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Hey yíall, we had the pleasure of a chat with director Gaby Dellal and actress Lynn Collins about their amazing drama, Angels Crest. A smash at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, the film is finally getting a nationwide release.

 

Angels Crest

Director Gaby Dellal

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  How did Angels Crest come to you?

Gaby Dellal:  You know what? I read it on one sitting. I went on romantic trip with my partner to the south of France for the weekend and it rained and rained and rained. We literally couldnít go out because it was sheet rain.  So, I had this manuscript that my agent had sent me and my book, and we ended up reading it together and we just wept all weekend.  So, itís one of those funny things; we looked at each other and we said, ĎWe have to make this into a movie,Ē and so, that was the beginning of the process which was a long one, but that was the funny way it came to me.

 

LMD:  This might be the only time weíve seen a film about a young couple with a child where the male in the relationship is the responsible parent and the female is a mess.  Did that make it a harder sell to get produced?

GD:  Yeah, it was really difficult, but it was what intrigued me most was that I was telling a story about a father and child, not a mother and child.

So that was one of the selling points to me when we were devising the script.  Then what was particularly interesting and what was not in the book was it was a young father; the idea of a baby losing a baby.  And the idea that we blame him, but in fact, this movie is really about how we try and be the best parents we possibly can and no matter who we are or how old we are, we are all animals and we give birth to our young and we try to look after them to the best of our ability.

 

LMD:  The way that Ethan is blamed makes me wonder if a woman would have undergone the same scrutiny and judging in this sad situation?

GD:  I donít think it would have been different if it had been a woman.  I just wanted the idea that it was a parent.  I think that it was his age that caused it.  And I kept thinking, would people watch this and think ĎWell, he wasnít a real father, he was only 21. He was playing on the Playstation.í  What made me interested in making him so young is what quantifies being a real parent?  Weíre all -- the minute we have a child -- weíre a parent.  We donít know how to do it, we do it.  I donít believe anyone consciously, because we are animals, wants to do it badly.  

My story is really about how we all sort of feel our way through parenting and we do it to the best of our ability and we do everything by the Grace of God.  I think everybodyís made mistakes and this is about either people not admitting that they make the same mistakes, or about how some of us are blessed and we get away with them.  And how many times do we get away with the things we do and hopefully we get away with them for the rest of lives, but there are some people who donít get away with them and never recover.  

I remember Iíd lost a girlfriend recently who was young, 48 or so.  Sheíd died of something so stupid, but she had been a really bad junkie Ďtil the age of about 22, and the other day I heard somebody say something about her and somebody said, ďHow did she die?Ē And someone else said, ďWell, she lived very dangerously,Ē but that was nearly 30 years ago, but they believed that that killed her in the end.  It was just that notion that things catch up with you, maybe.  And this poor boy -- I mean, Iíve left my children in the back of cars -- actually when he left his boy in the back of the car in the middle of nowhere, early in the morning, for me, nothing wrong with that.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But for some reason, that gorgeous little boy woke up, opened the window, lost his balloon and went to find it.

 

LMD:  Iím mesmerised by Thomas Dekkerís performance.  Weíve pretty much only seen him in teen roles on television.  What did you see that made you think he was right for Ethan?

GD:  I just see those amazing eyes that make you think heís got black eyeliner on.  He hasnít.  There is a well of emotion and held-backness that I just immediately went for.  Thereís a truth to his performance; he gave an extraordinary performance.  Thereís a vulnerability in Thomas that heís so much older than his years in life and heís so much more sophisticated intellectually, but the baby that he is is there.  He hasnít been robbed of it and thatís what drew me to him.  

Heís a wonderful actor and I think that half the battle of this was being a barometer as to how much they could lose it and when, so that I could literally orchestrate this emotional rollercoaster.  Thomas had such ability with the instrument that he has naturally, that he was able to contain it or let it go.  It was very hard to get the temperature of his performance right, because if he let go too much at the beginning, then he had nowhere to go, and so it was really difficult and I just knew that with his ability as an actor that I was going to be able succeed with that.  I hope I did.

