alexa BlackBook: Designs on Acting: ‘Hard Sun’ Star Agyness Deyn Talks Drama with Writer-Director Alex Ross Perry

 

IF you found the bleak dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale terrifying, you’d better buckle up for Hard Sun. The sensational Hulu/BBC drama concerns a pair of British detectives who discover that the apocalypse is coming in five years — and that the government wants them dead for finding out.

Aside from providing cryptic conspiratorial thrills, the show boasts a riveting performance from lead Agyness Deyn as the intense Elaine Renko. The emotionally wounded deputy inspector is trying to save the world, resolve family trauma, and process a growing suspicion that her partner (Jim Sturgess) is corrupt.

A former model raised in Manchester, England, Deyn, 35, has proved to be a formidable actress with an excellent taste in film and television projects. The New Yorker named her one of the best actresses of 2016 for Sunset Song, the story of a young woman persevering through a brutal rural existence in World War I-era Scotland. It’s a long way from shooting ads for Dior, Burberry, Uniqlo and Vivienne Westwood and hanging out with creative collective the Misshapes (she’s been based in NYC since the early ’00s). Next, Deyn will co-star alongside “Handmaid’s Tale” actress Elisabeth Moss in “Her Smell,” an indie film about feuding female punk rockers by writer-director Alex Ross Perry.

Perry has made a name for himself as a sensitive and curious teller of women’s stories, via a quick succession of acclaimed, fantastically cast micro-indies: 2014’s nervous-novelist tale “Listen Up Philip” (with Moss and Jason Schwartzman), 2015’s deep dive into female friendship, “Queen of Earth” (Moss again), and 2017’s “Golden Exits” (with Chloë Sevigny, Schwartzman and former Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz).

Deyn and Perry convened a meeting of their mutual admiration society on an April Saturday in New York.

 

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Alex Ross Perry: Do you remember how we met?

Agyness Deyn: We met at — what’s that place called on St. Marks? It was Cafe Orlin! Wow, this might have been, like, four years ago. We ended up sitting down for about two hours chatting — drinking loads of tea. I thought it was just so fun. I remember when you spilled the tea — about the project you were working on, about stuff we were both working on, about life. The two hours went by and we were like, “S – – t, we’ve been sitting here for a long time.”

ARP: I remember feeling exceptionally encouraged and excited by it. The meeting was for a big movie that I was trying to make that never got made. But because I ended up having a lot of meetings, now I’ve essentially been able to cast anything I’ve made since then with people I [originally] wanted to put in that movie. The following spring, I saw Terence Davies’ “Sunset Song” and was completely blown away by your performance. What path did that character set you on?

AD: I think about Terence [Davies] regularly, probably weekly. I finished that film and thought, “Oh, I suppose that I am an actor now.” I said that to Terence, and he said, “Well, of course, you are.” I remember thinking someone believed in me a million times more than I believed in myself as an actor and as a woman. He gave me a huge responsibility to carry a film he’s been trying to make for 15 years. Making that film, I went from being a girl to a woman. His projection of what a woman is helped me embody what I had in myself.

 

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ARP: How did that change the bar you’ve now set for yourself?

AD: I knew that I wanted to play strong women with a point of view who have something to say. “Sunset Song” and “Hard Sun” are so different, but it was kind of a continuation. Elaine [in “Hard Sun”] is this damaged but strong and enigmatic woman who seems kind of genderless and walks to the beat of her own drum. I have a very English way of being apologetic. I didn’t have that kind of “F you” attitude, and [the director] drilled that out of me very quickly. It was fast-paced, the story matter was intense. It almost killed me, but it was exhilarating to play her.

ARP: I don’t know how long the shoot for “Sunset Song” was, but with [“Hard Sun”], suddenly you’re a sprinter who has to run a marathon without training for it. 

AD: Definitely. It was such a shock. I remember saying to Jim [co-star Sturgess] after we’d done the first two episodes, “We’ve got to do this again, haven’t we?” And he was like, “Yeah.” Like a marathon, you’re not sure how you’re going to save your energy and your feelings because you don’t know how much you’ll need at the end.

ARP: Now, you can’t just say yes to some TV show that won’t be satisfying.

AD: Exactly. I have the same sensation about the movie [“Her Smell”] you and I are doing together.

 

“Making that film, I went from being a girl to a woman … It almost killed me, but it was exhilarating to play her. ”

 

ARP: We’re not asking you to come in and be this mysterious, elfin, British model-type woman. There’s music lessons involved, there’s a certain theatricality involved. We’re setting up a series of extreme challenges. 

