We’ve been near obsessed with Sasha Lane since we put her on the cover of Wonderland a few issues back. We’ve also been mega-fans of British female filmmaker Andrea Arnold of Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights fame since forever. This Friday sees the release of a match made in film heaven, American Honey, Lane’s film debut and the latest feature release from Arnold. The film follows the story of Star, played by Lane, a teenager from a troubled home who runs away to become part of a travelling magazine sales crew and rapidly becomes swept up in their crazy world of wild nights, hard drinking and hustling for dollar door to door across the midwest. Jake, played by Shia LaBeouf, takes Star under his wing and an enticing, unpredictable and volatile romance unfolds between the duo.
The film, an impressive and confident 160 minutes, drags you into the world of Star and crew, and shines a light on the truth and beauty that can be extracted from resilience in the face of the struggles of young people who have been dealt a hard hand from life. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan and Arnold have developed a signature language between themselves, which carries the authenticity and realness of the characters, and the anthemic soundtrack — sporadic and including a lot of Rihanna and hip-hop greats, makes you feel like you’re living this nomadic, sometimes hedonistic life style, too. It’s the poetic look at realness, authenticity and the inner-strength and kind heartedness the young group hold in the face of adversity that is perhaps the most poignant takeaway from American Honey. We sat down with Sasha Lane to talk peace, love, and sharing light. Prepare to be inspired.
Can we start by you telling us a little bit about how you got involved in the film, your journey towards it?
I feel like everything is meant to happen, especially after Amy and Andrea came up to me on the beach and just saying ‘who you are is the reason why we want you’… that’s what makes you think everything that you’ve been through, good and bad, all happened for a reason and it’s built you up to who you are. I remember before I met them I really was working on myself and trying to love myself. I felt like something was missing but I also felt like something really amazing was going to happen and then all of that happened and I kept just saying to my family and random people like… I just wanna be me and I think that I can do that and I have a feeling that’s what I need to be doing is just really sticking to that. Man! You know it happened! It’s just, wow dude life is so trip that they just randomly came up to me on the beach and I was at a moment in life where I was thinking what do I have to lose? I’m also really big on feelings and after talking to them and spending a week with them, which I ended up doing in Florida, I did a lot of improv and had a lot of conversations and I just thought if this feels right just do it! Just listen and be open to it and don’t be afraid.
Definitely. After that a week Andrea [Arnold] told me she wanted me to do it so I went back to school and finished up that year and started filming.
That’s major. That is tricky as well…
From that point on when I’m saying to myself: be open and what you put out there it comes back and blah blah blah! Like how can you not believe that? I am the pure example of that, you know, it makes you feel ah, life.
It’s a bit similar to the path that your character Star has?
Yes, like her whole beginning and everything was kind of correlating to my own journey. I was very much like how is this going to end? It was this weird thing where I was like what is my life going to be like after this? Like Star… So to have an ending like the ending in the film, where its very open and very like you can do anything and you can be away from just what you grew up in is very, very cool. I feel like that completely.
It’s nice to have that parallel between you and the character you’re playing, it really makes it authentic.
Yeah. A little scary but really, really cool since it turned out well.
Cool! So there are a lot of really important themes covered in the film from poverty to abuse and all these different levels of —
Life struggles, intimacy, that kind of thing. What was it that resonated most with you? What got you passionate about the story?
My main thing was that you’re taking a group of people who have constantly been told what they can’t do and have constantly been pushed to the side and told they are not worthy of people’s time and interest. You have shown their light and that they are worth your time and that they are such beautiful people and that there is light amongst all the shit that they’ve gone through. There’s light still in them, despite everyone around them telling them they need to change… That’s the beauty of it. That was the main thing for me.
I think that’s really important and you really feel that in the film. There’s so many scenes where everyone is just joking around, running around and they’re all singing together and it was like so many shit hands have been dealt and yet they’ve all got a spark.
They make the best of it you know? When you, when you are in a constant dark energy and a lot of shit is happening… There’s strength in a lot… There’s a lot of beautiful strength in the fact that that person has individually been like: I’m gonna try and find something to smile about. Like, I’m gonna keep on doing me and I’m gonna look at that person as a human and understand that it’s really complicated and there’s so many levels and layers and sometimes you just gotta look up at the sky and be like beautiful, look at nature, you know? Just like random things to get you through.
I think that’s important. Like those little moments where you just throw your head back and you’re like wow! The sky is blue; it’s a crisp morning.
You just feel everything is OK.