 

LMD:  Lynn Collins is also outstanding is as Cindy.  The character has so many layers; itís hard to tell whatís real to her.  Itís a very tight line to walk to keep her from appearing as a pure villain.  How did you orchestrate that performance?

GD:  You see, because her performance is so strong and so honest, I believe that she gets your compassion straight away; but I did watch some audiences watch it and say, ďBut she was such a terrible mother.Ē  But when you stop judging people and you just see raw honesty, I think she took you on a journey.  

It was about making sure when we were gonna see that frozen outside thaw and thatís what we worked on together very hard; when to let her exterior thaw, when to let her defences down.  When sheís lying on the bed and she goes and rescues him {Ethan} and heís naked in the snow and that scene when she laughs and then collapses, it was so exciting working with her on that; just showing little minuets that were amazing.  

Also, in the editing, it was interesting because in that particular scene there were a lot of words and there was one version of the scene where I took all the words out, so the dark humour has wrapped over the two of them: They had fought over their son and he had finally become as bad a parent as she had been.  And I had no words in that at one point, which I kind of loved most, but people said to me, ďYou have to put in a few words,Ē so I put a few words back in.  And then it ends with him saying, ďIím so, so sorry,Ē and then she just looks at him and looks away and thatís the first night sheís able to sleep.  That was really exciting working with the two of them together and I thought they worked off each other really, really well.  So I was lucky enough to have those two really good leads.

 

LMD:  Can you talk about the locations you used?  There are the mountains and beautiful snowscapes, but itís also a run-down, industrial area.  What was it like to film in that constant snow?

GD:  I actually did a trip across the Rockies and it took me about 9 days, and I went to all sorts of different towns.  Coleman was this kind of deserted, run-down, one-horse town; there was something dilapidated, romantic, authentic about it that I went for.  

We chose a really hard location where it is minus-30 and we had to deal with it, and we shot at the time where there was the least amount of light, so we only had from 8 Ďtil 4 every day.  

So we really gave ourselves as many challenges as possible and we kind of rode them.  I mean the actors -- itís really hard to emote when youíre that cold, cos you know what itís like when youíre cold; you just kind of shrivel up.  

Thomas really always insisted on wearing exactly what you see him wear; like in the funeral, heís just wearing a white shirt and a suit.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth McGovern actually fainted from hypothermia and passed out and had to be rushed off. 

It was very, very hard, but I think the actors used that cold during their performance.  I remember looking at rushes at Thomas and he looks kind of like Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin; heís wearing this black suit and white shirt and heís just kind of wan and lost and skeletal.  I think the cold kind of helped.  Heís like this scared animal.  I think that the surroundings were contributing to that performance.

 

LMD:  Whatís coming up next for you?

GD:  Well, happily, it shall be a comedy.  I think itís needed; I donít think I could put my name to another tragedy.  Itís as close to a romantic comedy as I intend to make.  Itís called Departures and itís about two people who are divorced, who ferry a child backwards and forwards across continents and how they end up falling in love again.  Iíve been working on it a long time and it takes place a lot in airports.  Itís funny and moving and female. 

Thereís that and then thereís an Irish movie about siblings that is a bit like The Darjeeling Limited, about three siblings crossing Ireland in search of the perfect place to scatter their motherís ashes.  Thereís the dynamic and the hilarity about grown-up siblings, however old and however developed each of their lives are with husbands and wives and children; when they are confined to a small space they become children again.  So, hopefully thatís funny, too.

 

Lynn Collins

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  How did you get the role of Cindy?

Lynn Collins:  Well, itís actually an audition for Steven {Strait, husband}, and I went with him.  Afterwards, I was supposed to have a meeting with Gaby; it wasnít even to audition for her, I guess, she was just meeting me to see if she liked me at all.  And she was like, ďWill you and Steven read this scene together?Ē  So, for the first time, ever Steven and I read these two scenes in front of Gaby and she cast me and didnít cast him!

 

LMD:  So, the role was meant to be yours?

