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Bella Thorne on Infamous, The Babysitter 2, and Paradise City - Exclusive interview

Before she became a Gen Z icon, Bella Thorne made her mark as a child star in the early '00s with small roles on popular shows like Entourage and The O.C. Already an accomplished veteran by 2010, Thorne continued establishing a name for herself by snagging her notable role as CeCe Jones in Disney's original TV series Shake it Up.

In between filming, the versatile star worked on several video shorts with Zendaya. Always ready to play a mean girl, Thorne took on the role of bad girl Madison Morgan in The DUFF, adding her unique flair to what could have been a stock character. She went on to play memorable horror roles in Scream: The TV Series, Amityville: The Awakening, and The Babysitter. More recently, Thorne had a 20-episode stint in Famous in Love and participated in the Fox hit The Masked Singer. Not one to confine herself, Thorne has penned four books since 2014 and released her album What Do You See Now in 2018.

Thorne has clearly come a long way since her Disney days, solidifying her role as a dynamic actor, writer, singer, director, and producer. Her candid demeanor and refusal to be anyone besides exactly who she is has given her a dedicated base of fans looking for someone in the spotlight who doesn't cave to society's expectations. 

Thorne has this trait in spades — and so does her character Arielle, from her new film Infamous. The movie takes viewers on a wild ride in a modern retelling of Bonnie and Clyde's real-life outlaw story. Instead of making their claim to fame in newspapers, Arielle and her reluctant boyfriend Dean livestream their crime frenzy on Instagram, accruing millions of followers. 

Thorne recently spoke to Looper in an exclusive interview to dish on behind-the-scenes tidbits about Infamous, why the role is important to her, who she wants to work with, and insider details on some of her upcoming projects.

Defying sexist tropes in film

Your filmography is packed with movies from all sorts of genres. You've done teen comedies like The Duff, supernatural horror like Amityville: The Awakening, romantic dramas like Midnight Sun, and plenty of thrillers. What made Infamous special in your eyes?

I think that so many times we don't see it enough where we're so particular on how we show our female leads, you know? We're so particular in how we show our leads in general, considering they all have to be likable. They all have [to] be this. I loved that it was a protagonist, and it's her vision of the events that go down. And I think that that was an interesting aspect to bring to it. It really is how it plays out in her mind.

And I love that the script was so bold in its choice to make her unlikeable in a sense. One minute you love her, and you're falling in love with her, and you're like, "Aw." And then the next minute you're like, [I] "F***ing hate you! You're [making] terrible choices! What the f***? Poor Dean!"

And one thing that I was saying to [director] Josh [Caldwell] when we first met was like, so many times with women in films they're always portrayed as whether they make bad decisions or good decisions. They're like always confused in their decisions, and they need everyone else to kind of point them [in] the way of what they want. And we watch that so much, it's so tiring. If you go back and you study women in film, you will see how much women are left up to other people making their decisions and their choices as characters — and that's such a drag.

So we really wanted to make Arielle just so definite in her decision of what she wanted [and] who she was. Who was she gonna be? And not to leave that up to question. 

And I thought that that was just what a great leading lady is. When I finally saw it up on the big screen, I was like, "Hell yeah!" Whether you agree with their choices or not, obviously not, you can find that she is so intriguing to watch onscreen. You never know what she's going to do next. And I just love focusing on women in film like that, really giving them a bold choice in their actions.

Fake tattoos and Oklahoma weather don't mix

A lot of fans were wondering if the ink you sported in the film was real when you debuted it on your Instagram. Assuming it was done for the movie, what was that application process like? And how long did it take?

For my tattoo. Yeah, right. [Laughs.] So in the trailer, luckily, I did all my own makeup, and I'm really fast in the chair — I get really antsy. I get a lot of anxiety, so I can't have people touching me for too long. So, [makeup artists] Candie [Renee] and Krischell [Blackwell], they went in on my arm, and they brought it together really fast because, like I said, I'm very antsy. I'm not staying in the chair for very long, and I have to do my makeup anyway.

I would say it's probably like 20 minutes to put on. We could do it in 20 minutes to put on every day, and you'd just have to keep touching it [up] throughout the day and making sure [it stays dry]. The problem is that you get moist, okay? I wanted to henna the tattoo when we started, but we chose the applicant. But I was thinking, 'what if we got a few touch-ups of henna throughout the filming process?' And it just was like on my skin because of the heat. When you're using an adhesive on your skin, the heat re-sticks the glue, and it comes back [up].

