The Voyeurs: How Sydney Sweeney Pieced Together Pippa's "Extensive" Backstory

Take a look around the room. Are the lights off? Are the blinds shut? If you've ever had the odd sensation that you're being watched, Amazon Prime's new erotic thriller The Voyeurs is about to confirm all of your worst fears. Set in the cityscape of Montreal, the film is a tantalizing look through the eyes of a woman named Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) who's just moved into her first apartment with her boyfriend, Thomas (Justice Smith).

Before their boxes are even unpacked, the couple discover that they can see straight into their neighbors' apartment, giving them front-row seats to Julia (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Seb's (Ben Hardy) passionate sex life. "Just because somebody is allegedly allowing you to look into their lives doesn't mean it's OK to watch," Pippa tells Thomas at the beginning of the film. But what starts out as illicit spying quickly turns into a series of dark and twisted events that leave our minds reeling.

Like the main character in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film Rear Window, Pippa — a newly graduated optometrist who's spent her life buried under piles of books — develops a dangerous obsession with her neighbors' personal lives. "They cared more about what was going on in other people's lives than what was going on in their own," Seb says near the end of the film. After witnessing Seb's multiple affairs from afar and becoming friends with Julia beyond the glass of their floor-to-ceiling windows, Pippa decides to take matters into her own hands, opening up a can of worms that results in steamy sex scenes, painful realizations, and irreversible damage.

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Speaking with POPSUGAR, Sweeney shared her process for getting into character as Pippa, explaining that while some actors attempt to fully emotionally invest themselves in their characters via method acting, her approach is a little more unconventional. "I'm building the character in a different way," she said, adding that she creates detailed written backstories for every character she plays. "I do love how method actors stay in character. I take that approach, but from their past. I live and breathe in [that] past so that present-day Pippa or whatever character I'm playing is just having all of these moments happen to them organically and fresh."

"I build her entire life from the day she's born."

In building Pippa's life story, Sweeney dedicated hours to compiling a timeline of real-life historical events that might have shaped her life and diary journals written from Pippa's perspective, treating her like a living, breathing human being. "It's hard because I try to make sure that every character is completely different from the other," she said. "Trying to make sure that each character has its own genuine journey and path and past, present, future is really important to me. It's a lot of cross-referencing."

For Pippa's character, Sweeney said she created around 10 or 20 pages of writing outlining the young optometrist's story. "Every book is a little different, but structurally I try to keep it constant with what I'm looking to put into it," she said. "I build her entire life from the day she's born . . . There are diary journals as if Pippa has written them. There are visual boards of her house that she grew up at and the school that she went to, her dream board — things that girls would have put in their diaries — and then just normal facts about someone. It's quite an intensive, extensive process."

Infused with sexual tension and scenes so steamy you'll want to open a window, the film is also layered with dark themes that bring out the worst in each character. By diving into Pippa's life before the move to Montreal, Sweeney was able to help the character explore her own sexuality and wicked tendencies on screen, making for a story that's equal parts suspenseful and alluring. "I always felt that Thomas and Pippa were late-high-school sweethearts that went to college in the same town," she said. "Then Thomas really didn't focus on school — he was more into his band — and Pippa just buried herself in books her entire life, so she has always envied this wild life that Thomas had in a way."

Ahead, read more from Sweeney about what it was like behind the scenes of the chilling film and see an exclusive clip from The Voyeurs.

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POPSUGAR: What attracted you to the script?

Sydney Sweeney: I was attracted to the script as a whole. The first time I read it, I was just blown away by every single twist and turn. Every 20 pages, something else happened that I didn't see coming and I think that's hard to do in scripts these days because it's easy to figure out the ending . . . There were so many arcs and emotional journeys that [Pippa] takes the audience on.

PS: What was your favorite scene to film?

SS: I don't know if I can choose just one favorite scene . . . It was really cool to be able to film the scenes where we are watching across the way to Ben and Natasha's characters because we had no idea what they were going to do . . . It was a really cool experience because so many times you're playing off of nothing. [Director Michael Mohan] allowed us to be able to interact with what our characters would have been interacting with.

PS: The conversations between Pippa and Thomas feel so natural. Were you and Justice given free rein to improvise while filming?

SS: Michael gave us so much freedom to be able to ad-lib, which was a lot of fun, especially with Justice because there was something in our chemistry, our friendship that was able to bring out this goofy humor banter back and forth. None of it was actually in the script. [The script] was way more serious than it's portrayed. But Justice and I, we hit it off and this relationship built and we didn't even know it. Mike loved it and he let us keep it in the script and he would just let us play. We were so thankful because it was a lot of fun and it just felt as real as real could be, so I'm glad my [Super] Mario line made it in."

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PS: What was it like to film Pippa's breakdown scene after she discovers the truth about Julia and Seb?

SS: I've never really filmed a revenge-type sequence, so I was actually really nervous, but it was a lot of fun. The stairs that I come out of [weren't] actually stairs. There was just a little box that I had to hide in and then open it . . . I [was] hiding in this box, trying to hype myself up, and then I had to explode out of it. It was a lot of fun.

PS: The film touches on some pretty dark themes. What was the atmosphere like behind the scenes?

SS: It was one of the most fun sites I've been on. We had a blast, we just hung out, read books, laughed every day. It was a great atmosphere. I loved every minute of it . . . Everyone in Montreal is beyond nice. They're amazing human beings.

PS: Are there any significant moments of symbolism throughout the film that viewers should keep an eye out for?

SS: [Michael] is very detail-oriented, so there's a lot of Easter eggs that you can find within the film that you don't even know of. I'm curious to see if anyone starts to try and put the puzzle pieces together . . . Even I didn't [notice them] half the time. Then Mike pointed them out to me when I watched it last night and all of it made sense . . . I truly hope that maybe Mike writes what happens next and we get a little bit of a sequel."

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To see Pippa's story play out on screen and put together the chilling puzzle pieces for yourself, stream The Voyeurs on Amazon Prime Video beginning Sept. 10. In the meantime, take a sneak peek at an exclusive clip starring Sweeney and Bordizzo here.