Monster of a role - Coeur d'Alene Press: Entertainment

Monster of a role

Coeur d'Alene woman lands role in spooky new John Carpenter movie

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Posted: Friday, September 24, 2010 12:00 am

Jillian Kramer is a monster.

Don't let her sweet smile and delightful demeanor fool you. Don't be taken in by her natural, girl-next-door good looks.

Otherwise, you might end up dead - just like some of the others in "The Ward."

"I am the killer in a John Carpenter horror movie," the 2000 Lake City High School graduate said, laughing.

Kramer landed the role of "Monster Alice" in the film that is set for release later this month. She called it a "pretty amazing opportunity."

The Coeur d'Alene resident had to sit still for nearly three hours each day before shooting the picture as makeup crews turned the 29-year-old's toned skin into a melting mess of wrinkles and woes.

Her hair, her teeth, her eyes all underwent ghoulish transformations.

It was her first time playing a ghostly creature. To prepare for it, she watched a lot of horror movies with plenty of screaming, blood and terror.

"I loved it. I absolutely loved that it was such a meaty, dark role, something so completely not what I am," Kramer said. "Playing a role that's so unlike yourself is every actor's dream. It's easy to be yourself. You have to let go of yourself."

Carpenter's first full-length feature film in almost a decade stars Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris and Lyndsy Fonseca.

"The Ward" is described as a psychological thriller set in the 1960s in a mental institution where a young woman is haunted by a mysterious and deadly ghost. There are four other patients, also troubled girls, in the ward, and one by one, they disappear.

"Kristen must find a way out of this hellish place before the ghost comes for her too. As she struggles to escape, she will uncover a truth far more dangerous and horrifying than anyone could have imagined," according to one preview.

Kramer, whose maiden name is Ashkinos, auditioned for the film through North by Northwest Productions in Spokane last year.

She wasn't cast, but later received a call asking if she would like to try out as the film's fiend when it was determined the first choice, an actress who stood 5-2, was too small.

"She just didn't look like a monster. She couldn't haunt the lead person in the movie," the 5-7 Kramer said. "It wasn't very believable'."

The lead actress, Heard, is also 5-7.

"They needed someone that was the same height as her," Kramer said.

The 118-pound Kramer was tapped as Monster Alice by the master of horror himself, John Carpenter. Her character doesn't speak, but does make spooky sounds - scream, moan, groan, hiss and breathing.

Kramer actually sympathizes with Monster Alice.

"She's very tortured," she said.

The shoot took six weeks at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, in an older section of the building.

"It had a very eerie feel to it. It was very dark," she said. "It certainly helped get me into that world."

Her mask took a few hours to fit, including the paint, airbrush and detailing, each of the 20 days she worked on the set.

"They would actually glue it to my skin," Kramer said. "It was quite a process."

Her hazel eyes had to go.

"I wore these huge contacts that whited out my eyes entirely, so you just saw these enlarged scary pupils," Kramer said, smiling.

Days were long.

It took an hour to get out of the makeup, and then an hour drive back to Coeur d'Alene.

"By the time I got home to my husband, it was out of my system. I think there were times he was worried I would come home in my makeup," she said, laughing.

The athletic Kramer did her own stunts, including throws, slaps and punches.

"The monster is not of this world. She has this super-human strength. She can grab and toss people across the room," Kramer said.

Although Kramer hasn't seen the final version of "The Ward," she believes it should do well at the box office.

The premier was Sept. 13 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"I think it's going to be a very good movie, a psychological thriller," she said. "It's Carpenter."

Working with Carpenter was as good as she hoped. The legendary director of such hits as "Halloween" and "Escape from New York" has a great sense of humor and made filming fun.

"I love working with him. He's good at what he does. He knows what he wants and he's very articulate about expressing exactly how it needs to be done," Kramer said. "For an actor, that's so important."

The 28-year-old Kramer is a woman of many talents. A singer and dancer, she earned her degree in theater arts from Willamette University in 2004 and spent a semester studying acting at the University of Wales.

She is director of education at the Lake City Playhouse, directed the Pirates of the Coeur d'Alene Cruises and is a server at Beverly's restaurant at The Coeur d'Alene Resort.

She and her husband, Ian, live in the Lake City. Her father, Steve Ashkinosh, also lives in Coeur d'Alene. Her mother, Sharon Davidson, is a resident of Newport.

She'll continue to try out for films that come to Spokane. Since being cast in "The Ward," she earned a role as one of the dancers in "The Big Bang," an upcoming film starring Antonio Banderas and Sam Elliott.

She has also done a few commercials and other smaller roles.

Laura Little, Kramer's agent, said her client is driven to do her best at any project she takes on and is gaining a reputation as a versatile actress.

"She tries to stay on top of the game," Little said.

Kramer has been getting cast more as she tries out for more roles, whether for movies, theater or TV commercials.

"She's one of the lucky ones," Little said.

Kramer is meticulous in training and does the homework necessary to make her character seem real.

"That's what I love about her," Little said.

Monster Alice could be Kramer's breakout role.

"When this film comes out, I have no idea what's going to happen," she said.

"People could say, 'Wow, who's that monster?" she said, laughing. "Maybe there will be action figures of the ghost from 'The Ward.' Who knows what to expect?"

Well, know at least this much.

Should you see "The Ward," expect to be afraid.

Very afraid.

And that would make Jillian Kramer very happy.

"I hope I successfully create nightmares for a lot of people," Kramer said. "That would mean I accomplished my task at hand."

No specific release date for the film was available at press time.

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