Your wardrobe is sticking to your tattoo. You've got fluff sticking to your arm. It looks like pieces of your tattoo are coming off on your wardrobe. It'd be very difficult in the Oklahoma weather. So that was one issue that we faced throughout the time that we shot it.

Tattoo designs and poke parties

Did you have a say in the tattoo design?

Yeah. Me and Josh talked about it a lot. We really wanted something that kind of fit her in a time and a place. Yeah, I'm being an idiot right now. I'm blanking on what... God! What it's based on... the mythological character...

But I'm going to get a write up from Josh about it. I'm going to ask him again what it is to remind me because my mind is blank. But yeah, we wanted something specific for her pieces. Because most of my tattoos are just a lot of little different things throughout time that have stuck with me. And we wanted to have those in the movie, too. I think she started stick poke s*** when she was young.

In a follow-up interview, makeup artist Candie Renee told Looper that the tattoo design is "an art-nouveau-neotraditional mashup — a new take on an old-style. The Stargazer Lilies that tied the two [tattooed] figures together symbolize a youthful, bold, beautiful, and dramatic personality. The secondary meaning of the lilies could be Arielle's longing for prosperity, wealth, and fame."

For the top of the tattoo, the designers pulled inspiration from Alfonse Mucha — a Czech painter, whose art has since become a significant influence on the tattoo industry. The bottom half depicts a Romani head, and both represent Arielle's dueling personalities, according to Renee. She said, "You notice at times, she lets her guard down and is vulnerable, and other times, she [Arielle] is a force that dares to be reckoned with."

You have tattoos yourself. Do you have any plans for another?

You know, I can always get more, yes. [There are] always plans for more, but it's not like I'm hella in a rush to do another tattoo. But, I know when we usually have a tattoo party, that's usually what we do and link up. People would come over, and we'd just do tattoos and s*** like that. But when we have another one of those in a while, I'll probably get a new one.

Dissecting the True Crime psyche

With true crime blowing up the way it is, people have a morbid fascination with serial killers and outlaw figures. The film touches on this phenomenon, too, with Arielle's diehard fans. What do you think draws civilians to these kinds of people — even in real life — and how do you feel about that kind of fanaticism?

I think that we can't help but be drawn to this crazy idea. The more we digest content, the more we want to digest more content, and we watch movies — and then as soon as we see anything in real life that's related to things that we've seen onscreen, we go, "no way I can't stop looking." You know?

I think that there's definitely a lot to comment about the "why" when we're dealing with people's psyches and whatnot of why we become so obsessed with these people and true crime and Dirty John... I'm very fascinated [by] that world, in that really dark world.

And I'm always wondering kind of why I'm so drawn to even these types of projects, movies to watch like this, documentaries to watch about people and about these psyches, and I'm naturally drawn to this topic a lot myself. So I haven't come up with the answer yet of why.

The mystical secrets of Paradise City

Shifting gears, based on the teaser for Paradise City, it looks like it could possibly have some magic or spiritual elements to it. If you can tell us, is it just a rock 'n roll vibe within the music industry, or could there be more going on underneath the surface?

Oh yes. There is definitely much more going on underneath the surface. Ash [Avildsen], our director, has a really interesting way of playing with these dynamics in the show or this dynamic of Hollywood and how Hollywood can kind of create its own. There's the greed, the want, the love, the need for acceptance — all the things in Hollywood we experienced, you know?

And that's like, what if that was... Ugh, I can't give this away. Wait, I can't give this away! I need to stop talking. I need to stop talking. I think Ash would be so mad if I just give this s*** away. I'm like, "Wait. Bella, you need to calm down!"

Yes, yes, yes. I retract my statement, or I leave it at just that. That is all you get. But yes, there are more elements to the show.

Is there anything that you can tell us about the show or the cast?

The cast was amazing. Cameron [Boyce]... you know... where do we start? That's really hard. But yeah, I don't know. That's all I'm kind of left with, with that project.

Andy [Biersack] was really amazing to work with, really nice, very much kept to himself, very professional [laughs] you know, intriguing. We definitely had to partake in some interesting scenes, as you will see. Uncomfortably first, I will say that. A lot of uncomfortable firsts for me — and I think him as well. And yeah, we got through it.

Thorne Dishes on The Babysitter 2

You have such a knack for comedic timing, which makes your satirical horror projects like Scream: The TV series and The Babysitter pop. How do you navigate being funny when blood and guts are flying everywhere? And can you tell us anything about The Babysitter 2?

That is a fun one, yes. That is hard. I love horror-comedy. When it is pulled off, it is pulled off so right. My goodness! That makes me so excited. I think that's also what makes The Babysitter such a cult classic, besides the fact that McG directs it and he's a f***ing classic, is that it is so well pulled off in that realm of horror-comedy.

