A Morro Bay native will show off her acting chops — and her best bloodcurdling scream — in “Chernobyl Diaries,” the latest horror flick from “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli.
Olivia Taylor Dudley plays Natalie in the movie, which follows six American tourists who visit the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, abandoned more than 25 years earlier in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Little advance information has been released on what makes for the horror, but suffice to say the Americans discover they are not alone. The R-rated film opens Friday in theaters nationwide.
Although Dudley wouldn’t spill any plot details, she was thrilled to work with Peli, who has found box-office success with a series of low-budget horror films.
“He’s a genius when it comes to horror,” Dudley, 26, said. “He knows exactly what scares people. (And) he knows how to do it in a realistic way.”
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The daughter of Jim and Saundra Dudley, she attended Morro Bay High School before moving to Hollywood at age 17 to pursue an acting career.
“I knew what I wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Dudley said. “You have to go with your gut and do what you’re passionate about.”
“Plus, I’m stubborn and I don’t like people telling me what to do,” she added with a laugh.
So far, Dudley’s acting credits include small roles in “The Dictator,” “Moneyball” and “Just Go With It,” the B-movie spoof “Chillerama,” and stints on the television shows “NCIS,” “CSI: Miami” and “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.”
She’s also a founding member of 5-Second Films, a quirky web series that has released a new five-second film every day for nearly four years.
“It’s fun for me and everybody else because we get to dress up and play on the weekends,” said Dudley, who has honed her comedy skills at Los Angeles’ Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. “I really like working in a collaborative environment.”
That experience came in handy during the filming of “Chernobyl Diaries,” Dudley said, adding that first-time director Brad Parker and producer Peli took an improvisational approach. She and her fellow cast members, including Devin Kelley, Jonathan Sadowski and Jesse McCartney, shot “Chernobyl Diaries” in Hungary and Serbia in the fall of 2011. “It was the coldest I’ve ever been,” Dudley recalled, describing a series of intense night shoots at remote locations. “There was a lot of huddling around the fire.”
Still, she was grateful for the chance to travel outside the United States.
“It was quite an experience for me, to be thrust into a whole other world,” she said.
Although her film work has focused on comedy and horror so far, Dudley hopes to expand her repertoire in the future.
“I really think horror movies are a rite of passage in Hollywood,” she said. “You have to make them before you can move on.”