Fantastic Fest 2016: Interview with American Honey’s Sasha Lane
Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, like American Graffiti or Dazed And Confused, is a generational exploration of a shift in the way we perceive our country, but unlike those other films, American Honey is very much in the here and now. I have the feeling that in the years to come, American Honey will be embraced by disaffected youth everywhere, and much like the stories passed down to us from our parents, this film will be an inspiration for today’s youth to find their own stories in this politically-charged, but till intrinsically-good, landscape.
I sat down with the film’s star, Sasha Lane, at Fantastic Fest. Sasha’s Star is a character with a rich inner life, who makes decisions that we wouldn’t necessarily make but we understand why she makes them. Star refuses to be pigeonholed and categorized, and that’s much of what I love about the character. American Honey is a movie that I’ve been thinking a lot about since I’ve seen it (read the review), and I was privileged to sit down with Sasha Lane and discuss her wonderful performance in this wonderful movie.
ComingSoon.net: I’ve been told that you’re from Houston.
Sasha Lane: Yes.
CS: I am a Houstonian, so I grew up in the Heights. I live in Missouri City now.
Lane: Oh cool.
CS: Very cool, so yeah, humidity.
Lane: You know, I came, because obviously I was still in LA for a little bit before we came back here. And I was in my crewneck and my jeans and as soon as I landed, I was like, “Sasha, don’t forget what Texas is. What are you doing?”
CS: Exactly. There are films when you have American “something” right, like American Graffiti or American Beauty, it’s almost as if they’re all making a statement on what it is to live in America, what America’s about. What do you feel the statement of “American Honey” is about America?
Lane: I think there is this whole part of America that people overlook. I think they know it’s there, but they tend to overlook it, become ignorant to it, and refuse to see it for what it is. I think it can be a very dark place, but there also is a lot of beauty and there’s a lack of opportunity for people who deserve a chance, who deserve to be looked at as a person, and who deserve to be acknowledged of their situations that they’re in. And I think that’s what this is. It’s like, take a look at this. Know what’s going on and how sh*tty it is. But also, there is a lot of beauty and light in people and the communities that are formed in a place like that.
CS: Especially in a season like this, election season, and everybody’s in a hyper sense. And it’s really important that people understand that America is everybody of all shades.
Lane: Exactly. Every class, every different person. There’s like, you can’t keep pushing us under and under, because we are here, and this is what this is. Land of the dreams, but you come here and it’s like, the treetop is your limit, the sky isn’t. It’s not that high.
CS: One of the things I loved also about it is that there’s a theme that I felt — and I don’t know if that was intentional in the film, but this is what I felt — that people are basically good, but everybody has their hang-ups and has their problems, but everybody has that something good inside, and you can see that in the movie of the various characters you interact with.
Lane: I love that you said that, because yeah, there’s so many times that in life and in the movie, where it’s like, don’t do that. Don’t trust that person. But like, they mean well, or even if there’s some sketchiness or that person may seem like a mean person to you, people are complicated and there’s so many different factors. You just can’t, you are this person. You can’t just stereotype and just put them off with one plants or one like, word, you know? So like, yeah, I think that you say that, because even in the most people who seem so dark and people like Krystal, she seems dark and cold and hates me, but I think she’s broken. And I think she is hurting in some way and remembering certain things. And even with Jake, you just never know.
CS: There’s something about your character, Star, that has people bring their guard down a little bit. I really liked how she just interacts with complete strangers. And because you’ve seen so many movies like this, where things go badly, right?
CS: And it’s a really intense experience, watching it, because oh man, I don’t want this to happen. And then it goes a different way, which I really admire of the film.
Lane: Yeah, it was cool, because even like when I got the side about the cowboys, it of course worked out and they didn’t rape me and kill me. But even then, and even like, I felt mad at myself because I was scared for me, even knowing like, ‘”Sasha, you know that people can be different. And two, you have a script in front of you and it says that this is going to go like this.” But I was still like, “Are you sure they’re not going to hurt me, Andrea? Are you sure?” And so, yeah, it’s like, everyone has been so afraid for me, and then they’re like, okay. Are you sure? When’s the drop? The gun is going to get you, right? No? Okay, like, all right, yeah.
CS: I like movies that defy expectations, especially at a film festival like this, where we really are passionate about adventurous movies. And this movie plays very well to that. Star seems to have a very rich inner life. How much preparation did you do for her?
Lane: I didn’t have any time. And I think I just connected so well with her, it wasn’t necessarily needed, and you just kind of went on as you – yeah, you just went on as you went, because you’d get the sides the day before, the day of. You couldn’t really prepare. You just had to know maybe like the certain characteristics, which I felt I was very connected to anyway, so it was kinda like, “Okay, be a little more naïve.” But this is this, yeah.
