Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.
Chase Sui Wonders was quiet as a child. “I was always super shy,” the 26-year-old says, speaking over Zoom from her apartment in Manhattan. She’s been living there for the past five years since graduating with a degree in film studies and production from Harvard. “So [while I was] growing up I wrote as a way to retreat a little bit.”
Now, traces of Wonders’ introversion have all but disappeared. She’s just rushed home, fresh from a morning spent filming Apple TV+’s upcoming series City on Fire, a crime drama about a shooting in Central Park and the subsequent investigation, in which she plays the lead (who’s also the victim).
The actor recently wrapped production on Neil LaBute’s forthcoming thriller Out of the Blue and also stars in A24’s twisted comedy-slasher Bodies Bodies Bodies. Wonders isn’t feeling fresh, however, given that she’s been running around in New York’s famously muggy summertime heat – in leather trousers, no less.
Having now slipped into something a little lighter, the Midwesterner describes how writing short stories, as well as growing up with her older brothers in the suburbs of Detroit, helped peel back the layers of that quiet childhood shell.
“We’d always watch Austin Powers, Undercover Brother, Die Hard – all these over-the-top B movies,” Wonders says. “As a strange way of expressing myself, I would embody [Mike Myers’ character] Fat Bastard and other unsavoury portrayals.”
But it wasn’t exactly all roses from there. Once Wonders had her foot in the door at Harvard, she had a “scarring” experience in her first year, after a turn as Irina in Chekhov’s Three Sisters was torn apart by fellow students.
“I couldn’t handle the criticism,” she says. “I didn’t have thick enough skin – I wanted to be the anonymous person behind the camera, writing. That was my focus while studying.” So, instead of “putting myself in the line of fire”, Wonders further sharpened her keen sense of comedic timing by writing for the university’s satirical paper, The Harvard Lampoon.
Now recovered from bearing the brunt of scathing school play reviews, Wonders has continued to write and direct, while also making inroads in front of the camera, notably in Sofia Coppola’s 2020 film On the Rocks and Crystal Moselle’s skating show Betty that same year. That was on top of co-directing short films for her aunt, fashion designer Anna Sui.
These days, acting feels like a personal calling for Wonders, rather than something excruciating your peers might make fun of you for. “It’s euphoric, a flow state where you feel like you’re firing on all cylinders,” she says.
Her big break came via HBO’s Generation (2021), the zeitgeisty, Lena Dunham-produced series about a precocious group of Orange County teens experimenting with their identities and sexualities, and not-so-carefully treading the line between both. Wonders played Riley, a rebellious photographer whose internal struggles start to bleed into her relationships.
She was on set for Generation when she received the script for Bodies Bodies Bodies, a bitingly funny horror film. It follows the intense, enigmatic Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) as she brings her timid, outsider girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) to meet her childhood friend, arrogant coke fiend David (Pete Davidson), Emma (played by Wonders), and their friends, the ever-so-hostile Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) and blabbering podcast host Alice (Rachel Sennott), who’s brought her fortysomething boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) along, are also thrown into the mix.
All the ingredients for a rowdy, hedonistic all-nighter are in place: a secluded mansion, drugs, booze, privilege and a dash of hysteria. As a hurricane swirls outside, the group decide to play the game Bodies Bodies Bodies – a more tactile version of Wink Murder, where one player (the murderer) taps on victims’ shoulders to “kill” them, while everyone else tries to guess who said killer is. Chaos ensues as the electricity cuts off and the game crystallises into an IRL murder spree, in a cutting critique of modern friendships and too-rich-for-their-own-good kids.
Will our bunch of highly-strung poshos make it out unscathed (and uncancelled) from their frantically-paced, coke and Xanax-fuelled party gone awry? BBB is like Spring Breakers if it went dark(er) and bloody, playing on Gen Z stereotypes and pushing the characters to their limits in the process.
Wonders describes Emma as “trapped, a young woman who is a victim of her circumstances. She’s confined by a group dynamic that she’s grown out of, clutching on to this perfect image of herself which couldn’t be further from the truth. She’s totally in a prison of own [design]. It’s almost masochistic.”
The film is peppered with killer one-liners and buzzwords you might find burning a hole through the internet at any given moment – “gaslighting”, “triggered”, “toxic” and the rest – while questioning what intimacy looks like without the polished veneer of social media as a buffer. Who can you really trust when a manic killer’s on the loose, hunting down you and your so-called friends?
“I think the funniest comedy is born from characters who take themselves very seriously and don’t have any self-awareness, in the grand scheme of things. Bodies Bodies Bodies splices a section of privileged kids who live a very sheltered existence that’s a breeding ground for entitlement and small-mindedness. It also attacks this image-conscious sense of youth, holding a mirror up to that – however ugly the reflection might be.”
While shooting the film over the second year of the pandemic in 2021, Wonders’ co-star Davidson was already the ensemble cast’s most famous name. Now, with mere weeks to go before its release, he’s gone stratospheric, thanks to his highly-publicised relationship with Kim Kardashian. What was it like to work with pre-Kim Pete?
“He’s hilarious!” Wonders says, laughing. “We had a lot of dark exchanges in the movie, so it was nice to have some relief outside of that, to have a good guy who can bring levity and humour to the role. He’s also a total pro who’s very good at dramatic acting, which I’m so excited for everyone to see.”
Mostly, she hopes Bodies Bodies Bodies will inspire people to leave their own stale relationships behind. “It’s happened to me, too, staying together by association, for convenience, geographical or even class reasons. But really, you’ve outgrown each other and that sense of care isn’t there. It was cool to tease that out in the film. If people can have fun while staring into the abyss, then I think it’s done its job.”
STYLING Stella Greenspan HAIR Erol Karadağ MAKE-UP Rommy Najor ON-SET PRODUCER Christo Arsenio PRODUCER Katherine Bampton PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT Oscar Canas STYLIST’S ASSISTANT Lily Zhang HAIR ASSISTANTS Zach Dierk and Caitlin Boland thanks to Veronica Studio