After dominating the world of modeling for over a decade, Agyness Deyn has now set her sights on another challenging craft — the world of acting! Her first major role in Luis Prieto’s ‘Pusher,’ an English-language remake of the gritty 1996 Danish original by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn (who serves as executive producer on the new film and gave Prieto his full blessing). Even though she is a relative newcomer to this aspect of the entertainment industry, her performance certainly doesn’t disappoint, in fact, it has established as a dynamic actress to keep an eye on in the coming years.
‘Pusher’ follows street dealer Frank (Richard Coyle) through a hellish week as his life completely unravels. Naively believing that he’s got a sure thing on his hands, Frank borrows money from his supplier, Milo (Zlatko Buri?, reprising his role from the Danish trilogy), in order to get in on a big drug deal. When things don’t go according to plan, Frank has to scramble to come up with the cash on his own to pay back Milo. As Milo’s impatience mounts, so does Frank’s desperation. The increasingly frantic Frank becomes willing to do whatever it takes to save himself; and when Milo shifts decisively from mildly inconvenienced friend to mortal enemy, Frank risks losing not only his life, but his humanity. Soon, Frank is beating up his sidekick (Bronson Webb), betraying his girlfriend (Agyness Deyn), and even trying to con his own mother (Joanna Hole). Confidently spinning a web of chaos and danger around his characters, Prieto manages to lighten the suffocating atmosphere of violence and fear with occasional breaks of left-field humor and the sleekly grimy beauty of his stylish, neon-splattered palette. A staple of British TV and film (who had a recent turn in the horror comedy Grabbers), Coyle proves himself a first-rank leading man with his portrayal of this man on the edge, while Buri further entrenches Milo as one of the fondest and foulest villains in contemporary crime cinema. With slick cinematography, a thumping original score by techno legends Orbital and terrific performances, this new ‘Pusher’ is hard-hitting, propulsive, kinetic and constantly threatening to spiral out of control. An official selection of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, ‘Pusher’ hits theater on October 26, 2012 and is now available on VOD!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Agyness Deyn to discuss her pursuit of acting, the challenges that presented themselves while shooting ‘Pusher’ and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!
Many of us know you from the world of modeling where you made a name for yourself. What intrigued you about acting and made you pursue it full-time?
I had modeled for twelve years, which is a long time to do one job. It was really amazing, exciting and creative but I found my self wanting something extra, ya know? I supposed I had kinda learned to ride that bike. I wanted something challenging that I could really through myself into and learn. I started doing a few short films and exploring different avenues to be creative. I did these films and I thought “Wow! I really want to do this!” Now, I am doing it! Like any young actress that is starting out, I am auditioning, showing up and wanting to work.
Who would you cite as your biggest influences and actress, who shaped the performer we see today?
I love English movies. Being from the UK, I grew up with a lot of these gritty movies like ‘Trainspotting,’ ‘London to Brighton’ and other movies that were so intense to me as a young person. I love would when it would translate the culture at the time, which I feel like ‘Pusher’ does with the nightlife of London, similarly with ‘Drive’. I love actresses like Samantha Morton, who are so intense and creative and can really create a life where you can take a journey with her. When I watch her performances, I really think she is amazing. I watch her and I always think to myself, “Wow!”
You latest project is ‘Pusher’ which is based on an earlier film. For those who might be unfamiliar with film, what can you tell us about it and your character?
I play “Flo”. She is like a delicate flower. She is a dreamer is one sense and she is Frank’s girlfriend. She wants to be loved by him. Like any girl, she wants to be in the relationship she has fantasized about since she was a little girl and she is just never going to get that from him but she is sticking around because she feels safe and she is an addict. She is so complex in so many ways. She has this persona of being a stripper from the place she works at but yet is so childlike and angelic at the same time. I think that is why I was so drawn to her character — going on a journey with her through Frank’s downfall.
