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Elisabeth Moss
Photograph: Universal

Elisabeth Moss: ‘Everyone has had some sort of experience with gaslighting’

The Invisible Man star on embracing the darkness and battling arachnids

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

“No one wants to watch me having brunch on a sunny day in a movie,” says Elisabeth Moss in a suitably shadowy corner of a Hollywood soundstage. Sure enough, she has become a go-to pick for films and TV shows with a darker edge—including the new horror adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man. Filmed in Australia, it reimagines the old bandage-wrapped Universal Pictures monster as a modern-day stalker who torments his ex, Celia (Moss)—even after his apparent suicide. Unseen antagonists are a recurring theme of my chat with her, right down to the terrifying spider in her on-set trailer.

The antagonist of the original Invisible Man film was bent on chaos, whereas this movie seems to be more about control. That feels very contemporary.
Extremely. The balance in this movie is between straight-up entertainment and this extremely complicated, emotional character arc. I watched it by myself and I jumped, like, nine times. This film is legitimately gonna fuck people up.

If you remove the part about the invisible guy, it sounds like a movie about abusive relationships, right?
Exactly. You don’t think: Let’s do The Invisible Man and make it a feminist retelling of the story that’s about gaslighting and abuse, but that’s what Leigh [Whannell, the writer-director] did. Everyone has had some sort of experience with this—whether it’s politically or when you’re thinking, This is wrong, and everyone is like, “No, it’s fine.”

Does that familiarity help you with a role?
I’m cool either way. Like, for Her Smell, I have zero relation to grunge music and zero relation to being a rock star, and I don’t do drugs. So, I’m comfortable going from scratch and having nothing. 

‘It’s really incredible to be a part of anything where the costume you wear is instantly recognizable’

What movies scare you the most?
Jordan Peele’s films, like Get Out and Us. He’s really redefining a genre by making thoughtful popcorn movies. They’re movies that you’re gonna see in the theater and get the shit scared out of you, but you want to talk about them afterwards.

How do you feel about the red dress in The Handmaid’s Tale becoming a protest symbol?
It’s really incredible, honestly, to be a part of anything where the costume that you wear is instantly recognizable as to what you stand for and what side you’re on.

Does it put more pressure on your performance? 
Oh, in the best way. That’s exactly what we want—that is what we’re standing for. It’s not pressure; it’s completely welcome.

I’ve read that every actor got to keep something from the Mad Men set.
Oh, we looted the place. It was fucking pillaged. I have my typewriter and my red thermos, which I carried everywhere. But the most important thing I have is this cheap ring that I wore in every single episode.

You’re in the new Wes Anderson movie, The French Dispatch. How did you get involved with that?
Wes actually emailed me and asked me to do it. I freaked out. I was like: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” Luckily, I had a couple days off from The Handmaid’s Tale and was able to go to France. I have a very small part in it, but it was really cool.

Did you meet Bill Murray, and did you talk about the Chicago Cubs with him?
Best question ever. We totally talked about the Cubs. I texted my mom and my brother, and I was like, “Oh my god, I talked to Bill Murray about the Cubs.” That’s my Bill Murray story! It was the best moment ever.

Lastly, you shot The Invisible Man in Australia. Any terrifying spider encounters? 
I stepped on one. It’s called a wolf spider—luckily, it was a baby. I was walking back from the bathroom, and it was dark, and I was just in my bare feet. I had a picture of the dead spider and I showed it to everybody on set. The job for the day was figuring out what kind of fucking spider it was.

The Invisible Man opens Fri 28. 

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