Yes! Like sometimes when I’m so like ‘mmuh’ sometimes I just I lay on the ground and I look up and I’m like ahhhh. Or, you see someone walk by and they’re smiling and you’re like ‘sweet’, you know? ‘Cool. Let’s have a good day.’
What was it like working with Andrea?
I think it was built on a lot of trust. There was this feeling that I was putting a lot of my trust and faith in her, in what she was trying to create. The fact that she was respecting that I am this girl that she found off the beach… Like, I don’t know how to fake this… I am a person you have to respect and she very much did. Just her vision and the way she kind of thrives in this chaotic world and she’s open to letting you kind of do your thing, open to random stuff happening. Like it’s raining today, alright we’ll figure out how to work with it. You know? You’re upset today, we’ll find a way to put that into the scene. Just all those different things and little touches like the Chad character he plays guitar and she’s like lets have you play guitar in it and it’s so incredible and so unique and so beautiful. She really sees people as people and wants to play tribute to that.
I think that comes across really strongly. You feel like there’s a nugget of everyone in their role. It’s not just this character does this and then they do this and this happens… it’s like, no I’m watching something unfold right now.
Exactly. Like you just feel a spark of their personality. Like you get to feel that light and see it and you’re just like, yes!
What was it like working with Shia, too?
It was cool cause I got to meet him like I met everyone else. Like as a person, he was there for a clear reason. We are all human, there’s gonna be a connection and he was down just like everyone else so it was cool.
How did you… because the chemistry you have is major. How did you kind of work up to these really intimate scenes? Was it another case of just trust?
We were just down. Andrea created this little world and we trusted her and each other and we just went for it. You don’t have a lot of time to think about anything anyway. So it’s just go!
From beach to go! I’m very impressed. What was the most difficult scene you worked on? Personally challenging or emotional?
I think the beginning scene where I’m dancing with my dad… you’ve got to find a way to not take it so personally. I just thought of who I was representing… I’m so big on thinking it’s ok to be vulnerable and share your emotions, like that’s not weak… that’s strong and that’s amazing… But when it comes to myself I don’t want you to see that, I don’t want to show my emotions, so that was really hard. I was really vulnerable and then to think that people are gonna watch that scene where I’m so vulnerable and exposed, it did not feel cool.
I think that was important though.
It was so worth it! That’s what I thought about… I was just thinking about all these people who are going to register with that and who are going to feel so strongly and become aware and be able to connect. It’s just so worth it. You just let your fears go and just go for it.
That’s great. That scene was hard to watch and I think that’s really brave. I feel like it’s a very important film on a lot of levels.
Everything that it highlights and represents is so very much of now and so very important. Its that middle Midwest, the middle part of America that not a lot of people know about and needs to be shown for so many different reasons as far as the lack of opportunities, the poverty, all of that but also it gives you this sense of just how you need to be empathetic. You have to be open. You have to be understanding that shit happens but people try tomake it in this world and live in a world that’s very much saying no to you. It is telling you to not be so judgmental, to open up a bit. To show people that not everyone has to live like them in order for them to be a good person or in order for them to have a very fulfilled life.
What’s next on your horizon? Are you feeling very open towards it all?
Yeah! That’s the beauty of it. What you put out there you get back and once I’ve let go of control it is a really big weight of my shoulders. It can be scary but you’ve just you’ve got to let things happen. You’ve got to feed into that and just be really open because when you’re open then anything can happen! You can chose do I like this or not? You’ve got to listen and that’s what I’m doing… I’m just being very aware and just listening.
Into it, into it. Did you know much about.. did you watch a lot of films growing up?
I thought I did but now I’m in this industry I’m like I don’t know a thing. I don’t know a thing. Except the one thing that I do know is that I have watched movies and I’ve really connected with them and it has been like this escape where it has made me think and remember those type of movies. I’m trying create that feeling a be part of that. Also the films that make you feel good, you can have fun with it too and you can also be real about it. You can tell the difference between authenticity or like being cheesy or when its not really working the way it should work.
What would you say is your motto? Do you have anything that you live by or that you feel connects you to who you are?
No matter what I just want to be about love and peace. So, no matter how much people try to dig at me or when things happen and it breaks me down its just important to me to have a lot of love in my heart. I’m not gonna, I don’t wanna be, I used to be really cold and I don’t wanna be cold, I don’t like that feeling. I want to share it and spread it. I want to always live like ‘I’m sorry that you don’t feel that way or you couldn’t smile today’. I just want to be that person who keeps love and peace with me regardless of how other people treat me or feel towards me.
American Honey is released on Friday October 14th 2016.