SASHA LANE IN NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 2016. PORTRAIT: VICTORIA STEVENS. TOP AND SKIRT: PHELAN.
Despite the oft-mythologized “plucked from obscurity” origin story at Schwab’s or Schraft’s or a stretch of Sunset Boulevard, Sasha Lane’s fortuitous discovery happened on a Florida beach. Lane, away from home in Texas and partying during spring break in Panama City, was approached by Andrea Arnold, the iconoclastic British director of Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights, as the last, and most crucial component of her next film, American Honey. Arnold’s sprawling, sun-drenched saga of a road movie is her first in the U.S., and a kaleidoscopic, freewheeling account of class, sex, and youth. A group of feral runaways crisscross the Midwest in a white van shilling magazine subscriptions, but it is through Star (Lane), an 18-year-old girl grappling with her place in the world, that the narrative takes shape.
Star joins the crew after encountering the scraggly rat-tailed Jake (Shia LaBeouf) in a supermarket, and is soon caught up in the day-to-day of hustling money, getting wasted with her colleagues, and falling into a romance with Jake in defiance of their cutthroat leader, Krystal (Riley Keough), who stays a step ahead of the pack in a convertible, is always counting her cash, and is seen in one scene in a Confederate flag bikini (price tag still attached). Arnold filmed fast and loose—traveling with a small crew and a minimal script, and her cast, much like their characters, made the weeks-long road trip and crashed in roadside motels. Lane inhabits Star with a fierce, visceral pathos in a performance that announces her as a major talent.
Lane has relocated to L.A., and since American Honey‘s premiere at Cannes (where it won the Jury Prize), she’s been on a whirlwind tour with the film. But after filming a short film, Born in the Maelstrom, it was recently announced that Lane would be starring in Stephen Kijak’s Shoplifters of the World alongside Ellar Coltrane and Joe Manganiello, based on one night in the life of a group of friends in 1987 after the Smiths announced their dissolution. Interview recently spoke to Lane in New York in advance of the film’s release, today.
COLLEEN KELSEY: You met Andrea in a really unexpected way. Growing up, did you ever think of acting?
SASHA LANE: I always thought it’d be cool to portray these certain things, make people feel a certain way. I was kind of fascinated with that, but I wasn’t the type to do acting school or theater. I didn’t have the best views of Hollywood, so it wasn’t something that I was going to try and pursue. But I always said, if someone randomly found me, I would do it.
KELSEY: What were you more interested in?
LANE: I was into psychology and social work and doing something around people.
KELSEY: That’s another way to think about acting.
LANE: Yeah, it totally helps with it. I was on spring break in Florida. I just needed to get away for a bit, so I think she found me at a time where it made that connection even stronger. We connected so well. I kind of needed that, which she gave me as far as confidence in who I was, and a chance at something different. That moment was really special. It was kind of a blur. [laughs]
KELSEY: What did you think about the proposition of doing a movie after that random meeting?
LANE: I had nothing left to lose, so it was just kind of like, “Why not?” [laughs] It seemed like it would be something special. It didn’t feel cheesy and it didn’t feel like something I wouldn’t want to be a part of. The woman is a strong character. It’s shining a light on these types of people and this type of the world. And she had a really good energy, so I figured she’d do a good job. I met her, I went back to college, finished up the rest of the year early, came out, shot and then had to wait a year, and then Cannes and it’s been going since then.
KELSEY: Did you see any of her other movies after you met?
LANE: I watched Fish Tank. I digged it, so I was like, “Cool, I like her aesthetic and music and all that.” It was nice.
KELSEY: I interviewed McCaul Lombardi for another story and he was telling me how there wasn’t really a script. You guys worked day to day. What was that experience like, going on the road and having this intense bonding experience with everyone, and making a movie?
LANE: It was the best experience ever, but also just really emotionally exhausting. It was cool because it was very freeing. You were just in a moment. You didn’t have any other choice but to be in the moment, because you didn’t know what tomorrow was going to be like and with all the other different personalities, you could get anything at anytime. It was just this free, crazy living but with a family. That’s the America I know. That’s how I grew up. I mean, I wasn’t in a mag crew, but we do road trips, we hang out in parking lots, and we do all that type of stuff, you know? That’s very much what I’m used to, so that kind of also helped playing it.
KELSEY: Was it intimidating to take on this huge role?
LANE: It was a lot of pressure. [laughs] Seeing Fish Tank, I knew they followed her a lot, and they were like, “This is what it’s going to be like.” Then to just know that. I started seeing that I had days where I was just working alone or, with a select few, and I started realizing, “Wow, okay, you need all of this.” It was kind of scary to think that how I’m doing in this film has a lot to do with how it’s going to go. That was a little scary, but they gave me a lot of support in my confidence, so I was just kind of like, “Okay, fuck it.” [laughs]
KELSEY: Is it a question of technique, or do you just sort of absorb who this person is and try to represent it?
LANE: Everyone has their own way. I can only do something I feel like I’m either passionate about, or that I can connect to, because all I know is real. I like the natural way and I feed off of people’s energy, so once you’re working with someone, you just bounce off of that. The director and the DP, I like to form a relationship with them, because it’s like making music—flowing together and figuring it out as you go.
KELSEY: What was your experience like going to Cannes for the film?
LANE: Nothing will top that. It was so intense and so emotional and so unreal. To walk away and be proud of something that you created, and something that is going to be out there, I think that’s amazing. That was the first time we were all back together again. That was the first time I saw the movie. My brother was there. My friends were there. The whole festival, they have like a lot of respect for the filmmakers, the directors, all of them, and they’re all there for that reason: to experience these movies. It was very beautiful, and lively, and there was a lot of love, and plus, with American Honey, we make everything fun. So we ditched all of the high-end stuff and just had a great time. [laughs]
KELSEY: What are you hoping to do next? What are your goals?
LANE: I’ve been reading books and looking at articles, trying to find things that I enjoy in the midst of my auditions and everything. I’m going with the flow of it. I don’t really know what I want exactly, but I know as far as the energy I’m trying to put out into the world in hopes to get it back and get those things that I want to be a part of, without me being like, “This is a plan. This is a goal.” So, we’ll see.
KELSEY: The way that you’re talking about the projects that you want to do is coming from a more artistic place. Navigating the industry is huge; is that a big adjustment?
LANE: It’s a huge adjustment. I mean, I’m a really anxious person and a really uncomfortable person and a people-pleaser. Putting all those together with this type of industry, it’s pretty much everything that makes me uncomfortable and that I dislike. People literally have told me like, “Sasha, you’re doing everything that you hate.” But to make a film like that and those connections you make and then to meet people who felt inspired or connected to you through film, and you could put your energy across, you’re like, “Wow, this is worth it.” That’s the beautiful part, so I want to do more stuff to where I feel good about it, or else I would not be in this. There’d be no point, you know?
American Honey, within itself and who Andrea is, and who was all involved, nothing is ever going to be like that. But the short I did [Born in the Maelstrom] was a little more like how it will be usually, but it was the stuff I wanted to do. I was really passionate about it and it made me feel more confident in the fact that I can do something outside of something like American Honey.
AMERICAN HONEY IS OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE TODAY