There's not so much of my work that I'm really proud of. There's work that I'm proud of that I worked on and this and that, and maybe some of it was left on the edit room floor, or maybe some of it was this, maybe people didn't get to see it, they didn't choose the right... You know, you're always going to be so hard on movies and yourself when you're in them.

And [there are] very few projects, Infamous being one of them, and Babysitter as well, that I would actually be like, "Yo, I'm really proud of this." Because Babysitter in its lane for what it is is so f***ing great. I really love that movie — props off to everybody on it.

And the second one is, "Ooh, did they find a way to bring everyone back?" There's twist one [where] you're like, "Oh s***!" Twist two, you're like, "Oh s***!" Twist three, you're like, "What the f***?" Twist four? At the end of the movie? You're like, "No! No f***ing way, McG!"

You really are going along for the ride. And they just found such a smart way to bring everybody back and just do it. Man! Man oh man, is this a fun one! And there are some very gory deaths.

If you thought we were blood and guts and funny in the first one, my goodness, are we even crazier in this movie? It's twice. It's three times probably, the gore and laughs. As well as we have more added characters that are very funny.

So excited for The Babysitter 2. Can't even handle it.

Yeah, me too. It's going to be so funny. So bloody. So gory.

Bella Thorne's Hollywood bucket list

What's next for Bella Thorne in the movie business? Any film franchises you'd like to be a part of or a particular genre you'd like to explore? And do you have someone specific you'd like to work with?

Well, that is a loaded question, isn't it? Okay. There are so many people I want to work with. Ryan Murphy being one of the top. Nick Antosca, I love him. So sweet. I've gotten the honor to chat with him and become friends with him. My goodness! [There are] so many amazing people!

I mean, obviously, Quentin Tarantino is one of my very favorites. I tested on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but again, I love Quentin. He's my... I'd jump off the roof for Quentin Tarantino. He'd get me to do anything onscreen, that guy. [There are] so many people I want to work with, my goodness.

So many things that I want to do. Yes, so many movies that I have coming up, and I'm really excited about people seeing my recent work. Infamous was one I was excited about. Girl is going to be amazing. Leave Not One Alive with Melissa Leo, I know it's going to be amazing. Babysitter [2], I think, will be a really fun mix to kind of f*** people up with, as that's a kind of cult classic vibe.

I'm excited for people to see me in all these very different worlds and realms and to see that I really take pride in completely changing as a character — finding realism in that character. Things that I can find in myself, but also changing them to such an extent, even the way I speak and whatnot.

Taking a step away from the camera

So I'm just really excited for people to see my work that's coming out because I think people are going to be like, "Whoa! F*** yeah! Hold on. So, actually, she [is] coming up to bat, where we can really see it now." So hopefully, that'll be amazing.

And I'm doing so much producing [and] directing with my Fox development deal that I have. So much studying books, this, that, scripts, different projects... What do I want to make for Fox that's revolutionary to have on the network? What will get people to say, "Whoa! This is completely different." I'm so happy that Fox took a chance on this. And we're happy that the undeniably in your face Bella Thorne can, like, bring it to us.

And I'm really excited to get further down the process line with Fox on that stuff because I really do so much more writing and directing and studying that so much right now.

And that is such a lane that I really see myself in. I produced this movie [Infamous] as well. I just love that aspect of filming — not just being in front of the camera. So I'm really excited to keep taking strides in that area of my career.

Under Pressure picking an outlaw name

If you had an outlaw nickname, what would it be? And what would your getaway song be?

F***! That's so hard.

It's a weird one.

F***! Damn! That is so hard. What the f***? How am I supposed to answer this?! God! I just want it to be amazing. F***! I'm under so much pressure.

It's just a fun question. No pressure!

Probably anything from Queen. All the triumphant songs of Queen make me feel completely liberated. I think outlaw name... Hmm... F***! I don't know. God, it would have to be something that's like, what is "my thing" that I do, that I leave there as a trace of like my outlaw thing? Also "Renegade" by Styx... That's a great one. That's a great one. What do you think my name should be?

Bella is such a good name that it has to start with a B and include Bella ... So the whole alliteration angle.

Bad girl, Bella?... I love that. I love double... Like I do that, actually a lot when I write music. I love the doubles. B and B. I love that s***. It also is so great when you're rapping. The cadence is great.

Is Bloody Bella too on the nose?

Bloody Bella is kind of hot. I'm kind of f***ing with that.

Infamous is available to watch on video on demand platforms now.