Gavin Schmitt Interviews Pollyanna McIntosh

Pollyanna McIntosh grew up in Portugal and Colombia before moving back to her birthplace of Scotland where she first began performing, on stage, at the Edinburgh Festival. She left home for London at sixteen and soon became involved in indie filmmaking (her first paid gig was as a stoner in Irvine Welsh’s 'The Acid House' (affiliate link)) and theatre, both as an actress and director.

A move to Los Angeles in 2004 brought on more theatre including a production of The Woolgatherer in which she directed Anne Dudek (a regular on “Mad Men” and “Big Love”) and David Dayan Fisher (“National Treasure”) to great reviews. She then landed her first US movie role as the manipulative, born again Christian, Stacy, in “Headspace”. It was as famous lesbian party girl, Thumper Wint, in the comedy “Sex and Death 101” (with Simon Baker and Winona Ryder) by “Heathers” writer Daniel Waters that the critics really began to take note of her talent, citing a unique blend of powerful sexuality and irreverent humor.

I had the distinct pleasure to throw some questions Pollyanna’s way in October 2011.

GS: Your bio says you left Scotland for a while to live in Colombia… what brought on such a dramatic change?

PM: My father was a drug baron called David… Only one of those statements is definitely true. It was his work that took us there and I’m very lucky it did. I’ve held on to my Spanish and though I’m not Latin by blood, I have a Latin heart.

GS: I love “Headspace”.

PM: You do? Great!

GS: I know your role was small, but were you lucky enough to work with Udo Kier?

PM: No, I wasn’t, but his scene is my favorite. I got to meet him at a festival a couple years back when I was promoting Offspring (affiliate link) and he was wonderfully naughty and svelte. His ice blue eyes have seen it all!

GS: You have worked with Andrew van den Houten more than once, and also appeared in more than one film written by Jack Ketchum. Is there something more to this?

PM: Andrew and Jack have both been lovers of mine for a while. I’m sorry, I’m in a very cheeky mood today. They are collaborators with each other and I’ve been lucky enough to work with them more than once. The Ketchum/Van Den Houten connection started for me with Offspring (affiliate link) where I first played The Woman (affiliate link) character which Ketchum wrote (affiliate link). I had worked with Andrew once before, on Headspace. (affiliate link) Once Andrew saw what was going on with me and the character (I have a strange affinity with her female rawness apparently!) he decided to change the script halfway through shooting and keep her alive so we could continue her story. Ketchum was up for it and when Lucky McKee saw Offspring (affiliate link) after being approached to co-write and direct a stand alone sequel he dug her too so the path was charted towards The Woman (affiliate link).

GS: I can’t imagine how cool it must have been being on set for “Burke and Hare” — Ray Harryhausen, John Landis, Christopher Lee… there just HAS to be an interesting story to share about this shoot.

PM: That was a crazy table read! What a cast!! And there was me, most starstruck by a young comedy actor who plays only a wee role. Reece Shearsmith from The League of Gentlemen, a very dark and odd British TV show which I fell in love with. These guys are my generation’s Monty Python as far as I’m concerned. If you like dark humor check ‘em out.

John is an encyclopedia of cinema facts and stories and will get everyone entangled in a tale told as if through a bull horn. He’s so excitable, it’s very funny. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are the finest gentlemen you will meet and Isla is a spitfire marvel.

Isla Fisher was secretly pregnant during the shoot, though you wouldn’t know it. She was still a wee waif! I popped a rib from wearing my corset for so many days. Felt like I had a knife stuck in my chest but the wardrobe women kept suggesting I just had a panic from being in something tight! Ha ha. Don’t know how those girls did it back in the day. I didn’t get so much as a bruise on The Woman (affiliate link) but I suffer at the hands of a bleedin’ wardrobe accident on Burke and Hare. Go figure!

GS: Lucky McKee is one my all-time favorite directors. How familiar were you with his past work?

