ST. PETERSBURG — Paul Wilborn describes his wife, Eugenie Bondurant, as “a southern domestic goddess kind of gal,” the type of woman who will “paint and prime a bathroom, a sorority sister from the University of Alabama, one of the best cooks around and beautiful.”
Modeling agencies agree with that final assessment. She has walked runways from New York City to Paris.
But Hollywood sees her differently.
“They see evil,” Bondurant laughed. “I don’t know why, but I am sure as heck happy that they do.”
For the third time in two years, the St. Petersburg actress is playing a dark character in a major film, first in “Fear of Rain,” then “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” and now “Werewolf by Night,” the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is streaming on Disney+.
Her character, Azarel, is a part of a team of monster hunters who might be more monstrous than the creatures they seek to kill. Azarel is quiet and foreboding, the type who remains in the shadows before violently lashing out with her scythe.
“The exact opposite of Eugenie,” Wilborn said.
Still, he has also cast his wife in a scary role.
She will emcee La Luchaween 2022: A Spooky Evening of Music & Film on Oct. 29 at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. The jazz trio La Lucha will score classic horror films of the silent film era while Bondurant hosts as a character reminiscent of Elvira.
“Just typecasting her,” Wilborn said. “But come out and see for yourself that she is actually nice.”
What should fans expect to learn about Bondurant?
“She’s not scary at all,” said Paul Wilson, a St. Petersburg actor who worked with Bondurant in “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” in which she starred as the occultist protagonist. “She is bubbly and outgoing and the most fun you’ll ever have in a conversation. That she can come off as sinister on screen is a real credit to her talent.”
A key to playing a bad guy is to find their motivation, Bondurant said. “Even if it is not written into the script, figure it out. If a character wants to create chaos, why? Maybe it helps them feel confident. Why? Maybe it’s because they want to be recognized. Why? Maybe because they weren’t recognized as a child. Why? No one is just evil. There is a reason.”
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But Bondurant also said it is more than just her acting. It’s how she appears onscreen.
“It’s my cheekbones, I think,” she said. “And then I am tall and angular.”
Bondurant joked that some are born with “Resting Bitch Face,” whereas she has “Resting Evil Face” or “Resting Serial Killer Face.”
“Someone told me the other day that I looked like I was giving her a sneaky snake eye look,” she said. “That wasn’t my intention at all. I was just thinking something to myself.”
Dori Rath was part of a production that saw evil in Bondurant. She produced “Fear of Rain,” which filmed around Tampa Bay and needed a bad guy to star opposite Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr.
“The role was meant for a man, but we couldn’t agree on who it should be,” Rath said. “Hundreds auditioned on tape, and none seemed right.”
Then the production team was looking at photographs of possible locations, one of which was Bondurant’s home.
“In the background of that picture was Eugenie,” Rath said. “She was looking out the window and was arched over and looked like a shadow. The director said she would go with a female villain if we could find someone who looked like that. The location scout then told us that Eugenie was an actress,” whose past roles included Tigris in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2.”
The script was rewritten for a female protagonist.
The production was happy with decision. While the cameras were rolling, Rath said, Bondurant would creep them out. And when the director yelled cut, Bondurant “became the type who offered you a piece of her cake.”
His wife’s recent success is proof of Hollywood magic, Wilborn said. “She’s sweet and beautiful and is cast as a bad guy. Then there are women who are always cast as attractive, sweet middle-aged women and they aren’t sweet or attractive. It’s all about how the camera reads you.”
Still, Bondurant wondered, maybe she is evil.
“My parents always said I was a good girl,” she said. “Now I realize that was always followed by ‘but.’ What was that ‘but?’ What did they mean? Maybe I was bad. Maybe I was born for these roles.”
Meet Eugenie Bondurant
She will emcee La Luchaween 2022: A Spooky Evening of Music & Film at 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. Tickets are available at mypalladium.org.