SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Mortal Kombat’s Sisi Stringer is unbelievably striking in person. The 24-year-old Australian actress shone at Chanel No.5’s 100th anniversary dinner at Sydney-based French restaurant Felix on Wednesday evening, the house’s SS21 pink and navy striped knit was complemented with Stringer’s coiled curls and pillowy pout.
With her hands in the air as she danced to Genesis Owusu’s live performance – a sight for sore eyes given the year that wasn’t – whispers around this editor circled, ‘Who is that girl?’ While all eyes were watching the pint-sized dancing silhouette in the dim-lit room, few recognised her as Mileena, Mortal Kombat’s most vicious and deadly assassin – and a pillar of complete fearlessness on the cinema screen a block down the road. Fewer, still, in the room that evening knew of just how big of a star Stringer is set to become.
As expected with anything related to video games, the Mortal Kombat reboot is polarising. What is without question, however, is Stringer’s performance, which is being hailed as “a moment” by netizens who are passionately obsessed with the character. Armed with two deadly sais, Mileena will sink her teeth into her prey (scenes that are not for the faint-hearted).
While the glamour of the evening with Chanel was far-removed from Stringer’s on-screen alter-ego, get ready to see more of this beautiful actress. Mark our words, she is set to soar.
GRAZIA: For those who haven’t seen the film yet, what is Mileena like?
STRINGER: Mileena is vicious and unpredictable. She is a big fan favourite and the people that love her, love her. They love her so much. The fans are so passionate to the point where it’s a bit crazy, but that’s my favourite thing about them because I’m also a bit crazy. She’s an assassin, she is one of the champions of Outworld which is this dystopian underworld realm.
GRAZIA: Tell us more about Outworld.
STRINGER: It’s like a desert-scape but it’s all black and it’s very gothic and otherworldly. Mileena is a champion of Outworld and fights on the side of Shang Tsung who is the sorcerer who created her as a clone of Princess Kitana (a Princess in the realm of Edenia, which is kind of like Earth but even more beautiful and prosperous – like where the elves live in Lord of the Rings.)
GRAZIA: But there’s another side to her….
STRINGER: It’s really interesting that Mileena was created in the image of this beautiful Princess from this beautiful world because the video games’ creators then spliced Mileena with Tarkatan DNA. Tarkatan is this race of warrior creatures with big, scary teeth. So she has these bright, stunning, snake-like eyes then this horrific mouth and all of these teeth and scars. This makes her a terrifying threat. People look and see the threat as soon as she enters the room and then when she pulls out these weapons and it’s just over for everyone basically. She’s an expert ninja.
GRAZIA: How long did it take you to transform into Mileena every day on set?
STRINGER: Something that really helps me get into character is getting dressed, getting into the clothes, and then stepping on set and seeing all of the other actors in their costumes and how they interact with the space. One of the things that prepared me everyday was just sitting in the makeup chair and watching the layers of prosthetics that went onto it; all of these scars and horrible teeth in my mouth. It’s really interesting sitting there for about an hour as they do this to you with makeup and prosthetics. So I’m seeing my own pretty face in the mirror and then they’re just layering and layering until I turn into something that is absolutely not me!
GRAZIA: What was the audition process like?
STRINGER: Being a young emerging actor particularly straight out of drama school, you do a lot of auditions and nowadays that process often involves submitting self-tapes. You send it off and you forget about it basically. It’s never good to dwell on, ‘Oh I really want this part, I hope it comes back to me’. You just do it, and you send it off. So I was just doing that and then when I got a response saying, ‘Hi, can you tell us a bit about your physical background and if you’ve done any martial arts training?’. I was like, ‘Oh cool, a bit of interest. Still not going to get invested in it though just because I don’t want to be let down.’
GRAZIA: You didn’t want to get your hopes up…
STRINGER: This request were building. But in the meantime, I’m still doing auditions, sending them out and forgetting about them. Then I got a call from my agent saying, ‘They’d like you to fly you to Adelaide to meet them and do a physical test, a screen test and a costume fitting’. I was like, ‘Wow, I cannot believe this.’ I flew to Adelaide and we went through some choreography with some knives. As I have a background in dance that was quite easy for me to pick up. Even if it wasn’t perfect, my potential was definitely obvious. Then, I came in for a costume fitting and they had already made a costume according to the sizing I had sent.
GRAZIA: You knew then! Tell me about the questions you had about Mileena for Mortal Kombat’s director Simon McQuoid.
