Tuesday 8 August 2017

Interview with Florence Hartigan - Star of Phoenix Forgotten

Florence Hartigan is one of the fresh faces amongst the Ridley Scott-produced Phoenix Forgotten, now available on Blu-ray and DVD. And we caught up with her for a chat.

Can you tell us about the process involved in getting the role…
I first got involved with this project a couple years back actually - I had done a few commercials and music videos with Justin Barber (the director of our movie), so when he and T.S. Nowlin, our writer, were looking to shoot a test for the film they asked if I’d be interested in being a part of that shoot. We went to Phoenix and shot a few scenes. I didn’t know if that was going to translate to me being able to be part of the feature version, especially when Scott Free became part of the equation, so I was super happy to get to audition, and even happier to be given the role. To be able to see this project through from beginning to end has been something very special for me.

What were they looking for in you?
I think one of the huge things for the casting was to get people who were not only good actors, but who could improvise well. We were so lucky to have T.S. (Nowlin of Maze Runner) as our writer - but it was part of the documentary-style of film we were making to not only shoot the script as written, but also shoot an improvised version of pretty much every scenario. So I think my improv background was super helpful - I have a comedy improv background (I’ve studied at UCB and The Groundlings here in LA), which I didn’t ever imagine would be so integral to my performance in a sci-fi thriller but there you go!

Was it daunting knowing you’d be the lead?
It’s definitely always a bit of a scary thrill taking on a big role, whether or not it’s the lead. It’s kind of like climbing a mountain Since this is a documentary-style project - we were really influenced by Werner Herzog, and filmmakers like him - there are actually real people in the movie, who we are just asking questions about their actual real life experiences. So I wanted to make sure Sophie fit in with those real people and never felt “acted”. I wanted to give her lots of layers and depth. So, like climbing a mountain it was one step at a time. It was an incredibly rewarding role to dig into.

What makes the character tick?
Sophie is someone who grew up in this terrible shadow of the tragic disappearance of her brother. When we meet her in the movie, Sophie’s mom is finally selling her childhood home, closing the chapter on a lot of those memories. Sophie is a filmmaker, so making a film is how she knows how to express herself. So what’s driving her is the need to come back to all that stuff with new eyes and find out more, anything else she can, and through her film, cast light in those dark places.

Did you get along well with your co-stars? Get much time to get to know each other before the shoot began?
We actually all spent a lot of time together - Clint Jordan who plays my dad, and Cyd Strittmatter who plays my mom, and I made sure to put in some solid time together before we shot. There was so much improv in the process that we wanted to make sure we had key things we all knew to be true - fixed points to base the freestyling around. Also pretty much everything was on location so even though I don’t have scenes with any of the teens (the film takes place in two time periods, 20 years apart, and the teens are in the other time period) we all saw a lot of each other. Everyone was good people, and very talented, which is what you want when you’re working together. We still hang out from time to time which is nice.

Some of those locations you shot at looked pretty cool too. Where did you largely shoot?
We mostly shot in and around LA, but we shot some desert stuff in Anza Borrego (near San Diego) which is absolutely beautiful, and we did a week or so actually in Phoenix too. My favorite day shooting was the day I got to go fim in a Cessna (which is a 4 seater aircraft), and then chat to Jay Pirouznia who is an ex undercover cop turned PI who in real life handles cases like the fictional one in the movie. He has the best stories in Arizona. He’s the real deal!

Has the film opened doors for you?

I’m so grateful to have had my first lead in a feature be this film. It was incredible to be part of such a collaborative experience, and to get to play such a thoughtful, intelligent and relentless woman - it’s up-levelled me as an actor in every way. On the heels of this, my next project is ‘Malevolent’ - an animated horror film starring Morena Baccarin of Deadpool, where I play an emotionally damaged valley girl dealing with addiction and a very bad family dynamic….!   

You can buy Phoenix Forgotten from Amazon US by Clicking Here