Adoring Joey King

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Joey King Stars In October’s Most Haunting Movie Yet — & It All Really Happened

Spooky season is upon us, and there’s no dearth of horror movies and TV shows to watch. But there’s a movie that’s haunted me more than the ghosts of Bly Manor or the Grand High Witch’s fanged-smile. Radium Girls is Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler’s historical drama about the young women hired to paint watch dials with radioactive material back in the 1920s — and died as a result.

Picture this: A row of factory workers, most of them teenage girls, sit at their workstations in a sparsely furnished room. Almost in unison, they lick their paint brushes, dip them into pots filled with powdered radium mixed with water, and paint on the tiny numbers onto a watch dial so that they can glow in the dark. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Watching the scene feels like watching Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl HBO series: We the audience know how dangerous this all is, even as the women on-screen laugh and make small talk about their big plans for the weekend. Many of them will die in pain in the coming year. And the worst part? It all really happened.

Pilcher and Mohler’s film begins in 1925 with Bessie (Joey King) and Jo (Abby Quinn), two sisters who work for the American Radium Factory in Orange, NJ. From the start, you get the sense something’s off — their older sister Mary, also a dial painter, died three years previously from a mysterious illness, and now Jo’s starting to get similar symptoms. First, her teeth come loose, then start to fall out one by one. Her jaw swells, and her bones ache. Concerned, Bessie asks the factory foreman to send a doctor, who shames Jo into silence by telling her she has syphilis. It’s all part of ploy on behalf of the company: Gaslight any women who complain so they don’t make a fuss as you continue to put their lives at risk, knowing full well the nefarious consequences of radium exposure.
Much of Pilcher’s work as a director illuminates lesser-known events in history through the lens of the women who helped shape them. Just last month, her film A Call To Spy, about a network of women spies operating in France during World War II, premiered on VOD. Radium Girls is no different, but it does hold a special kind of urgency in a time when labor and environmental protections are being rolled back for greed and profit.

“We were thinking a lot about the water in Flint, Michigan,” Pilcher told Refinery29 in a phone interview ahead of Radium Girls’ October 23 VOD release. “It’s interesting now because we’re releasing the movie at a very rarefied moment. This idea of a corporation that denied science, a corporation that was telling you radium was good for you and was making profits hand-over-foot from all of this, is something that also makes the story quite interesting in the age of COVID.”

Though Bessie and Jo are based on composites of real people, the story itself is rooted in truth. Radium dial painting started gaining traction around 1917 in the United States, to provide watches that soldiers heading off to the trenches of Europe could read in the dark. There were three main factories in the United States dedicated to this work, but the most famous is the one in Orange, NJ, where Radium Girls is set. In the 1920s, a group of five women led by plant worker Grace Fryer decided to sue American Radium. For several years, the “radium girls,” as they were dubbed in the press, battled a company determined to let the proceedings drag on for as long as possible. The reason? They knew many of the women wouldn’t live out the decade. Indeed, by 1928, when the suit finally went to court, two were confined to their beds. Still, the women prevailed, and a jury awarded damages of $10,000 to each (roughly worth $150,000 in 2020), along with a $600 (about $9,000 now) a year payment for medical expenses. The case forced a reckoning within American industry, as workers realized they could sue their employers for unsafe working conditions, forcing the latter to better regulate potential dangers. And yet, as narrative text at the end of the movie reminds us, radium paint continued to be used well into the 1960s, putting countless lives at risk.

Given the stakes, it’s remarkable that these achievements have been largely forgotten. Pilcher says she knew next to nothing about the events depicted in the film before reading Mohler and Brittany Shaw’s script.
I had been looking for stories about environmental justice or climate change, and when I read this story, it just spoke to me,” she said. “It was written in a profoundly emotional way. These two sisters are so different, but they’re dreamers, and this situation at the factory becomes a real coming of age for them.

Intertwined with the plotline about radium poisoning is Bessie’s rising political consciousness, helped along by dashing young communist Walt (Collin Kelly-Sordelet). She represents a generation of young women who, newly armed with the power to vote, felt compelled to take a stand against injustice, and eventually played an active role in shaping the burgeoning labor movement in the United States. That too echoes our current reality, where many of our foremost climate and social justice activists, like Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, or Flint, Michigan’s Mari Copeny, are young women.
There’s a radium girls play that’s being performed in high schools around the country., and we get tons of mail from young girls who are just dying to see this movie. I think it’s because it’s about teenage girls taking action, and that’s something that’s very empowering. In a world where it often feels like we are helpless and we’re forced to be socially distant from each other, we actually have to sort of remember that we have voices and our voices can be our power. I hope this movie encourages them to go all the way.”


