It’s not a spoiler to say that by the end of Bite, in her first major lead acting role, Elma Begovic is completely unrecognizable. Whether or not the character is attractive and date-worthy, well, that’s up for debate.
Begovic jokes about her character’s transformation while sitting down in a Queen West coffee shop. The 26-year-old actress is awaiting the horror film’s world premier at Fantasia International Film Fest in Montreal while reflecting on those final days when donning the ‘bug’ attire.
“It was everything from body paint, gelatin pieces glued on, to foam, to a bald cap, fake hair, and contact lens,” says Begovic. Her character Casey, bitten during an exotic vacation, slowly undergoes changes to her body that eventually take a dramatic and grotesque turn for the worse. It’s a tragic experience to be sure for Casey, and a rather fascinating one for Begovic, despite massive contacts that more or less impaired her vision for the better part of two days.
She also wonders about the reaction of the cast and crew between shooting, walking around in this get up, likely not be well-received by those trying to eat. Her make-up team of four seemed to enjoy things, or at least the three women involved: “We blasted a whole lot of Beyonce and Taylor Swift, and there was lots of talking about boys and girl stuff.”
Born in Bosnia, Begovic, who has a twin sister, made her way to Toronto two years ago via Edmonton, where she grew up and studied at the University of Alberta. With more opportunity to snatch leading female roles who aren’t necessarily the girl next door, she took to Toronto, already possessive of a disdain for the nine-to-five.
“I’ve been in both worlds,” she says. “I’ve tried to justify working in a corporate world, but at the end of the day, you have to find your passion and let it kill you. Before I was killing myself working but there was no passion, so if I’m going to be exhausted, might as well be exhausted with something that motivates me, gets me excited.”
“I’ve decided that’s where I’m happiest,” says Begovic, smiling.
With Bite, which was directed by Chad Archibald and shot in Guelph with a short trip to the Dominican, Begovic underwent a lot of firsts; eagerly yes, but not without some expected nerves.
“The scene I was most worried about, had the most anxiety about, was the sex scene,” she explains. “I’ve never done one of those, and wasn’t sure what was going to happen. We definitely had a skeleton screw, eight to ten people in room. Chad, Jordan [her partner on film], and I got together, planned it out to make it as comfortable as it could be. I don’t know any actor truly enjoys it, and it’s exactly for that reason: you’re trying to convey something super intimate, sexy, and it’s everything but that.
“You have a camera three feet away from you,” she adds, “and as you’re simulating, the director is talking at you, telling you to move your hair. It’s so surreal.”
Perhaps her most proud moment, or at least most regarded by the cast and crew, was one particular scene where Casey is snacking. Bug Casey, that is, and she’s in the mood for a cockroach.
“I wanted to prove my womanhood,” says Begovic. She opted instead of enjoying some insect facsimile to partake in a once-living cockroach. “Casey is super bugged-out, so I pick it up, look at it, and bite right in.”
“It just tasted crunchy and dried up,” says Begovic. “No dates were won from that scene.” So she says.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.