'Hollywood is evolving every day and it's definitely a good time for women actors'
While there's still a way to go, Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood are proof the role of females in Tinseltown is starting to shift as they join forces to lead supernatural thriller The Vault. They tell Gemma Dunn about mastering the action scenes and how it feels to take on more physically demanding roles.
When Dan Bush's latest directorial venture The Vault put out a call for two tough female leads, Hollywood's Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood were only too pleased to make the cut.
Even more so because the parts - estranged sisters on a deadly mission - were originally penned as men.
"It was eight years in the works, and then they changed it to two sisters," explains up-and-coming actor Eastwood (24). "There were certain things that were still in the script as 'he', so it wasn't totally switched over, which was exciting," she adds.
"I think it adds to the profession - (the fact) it's not really mattering much anymore is cool. There's a certain freedom to it."
For the on-screen siblings, it was a chance to show moviegoers there needn't be a divide between the sexes.
"I love playing any strong leading female role," quips Manning, who made her film debut in the teen drama Crazy/Beautiful back in 2001.
"Hollywood is evolving every day and it's definitely a good time for women actors," she reasons. "We're still not quite equal, which is reflected in our pay cheques especially, but we are seeing a shift, and for different ethnicities as well.
"I'd like to think that Orange Is The New Black had a hand in that," quips the star (38), who has played unruly prison inmate Tiffany 'Pennsatucky' Doggett in the Netflix series since 2013. "And was at the helm of creating some of this change."
Described as The Town meets The Grudge, Bush's supernatural heist thriller takes shape when the Dillon sisters - ex-military Leah (Eastwood) and career criminal Vee (Manning) - organise a bank robbery to save their troubled older brother Michael's life.
But when the upstairs vault doesn't have enough money to cover the debt, on the advice of the defiant bank manager Ed Maas (James Franco), the Dillons drill into the downstairs vault - only for mayhem to ensue.
From lights flickering to horrifying noises and hellish ghouls, the basement hides a terrible secret. And before long, it's a choice between facing the police outside or the terrible supernatural forces below.
Much to Manning's delight, the mind-bending horror meant action aplenty.
"I've always had a desire to act in more films and what was really appealing about this script was the physicality of it," she reveals. "I always tend to do my own stunts, work with guns, fight scenes, and anything involving action. This film reminded me of your 'shoot-em-up' bank heist, typical kind of thriller that I enjoy.
"It's always fun playing a villain, and getting into the complexity of that kind of character," states the Virginia-born actor, whose credits also include 8 Mile and Cleveland Abduction.
For Eastwood - the daughter of Tinseltown royalty Clint Eastwood and Frances Fisher - the full-on scenes required some preparation.
"There's a lot of running around, but that's territory that I really want to step into," remarks the Californian, who is set on blazing her own trail despite her famous parents.
"I started training with my dad's trainer because I wanted to put on muscle, change for the character," confesses the Outlaws And Angels star. "I have fallen in love with that world and I would love to be able to do projects while I'm young that are challenging."
Such an intense role did call for downtime when the cameras were switched off, however.
"When you're incubated like that, it is tough to switch off," admits Manning. "I take each role very seriously and give it my all. I try to decompress by spending time with my dog who was on set with me, and studying for the next day. I like to listen to some guided meditation before I go to sleep."
She follows: "It certainly was physically demanding and I did do all of my own stunts - that was nothing, I could do a lot more. But of course it's exhausting because it's a job too."
"You have to have your mind in the game at all times," she maintains. "It's not just about your physical capacity, but about your mental capacity as well. There is a lot of strategy involved."
"I had to go shake it off at the end of some of the days," Eastwood concurs. "My decompressor was a hot bath and a glass of wine - or I'd read something that is completely unattached to it."
Were there ever any reservations when it came to the supernatural element?
"Absolutely not," Manning retorts. "My entire career has been based off of my imagination. Of course shutting your mind off at the end of the day when you are home in the real world is a little difficult, but I've made a career out of this very thing.
"There's just too much proof out there that it exists, and we are all interested in the unknown."
"I believe in energy, I don't necessarily believe in ghosts," chimes Eastwood. "I believe in weird s**t. I believe in dimensions."
A master when it comes to playing edgy characters, Manning (who is also a talented singer-songwriter and lends her vocals to electronic duo Boomkat) has proved she can put her hand to even the most demanding of roles. But is there one she'd like to tick off?
"I've always wanted to play Blondie, or a Courtney Love-type character," she confides. "Someone who is such a rock star, and who has influenced me and my music so much."
"I would absolutely love to do a (romantic comedy)," declares Eastwood. "I've done two thrillers with a female lead ... I keep finding myself in this genre I was never really a fan of and never really got into, but I keep getting these scripts and these parts," she says with a laugh. "I guess it's a sign or something that I should face my fears and just do it."
What else is on the list?
"I really love period pieces and I love history," she shares, revealing she wouldn't rule out teaming up with her famous filmmaker father again should the right project came along.
"I have always loved the type of films that Keira Knightley has done. Romantic, period pieces, not necessarily a love story but just in style and tone," she elaborates. "There's a lot. I want to do it all, but I want to pace myself."
- The Vault is in cinemas and on iTunes and digital HD from Friday. #TheVaultMovie