Agyness Deyn may be a model-turned-actor, but she already has cred. In “Sunset Song,” she acts for the acclaimed and austere Terence Davies (“The Long Day Closes,” “The Deep Blue Sea”), playing a resilient young woman in rural Scotland circa WWI. Her subtle turn nabbed her a British Independent Film Awards nomination. When we speak long gone is the short, blonde pixie 'do that was her trademark. She's serious about acting and about movies, even recommending an obscure Polish film (1989's "The Interrogation") as we talk shop. Sometimes quitting your day job works out.
You’ve long been a cinephile. When did you first realize you loved movies?
In my teens at school. I had a boyfriend who was really into French films and great music. I was like, “Oh, I’m into that, too.” [Laughs] My favorite film was “Breathless.” From there it changes, because there’s so much out there. That led to Wong Kar-wai and “In the Mood for Love.” Then you open Pandora’s box. I keep realizing I don’t know anything about cinema and that there’s so much more.
You’ve said Terence Davies’ 1988 film “Distant Voices, Still Lives” was a formative viewing.
I saw that in my 20s. He’s from Liverpool, I’m from Manchester, so we’re right next door to each other. I thought it was amazing the way he told stories with such intensity, without actually showing certain things. The scene where [the camera] stays on the stairs and there’s abuse going on [in another room] — you can hear it and you know it’s there, but it’s so much more intense not actually seeing it.
His films have such visual confidence that I wonder what it’s like for the actors. Do you feel like you’re posing in frame or does he still give you a degree of freedom?
Terence doesn’t really like rehearsing, so you come to the table with a strong point of view. He allows you to have that. He’ll say he needs certain things but it’s in a way that you feel you’ve come to it by yourself. He will always say, “Do it, but only if you feel it.” Because it’s all about truth. He goes on the journey with you. He’ll be sitting behind the monitor during an intense scene, going through exactly what you’re going through.