PM: Like many people, I imagine, I was introduced to Lucky’s work by my local video store film geek. He said, “You MUST see May!” and I said, “Oh no, you know I don’t like horrors!” ‘cause I thought I didn’t at the time. When I heard Lucky and I would work together I quickly headed back and said, “Gimme that movie!” I loved it and am so glad to be great friends with Angela (Bettis) now. She’s a real talent and a magic bird. My mates Bret Roberts and Jimmy Duval are both in May, too, so it’s a family film for me now! I watched The Woods after that and was stunned by its beauty. Lucky says The Woman (affiliate link) is a coming together of all his previous work and his 100 years of film research. I’m a big fan of his, too.

GS: Angela Bettis is a McKee staple and an underappreciated actress. With her and Lucky being so close, did she get involved in aspects of the film beyond her role?

PM: Angela is a secret weapon in anything she does. Secret because she’s far too modest to go on about the extra stuff she brings to a project. Not only did she give help to some less experienced actors on the shoot she also brought the most oft repeated in-joke to the table which helped us all piss ourselves laughing when we needed a little pep. Oh, and she scrubbed my back when I couldn’t get that bloody make up off it. She’s a star, she is.

GS: You play the woman in “The Woman”, which is pretty cool. Without giving too much away, what is “the woman” (your character)?

PM: The Woman (affiliate link) is a feral woman, unsullied by modern society’s concepts of femininity and propriety. She is a hunter and has raised a large family though they are no longer with her. At the start of the film she is injured and somewhat vulnerable but she is a strong creature and a survivor…

GS: There was a minor uproar when the film was in front of test audiences. Some people found the film offensive. Can you address that controversy?

PM: There was just one guy who went a little nuts at Sundance and many female voices in the audience asked, “Are you a woman? You do not represent me so please shut up and let the filmmaker do his Q&A!” To be honest I don’t usually watch horror as I don’t deal well with gore and violence, especially where women are involved in a gratuitous nature of films such as modern popcorny horror. But The Woman (affiliate link) is a wholly different experience. You may feel a little sick at times but so you should! This is a true horror: the horror of misogyny, of abuse and of dehumanization of “the other”.

Lucky’s respect for his audience is palpable and I heard from many at screenings, including those who don’t consider themselves horror fans, how much they got from the film. The violence is used very cleverly and creatively in The Woman (affiliate link). There are moments when it’s heartbreakingly sad, moments of visceral shock and at other times it’s darkly thrilling as the audience root for the victim turned victor. This is a filmmaker using all he’s got to engage his audience’s minds and tell a human story — not just deliver a few “awesome kills”.

I am a firm feminist and therefore believe in equality of the sexes. I think The Woman (affiliate link) comes from that place and I dig it.

GS: Lucky is known for some more extreme effects — usually blood and gore. Should horror fans expect more of the same?

PM: They will not be disappointed.

GS: You have many projects coming up in the next year. What should we be on the lookout for next?

PM: After two projects shot in Scotland, Foxy and Marina (a film in which I play a heroin addict classical pianist) and an episode of kid’s BBC show “Dani’s House”, (NASA astronaut! Very peppy and fun) this year then became a trio of US indies. I expect the first one out will be The Obsession (an almost absurdist drama) with Dominique Swain, Richard Riehle and James Duval (he was Frank the bunny in Donnie Darko!) then Carlos Spills the Beans(comedy) directed by my friend Brian McGuire. Last I shot The Famous Joe Project where I play a cokey party girl who sells out a new friend only to discover what she truly wants.

I just finished shooting Love Eternal in Ireland and Luxembourg. It’s based on a book by horror writer Kei Oishi which Brendan Muldowney (Savage) has adapted to such an extent as to really make it his own. I hear the original book is more graphic and horror oriented. The script’s still got that Oishi genius and darkness but it’s not a horror any more. It’s a drama about love and loss, an outsider’s struggle for connection and grief’s pall. I call it a dark romance or a love story for loners. My character, Naomi, is grieving but always appears upbeat so it’s an intense role. It’s not definable in a genre really but I’m proud of what we’ve done and hope it comes across in the edit.

GS: Pollyanna, you have been awesome. Thank you.

PM: Thanks, Gavin.

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