Pusher - Agyness Deyn interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
Aged 29, Agyness Deyn was first scouted in the mid-2000s by modelling agency Select while shopping in London’s Kentish Town with her friend Henry Holland, later to become a well-known fashion designer.
Her career as a cover girl began with the May 2007 issue of American Vogue, and since then she has been a regular fixture in such influential fashion magazines as Elle, ID, Pop, Sunday Times Style, Harper’s Bazaar and Dazed & Confused.
A former student of music and drama, the Lancashire-born Deyn’s acting ambitions started with a small part in Louis Leterrier’s Clash Of Titans (2010), in which she played the goddess Aphrodite, and as an aside from modelling she has also provided vocals for various bands, including The Five O’clock Heroes and Lucky Knitwear.
In Luis Prieto’s Pusher she plays Flo, a high-class stripper involved with Frank (Richard Coyle), a small-time drug dealer whose life is unravelling fast.
Q. How did you get involved with Pusher?
Agyness Deyn: I’m with Independent [management] in the UK, and when I came back from the States, they told me about the project. I saw some of Luis Prieto’s work, read the script and then imagined what it would be like coming out of his head. [Laughs] I thought it would be a really great film.
Q. What sealed the deal for you?
Agyness Deyn: Seeing his work. He made a short film called Bamboleho, where there’s a scene that’s basically two kids making out on a roof with a beach scene in the background. You think they’re actually on the beach, but then the camera pulls back and they’re in front of a poster – they’ve been living on the top of this rundown building, and they’re basically shagging on an old mattress! It was beautiful, both in terms of the way that it was shot and the moments that he’d captured. So, when I read the script I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical London gangster film – I knew it was going to have a certain beautiful quality about it. I think he’s capturing the grit of it, but there’s also a love story there. Which, for Flo… [Pauses] That’s what her character’s all based around, really. Love.
Q. Is this is you first major acting role?
Agyness Deyn: Well, I was in Clash of the Titans, in a tiny role. But yeah. It’s been great, though – so much fun. A real learning curve. Luis has been so gentle and nurturing, and patient.
Q. Did you see the original Pusher film?
Agyness Deyn: No. I made a choice not to watch it, just because I didn’t want to recreate the original character. I think this is going to be very different. In the original, I think Flo was perhaps a little bit more passive and Frank was much more masterful. Flo, in my interpretation, is kind of like a very delicate flower. Child-like and vulnerable. An addict, basically.
Q. What kind of addict?
Agyness Deyn: She’s a heroin addict, and, obviously, with that, she wants to pause her life and get away from it. She’s caught up in this world and needs a way out. She has a job as a stripper, but it’s really just another outlet, another way she doesn’t have to be herself. She transforms herself – she puts a wig on, and an outfit, and then she becomes another person. Because when you get down to the bones of her she’s super-fragile and all she wants is to be loved. She’s quite on her own.
Q. How much did research did you do – not just into the life of a heroin addict but into the life of a stripper? Is it all in the script, or did you have any help?
Agyness Deyn: For some of it, yeah. For the stripper side of it, I worked with an amazing woman who works at Browns [a strip bar in Shoreditch]. She was so generous with her time. I hung out with her, went to work with her, and she’s now become a really good friend through this whole process, showing me the ropes. She took me into her environment and I kind of felt a kind of a part of the family that it is, basically. I discovered that, in these clubs, from the DJ to the doormen, to the women that run some of these places, it becomes a very strong family unit. And I think that’s another thing that attracts Flo to that world. She’s never had that kind of family, so it’s a place where she can be someone else and also take advantage of the kind of protection that comes with that. Also, she and Frank have a weird relationship, where they’re not a typical boyfriend and girlfriend. They don’t have any intimacy, as such – like, they don’t sleep together. But he’s very much protective of her in a really big way.
Q. How about the addict side of it?
Agyness Deyn: Well, anyone can have a sense of that. The idea of being an addict is just to get away from everything, to numb yourself from the world.
Q. Did you have any preconceptions of the stripping world?
Agyness Deyn: I’m quite an open-minded person, so I was quite comfortable going into it. I was well aware I was a guest in this environment, so I was just observing – taking it all in, really. Although it was quite funny, because I had punters coming up to me and asking for dances. [Laughs] I was like, OK, it looks like I really am Flo!
Q. Did you take any acting lessons to prepare?
Agyness Deyn: Not really. I’ve been learning on the job, I suppose. Learning from Luis, the other actors and Richard [Coyle]. It’s just been a really fun process.