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Joey King On ‘The Lie’ And ‘The Kissing Booth 3’

Being a sulky teenager living through your parents’ divorce is a tale as old as time. It’s only when you let that inner rage allow you to push your best friend off a bridge to an icy demise is when things get interesting.

It’s the jumping off point in The Lie, the new psychological thriller from horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions. Emmy-nominated actress Joey King brings teenage Kayla’s chilling inner workings to life, aided by her once happily married parents, played by Peter Sarsgaard, and Mireille Enos. What are the lengths parents will go to protect their child? Just about anything regardless of how sinister and inconceivable, it turns out.

Two years after debuting at TIFF, The Lie landed on Amazon Prime Video as part of an eight-film package of horror films, arriving just in time for some seasonal eeriness. Although not the typical campy, fun-house release we’ve come to expect from Blumhouse, The Lie brings a horror more rooted in possibility, however far-fetched it may be.

King found Kayla’s twisted story arc an intriguing look into the teenage mind. “I think it’s just really an interesting psychological observation of what being young, insecure and trusting can do to somebody,” she told NYLON over the phone during a walk around her Los Angeles neighborhood.

Kayla seems to have some sociopathic tendencies. What drew you to playing that sort of character?
I think what drew me to playing Kayla was the fact that she is quite a sweet girl, she’s got such a really good heart, but then gets sucked into the idea of trusting her friends so much that she would alter her and her family’s life because of it. And then I think that after that she just enjoys getting attention from her parents that she wanted so badly, even if it’s negative attention so that she’s willing to keep the lie going for as long as necessary. I think it’s just really an interesting psychological observation of what being young, insecure and trusting can do to somebody.

What did you do to kinda get into her headspace while filming?
Our cast was amazing, and we were able to rehearse together and talk about each shoot together. It was very nice to be able to get into character with these people that I love so much, but also these characters — they’re complex, they’re crazy, they’re wild. We still had a lot of fun on that shoot so there was no lack of laughs and dancing and good times happening, even though the subject matter was pretty dark.

What were some of these good times?
I mean just lots of times when we were hanging out together, me, Mireille, and Peter, we had so many scenes together so we would spend lot of time together when we were on set and we just enjoyed each other’s company so much. Our director Veena [Sud] was also so wonderful, it was just a set full of love and welfare really.

This isn’t your typical Blumhouse horror film. Do you consider yourself a horror fan by any means?
I do appreciate horror. I am also very scared of horror, so I don’t watch a lot of horror films, but one thing that I do love about this character and this story is that it isn’t your straight up psychological thriller, but it’s also like any person’s worst nightmare and every parent’s worst nightmare too. It’s something that I feel like is one of those types of horror movies or thrillers that tap into something that could happen to you and to your kid, and it’s really frightening.

Even though you’re scared of horror, what horror remake would you star in if given the chance?
I did The Conjuring, that was pretty awesome. I feel like something along those lines but you know what I would wanna do? Here’s this really wacky, happy horror movie from years and years ago called The Abominable Dr. Phibes and one of the funniest stories I’ve ever seen, and I would love to do a remake of that movie.

You just need some campiness and some comedy mixed in.
Exactly. I definitely tried with my fair share of horror films and I love them, but I think if I were to jump into that genre, I wanna maybe remake one of the favorites that are oldies that were great for the time that hold up on the scare factor.

What else is on the horizon for you?
I’m about to hopefully start filming my film, Bullet Train very soon, which I’m super excited about. Honestly, just whatever happens, I don’t know because of COVID [during] production. But next year you can expect some excitement with The Kissing Booth 3 release.

How has the fanfare surrounding The Kissing Booth felt?
It’s insane and exciting. I mean, from the time the first film that came out and we had no idea what a success would be. The reaction after that has just been so cool to see how many people are talking about our movie and how many people see our movie. It’s just like, wow. So the second movie release was just unbelievably exciting. It’s been such a long time coming and I had so much fun making it and now I just cannot wait for that third one to come out.


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Joey King on Veena Sud’s ‘The Lie’, ‘Bullet Train’ and ‘The Kissing Booth 3’

A few months ago, we reported Amazon Prime Video and Blumhouse were going to release eight genre movies that focus on diverse casts, female voices, and emerging filmmakers under the “Welcome to Blumhouse” banner. With the first of these films, Veena Sud’s The Lie, now streaming on the platform, I recently spoke to Joey King about being part of the project.

