024 at 14:00 PM ET

The new horror film Longlegs is about an inexperienced but determined FBI agent chasing a serial killer before he strikes again.

Sound familiar?

Longlegs, out today, is influenced heavily by the Academy Award-winning The Silence of the Lambs, says its writer and director, Osgood “Oz” Perkins.

The Clarice Starling doppelganger here is FBI agent Lee Harker, played by Maika Monroe, who was memorable in another horror film, It Follows. Monroe has just one scene with co-star Nicolas Cage, who is almost unrecognizable as the serial killer in heavy prosthetics and scraggly hair.

Oz Perkins says he gave Cage a wide berth when it came to creating the terrifying mannerisms of Longlegs and didn’t have him and Monroe meet before their one scene together.

Both Monroe and Perkins sat for an interview with Morning Edition’s A Martinez to discuss Cage’s terrifying transformation and how Perkins’ own family history influenced Longlegs.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A Martinez: How much of an influence was Silence of the Lambs really?

Osgood Perkins: I ripped it off. I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t. That’s the fun of it. It’s meant to be sort of pop art, right? That invites the audience in to sort of say, you remember Silence of the Lambs. That made you feel good. So it’s sort of like doing a little bit of a magic trick, right? With the left hand, you’re saying it’s Silence of the Lambs. And then you let the right hand take a right-hand turn, and it’s not Silence of the Lambs at all.

Martinez: For people that don’t know, what’s the movie about?

Perkins: The movie is about this seemingly unsolvable case of the Longlegs killer, who has a weird habit of not being at the scene of the crime.

Martinez: Maika Monroe plays FBI agent Lee Harker. Clarice Starling is one of my favorite movie characters of all time. So how are they cut, maybe, a little bit from the same cloth?

Maika Monroe: I think just on a very surface level, there are similarities — both young FBI agents put on this case. But I think sort of beyond that, Lee feels very different to me, just how she goes through life. She’s got this sort of awkwardness. A loner.

Martinez: Another reason this character is different than Clarice Starling: We get to know a lot more about how she came to be the flawed person she is. Her mom is a constant presence in her life — protective, pious, but ultimately damaging. Osgood Perkins, basically, her family screwed her up?

Perkins: All parents — we have to sort of just accept the fact that we are going to mess it up. We’re going to poison the well, at least to some degree. And certainly, the movie is much more about the parent than it is about, you know, the devil.

Martinez: For those who maybe don’t get the last name Perkins, your father is Anthony Perkins from Psycho. So hopefully everyone knows who that is…

Perkins: I think everybody listening to NPR knows who that is.

Martinez: I hope I don’t have to do a whole explainer on that part. But, Osgood, I’m wondering how maybe your family influenced how you portrayed family in this film.

Perkins: You know, living the life that I did as the child of famous people, especially a famous actor father who had sort of a — not a sort of — but had a closeted life, had a closeted sexuality life in the ‘50s and ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Even today, it’s kind of not that OK, which is insane to say. But for a leading man to be gay or bisexual — it’s still not a thing that’s on the ticket.

Part of what happened in my family life was that sort of a construct was made, and it’s not even a bad thing. It’s what we do as parents. We do our best to sort of insulate and protect and kind of translate the world to our children as best we can, and it’s an imperfect science at best. Some of us are lucky to be kind of good at it, and some people are really disasters as parents. I had great parents, but in a complex situation.

Monroe on not meeting Cage before their scene together

Monroe: Oz decided for us not to meet prior.

Martinez: You did not meet Nicolas Cage.

Monroe: I never met him once. And then on top of that, I never saw what Longlegs looked like until Oz called action and I opened the door to the interrogation room, and there was Nic Cage as Longlegs.

Martinez: Were you OK with that? I mean, some performers like to prepare and...

Monroe: I loved it.

Martinez: You loved it.

Monroe: I’ve never had an experience like that before on a set. And I think it was so special. It was just such a visceral reaction. You know, I have my lines memorized, but I have no idea what is going to happen when I walk into that room, and that — I’ll never forget that.

Martinez: That is one intense scene. I haven’t seen a scene like that in a long time.

Perkins: But also, it’s, like, an eight-page scene or something...

Monroe: We were shooting for hours.

Perkins: We’re shooting forever. And so at a certain point, we’re kind of on the rails and things were going fine and we were sort of getting into some of the sort of pickup stuff and sort of dirty work, Nic did sort of say, [impersonating Cage] “I really liked you in It Follows…”

Martinez: He gave you that much.

Monroe: Oh yeah. Yep. I heard his actual voice...for the first time, and I was just, like, sitting across the room like, “Oh, my God. Did that just happen?” It was crazy.

Perkins: Yeah, ‘cause he’s a genuinely real dude. And he’s lovely. And he’s smart, and he loves movies, and he loves actors, and he loves acting. He’s a big fan of all of it.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Julie Depenbrock
Julie Depenbrock (she/her) is an assistant producer on Morning Edition. Previously, she worked at The Washington Post and on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show. Depenbrock holds a master's in journalism with a focus in investigative reporting from the University of Maryland. Before she became a journalist, she was a first grade teacher in Rosebud, South Dakota. Depenbrock double-majored in French and English at Lafayette College. She has a particular interest in covering education, LGBTQ issues and the environment. She loves dogs, hiking, yoga and reading books for work (and pleasure).

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