Actress and writer Alice Lowe makes her feature directorial debut with Prevenge, which will screen in Venice and Toronto.
Actress Alice Lowe, known for Sightseers (which she also co-wrote), Black Mountain Poets, Adult Life Skills, and Hot Fuzz, makes her feature directorial debut with Prevenge. The film, which opens Venice Critics Week and screens in Toronto's Vanguard programme, is a black comedy/thriller starring Lowe as a pregnant woman who goes on a killing spree.
What’s your connection to the British Council?
The British Council screened my film Prevenge to Venice Critics Week as part of their festival selector screening series (more info here). I am also taking the film to Toronto in the Vanguard section.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
I had a teacher who used to lend me VHS copies of Night Of The Hunter, and The Seventh Seal (thanks Mr Nield). But my whole family always watched films. My sister is five years older than me, and she used to get to watch all the films I wasn’t allowed to. I’d be awake in bed listening to all these scary soundtracks coming from downstairs, knowing that my whole family were watching something amazing. Then my sister would come upstairs and enact the whole plot of The Shining for me. I saw a lot of films that way, from my sister’s description of them. This is Spinal Tap. Onibaba, etc. She enacted them very vividly!
Then when I got a bit older I used to secretly watch stuff until 3am. (Sorry parents. It turned out okay.) I would watch anything and everything. Hammer Horrors or creature features on a Friday night. FourMation, which showed international animations late at night. Comedy, horror, psychological thrillers, B movies, B&W stuff.
What has been your career high so far?
I always try to look forward, never back! Otherwise you feel like you’re heading downward, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard… I suppose it was a tremendous surprise to be in a Perrier Award winning show when I was in my early twenties. I always thought I was the kind of person who doesn’t attract good luck. I never win tombolas, etc. And no one ever seemed to notice me at school or whatever. So that felt quite weird.
Sightseers getting into Cannes was another one like that. These are things you dream of, you can’t plan for. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to dwell on the good news too much anyway, you can get lazy. I’d rather sweat wide awake in the middle of the night thinking about a bad review or someone who doesn’t like me. Ha ha. What I feel is a ‘pinch yourself’ moment, is working with one of my heroes, like being in a film with Toyah Wilcox recently (Aaaaaaaah!). I also love Vic and Bob [comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer], even since childhood. So briefly working with them felt very amazing.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I was a wardrobe assistant and I was rubbish. For a while I wanted to be a costume designer. But only the top costume designers really get to do the creative stuff. And the rest can be a slog. Also, I was really young and shy and you have to touch people and stuff – for example, brush down someone’s coat or whatever. And I couldn’t even get eye contact!
What advice would you give to someone starting off in filmmaking?
Don’t wait for permission. Just do it.
What is your favourite British film?
There are so many! I will go with Black Narcissus. Because it’s beautiful, stunning. And it deals with tensions between female characters, which I love. It’s psychotically mesmeric. I also love Whistle Down The Wind for its heart, and Brazil for its creativity. The Devils. Withnail and I. It’s too hard to choose! I adored Under The Skin also. It made me feel a way that I haven’t felt about a film for a long time.
If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I guess anything by Jim Henson, Kubrick, Terry Gilliam, David Lean, Peter Greenaway. Anything visually stunning would be amazing to be there in those iconic sets. I going to go for The Man Who Fell To Earth, for the chance to spend time with Bowie on magical form, Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain because it would feel like being on a psychedelic trip, and maybe Taxi Driver to see if they knew they were making something iconic, and how the hell they did it. I also would have liked to have made The Piano. A wonderful, clever, near perfect film, I think. Oh, and can I have Jesus Christ Superstar too? That would have been so much fun – I know all the words.
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I remember seeing The Dark Crystal at the cinema and having my mind blown. Hiding behind the seat when the skeksis emperor crumbled to dust. And being in awed silence on the way home. I also remember seeing Grease on TV and the huge impression it made on me. That night I had my first romantic dream, where Danny Zuko was waiting for me at a hardware shop. I must have been about three or four.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
‘You have no power over me’ from Labyrinth. It’s a coming-of-age film and many a time in my thirty-something adulthood I’ve found it apt! It’s a penny-dropping moment when you realize you have the power within you to free yourself from restraints, or those you thought were restraining you.
I would watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory over and over again. I love the scene in the tunnel where everything goes dark and psychedelic. In fact, I used it as a reference for one of the scenes in Prevenge.
Favourite screen kiss?
I seem to remember crying buckets at the end of West Side Story. When Maria is holding Tony in her arms as he’s dying, and they sing together. The best kisses are the last ones, in my book! Not the first. Oh dear, that probably says a lot about me.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
Favourite screen hero: I don’t have many of these, being of the anti-hero/heroine persuasion… I guess anything with Paddy Considine – he could take me on any narrative journey as an actor. Christopher Reeve’s Superman is one of the most beautifully and sensitively played superheroes ever. So comically deft and gorgeous. Scarlett O’Hara is great and flawed and funny and fickle. And best villain definitely the Wicked Witch of the West. ‘I’ll get you my pretty!’ Something I often say to younger actresses. Ha ha, just joking.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Jenny Agutter. Because she looks better than me. Even though she’s twenty-odd years older. She’s gorgeous. She actually lives quite near me, and once in Morrisons she said, ‘excuse me, can I get to the bread?’ I was hugely star struck. I love her. She’d have to work on the accent though.
Follow Prevenge's journey to Venice and Toronto on Twitter at @prevengemovie