AD: I can’t wait. It’s funny because I know I’m so excited and so terrified before a job when I start dreaming about it. I woke up this morning after having a nightmare about actually being in the band: “Oh my God, oh s–t. I don’t know the song.”

ARP: The sort of all-encompassing logistical panic of this movie is something I’ve never really experienced. 

 

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AD: Where did you get the idea of making this film?

ARP: I wondered, what could I be doing that no one else would be doing right now? A lot of people can make something inspired by an era 50 years removed. Maybe I do a music movie about a disreputable genre no one’s really romanticizing in the same way yet. But it’s so much more about [the] identity of all these women in this movie — motherhood and sisterhood within these bands, and addictions and addictions to people. 

AD: I always say ’79 was such a great year for music in England, with the Clash and all these brilliant bands. It was amazing to be a young person and introduced to them by different friends. It shapes you as a person. So, it’s a fun way to explore it all again and also hear everyone else’s stories.

ARP: I’ve jokingly said this is a role you’ve been preparing to inhabit for your entire life, via modeling or acting. Maybe “mysterious, ethereal rock goddess” was a career path that may [have] eluded you, but now you get to use your lifetime’s worth of knowledge to be in this character.

AD: I remember seeing images early on of the Slits and the Raincoats — these young women just doing what they wanted. It was just so exhilarating to think like, “Oh, I can be that.”

 

 

ABOUT THE SPACE

We photographed Agyness Deyn at a lower-Manhattan pied-à-terre tucked inside the 1879-built Robbins & Appleton Building, with interiors designed by Mark Zeff. Commissioned by a Miami-based couple, the Bond Street residence showcases the duo’s diverse collection of special artworks by renowned creators such as Andy Warhol. The designer was charged with maintaining the raw loft’s distinct character while also creating intimacy for the couple and their teen children. Using ribbed glass and blackened steel, Zeff partitioned the 4,500 sqaure-foot space into wonderfully dramatic tableaus, including a glass-box study and an airy kitchen designed for entertaining.

 

 

On the cover: Blazer, $1,695, and pants, $1,295, both at RosieAssoulin.com; “Elsa” earrings, $740 at AgmesNYC.com

Photos by Martien Mulder; Styling by Danielle Nachimani, Hair by Seiji using Oribe Hair Care for The Wall Group; Beauty by Gianpaolo Ceciliato using Chanel Plaette Essentielle for Tracey Mattingly Agency; Bond Street Photo by Eric Laignel

 

Visual Xanax: The Best of Both

Having trouble getting back from vacation? Whether the difficulty is airline related or more of a mental state, consider Marilyn Monroe’s best bet for bridging the gap.

Photo: Marilyn Monroe photographed by George Barris on Santa Monica Beach in 1962.

Want more, need more Visual Xanax? Click here.

‘Glee’ Actress Jessalyn Gilsig Makes History With ‘Vikings’ & ‘Somewhere Slow’

“If I was a Viking, I would never survive. I’d be dead by nine years old,” says Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress who plays the quietly powerful Siggy in the History Channel’s first-ever scripted series, Vikings, opposite Gabriel Byrne. So perhaps it’s best that the viciously primitive, seafaring lifestyle of the Viking world is confined to the TV screen – a place Gilsig has found herself consistently, in roles on hit shows like Glee, Boston Public, and Nip/Tuck.

While her characters have ranged from unpredictable and fiery, to still and insightful, the Montreal native has discovered one common thread that unites them all: love. "They’re women who are really driven – for better or worse – by love and the difficulty of making the best decisions.” Siggy, who’s the Earl’s (Byrne’s) insightful and observant wife, acts as moral compass and motivator to her reigning husband.

But this year, with the debut of Somewhere Slow – an indie film hitting festivals nationwide this spring – Gilsig leaps into unprecedented roles in front of and behind the camera, with her premiere as both the star and a producer. The film follows Anna Thompson, an unhappy skin care sales rep who gets mixed up in a convenience store robbery and makes the split-second decision to walk out of her life and start anew. The film, written and directed by Jeremy O’Keefe, also stars Robert Forster (The Descendants) and David Costabile (Breaking Bad).  

“I never thought I’d get to play Anna,” she says. “I thought she should be played by a bigger star. But when they cast me, I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, then I need to take the risk with you and come on as a producer.’ And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

And the hardest too. Gilsig quickly learned the tremendous work behind not just screenplay development, but also film production – finding a composer, casting, mixing – which actors on set and in a trailer are rarely exposed to.

