As a child, the 26-year-old actress Chase Sui Wonders often quoted the villains of Die Hard, the 1988 film in which Bruce Willis plays a cop turned vigilante. Shy to the point of going “mute” around everyone but her nuclear family, she saved her impersonations of the movie’s German robbers for her older brothers, who became fans. “I was like, Oh, this is the kind of attention I want,” she says.
Wonders, who grew up in Detroit and is the niece of fashion designer Anna Sui, did plays throughout high school and has been regularly cast in TV shows and movies (including Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks and HBO’s Generation) since graduating from Harvard, in 2018. But she didn’t act in college—after a fellow freshman wrote a scathing review of Wonders’s performance in a student production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, she temporarily retired. “The quote was ‘Chase Sui Wonders was the nail in the coffin of this terrible play,’” she tells me, without having to pause to remember. “I was like, Damn, her word is God.”
Instead of acting, Wonders majored in film studies and was a costumer for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, a Harvard drama society that has staged an annual cross-dressing musical since 1897. At the time, the cast was strictly boys only. Wonders washed the actors’ sweaty thongs after every performance.
Later, she joined The Harvard Lampoon, the school’s humor magazine, as a staff writer. “The Lampoon was a very dark place,” she says. “If you said a joke and it wasn’t funny, no one was going to politely laugh at you in there. That part was really useful—it was the meanest bully workshop for writing jokes and trying to be funny.”
Wonders’s return to acting was inadvertent. Toward the end of college, she signed with a manager to find writing gigs. While sending out writing samples, her reps also sent her on auditions, many of which she self-taped from her dorm room. “It didn’t feel that serious,” she says, until she started booking parts.
Now her biggest film role—as the secretive, baby-doll-dressed Emma in A24’s slasher comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies—is about to hit theaters. Unfolding over one night, the movie focuses on a group of friends (played by Wonders, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, and Amandla Stenberg) vacationing at an upstate New York mansion the night of a storm. As the rain starts, they begin a round of “bodies bodies bodies,” a murder-in-the-dark game where everyone tries to guess who the assigned killer is before he or she slaughters the whole group. Then the power goes out, and one person is found with their throat slit open like a chicken’s. More blood gushes throughout the rest of the film.
Wonders’s character dates David (played by Pete Davidson), the lavishly wealthy, funny, and often cruel son of the estate’s owners. Even as David berates Emma for being stupid, she smiles meekly. “She’s a very dark, Ophelia-like character,” Wonders says. “The most interesting thing for me playing characters is what’s hidden behind the mask—a character presenting one way but going through something different.”
Getting bathed in fake blood by a makeup team every day for five weeks, and watching her castmates get soaked in blood and die, was “actually freaky.” When she returned to her motel room after long days of shooting, she’d tell herself, “Chase, you’re back in your body. That wasn’t real.”
“That actually helped because it was very jarring to see each other in the hallway bloodless and tearless and be like, ’Sup?’” she says.
The psychologically jarring aspects aside, inhabiting a horror film was fun. “Dancing that uncanny line of ‘Is this real?’ is my favorite thing,” Wonders says with a smile.
Bodies Bodies Bodies hits theaters on August 4
Jensen Davis is an Associate Editor for Air Mail