agyness deyn turns indie flick star in new film, electricity
As Agyness Deyn ditches the magazines for the cinema in her new film Electricity, we catch up with our fave cover girl.
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Agyness Deyn, everyone's favourite Northern lass, the chip-shop-worker turned supermodel, and the poster girl for British cool has ditched the runway for the silver screen as she takes on her first protagonist movie role in Electricity. Her disappearance from fashion week left a gaping hole in our hearts when she quit modelling four years ago, but she has been busy, moving to LA to focus on her acting career, marrying Frank from FRIENDS (Giovanni Ribisi) and starting up her own fashion label, Title A. Now this charming Manc takes on the role of Lily, a brash, witty, sexy young woman with temporal lobe epilepsy who leaves the safety blanket of her seaside home, risking her own health, to search for her long lost brother in London. It's a powerful coming of age tale told through the kaleidoscopic eyes of Lily, roping viewers into her own Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. i-D dedicated a whole issue to her in May 2008, and now we check in with our fave cover girl again to talk all things Agyness. We sure have missed her.
How did you get involved with Electricity?
I got the script sent through, really loved it and auditioned. I actually self-taped it because I was in LA. A friend recorded me and we sent it in and a few months later got offered the part.
Were you nervous?
I don't know whether I was nervous, I suppose it's different from actually doing the role but it's a fun process to play around with it and commit to a direction and hope that's the one.
Why did you like the script?
I read it and it resonated with me a lot, like I loved her and her strength and what she was going through and her background. I empathised with and was excited by her journey.
Did you know much about epilepsy before you started filming?
I camped out in this doctor's office in the hospital, he's a specialist and he took me through so many videos and research. He was just like "whatever you want to know..." So he taught me about the condition, mentally and physically what it does and showed me how to duplicate it in a way that was really real, which was amazing.
Did you ever feel awkward acting it out?
The first time I did because you don't know how it actually feels and where it belongs. But then when you understand where the movement comes from, it becomes quite natural.
Did you know much about the hallucinations?
Yeah, just from people's experiences of what it's like and how scary it was or how cathartic it was, so I had that to help me.
Do you think you're like Lily?
Yeah, I do actually. I think because I related to her so much. Obviously she's Northern and coming from that part of the world, having siblings, the love you have for your siblings that can never really be rocked... I'm really close to my brother and sister. I suppose like, connecting to her journey of self-discovery because I feel like we all go through that, you know? Being a young woman and finding yourself and where you fit in. I feel like every woman can connect with that. No matter how extreme her condition is, you can really relate to it on a fundamental human level. Seeing someone struggling with something and overcoming something so big, then inspires you to overcome things in your life because you're like, if she can do that, then you can really do anything.
What was your coming of age period like, because yours all happened in the limelight?
I think, maybe when I stopped modelling, that was my coming of age, in a way.
Did everything change when you stopped modelling?
It wasn't really a conscious thing, but I feel like, looking back, because I went through all of my 20s modelling, when I came out of it late 20s I was like, oh, who am I? That was definitely a coming of age phase.
How much say did you have in what you wore in the film?
It's a bit mental isn't it! Myself and Andrew Cox, who did the wardrobe, and Bryn Higgins, the director thought, well a lot of people who have epilepsy have kind of a different perspective on the world and they see angles and colours magnified. We tried to show that in the way she dressed and also the environment she lived in. We wanted to show that having something that seemed so heavy could have a creative outlet as well. She doesn't have loads of money so we just went to loads of charity shops.
Now you've done modelling, acting, singing and you've got your own clothing line, which do you prefer?
Acting's definitely what my heart's in and also doing the label because its very much what I'm craving to wear so it's definitely me now. Those two things are very creative for me at the moment; I get the most fulfilment from them.
What's your ideal film role?
Just anything that's a strong female character, you know when you watch a film and you're like rooting for them.
Who are some of your favourite actresses?
There are the old ones like Grace Kelly, I just loved her and how she was so free. Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, who I loved in Blue Valentine, I just feel like she's got a really raw quality. Samantha Morton, she's been in loads of cool indie films.
What was the last film you cried at?
That one with Matthew McConaughey where he's got AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club. I saw that at the cinema and just re-watched it on the plane over. It was amazing. I finished watching that film and even though it's really traumatic, I really enjoyed it and I haven't felt like that for a while. Because it's kind of a love story between the two of them as well, where they hug each other and they've been resisting for so long, I was just like wah [cries]!
Do you think you'll ever return to modelling?
I've never really said I'm never going to model again. It's always there, it's just because I've been so busy that I've not really had the opportunity to really do it.
I was flicking back through The Agyness Deyn Issue of i-D...
Have you ever looked back over it?
I haven't actually since it came out. I've got a few copies of it. It's just like, this is your life or something.
Do you think you've changed much since then?
Definitely, in six years, so much.
Would you guest edit for us again?
Yeah definitely! It was so good to just be able to do what I wanted to do. It was definitely an amazing experience and opportunity and I was really honoured and flattered they asked me to do it.
Who would you put in it now if you did it again?
I think I'd take people that I really respected and friends, and give them sections, kind of curate it.
Electricity is released Friday 12th December.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Styling Francesca Burns and Kim Jones
[The Agyness Deyn Issue, No. 287, May 08]