If you haven’t seen the trailers, The Lie follows a divorced couple (Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos) as they try to protect their daughter (King) after she confesses to a horrible crime. As the couple deals with the ramifications of their daughter’s actions, they are forced to decide how far they’re willing to go to keep her safe and protected from the authorities.

During the interview, Joey King talked about talked about working with Veena Sud, how The Lie asks how far you’d be willing to go to protect someone, what it was like filming in the Toronto winter, her thoughts on seeing movies in a theater or at home, David Leitch’s Bullet Train, what’s she’s learned as a producer, and more. In addition, she teased what fans can look forward to in The Kissing Booth 3.

Collider: Were you prepared to have your Netflix Uglies project drop on the day you’re doing press?
JOEY KING: I mean, yes and no. I was kind of made aware it was going to drop, but I wasn’t really like, “Oh yeah, I know that’s going to drop.”

Got it, I won’t pressure you on that project. But jumping into why I get to talk to you with the film, how nervous were you to put the old videos of you in the movie when you were much younger?
KING: I think that was such a fun touch. And I love when people get to feel connected to a character and the fact that they were able to see footage of me when I was young in real life… I mean, I feel like it actually gives me a little bit more insight into who my character Kayla is.

One of the things that I really enjoy about movies is when they put you in a situation and you wonder, “What would you do if confronted with the same thing?” Can you sort of talk about the fact that everyone in the film is confronted with a choice, and what would they actually do?
KING: I think that’s what’s so interesting about this movie, it really does present the question how far would we go for the ones that you love, even if it was a big coverup of suspected murder. And something that’s so interesting about my character is, how far are you willing to let others go for you? Especially when you know you are telling quite a big lie.

Can you share a little bit about working with Veena Sud?
KING: Veena’s amazing. She’s so, so kind, but such a boss. I just love her so much. She was so much fun to work with and just so sweet and collaborative and I felt so safe in her arms. A character like Kayla is something that I was really excited and nervous about because I wanted to showcase her side that deserves empathy while also not giving away the ending. I mean, just working with Veena on that was such a treat.

I spoke to Peter earlier, and I wanted to specifically talk about that water scene with the bridge, because it looked like it was freezing cold when he had to jump into the water to look around. Can you share what filming that scene was like?
KING: Yeah. So you’re correct, the water was unbelievably cold, he was wearing a lot protective waters gear underneath his clothes. And when you’re kind of faced with such an uncomfortable situation, like going into freezing cold water in the middle of a Toronto winter, there’s nothing you can do but laugh about it. And Peter is so great, I mean, he was just cracking up the whole time trying to stay warm and trying to stay positive. Because at that point, if you don’t let yourself laugh about it, you’re just going to be even more miserable when you’re already freezing.

Completely, the movie is going to be coming out on Amazon, and you’ve also obviously worked with Netflix many times. You’re much younger than I am, and I’m curious if you have the same sort of need to see movies in a movie theater, or if you are just as comfortable watching stuff at home?
KING: So I think that since the pandemic started the absolute desire and need to go to the movie theater has just amped up for me, all I want to do is go to the movies, but I’m not going to, of course. But that’s all I want to do, I love a movie theater. I love just the experience of seeing a movie in theaters. But at the same time, we got to be safe, we got to adapt. And I’m trying not to look at necessarily adapting as a bad thing, I’m trying to look at it as a positive thing because we do have so much amazing things to watch right now. There’s so many things being produced, there’s so much being released, there’s definitely not a lack of choice. And so I’m very grateful for that, even if we do have to stay home and can’t go to a theater. I think that it sucks, but we got to adapt and we got to try and remain positive about it because we are lucky to still have choices.

I definitely want to ask you a few spoiler type things that would run after the release of the movie. Did you guess the ending when you were reading the script or were you as surprised as the audience when you got to those final pages?
KING: I was completely shocked, I’m just absolutely shocked when I got to the ending of the story. I couldn’t believe it. But I have to say, I love that it pulled the rug out from under me, I was not expecting that ending. I was just so focused on what was happening that I couldn’t have even guessed that that would have happened. And I hope audiences are as shocked as I was when I first read it.

I think they, one hundred percent, will be. Even if they somehow got away with murder, do you think that the family could ever get back to normal?
KING: That’s a great question. And I think I’m probably going to say no. I wouldn’t know personally, because I’ve never murdered anybody and then tried to go back to normal, but I have a feeling it would not be very easy to continue your life as if nothing ever happened.

Full interview: