Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BadRonald Interview: Pollyanna McIntosh from The Woman

Lucky McKee's The Woman will hit theaters this month, and I've had the opportunity to speak with some of the people involved in the controversial film (review to come!!).  First up The Woman herself, daringly played by Pollyanna McIntosh.  
I am Woman, hear me rrrrroooar

BAD RONALD:  I know it's a simple question, but I always like to know: what filmmakers, and what movies, have had the most influence on you? 

POLLYANNA MCINTOSH:  Sidney Lumet has had a profound effect on me with his films.  He showed me the kind of movies and characters I want to see on screen.  Dog Day Afternoon and Network are two of my faves and never fail to make me feel lucky to be human.  Rita Hayworth and Audrey Hepburn make me feel glad to be a woman and alive in my own body.  Almodovar cooks my blood up ‘til I feel it turn Spanish, Jackie Chan makes me wonder at the possibility of hard work plus passion and creative physicality, Patrice Le Conte makes everything bright and marvelous and all my complications feel absolutely as they should be....

BR:  How about Horror -- are you a fan?

PM:  I wouldn’t call myself a horror fan in the sense that I’m not a horror buff, nor is it the first genre I go to but I’m definitely learning more about how artful the genre can be, and The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and IT DEFINITELY had a massive effect on me, The Omen too!  Such “real” horrors: Madness, mistrust, the fear of madness and exclusion from the world around you, fear itself and the inadequacy of childhood and fear of family!  Ha ha, plus a big scary ass clown which is something that’s kept me clear of large sidewalk drains ever since.  Oh God, I just had a vision!

BR:  Throughout film's history, Horror films have been able to make comments (or maybe more appropriately "get away with" making comments) on many social issues that mainstream or popular media cautiously glance over.  One of the predominant issues I've seen "discussed" in horror is, well... women.  Especially, male aggression towards women.  Where do you see The Woman in this discussion?
On set with Lucky and Pollyanna

PM:  I think The Woman is in the eye of the storm right now with regards to exactly what you say, I think people don’t like to face up to some of these issues and there are those that The Woman offends for this reason and those who value it for doing so.  Mainstream media would rather diffuse it by emasculating men in comedies or arm them with big ‘ole guns and have them kill each other while they rescue some poor defenseless woman.  Now, Lucky says he doesn’t do politics in his movies but to me he has made a feminist film precisely by being someone who judges women on the same level as men as he’s man enough to relate to them.

I hope that the film moves people and causes great discussions and further exploration of the subject but I don’t pretend it’s some high falutin’ intellectual cinema verite.  Lucky provokes, entertains and pushes boundaries without exploitation, with sensitivity and with great flare.  It can be enjoyed on many levels.

BR:  I find it interesting, if not unsettling, that people get up in arms, and become very vocal, when they see a movie like The Woman, or The Clockwork Orange, or I Spit on Your Grave.  They perceive the violence towards, or mistreatment of, women as the direct opinion and practice of the filmmaker.  They have a hard time with the concept that the characters, not the filmmaker, are the one who are brutal and misogynistic.  Because they see a woman being chained and hosed down, they want the MOVIE banished.  They don't advocate for the mistreatment of women in real life, but just in the movies.  Is that strange?

PH:  Amen Brother!

BR:  Making the rounds with this film, have you found the discussion of these issues to be healthy, or overheated? And as a point of curiosity, do you find the discussion different when you talk with men, as opposed to women?

PM:  You know, I’ve actually found the discussions at Q and As to be very healthy.  There are some sharp people out there who love to discuss this stuff and I’m grateful to be prt of something that’s shown me that every screening.  Apart from that one Sundance dude I’ve never had a shitty comment levelled at a QandA.  Both women and men discuss it but I’d say men have been more vocal on the whole.  The women like to come up and chat one on one about it.  I’ve had some pretty moving facebook messages too.

BR:  With such brutal behavior portrayed in this story, how did you prepare for your character -- the Woman? Did you have any reservations or trouble with the story's content?

PM:  I prepare as the character, I discuss the story as a conscientious person and actress with the filmmaker but my character doesn’t have to think about it so it doesn’t come into her prep.   Lucky and I swapped notes for 4 months previous to shooting and Ketchum and I know each other pretty well from Offspring so it was about how Lucky was going to bring stuff to life and we got the tricky stuff out the way early on.  We found we were very much on the same page creatively and it was pretty obvious he was sensitive and thoughtful from the get go.

As far as character prep went the book A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong was really helpful in the inner thoughts of what I was missing with the hunt and my judgement of the Cleeks for the way they went about their lives.  I also studied animals such as big cats, wolves and apes and feral stories. I also worked out like crazy and grew all my hair out.  Sitting Bull was also an inspiration and, of course, I had to spend a lot of time alone in the woods feeling out my “uncivilised” body and how it is to have a territory of your own, alone.
At Fright Fest

BR:  In (The Woman producer) Andrew van den Houten's film Offspring, you played the same character, but the commentary of that film is not the same as in The Woman.  How did you evolve the character, and your performance, to suit the film?