“I never knew how the room got dressed before with chairs and tables, how actors were scheduled to get there,” she says. “I learned never to ask for a bottle of water again.”

Gilsig’s newfound love of production has trickled into her writing as well. During her breaks on set, she works on several different scripts at a time, and also makes time for one of her greatest passions: painting. On her personal tumblr, you can find artwork inspired by Vikings, her daily musings, and various female body types. In fact, though she wasn’t in the film, Gilsig created all of the paintings by Patricia Clarkson’s artistic character in the 2003 movie The Station Agent.

“Conventionally, it’s considered a joke to want to be an actor,” she says. “So I’ve always been a little bit embarrassed about painting. But I’m realizing you can be creative in whatever material of the moment.”

With such temporal thinking, perhaps Gilsig relates a bit more to her Somewhere Slow character – who lives the fantasy of stepping out of her life and reinventing herself – than first perceived…

“Sometimes I imagine myself pouring coffee at truck stops across the country, living another life,” she says. “And I still like that idea.”

Check out Somewhere Slow and Jessalyn’s sketches. Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Photo: Udo Spreitzenbarth.

Candy Darling

Warhol Superstar, Actress, Train commuter.

It was on the late night train from suburban Long Island to Manhattan where the young James Slattery transformed into the lipstick wearing, flamboyantly dressed Candy Darling, the Warhol “It” girl who appeared in Warhol’s films and who was immortalized by The Velvet Underground in the songs, ‘Candy Says’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

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Candy came from out on the island,

In the backroom she was everybody’s darling,

But she never lost her head

Even when she was giving head – she said

Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,

Said hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

And the coloured girls go, doo dodo…

The lyrics pretty much capture Candy Darling’s short life. Too poor to live in Manhattan, she would catch the late-night train each night from Long Island, using the hour-long journey to put on makeup and add the final touches to her glamorous look. Once in NYC, she’d hang out in the ‘backroom’ of Max’s Kansas City Nightclub with all the cool kids, who included the likes of Lou Reed, Debra Harry and, occasional cross-dresser, David Bowie.

Warhol may have brought Candy Darling plenty of fame, but he never paid her much money. Hence Candy “never lost her head,” even when she was doop-doo-doing stuff for cash on the side. Mostly though, she would jump back on the Long Island train each night to what she called her “country house”.

Despite being poor (and quite possibly, a poor actress), Candy Darling never gave up her dream of becoming a Hollywood superstar. She landed either big roles in small films or small roles in big films, but never quite got the break she needed. The highlight of her career may have been her 17-second cameo role with Jane Fonda in the 1971 film, Klute.

On March 26, 1974, Candy’s extraordinary walk on the wild side was cut short. She died of leukemia, with hundreds of loyal friends and fans around her in her final hours. Warhol, who was weird about a lot of things, especially death and mortality, did not visit her in hospital, nor did he attend her funeral.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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GET CANDY DARLING’S LOOK

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The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Criminals, Lovers, Sexual Chess Champions. McQueen and Dunaway Style.

Want to make next year’s Valentine’s Day more memorable? Start planning a heist. Not small-time petty theft, but Art heist of the highest order, Monet’s $200 million, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. Once in possession of your art object, act like it’s no big deal. This is sure to turn your partner on and he/she will want to sleep with you immediately. But, instead go play an hour-long game of dirty, naked, one-on-one…chess.

At least, that’s what Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway would have done. In their stylish 1968 film, The Thomas Crown Affair, the dashing millionaire (a million was quite enough back then), played by Steve McQueen, meets his unlikely match, an Insurance Investigator played by the preternaturally sexy Faye Dunaway. The Faye Dunaway character tries to seduce McQueen into giving up details of the heist, but somehow during the ‘investigation’ she gets her heart stolen too. (Or is it the other way around?)

[expand title=”READ +”]But forget the details and lose the plot, this movie (and indeed, this post) is all about style and an impossibly contrived love story. Watch this exquisitely styled film for its luscious cinematography and its Martini mix of flirtation, innuendo and loudly said un-saids. No doubt, a lot the sex happens off-camera. All we get to see is an elaborate and multi-position chess scene, masterfully fore-played by McQueen and Dunaway. So does the guy get the girl or the $200 million painting? Does the girl get her millionaire in bed or into high-security prison? It doesn’t matter, switch off the brain and get all mushy in the name of V-day. We think that love is a crime worth committing, just don’t get caught stealing the Monet.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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GET STEVE MCQUEEN AND FAYE DUNAWAY’S LOOK

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