Hollywood’s Next Big Thing: ‘Independence Day’ Actress Maika Monroe Goes From Pro Kiteboarder to Breakout Star

The 23-year-old former athlete, who got her big break in 2014’s Sundance hit ‘It Follows,’ is making the leap to tentpole with a role in ‘Resurgence.’

Up until age 17, Maika Monroe glided across a different shimmering surface than the big screen. The Santa Barbara native was living in the Dominican Republic as a top-ranked professional kiteboarder, an extreme sport that looks something like snowboarding on water. For years, Monroe had been sending out mostly ignored audition tapes to casting agents. But in 2011, she received a call about playing Zac Efron’s love interest in the family drama At Any Price. She landed the role, and her future quickly changed course. A bit part in The Bling Ring and a showy role in The Guest followed before she nabbed the lead in the Sundance horror breakout It Follows. Now, she’s making the leap to tentpole with Fox’s Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24), playing former First Daughter Patricia Whitmore. Though she’s largely shelved the board and sunblock, she still gets out on the water between roles (“It really helps me stay sane,” she says.) The actress spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about who she bonded with most on set, the perils of Hollywood and whether or not we’ve been visited by ETs.

How has kiteboarding helped you as an actress?

It taught me determination, working hard for something. There’s lots of discipline. I enjoy roles that are quite physical. That was really fun with Independence Day, being a fighter pilot, kicking some ass.

 
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With ‘Independence Day: Resurgence,’ Maika Monroe Proves She’s More Than Just a Scream Queen

Two sleeper successes set the stage for Maika Monroe. Now, the reluctant “scream queen” is primed for her blockbuster breakthrough.

 Super cool. Badass. Kickass. These are just a few of the adjectives that Maika Monroe often uses in casual conversation. They’re also completely appropriate descriptors to use for the 22-year-old nationally-ranked-kiteboarder-turned-bonafide-leading-woman as well. Hailing from Santa Barbara, Calif., Monroe is just getting started in her quest to carve out her place as a young actress in Hollywood, and she’s doing it with remarkable proficiency. A cursory glance at her IMDb page boasts an embarrassment of riches in both directors (Sofia Coppola, Jason Reitman) and actors (Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Zac Efron) with whom she’s already collaborated. Most important, Maika Monroe is making power moves on her own terms.

After a spate of minor roles in projects like At Any Price and The Bling Ring, Monroe watched her star power explode in 2014 after the one-two punch of Adam Wingard’s pop home-invasion thriller The Guest and David Robert Mitchell’s chilling sexual terror tale It Follows. The former became an instant cult hit while the latter not only rejuvenated the art house horror genre—paving the way for films like Goodnight Mommy and The Witch—but also grossed tenfold its $2 million budget. Monroe became instantly celebrated for her impressive acting chops and her eye for smart scripts that feature powerful, multi-faceted female characters.

This summer, the actress is out to prove her range, transitioning from indie darling to blockbuster boss in this summer’s highly anticipated Independence Day: Resurgence, in which she plays Patricia Whitmore, the daughter of the former president, played by Bill Pullman. It’s Monroe’s first step into the mainstream, but also proof that she’s up for anything. Think that Monroe is ready to settle for the “scream queen” label? Think again.

Having a major role in one of the most anticipated sequels of the year is a big move. We’re experiencing a high tide of reboots and sequels. What was it about Independence Day: Resurgence that made you want to get involved?
Well, growing up, my dad absolutely loved the original and he showed it to me on VHS. And you could just tell it was something special. When it came out in ’96, [with] the CGI and everything, I was blown away by it.

It’s something about the characters. Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman—their characters were all so specific and real. You fall for them. And for a movie that’s so ridiculous and so big, you have to have those characters that you care about. I think Roland [Emmerich] does that well. That’s what I really liked about it and the original film.

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