LC:  Well, this piece -- Iím a recovering alcoholic, and to play a using alcoholic when youíve just begun recovery is just mind-blowing and deeply transformative, and I hope that on many levels anybody struggling with that issue, their hearts are touched or opened or moved or somehow inspired.

 

LMD:  We rarely see women onscreen as bad mothers who choose not to take care of their children the same way ďdeadbeat dadsĒ are shown in media. Were you aware of that uniqueness when you read Cindy?

LC:  Itís interesting that you said that, thatís so astute of you; youíre giving me perspective that I havenít necessary been aware of. 

I came into it more focusing on the grief aspect; using my experience with grief to help shed light on the grieving process and the coping process that happens in our society, that I donít think is sufficient.  I donít think that a funeral is necessarily enough; I think we need more rituals to coping with death and loss in all societies, but I can only speak for the community Iím in.  I think the more honest we are in our art, the more honest we can be on a global level.

 

LMD:  Cindy is such a ball of rage and regret.  Did Gaby Dellal allow you to interpret her as you wished or did you stick closely to what was on the written page?

LC:  At the very beginning, when she hired me, she was very clear that I could take the reins and that she believed in my instincts fully and completely. So I told her if it gets too big, turn me down, and she never really had to do that and we just maintained eye contact before and after a take and sort of delved forward.     

 

LMD:  What was the research you did to create Cindy?  Did you speak to young mothers suffering the loss of a child?

LC:  Itís so weird in my career; I had done this play about a woman who had lost a child about four years prior to shooting Angels Crest, so I had all of this info. 

My mother has lost -- I have lost two siblings when they were children, and so I had my mother always to look to and her mothering was complicated, of course, and I had a lot closely that lead me to the choices I started making as Cindy. 

Mostly, it was a combination of the Jungian idea of shadow and light, and how itís shadow that must be brought into light, so that we can continue to shed light, and I just really felt like it was time for me to be a part of that process or that shadow. 

 

LMD:  How did you take this character whoís the town joke and outwardly so vile and keep her from being a one-dimensional villain?

LC:  I just kept trying to go deeper, root deeper, and I just felt that the more honest and present I was, the more truthful everything was going to be.  

And I also -- I donít share this a lot -- but I do this before every series of takes in a scene; I just lift it up to the universe, to God, to Allah, to whatever you believe in.  For me, I just use the word ďuniverseĒ and I lift it up and I say, ďLet me be a channel. Let me be a channel for this character, for the energy, so that people who are watching this movie will be moved, inspired or changed,Ē and then I go forward.  With this particular movie -- Iím not a religious person -- but it was surrounded in prayer for me because I knew I was touching on subjects that affect people deeply.

 

LMD:  We see Cindy and Ethanís relationship in the midst of this nightmare for any parent.  We donít see the way they were before.  Did you and Thomas Dekker work out a backstory for the couple?

LC:  I was actually on board the film before Thomas was.  I actually read with him and Gaby in England, so there was this chemistry that started which was brother/sister.  As a matter of fact, I was like, ďYes, Gaby, this is what you were looking for for this character. This is the guy,Ē and he was like, ďOh, Iím so grateful to you, Lynn.Ē  So, we began out of that. 

Then there was that sort of seniority, in a way, which you need to have between Ethan and Cindy; I think Gaby wanted that between them, so that the intimacy that you see when they become intimate in an emotional way, that you see how far she has had to bend to get so far away from him and how far she had to bend to get to where she got to.  So, when she finally does have that moment of intimacy with him again -- when she saves him in the snow and they go back to the cabin and theyíre on the bed and all of that -- that was sort of like the beginning of what could be a redemption for that character, for Cindy and for his character, too, but it doesnít happen that way.  

I also think for us, we would spend time on that bed just sort of hanging out and we knew we had great chemistry because we kind of think the same way.  You can have different chemistry with different people in different ways and ours was definitely a mental and emotional connection where we could intuit how the other was feeling, but also be on an intellectual basis having a conversation.  Heís an incredible guy and a massive talent and a huge mind.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 30th, 2011

 

 

Angels Crest opens in theatres in New York on Dec 30th and available on video-on-demand from November 25th.

 

 

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Photos

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