Madeleine Quinn talks ‘The Scary of Sixty-First’, a dark thriller about Jeffrey Epstein’s old apartment

The Scary of Sixty-First is a film that walks a fine line between tension, humour, and sleaze with a devilishly good premise.

Madeline Quinn is a recent star and co-writer The Scary of Sixty-First, a much-hyped feature film that tells the tale of two women who move into a curiously low-priced Upper East Side apartment. What seems too good to be true turns out to be just that, as they find out the snazzy accomodation used to belong to late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

With darker-than-dark humour firmly in tow, the film collected the Berlinale’s Best First Feature Award, and is set to release in Australian cinemas on December 16th. To celebrate, we took five with Quinn to discuss the film’s cursed subject matter, and how the cast and crew navigated it while pulling off a cinematic home run.

The Scary of Sixty-First
Image: The Scary of Sixty-First / Dasha Nekrasova

HAPPY: Hey there Maddie! Whereabouts do you find yourself today?

MADDIE: I’m in our office. We’ve got a Christmas tree in here, it feels nice.

HAPPY: Massive congratulations on the creation of your feature film, The Scary of Sixty-First, what made you want to tackle such a heavy contemporary issue?

MADDIE: Thank you! We already had a preexisting fixation on the case. Our shared sense of futility and confusion led us to the decision to approach it narratively, as a film.

HAPPY: This was your feature-film debut… were there any particular hurdles or challenges you didn’t expect throughout the writing process?

MADDIE: I’ve been on a few first-time filmmaker sets – they can be quite chaotic, whether that chaos be apparent or muted. Overall I had an idea of what issues to expect. I’d pre-strategised and mapped out a few worst case scenarios but the shoot went quite smoothly. Initially it was worrying to me, like, ‘something has to go wrong’. Maybe it will next time.

HAPPY: Co-writer and director Dasha mentioned that the early development and guiding principle of The Scary of Sixty-First was intended as a love letter to Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film, Eyes Wide Shut. What’s a common thread between the film and Kubrick’s?

MADDIE: The sense of uncertainty in oneself. The cognitive dissonance of trust and distrust in others. The soft, buttery lighting.

HAPPY: How did you balance your role as writer whilst also acting in the film?

MADDIE: By not consciously acknowledging that I was doing so, which probably would have put me in my own head too much. We didn’t have too much time to overthink things. Ever upward.

HAPPY: What message are you hoping your audience takes away from the film?

MADDIE: Whatever they’d most like to.

HAPPY: What was the reasoning behind blending the Esptein crimes and death conspiracies with a ’70s cinematic style paranoia/thriller?

MADDIE: The line between psychosis and surrealism is blurred, albeit very fine. I think leaning into that was necessary insofar as story goes, but also because those sorts of films are our biggest stylistic influences and what we felt most comfortable creating our own version of.

HAPPY: How did you combat the weight of what you were filming on and off set? Did the cast and crew have any techniques to help relieve the burden of the film’s underlying atrocities and themes?

MADDIE: Everyone was able to compartmentalise those atrocities so we could all zone in and work as a unit to make the film.

HAPPY: Is there a particular aspect of the film that you are most proud of?

MADDIE: The reception of the film’s unorthodox humour. I love Chris Morris and I think he has this really brilliant approach of meshing irreverence and social commentary in a way that creates these extraordinarily subversive, nuanced pieces of comedy. So I suppose ‘going there’ and having it appreciated, I feel very proud of that.

HAPPY: What can we expect in the future of your career? Are you working on anything new?

MADDIE: More writing! I’ve got a couple other things kicking around but I’ve gotta keep ’em under my hat for now.

HAPPY: Thank you Maddie!

MADDIE: Thank you!


The Scary of Sixty-First hits Australian cinemas on December 16, 2021.

Can’t wait that long? You can grab tickets to A Very Scary Christmas featuring a special virtual Q&A with Dasha Nekrasova hosted by Osman Faruqi at select cinemas nationally December 15. Find out more here.