'Love Lies Bleeding' catapults Katy O'Brian into Hollywood.  

KatyO'Brian's unique life has influenced her fiction. She spotted a filthy condom in a dingy New Mexico back alley while filming her pulpy romance drama "Love Lies Bleeding." More crucially, like her muscular character, O'Brian is a gay Midwestern woman facing a life-changing moment. 

“Everything's weird,” says O'Brian, who has just learned “super-secret news” about her rapid career rise from supporting TV appearances (“Z Nation,” “The Mandalorian”) to co-leading a Kristen Stewart neo-noir film. “It feels simulation-y.”

In director Rose Glass' "Love Lies Bleeding" (in cinemas now), the Indianapolis native, 35, plays Jackie, an aspiring bodybuilder from Oklahoma who travels through 1980s New Mexico to a Las Vegas competition. Jackie's life becomes violent when she falls for introverted gym boss Lou (Stewart).

While Glass crafted Stewart's role with her in mind, O'Brian had a great connection with Jackie when she read the script and endured a six-part tryout before getting cast. “That allowed me to go in with this level of arrogance and confidence that I never, ever go into an audition with,” says O'Brian, married to screenwriter Kylie Chi. “Not being nervous helped me. ‘Yeah, I'm here.’”

In "Love Lies Bleeding," Jackie and Lou's love story involves murder, betrayal, and scorching sex, but their attraction begins when Jackie enters the dismal gym and Lou observes her pounding iron. Of course Kristen's lovely. It would be harder if they weren't cute, adds O'Brian about their relationship.

O'Brian says, “The ‘80s is such a big and fun and wild time,” and Glass furnished the sets with vintage gym equipment. “It's not woman-sized. You must modify because it's too big. Plus, the costumes were so revealing that you had to walk around like, "Yeah, I'm hot (stuff)," because it's just your skin and you have to hold it up.

O’Brian competed in bodybuilding in her 20s, so “Bleeding” posing was easy. There probably was perspiration. O'Brian liked that Glass took moviegoers behind the curtain to see spray tans and last-minute bicep workouts. “All the moments of intensity,” says the actress. “The most stressful thing is right before, not on the stage.” The film portrays "the weird juxtaposition of being very pretty but really tense at the same time." You must flex while smiling and seeming to enjoy it.”

O'Brian, a martial artist, has maintained her bodybuilding workouts for years because “it’s what I know but also good for my mental health.” Getting into Jackie mindset was “fairly easy” for her. “The physicality side is really effortless for her,” adds Glass, who calls O'Brian "extremely charismatic" but "but behind that, she offers this great fragility and softness.” Stewart says, “She’s Frankenstein. Sweet little Frankenstein

When their mother signed them with an agent, O'Brian and her older brother began acting. Mixing Black and white, they had trouble finding a place: “They just didn't really know where to put us.” Although discouraged, O'Brian "was always doing something artistic," from neighborhood theater to assistant-directing shows in high school and playing percussion in band.

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