How Andrea Arnold Found Her Lead Actress 2 Weeks Before Shooting American Honey

How Andrea Arnold Found Her Lead Actress 2 Weeks Before Shooting American Honey

Since I’ve started this site I’ve been wanting to find and share a masterclass with British Filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who happens to be one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers. Alas, this time hasn’t arrived yet. But thankfully Arnold has been invited to podcasts, and in the excellent episode with Edith Bowman, Arnold talked about her latest feature, American Honey, that received, as usual, Festivals and Critics recognition.

If you’re not familiar with Arnold, her first shot film, WASP, won the Academy Award, and since then she’s been consistently building a body of work that you immediately recognize. One of Arnold’s signature is her ability to cast and mix, just like Ken Loach, trained and untrained actors. (She was one of the first to cast Fassbender in Fish Tank, but when the film came out, everybody talked about the untrained lead Katie Jarvis. Both were spectacular.)

I’ve always found it fascinating than some filmmakers pick leads that don’t know anything about days on set, camera placement or waiting time. And now that I’m trying to make my own feature and see how much having “names” matter to unlock financing, I find it even more admirable.

How Arnold proceeded to found untrained actress Sasha Lane:

We had somebody else cast that didn’t work out about two weeks before we went into production so we had to do something quite drastic. So I got on a plane, went to Panama, Florida, and it was Spring Break. It’s quite a good time to look for cast because there are so many people out and everybody is on the beach dancing and everyone is on the street.

And you can basically just hang out at Walmart carpark and watch people. We bought this sort of deck chairs and sat outside the entrance to Walmart.

And everybody playing music and twerking in the carpark, it was really rocking that carpark. But we found Sasha on a beach, she was there for Spring Break with her friends and she just stood out on a beach and we chased after her and auditioned her in a hotel later that night with her mates, and she seemed like she could do it. And then we auditioned her again the next day with one of the crew we had already cast called Veronica, who lived in Panama, and she just did so well, and that was it really. 

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