Taking its cue from A Quiet Place — the Emily Blunt and John Krasinski horror movie where characters weren’t able to speak or make noise out of fear of exposing themselves to creatures lurking around — the Sandra Bullock Netflix film Bird Box has made things even scarier as it denies its characters of their sight by forcing them to wear blindfolds.
“It wasn’t fun, but it’s not meant to be fun,” Sandra admitted in a recent promotional interview of the filming. “But I liked the fact that it did half the work for you. I didn’t have the luxury of being comfortable, and that helped. I didn’t realize that my crabbiness and irritability was stemming from the fact that I was not with my usual superpowers, which are your crutches as an actor: Your eyeballs are things that help you translate the scene and convey emotion. I didn’t have that. [But] there were two times that I had to sort of make sure I could see when I had to fall with the kids. I wasn’t about to put their lives at risk for my Method acting. But it was a powerful sort of realization of what you’re capable of when you don’t have your eyes.”
Bird Box, which is available now for streaming on Netflix, picks up events following the decimation of much of the population by a mysterious force. If you see this force, you die. Now those who have survived have to avoid coming into contact with this being that takes the form of their worst fears. As the streaming service noted, “Searching for hope and a new beginning, a woman and her children embark on a dangerous journey through the woods and down a river to find the one place that may offer sanctuary. To make it, they’ll have to cover their eyes from the evil that chases them — and complete the trip blindfolded.” Yeah, Sandra was right: it doesn’t sound like fun.
In a video interview with Hey U Guys, the actress shared that the appeal of the project for her was that it felt like two films in one. “And if the two worked hand in hand and supported each other,” she mused, “we might have a chance of introducing those who love popcorn films, like a psychological thriller or horror film, to the ones who like a more intimate, small, and complex film, and vice versa. If we brought those two together and leave people feeling and thinking more than they thought they would, that was really exciting.”
Bird Box was an extremely physical role for Sandra, but she purposely didn’t train for it beyond the idea of making sure that she could safely carry two 5-year-olds. But when it came to, for instance, scenes requiring her to row a boat, she didn’t. “We filmed in sequence,” she said in another interview. “So when you see me pushing off the boat, getting into the water, I had never rowed a day in my life. But as we progressing filming, my rowing got better and better, like it would have for her. And it’s not that easy. It’s with a current and two children, and — note — no eyesight.”
There were, she emphasized, moments throughout filming where she needed to clarify to her young co-stars when she was being herself and when she was being the more frantic and aggressive mother character of Malorie. Sandra explained, “If I had to grab them roughly and drag them around, we always practiced and they let me know what was comfortable, what wasn’t. But Vivian, who played the little girl, feels things so deeply and the anticipation of something would make her very afraid, and that’s what makes her such a great actor. So we’d have to wait and her mom would come and set and explain to her what it is. They were just 5, but 5-year-olds who happened to be pretty incredible actors, too.”
One of the most impactful aspects of the film for Sandra was its reflection on motherhood, and what that really means. “Motherhood is frightening,” she said. “Motherhood carries with it something that is not the same for fatherhood. What I loved about the story is the river they have to cross is basically the metaphor for being a mom. How frightening it is. How brave we need to be and what we’re capable of doing when our children are put at risk.”
Bird Box can be streamed now on Netflix, blindfolds optional.