The film is based on an earlier project from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of ‘Drive’. Obviously, your character has an expanded role here but were you familiar with that film beforehand?
When I got the part, Luis [Prieto] as me not to watch the original, which I think was a really good thing for me personally because of the difference Flo had in the original. I have not revisited it yet but I think I definitely will after I let things sink in a little more.
There was tremendous talent onboard for this project. In your opinion, what did director Lusi Prieto and the rest of the cast bring to the table and what did you learn from your time with them?
Luis is Spanish and he works in Italy and for this project was shooting a film in London. I think that brought a freshness to it, to be able to see London in this new way, rather than having it shot by someone who was English and lived in London. Personally, when I watched it for the first time, I thought “Woah! London looks amazing!” Everything about this project was terrific. Richard [Coyle], who plays Frank, is such a great actor and I learned so much from him. For example, the dedication and the drive he has for his work and also the stillness that he has. I was doing an interview with him in London and he described watching actors work where they didn’t do a lot and that is what he wanted for Frank — the simplicity. I feel like that was so great for the part of Frank. Bronson [Webb] who plays “Tony” is such an amazing, spunky and funny guy to work with. We had a lot off fun and laughed a lot on set. The pace and the energy we felt shooting the film, really translates when you are watching it. Luis wanted to keep it as effective and easy as he could. By that I mean, he didn’t have a huge crew and for lighting relied on what was there in the different locations. He really wanted to have that “quick move” quality of not having to set up a whole situation and saying “Ok, we are done. Let’s go to the next thing.” I think that was really smart and he is such a great director. For me personally, working with him was great because he was so supportive. He has such a gentle quality about him that I found so encouraging.
What is your typical process for bringing a character from the script to the screen? How did you approach this project?
It starts by reading the script a lot. Then it is a matter of getting as much reality as I can for this person and what they do to. For this role, Flo is a stripper and an addict. I wanted to know everything about her inside and out, so that is what I went about doing through physical, present-time experience and also by talking to people, reading books and watching movies centering around the things that she is. Then there is trusting that the script is there and that you are part of a team where each bit of it is contributing to the bigger picture.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge for you on the project?
I think the biggest challenge for me on this picture was learning Flo’s job. I had no reality on that whatsoever, being a tomboy! [laughs] It is such an extraverted job and personally, I am very introverted. To have to someone so extraverted was an amazing thing for the film and for me personally. I found it to be a very empowering thing to do. That was kinda fun! I thought it was going to be scary but it was so much fun and I worked with some amazing girls. I went to work with them and just kinda get such an insight on the craft and what is required. The more danger I had, the more it made sense and it became less scary.
Word is that a sequel is in the works. Have you given much though to the directions that you might like to see your character go?
She has to find her journey. I imagine it is going to be fast and exciting like the one in this film. I am really excited to find out what is going to happen and start getting into it!
You are no stranger to being in front of the camera, both as a model and an actress. Do you have any aspirations to one day be behind the camera yourself in the realm of film?
Ya know, I do actually! I feel like at the end of the day, telling stories is what I like to do. Even with modeling, I am telling the story of the character in the shoot. With acting, obviously I am telling a story and being a part of a story. So yeah, I think moving in that direction would be really great!
Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
Personally, I like watching dramas and tragedies with strong women. I also like stuff that indicates, ya know, when you read something or watch a movie and you say “Wow! That is amazing!” — something that really indicates or evokes. The next project I am doing is Terence Davies’ “Sunset Song”. I read that and I auditioned. I was so moved by it, I was in tears reading it. When I watch a film, that is what I want to feel, so I want to be on the other side of it, playing a role like that.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in the entertainment in this current climate?
I think, for me, it is about hard work and enjoyment. I like working and I enjoy it. I know my mother always said to me “Do whatever makes you happy. If it doesn’t, then find something that does.” I suppose that is the best advice.
Thank you for your time, Agyness. Best of luck to you moving forward!
Thanks very much, it was lovely talking to you.