PM:  I just took her into a different situation and played off the other actors too.  It all felt very real.  Odd, what we do, and hard to describe, but for me it’s the most natural thing in the world.  I think the differences you see in the films are down to style and directors’ choices rather than mine.  For me, The Woman is The Woman and she is no more “arty” in a cellar than she is with her rabble of kids.  It’s just different filmmaking.

BR:  I recently spoke with Argentine director Adrian Garcia Bogliano about his films.  He, too, uses violence and brutality to demonstrate the ill treatment of women in society.  He said "I (talk) about the role models of the perfect woman that society tries to establish and I also tried to take women out of the victim role and put women as the worst enemy of women."   Some of his female characters, like in The Woman, aren't always admirable.  And I think that kind of direction in a film is important, because it doesn't lay the obvious blame on just the bad men in the movie, but puts it on anyone else who facilitates their behavior.  How do you see the portrayal of women in, not only your film, but in media?
And do you feel movies like The Woman can be used as a positive influence?

PM:  I definitely feel The Woman can be a positive influence.  The discussions I hear it sparking are important.  I was just at a screening in Edinburgh where a woman asked, “How did you feel, as far as your responsibility is concerned, about how all the male characters in the film are loathsome and despicable and not one redeems himself?  Did this seem unfair to you?”  I like that kinda chat as it shows issues of sex and blame are coming up from all angles and not just one of “women as victim”.  She and I talked it out a lot and there was much patience in the audience for these kind of discussions.  It’s not just women who are badly represented in the media but men too and one of the things I think is interesting about Lucky as a filmmaker is that he’s a feminist in the true sense of the word: he sees equality in the sexes, he feels sensitively in a way that only women are “supposed” to and he sees how ridiculous it is to consider one sex “better” or “more valid” than the other.  I feel that as women we are represented in the media in many negative ways which, funnily enough, feed into a societal power structure which favours the status quo of fear and consumerism which is so potent and helpful to “the man” as he stands in our present society.  We can change this as women, we can vote with our hard earned cash for starters and say, actually, no, I don’t want to go get that surgery done thanks and I don’t want to buy bitchy asshole magazines like “Us” and “StarFucker” or whatever the hell they’re called, I’m onto a bigger concept than that and am after a little more self respect.  I feel keenly that, for whatever reason, women often set themselves up against other women and find some sick comfort in putting them down.  We need to really think about our actions across the board and ask what we want then go out and get it in a manner in which we see fit to be treated ourselves.

Not the technique Rex Harrison would use
BR:  In Bogliano's films, the female characters/performers are sometimes sexualized.  Not with just nudity, but also with behavior.  For me, this does not discount the message of the film.  In fact, if done genuinely, it flies in the face of the ugly notion that if someone is sexual, they deserve what they get. Admittedly, some movies are guilty of overusing or abusing their actresses willingness to "bare all" while making the statement within the film (for example, the original I Spit on Your Grave danced perilously close to titillation, at times) .  But, in your film, your performance was arguably about "rawness."  The Woman was stripped down to nothing -- an allegory for rebirth, maybe?  How did you come to make the decisions you made on your performance?

PM:  It was pretty visceral for me. I felt a lot upon reading the script and had long conversations with Lucky about his vision and mine and, brilliantly for me, it turned out we had very close ideas.  It was important to me the rape scene particularly was not eroticised nor shot in a panicky, excitable way but more bare bones, cut the bullshit, what is rape about and how would this character handle it kind of way. Let’s not give all the power to the abuser and suggest that it’s a crime that’s one a person can’t recover from.  The reason rape can destroy a person has a lot to do with our societal view that there is blame for the victim and that they are in some way “tainted” or “lesser” because they have been raped.  Well, I saw this as an opportunity to say “fuck that” to that idea.  I’m not changing the world but I do think it’s a fresher approach than most films take with this kind of scene and for Lucky, as me, it was very important that Cleek took on more shame from the situation than The Woman did.

McKee, Pollyanna, Andrew van den Houten
BR:  Your character was speechless throughout, and you did a wild job at using your face and body language to portray your thoughts.  How did you come upon that now iconic, penetrating stare?  It really does send chills!  I'd actually have run the other way, had I found you bathing in the woods!

PM:  Ha ha, thanks!  I studied animals a lot and had my character’s inner thoughts down so it came naturally.  I like to tell people it’s a very constructive exercise to spend a bit of time finding your animal self.  You can take on the world that way!

BR:  I would imagine that producers and filmmakers would take note of your gutsy performance.  Have you found that The Woman has notched up your career? (What's next for you?)

PM:  Thanks.  It has been helpful in getting my work out there to a wider audience including some filmmakers who have approached me.  It’s a pleasure to have people giving me props for what I love to do but in truth it just challenges me to do better work.  I’m working on a movie right now called Love Eternal by Brendan Muldowney.  Very different kind of movie.  A dark romance I like to say.  It’s not definable in a genre really but I’m proud of what we’re doing and hope it comes across in the edit.

BR:  I thank you, Pollyanna! 

 Thanks mate, pleasure.

Read the review.

1 comment:

  1. That girl deserves attention. Not only is she a fine actress, but she has an articulate voice and is oviously extremely brainy as well as being beautiful.