STRINGER: I asked Simon what are we going to do with the sexuality of this character because in the games she is very heavily sexualised.
“[In the video game], Mileena is basically wearing lingerie as many of the female characters do. She’s sort of sauntering around, touching her hips and wiggling sexually. I asked what we were going to do about that.”
STRINGER: Simon said, ‘Oh no, no, no, we’re not doing any of the racist, sexist stuff in the games. It’s going to be much darker and deeper than that.’
GRAZIA: There are a lot of Australians in this cast. Who was better to work with: Jessica McNamee or Josh Lawson?
STRINGER: Honestly, we didn’t have too many scenes together. I was only with them briefly. I obviously had my fight scene with Jess and that was so wonderful, it was truly so fun. There are four female characters in the film and two of them are the mother and the daughter and two of them are fighters and all the rest of the fighter characters are men. I think what the audience wants to see and what we want to play is a girl-on-girl fight. It’s fantastic. I wish I could tell you more but you’ll just have to wait to see it. It’s very badass, it’s two absolute bosses meeting in the middle and going ham. I’m so excited about it. I did really enjoy the scenes where everyone was together in one room, that really gave me a buzz.
GRAZIA: There’s a lot of bloodshed in this film. Did you love action films as a kid?
STRINGER: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. Big Hollywood, big budget, explosions, monsters, aliens, all that kind of thing is what my family and I call “big dumbs”. They’re big dumb movies you know, they don’t require a lot of brain power and they are just visually entertaining. I’ve always really enjoyed the experience and it’s kind of a ritual going to the theatre and sitting there with your popcorn and watching this big dumb thing happen on a massive screen in front of you – and not having to think too much, not having to intellectualise the plot lines. I’ve been doing auditions for some action films and television shows and I went back and started watching big dumb films like Godzilla and King Kong. I watched Jurassic Park, I watched Avatar and that helped me come to terms with the pressure I put on myself to be a “good actor”.
GRAZIA: What do you mean by that?
STRINGER: There are those actors that are very serious, and I want to get very gritty and get very dirty and I want to really get into a role and that I’m passionate about. But when you’re doing big dumb action films that are just pure joy and entertainment – I think that’s enough for me to be doing some kind of good in the world. It’s ok for me to be just entertaining at the moment. I’m not trying to diminish the artistry it takes to make these films, but it’s different. It might not be challenging the status quo and it might not be making you think about the world, it might not be challenging your own belief system but that’s ok. It’s ok to just be entertaining, and I don’t have to be the best actor in the world, I don’t have to have everyone take me super seriously. That’s something I’ve realised and that’s something that’s really taken the pressure off me as an emerging young actor.
GRAZIA: You recently wrapped Children of the Corn, a Stephen King classic. What was the vibe on the set of that movie like, versus Mortal Kombat?
STRINGER: That was very different because I was playing a teenager. I was not playing an assassin in a hard leather armour costume and wielding swords and blood and guts and fighting on big sets. Children Of The Corn was actually closer to my own reality, it was fun to play, and [director] Kurt Wimmer is very passionate and also very collaborative, which was the same with Simon. Simon was very collaborative so I could just go up to him and say, ‘Hey I’m thinking about this’ and he would say, ‘Oh that’s a great idea, do whatever you feel you have to do’. I love children and I love working with children and I got to hang out with a lot of cool kids on Children Of The Corn. I really enjoyed working with my co-stars and I really enjoyed getting into the emotions that you go through in a horror film because you see all this ghastly stuff. But the difference is, when you’re playing a teenager seeing all this ghastly murder, it’s traumatising and it’s life or death and it’s terrifying. Whereas when I’m seeing blood and guts and gore in Mortal Kombat, it’s an absolute joy!
GRAZIA: Lastly, as your star gets bigger, is there anything about fame that worries you?
STRINGER: That’s an interesting thing. I think it would be the loss of privacy. A lot of people say, ‘If I could I would just do films and work and be successful and not be famous’. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that if you want to climb to the top of this career path, you are going to have to take the fame along with the money that you can earn and the success and the fulfilling work you can do at that point. They’re all interconnected. I worry about stupid things that a person’s done in their past, I worry about that stuff being brought up and being embarrassed. But we’re human beings and I think people are mostly understanding, politically we’re heading in a good direction so I’m not worried. But if I ever got super famous like Lady Gaga and I couldn’t go outside without being chased, then that would be horrible. But I don’t think it’s going to be that bad so we’re ok.
GRAZIA: Time will tell.
Mortal Kombat is in cinemas now.