OTB Interviews: Agyness Deyn
Agyness Deyn was first scouted in the mid-2000s by modelling agency Select while shopping in London’s Kentish Town with her friend Henry Holland. Her career as a cover girl began with the May 2007 issue of American Vogue and she’s never looked back.
A former student of music and drama, the Lancashire-born Deyn’s acting ambitions started with a small part in Louis Leterrier’s Clash Of Titans (2010), in which she played the goddess Aphrodite, and she has also provided vocals for The Five O’clock Heroes and Lucky Knitwear. In Luis Prieto’s Pusher she plays Flo, a high-class stripper involved with Frank (Richard Coyle), a small-time drug dealer whose life is unravelling fast.
What sealed the deal for you?
Seeing [ Luis Prieto's] work. He made a short film called Bamboleho, where there’s a scene that’s basically two kids making out on a roof with a beach scene in the background. You think they’re actually on the beach, but then the camera pulls back and they’re in front of a poster – they’ve been living on the top of this rundown building, and they’re basically shagging on an old mattress! It was beautiful, both in terms of the way that it was shot and the moments that he’d captured.
So when I read the script I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical London gangster film – I knew it was going to have a certain beautiful quality about it. I think he’s capturing the grit of it, but there’s also a love story there. Which, for Flo… (Pauses) That’s what her character’s all based around, really. Love.
Did you see the original Pusher film?
No. I made a choice not to watch it, just because I didn’t want to recreate the original character. I think this is going to be very different. In the original, I think Flo was perhaps a little bit more passive and Frank was much more masterful. Flo, in my interpretation, is kind of like a very delicate flower. Child-like and vulnerable. An addict, basically.
What kind of addict?
She’s a heroin addict, and, obviously, with that, she wants to pause her life and get away from it. She’s caught up in this world and needs a way out. She has a job as a stripper, but it’s really just another outlet, another way she doesn’t have to be herself. She transforms herself – she puts a wig on, and an outfit, and then she becomes another person. Because when you get down to the bones of her she’s super-fragile and all she wants is to be loved. She’s quite on her own.
How much did research did you do – not just into the life of a heroin addict but into the life of a stripper? Is it all in the script, or did you have any help?
For some of it, yeah. For the stripper side of it, I worked with an amazing woman who works at Browns [a strip bar in Shoreditch]. She was so generous with her time. I hung out with her, went to work with her, and she’s now become a really good friend through this whole process, showing me the ropes. She took me into her environment and I kind of felt a kind of a part of the family that it is, basically. I discovered that, in
these clubs, from the DJ to the doormen, to the women that run some of these places, it becomes a very strong family unit.
How about the addict side of it?
Well, anyone can have a sense of that. The idea of being an addict is just to get away from everything, to numb yourself from the world.
Did you have any preconceptions of the stripping world?
I’m quite an open-minded person, so I was quite comfortable going into it. I was well aware I was a guest in this environment, so I was just observing – taking it all in, really. Although it was quite funny, because I had punters coming up to me and asking for dances. (Laughs) I was like, OK, it looks like I really am Flo!
Has it been hard to switch off?
It has been, yeah. When we’ve been finishing at 4am, and I’ve not been getting home till 5am after a full-on day of crazy, emotional scenes, I get home and I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s over! Now I have to sleep and then get up and do it again.” So, yeah. You have that period where you think, “I’m NEVER going to be able to sleep …” And then you wake up in the morning! But each day’s different. Yesterday we were doing all the strip stuff, where I was Flo at work. (Laughs) That was interesting!
What kind of outfits were you wearing for that?
Erm … Barely there! (Laughs) And then of course there’s the wig I have, just for when she’s working. It’s really mad … Now, I don’t watch any of the footage back. Sometimes they’ll say, “Do you want to watch it, just to see how it looks?” But I feel that, whatever I’m doing, if Luis is happy with it, I don’t need to see it. But when I was doing the stripping stuff the other day, a friend of mine recorded the end bit on his phone. I was in my own little world, pole-dancing or whatever, and when they showed me, I was like, “Oh my God, that is NOT me.” (Laughs)
Not that I was possessed! But I really was Flo. And it was so liberating and freeing to feel that way – to feel really in the scene. Because if it was just me doing it, as myself, I’d be so self-conscious, but I kind of got lost in it.
Did you ever encounter any prejudice, being a model turned actress?
No. I don’t really feel that. I’m not saying that I don’t care what anyone thinks, because obviously I do! But I know that if I come to work and I do the best I can, do my best in that moment, then I can’t really do any more. And if I’m enjoying it, all the better. I just want that fulfilment.
I don’t feel that I’m going to have to work harder than anyone else, because I’ll always work hard, whatever I’m doing. I’m always gonna do my best, the best I can be in that moment. And obviously it changes every day, because it depends on what’s going on – in your head and in your heart.
Pusher is out on on Blu-ray, DVD and to download on 11 February 2013, from Momentum Pictures