CS: The script, I felt it was very improvisational at times. How much was on the page and how much was something that you just came up with on the fly?
Lane: It’s weird because I even feel like it was improv, but it really wasn’t. There was definitely a script. But I mean, the van scenes, that was more of like, I need you all to mention this, but do as you do. So the van scene, we were more like, free. And the other scenes were definitely scripted, but she gave you room to do it as you do it. And that’s why it’s so organic, because one, we were connected as a mag crew. And also, we got to say it how we would say it, so it didn’t feel weird coming out of our mouths. It just felt like normal conversation.
CS: I love that about it, because it’s very loose. But that adds to the, how’s this going to, how’s this going to go?
CS: You don’t know. Star, her character is very much a cipher for the audience, in a lot of ways, because a lot of us are putting a lot of our stuff onto her. As a character, I don’t know how to put this in a question as much as I’d like, as a character, how did you build from moment to moment?
Lane: I think I get what you’re saying. I connected personally to a lot of the things, and I do from my own experiences, but I also knew that I was representing so many other people who had gone through the same things or felt this way or whatever. So I really tried my hardest to project all of that energy I was feeling when I took it, and put that through the camera, which is kinda hard to like, think about. But I just wanted to be as real as I could and be like, I am feeling and experiencing all of these things, whether it’s past stuff or just the fact that I know that there is going to be some other girl. There’s going to be some other guy out there who’s watching that and has felt this same way, and I just have to get that out. And so, that’s kind of my only way, it’s just like, really pushing that through.
CS: You and Shia brought the best out of each other, I feel like. Working with him, what was that like?
Lane: I mean, it was cool. What I respect is he never was like, “You’re not doing this right.” He was just like, “Keep doing things the way you do them, because that’s what makes you who you are.” I think we just fed off of each other’s energies, and that’s why it worked really well.
CS: The movie is very much an exploration of America. What scene do you hold closest to your heart in this film? I know that’s a tough one.
Lane: Oh yeah. It’s either the ending, that kind of like, know what’s going to happen, or maybe the time when Krystal is like, “Do you have anyone that’s going to miss you?” Whatever. And you’re just kind of like, yeah. Let’s get in the van. Let’s go. What do I have? Even if the family, of course, I care about my siblings and all of that, but it’s like, you have to find a different way of living outside of what you know, or else you’re going to be stuck there forever, so you’re just like, not really, man. Let’s go. Like, let’s freaking do it. And that’s what I did to get here. And that’s why it’s like, yeah, yeah, girl.
CS: The movie, I was thinking about it as we were watching the film, the movie really reminded me of, you know, when you go to your grandparents and say, “Oh, back in the ’30s or the ’40s, I wandered the country, and that’s how I met your grandfather.” And this feels like that. This is a story that she’s telling her kids, “Oh you know, back in the 2000s, I”—
Lane: Found love in a hopeless place, that thing, yeah. I mean, I love that. I never felt more free until one, filming it, and after, because we never knew where we were going. We stayed at those motels, but there’s so much like, I love it because when you stay at motels like that and you’re hanging out in the parking lot, no one bothers you because it’s normal. They’re just like, “Okay, do your life.” And being on the road and all of that, it’s just so freeing and it’s just what you do and you know, people don’t know that. But I’m just like, “Nah, that’s life. That is life.”
CS: I have one more question for you. What was it like working with Andrea? Because she’s great.
Lane: She’s so amazing. I have such an attachment to her. She made me feel so confident and so supported and so – it’s going to even get me emotional. She just really truly believed in me as a person and thought I was beautiful as a person outside and inside, and I couldn’t have asked for – there’s no way I would’ve done that if it would’ve been a different director.
CS: You really put a lot out there. I was very worried for you, just watching the film.
CS: It’s a movie, but see, I tend to watch movies, I have a phrase I put it, movies, to me, aren’t a window, they’re a door.
CS: You’re not looking in. You’re in it, right? So that movie does that to me.
Lane: Yeah, and it’s kind of my life, the fact that I just decided to do this, so it was a very difficult and personal and scary thing, but Andrea was so like, “No, we chose you for a reason. And you’ve got this.” She would ask me, “How are you? As Sasha, as a person today, Sasha, how are you?” And you just wanted to do anything for her because she was so loving and trusting. You were just like, “Oh, there? Fine. Let’s go.” And yeah, and she’s incredible.
American Honey opens in New York and Los Angeles tomorrow.