Q. Is it at all like being a model?
Agyness Deyn: I suppose that has helped, just in the sense of being around people and having to do what you’re doing. But it’s really nice to create Flo and go into that situation as somebody else.
Q. Do you have any talent for improvising, or do you prefer to have a script?
Agyness Deyn: I quite like improvising! Yeah, we’ve done a few scenes where we’ve mixed it up and changed things. It keeps it a bit fresh if you try it one way and then you try it another. When we’ve been doing scenes, it’s been very different every time. Especially when we’re doing scenes where we’re supposed to be taking drugs. Something will happen, and we’ll all react to each other. So sometimes we’ll be wetting ourselves laughing for the whole scene, but another time we might be very angry, or there might be a weird undertone, so it’s very interesting to see how the energy changes.
Q. Do things get very harrowing for your character?
Agyness Deyn: Well, yeah. Because Flo, all she wants to do is be with Frank, so she has this constant battle with him to get him to open his heart. Also, she has to pick up the pieces every time he comes home, him having either been beaten up or being in a frantic state. So she’s walking on eggshells one minute, then trying to maintain this love for him the next. There’s a tango in this relationship, but she never really knows what she’s going to get until he comes home.
Q. It sounds like you really enjoy this part of the process…
Agyness Deyn: I suppose it’s just nice to explore … humans, I suppose, and different reactions. What someone else might do. [Laughs] It’s not really what I would do, but …
Q. Has it been hard to switch off?
Agyness Deyn: It has been, yeah. When we’ve been finishing at 4am, and I’ve not been getting home till 5am after a full-on day of crazy, emotional scenes, I get home and I’m like: “Oh my God, it’s over! Now I have to sleep and then get up and do it again.” So, yeah. You have that period where you think: “I’m NEVER going to be able to sleep …” And then you wake up in the morning! But each day’s different. Yesterday we were doing all the strip stuff, where I was Flo at work. [Laughs] That was interesting!
Q. What kind of outfits were you wearing for that?
Agyness Deyn: Erm … Barely there! [Laughs] And then of course there’s the wig I have, just for when she’s working. It’s really mad … Now, I don’t watch any of the footage back. Sometimes they’ll say, “Do you want to watch it, just to see how it looks?” But I feel that, whatever I’m doing, if Luis is happy with it, I don’t need to see it. But when I was doing the stripping stuff the other day, a friend of mine recorded the end bit on his phone. I was in my own little world, pole-dancing or whatever, and when they showed me, I was like, “Oh my God, that is NOT me.” (Laughs) Not that I was possessed! But I really was Flo. And it was so liberating and freeing to feel that way – to feel really in the scene. Because if it was just me doing it, as myself, I’d be so self-conscious, but I kind of got lost in it.
Q. So how do you feel about the whole experience?
Agyness Deyn: Amazing! I’ll be really excited to see it.
Q. Do you have any plans to act again? Or will you just see how this one goes?
Agyness Deyn: Yeah, one step at a time, I think. I’m just open to whatever comes up.
Q. What’s the next immediate thing you’ll do after this?
Agyness Deyn: Sleep for a few days! [Laughs] Work-wise? I’m not sure. I’m still modelling. I’m not, like: “Ooh, I’m an actress now.” [Laughs] That would be really weird! So I’m doing lots of different little projects.
Q. Did you ever encounter any prejudice, being a model turned actress?
Agyness Deyn: No. I don’t really feel that. I’m not saying that I don’t care what anyone thinks, because obviously I do! But I know that if I come to work and I do the best I can, do my best in that moment, then I can’t really do any more. And if I’m enjoying it, all the better. I just want that fulfilment. I don’t feel that I’m going to have to work harder than anyone else, because I’ll always work hard, whatever I’m doing. I’m always gonna do my best, the best I can be in that moment. And obviously it changes every day, because it depends on what’s going on – in your head and in your heart.
Q. Do you ever see yourself being a writer or a director?
Agyness Deyn: Yeah! I just love telling stories, y’know? That’s a similarity, in a way, with modelling. I’m so grateful for modelling because it’s got me to this point. With modelling, you’re telling a story to a certain extent, and with acting you’re telling a story to another extent. So maybe …
Q. That’s the logical next step?
Agyness Deyn: Could be! You never know.
Pusher is out on on Blu-ray, DVD and to download on February 11, 2013, from Momentum Pictures.