THE INSIDER: SARA PAXTON

"playing a model was the hardest thing i've done."

Sara Paxton has been Jesse McCartney's troubled love interest on the '04 series Summerland, a mermaid in Aquamarine, and a model in the Ashton Kutcher- produced drama The Beautiful Life. Next up the L.A. native takes on hospitality, playing an employee working in a haunted hotel in the horror film The Innkeepers, directed by scary movie king Ti West. While it's not freaky enough to give you serious nightmares, it definitely did creep us out long after it ended...and turns out, we're not the only ones. We talked with Paxton today in New York about why she's scared of her own movie, dorkiness, and the tough part about being Beautiful.

How did you link up with Ti West for the film?
I was working on another independent small movie at the same time I read the script for The Innkeepers. If I'm currently doing a project, I have a hard time talking about other things, so I didn't even look at it. Then, an actress in the movie with me is a mutual friend of me and Ti, and one day she was like, "Ti West has been trying to get a hold of you." I had not heard of him before or seen any of his movies or anything because I'm a big baby and I'm not really a horror movie person. After I read the script and talked with him I became really excited.

Since you're not a scary movie person, what interested you in the part?
I liked that the story was based on truth; that this really happened, it's a real place. We actually lived and worked at the Inn during the entire shoot!

Which scary movies have you seen?
Thrillers don't even scare me as much as ghosts. When I was about 8, I saw The Exorcist accidentally. I went into the VHS cabinet without my mom noticing and started watching it, and I haven't been the same since.

Is it weird watching yourself on the screen in this particular movie, since your character is constantly being stalked by these spirits?
I had no idea what to expect and the first time I saw it was at SXSW watching in the theater. I think I might've screamed louder than most people in there!  What's cool is that this movie doesn't follow that same horror movie formula, where you know what's coming. It's like, the girl is in the bathroom in front of the the medicine cabinet.... she's brushing her teeth... she closes it and there's a dude behind her. Dun dun dun! It's different.

What's next for you?
I've been working a lot since we filmed this in 2010. I did an ABC Family movie called Elixir with Jane Seymour and Chelsea Kane. The director, Sanaa Hamri, has directed music videos for Lenny Kravitz, Prince, Nicki Minaj. I also did a movie called Liars All, which is with Matt Lanter and Gillian Zinzer from 90210. It's just a bunch of young, really cool people. Except for me. I'm dorky.

Why are you dorky?
I'm so behind! I didn't have internet until I was 17, so I feel like I needed to get caught up on stuff [laughing]. I need to get up on my music because I'm always the person who hears about something last. Then all my cool friends are like, ‘Oh my god, that band has been playing forever.'

What bands do you like?
Right now I don't have any new bands but I just got Florence + the Machine's new album and the Foster the People album. But now I've listened to those so many times, so I need more music. You tell me, who's cool right now?

You should check out GROUPLOVE! The Vaccines....M83...
I will! I just joined this music blog called The Hype Machine, so I've been trying to find lots of new stuff.

What would you say is harder: playing a mermaid, a model, or this?
Playing a model was the hardest thing I've done. Here's the thing, you think it would be easy, like ‘whatever, I'll walk down the runway and wear the outfit.' But everything is made for these super-skinny, 5'11”, 6' tall women, so the clothes didn't fit. And then, walking down the runway was so hard because they had all these real models. One day I got so frustrated and I almost started crying, and Ashton [Kutcher] had to calm me down. It was tough [laughing].

The Innkeepers hits theaters February.