Very early into our conversation on Zoom, the five actresses and director from A24’s newest release, Bodies Bodies Bodies—the super-hyped Gen Z murder mystery that takes place in a discreet mansion—rattle off the instances in which they felt duped on set. “I felt really betrayed that you thought I could even do that,” says Myha’la Herrold, on behalf of her angry and intense character Jordan. She’s pointing toward Amandla Stenberg, who plays Sophie—the rich, newly sober, and not-even-really-invited-to-the-mansion member of the group. Chase Sui Wonders, who plays Emma—the girl who thinks everyone is in love with her—adds on, saying, “It feels the most cruel when you’re being mean to someone you love. It feels personal, and I think we used that.”
They’re the instances throughout the film where the group’s complicated friendship—also including Alice, the group’s comedic relief and resident podcaster, played by Rachel Sennott—is continuously strained, as a game of “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” (also known by the name “Mafia”) leads to someone actually dying. Dragged into the mess is Bee, played by Maria Bakalova, the outsider of the group and Sophie’s girlfriend, who blankly looks on as the horrors unfold. The boyfriends of the movie, played by Pete Davidson and Lee Pace, were great additions and offered amazing performances—but ultimately, the girls stole the show, playing rich twenty-somethings ready to drink their way through a hurricane happening simultaneously.
All five of the actresses came to Dutch director Halina Reijn’s project from different backgrounds. For Bakalova, a Bulgarian actress who is most known for her breakout role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, being a fan of Reijn’s work back in Eastern Europe drew her to the project. “I’m very passionate about arthouse movies and independent cinema,” she says. Stenberg was the first to sign onto the project, with Herrold and Wonders signing on after the script piqued both their interests. “It’s funny you asked what drew us to audition, because I had to beg for an audition,” Sennott says with a laugh.
As Reijn’s first English-language feature, the film is complicated and genre-bending—an aspect each member of the cast saw in the script, causing even more interest. “I was so intrigued by how it was going to be done. It is so intelligently written, it’s so clever, and I was impressed by the range,” says Herrold. The tone of the film was the hardest aspect to nail, and doing so with an ensemble cast added another layer of complications. So much of the script features typical Gen Z jargon (think “trigger” and “gaslight”) in a way that feels authentic, alongside horror elements like phones being out of service, plus lots of drugs. The array of themes could have gone the route of cheesy, or even skewed factually incorrect. But Reijn says the ensemble, all of whom are between the ages of 23 and 26, kept the film on track. “The most difficult thing was the challenge of the tone,” says Reijn. “We wanted to make a funny, horror, realistic movie. There were so many goals that we had and we accomplished them, due to their talent, but also, a lot of things just working together. I do feel that we pulled it off.”
Besides being around the same age and being the same height (all five of the actresses made sure to note that fact in our interview), the cast has, on paper, very little in common. They all come from different backgrounds: Stenberg has worked in film since she starred in The Hunger Games at 12 years old; Bodies is only Sennott’s second film role, after her debut in the indie film Shiva Baby and a stint on Comedy Central; Herrold is known for her breakout performance on HBO’s Industry; Wonders, for her role in Genera+ion; and Bakalova received an Academy Award nomination for her work in Borat. Part of the allure of Bodies Bodies Bodies is the fact that viewers can see themselves being a part of this group—and that’s something audiences are meant to desire. While the movie is a whodunit mystery with lots of tension, in real life, there’s practically none within the group. In fact, I have never before wanted to be friends with people so bad (which is funny, since Bodies involves most of them playing unbearable versions of girls we know IRL).
The cast shot the movie in upstate New York last summer, where they stayed in a motel that became the backdrop for a photoshoot they subsequently posted to Instagram. “I had my Polaroid camera and I was like, I have a vision. The most gorgeous girls in the world on the mustiest hotel bed," says Sennott. The group, especially Sennott and Stenberg, have been actively posting each other on social media—notably, dancing to Charli XCX’s original song for the movie, “Hot Girl.”
“We had this moment where [we realized] we’re just this group of people in a random little town. I was like, it’s just us, making this together. And that’s really, really special,” Sennott says, looking around at the group with her eyes wide. The rest of the girls smile and tease Sennott, appearing familiar with her tendency to get a little sentimental. But they agree with the feeling nonetheless. “I do think there’s an X factor to the chemistry of the cast,” Wonders adds. “You see the little bit in the trailers, but spending the runtime of this movie with us, you see the fabric of the chemistry that’s really specific.”