Lorenza Izzo was born and raised in Chile, and yet speaks English without a trace of an accent. The daughter of actress and model Carolina Parsons, she has followed her mother’s footsteps in show business. The 26-year-old transitioned into acting only a few years ago, making her debut in the Chilean comedy “Que pena tu boda” (“Sorry About Your Wedding”), directed by Nicolas Lopez. She made her English language debut just a year later in Eli Roth’s zombie horror flick “Aftershock,” in which survivors of a powerful earthquake are attacked by dangerous escaped prisoners and rampaging looters. She also had a small but pivotal role in Season One of the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove.”
Izzo and Roth, the filmmaker behind the successful “Hostel” and “Last Exorcism” franchise, wed last year and have continued their professional collaboration with two films that Roth directed.
Hitting theaters first is “The Green Inferno,” a horror movie involving cannibals, which will be followed October 9 with the release of the suspense thriller “Knock Knock,” in which she stars opposite “Matrix” actor Keanu Reeves.
Izzo’s characters in each of those films couldn’t be more different. As Justine in “Green Inferno,” she is an altruistic college student who joins other young students who venture to the Amazon region of Peru to draw attention to the exploitation of the area’s natural resources. When their plane crashes in the jungle, the Westerners are horrified to discover a cannibalistic tribe. In “Knock Knock,” she plays a ruthless, self-centered and possibly mentally disturbed young woman named Genesis who, along with her equally gorgeous yet destructive friend, terrorizes a wealthy married architect (Reeves) in his home.
Izzo recently spoke about her two upcoming films, working on location in Peru and Chile and what’s ahead.
Q: In “The Green Inferno,” what were the biggest challenges, such as the rituals, in the film?
Izzo: You have to be a trouper to go down there. I, at least, had worked down there previously in “Aftershock,” so I knew a lot of the crew. The real troupers were the (new) American ones, who were coming from their safe places—Kirby (Bliss Blankton), Daryl (Sabara) and Magda (Apanowicz)—all the way to the jungle. I speak Spanish, so I had a much deeper connection to what was happening. Most of the time you were fighting and struggling with bug bites where you couldn’t stop scratching. The heat was so suffocating that you would sometimes pass out. That was very common. And there were the diarrhea attacks. There were a lot of challenges and daily struggles. There were moments when I asked myself, “What am I doing? Oh my God, I’m going to die. Oh my God, I’m going to die in the jungle and no one’s going to find me because this river is too frickin’ strong. No one’s going to find my body because it’ll be in pieces. I’m in a horror movie—literally.” In the river scene where you can see me screaming, I’m actually screaming “Cuerda!” That was our safe word (for help). But no one knew I was actually scared. The only security measure was a frickin’ rope that some guy was pushing on. I could feel my hip going into the rock and thought I was going to die and no one is paying attention.
Q: Did you feel like you were corrupting the villagers with Western technology?
Izzo: It was a fascinating process to watch the kids being amazed by the ice and the camera, and by the third day they were taking selfies. We developed a beautiful relationship with them. We had at least two hours in the morning to interact with people. I spoke Spanish with them. We’d play soccer and the country game called Catch the Pig. With the older people, they had an understanding of life that was, for me, life-changing. It was great to be stripped of every connection I have to my usual world. There was no cell reception or anything. So, like my character, I was stripped of everything and just forced to sit down and connect. It’s scary to get away from what you’re used to but it was nice to have a conversation with someone and just talk and listen and find out what they go through in their daily lives. I definitely took that back. Learning from them was truly magical, and they were so sweet. They would lift up our hair and blow on our necks when we were hot.
Q: You were working with a lot of nonprofessionals as extras in this. How was it working with the indigenous people, who weren’t familiar with movies, let alone moviemaking?
Izzo: It was fun. Some were actually professionals. The (village) elder was an actress from Peru. The headhunter is a Chilean actor. It was like a beautiful summer camp.
Q: How did you prepare for this role?
Izzo: We did this three years ago, and I thought I’d be sick of talking about it, but the memories become more alive as time goes by, and more precious too. It was a magical experience. There was no way to prepare for it. We were lucky we had an awesome crew that felt like family. (The cast) became friends right away because we were in really harsh conditions. That was for the jungle part. I was lucky to get to shoot (some scenes) in New York. We started with that and it was super calm. We shot at Columbia University, where my friend went to school. Before production started I lived with him for a couple of weeks to see what it was like. I went to college for two years but that was in Chile. I attended high school in America so I understood American culture, but I wanted to dive into Justine and make her feel completely real have her be the eyes of the audience.
Q: How was it going from a character like this to the destructive girl you play in “Knock Knock?”
Izzo: One is very worried about society and kind of naïve and a dreamer, and she goes through a journey and becomes a warrior. She goes through that arc, like a coming-of-age. Genesis is in a different world. She doesn’t care at all about society. It’s more about her finding a calm, peaceful reality where she can belong in. So, for me, it was fun. I love playing a psychopath. She was hard to play. It was very emotionally draining, but worth every second.
Q: You went to this remote jungle location to this static upscale home to shoot.
Izzo: Yeah, habitat-wise it was completely different. I went from the jungle to this condensed confined house. I thought it would be easier, but it was dialogue-heavy so it was way harder.
Q: Is there a “Knock Knock” sequel possibility, because there’s a hint about another person being part of they girls’ operation?
Izzo: There’s also a possibility that Genesis has like six different personalities. There’s an alternate possibility where none of that even happened. That’s what I love about the movie. It assumes the audience is smart and can figure it out and it doesn’t put anything on you about answers.
Q: “Knock Knock” is likely to generate some discussion among audiences afterwards about who’s responsible for the violence in it?
Izzo: Yeah. Whatever the answer you come up with reflects a lot about who you are, and what you take away from it.