“Every Day Was Like a Dream”: Maria Bakalova on Filming ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’

amandla stenberg maria bakalova bodies bodies bodies

From the moment Maria Bakalova appears on Zoom, she’s warm, bubbly and enthusiastic, taking time to ask how I am, and apologising profusely for her background.

Pleasure to meet you, I’m so sorry for my background!” she exclaims, explaining that she’s in New York City for work and the shot of her bed in the background is the only way she can set up.

“So excuse this, please!” she says, gesturing to her bed.

With that out of the way, Bakalova says she’s excited to talk about her latest film, the A24 horror flick Bodies Bodies Bodies.

maria bakalova bodies bodies bodies

Bakalova stars alongside Amandla Stenberg, Pete Davidson, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Myha’la Herrold and Lee Pace, making Bodies Bodies Bodies one of the fiercest ensemble casts of the year.

Working with them, Bakalova says, was “like a dream”.

“Oh my gosh! Every single day that we were shooting was bittersweet, because we all were facing this mutual enemy which was the storm, which we all felt physically on us, because it was rain, blood, mud, water,” she pauses, catching herself, “rain and water is basically the same thing — but, wind as well!”

While the friendships depicted in Bodies Bodies Bodies could be described as tenuous, Bakalova says that the reality off screen was the complete opposite.

“After every single night of shooting, we all were getting together and holding each other’s hands and talking nice things to each other, and being the complete opposite of the people you see on screen,” she says, “and having the complete opposite relationship with each other — some honest relationships, and friendships, that I hope will last, if not forever then for a very long time!”

The film follows a group of 20-somethings who attend a ‘hurricane party’ at a remote mansion. When a party game of bodies bodies bodies ends with a real dead body on the ground, everyone becomes a suspect as they try to find the killer amongst them. In the film, Bakalova plays Bee, the new girlfriend of Stenberg’s Sophie, and from the moment they arrive at the mansion, it’s evident that there is tension in the air between Sophie and her friends.

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Being the outsider to this strained friendship group, Bee is a character who spends a lot of time digesting her surroundings internally, a trait Bakalova says is very different from her own personality. In fact, it’s one of the things that appealed to her about the character — well, that and the fact that it was A24, which she describes as “a visionary company”.

“Having the chance to think of Bee as a character I can potentially play has being challenging to me,” she explains, “because usually I’ve been given characters who are WAY too extreme — like from somebody very dark and deep, to somebody who is hilariously outspoken and crazy and wild. They have been also expressive, and Bee is this private, introverted character that is kind of awkward, as well, because she’s just shy, somehow.”

Describing Bee as “something way more different” than herself, Bakalova explains that she was “interested to explore what provoked her to be this person” and how she would navigate the situation “with all these people that are so far away from her, in every single sense”.

“So that intrigued me the most, because it’s someone I have nothing in common with!” she says, adding, “except the fact that we’re both from different countries, probably, and something that is universal to all of us is the dream of belonging somewhere”.

Bakalova laughs.

“[She’s] someone that is maybe smarter than me in some senses! Because I speak everything that happens in my head!” she exclaims.

In fact, Bakalova says she is “trying” to take a page out of her character’s book, but suspects it may not be going so well.

“Am I succeeding in it? I’m not sure!” she laughs. “But I’m trying to be more — more, um, how to say it? — More concerned about what I’m saying, instead of just saying it out there.”

She continues: “My words are like a mess sometimes! Especially if I’m around friends, it’s like whatever comes into my mind goes straight out of my mouth, and Bee is not like that! She is straight-forward, organised, disciplined person.”

Although Australian audiences will likely know her from her role in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm — for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2021 Academy Awards — Bakalova has been acting since she was 12 in her home country of Bulgaria, and comes from a theatrical background. It’s this training that led her to a lengthy preparation process before the filming of Bodies Bodies Bodies began filming.

With such an introverted character, Bakalova says that knowing Bee’s backstory was important for getting her right when the camera began rolling.

“I’m coming from a theatrical background, and we are taught to create a biography of every single character that we are going to play,” she explains. “So every time I join a project, I develop a biography, and reasons why, and how they got to this point that we find them in the script, first page.

“So I discussed with [director] Halina [Reijn], ‘is this correct? Is this how she sees her?’ and how is she feeling, herself, because Halina is also coming from a theatrical background and she’s also a foreign person in the United States, so she can also pretty much relate to this side of Bee — her history, her memories, what had driven her there,” she says. “So it’s been a lot of preparation for her … the shooting itself wasn’t that many days, but the preparation process took longer, probably as long as the shooting itself.”

As the film progresses and things begin to spiral out of control, Bee maintains her interiority, something Bakalova says was difficult to maintain throughout the shoot as her castmates were all acting out their more chaotic roles.

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“It was definitely hard for me, as Maria, because as you know, I’m European, I’m Eastern European and my temperament as Maria is like ‘DADADA DA DA DADA!’” — she gestures wildly — “very expressive!”

She continues: “So when something similar to the situation that they’re dealing with happens in my life, I will always be screaming as well, and talking like crazy! And we have the stone-faced Bee, out there, that is just… assessing the situation, somehow, in her mind, and it was hard! For me as an actress it was a little bit harder, because she is more of a person of action instead of talking.”

She laughs.

“I’m a little bit the opposite!” she says. “I like to talk! So it was interesting. It was interesting to think like her for awhile, she’s an interesting person.”

As we wrap up our conversation, Bakalova says she’s looking forward to visiting Australia in the future.

“I’m dying to come!” she gushes, adding, “Have a beautiful day and the happiest week!”

Bodies Bodies Bodies will be in HOYTS cinemas from September 15.

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