Sasha Lane is tired. One thing no one tells you when they ask you if you want to be in a movie is one day you’ll have to talk to journalists about it. And so Lane, the young star of “American Honey,” has gone from a young woman in Texas, who was discovered by acclaimed English filmmaker Andrea Arnold (“Fish Tank,” “Wuthering Heights”) on a Florida beach during Spring Break, to interview rooms, talking endlessly to strangers about herself and her unusual new film.
“I’m brain-dead,” Lane admits with a chuckle.
But she soldiers on. In “American Honey,” Lane, now 20, plays Star, an 18-year-old who hitches a ride with a gang of young runaways who drive around the Midwest in a bus, selling magazine subscriptions. It’s a grim business, with their boss (Riley Keough) always threatening them with beatings or with stranding them in the middle of nowhere. And yet most of the crew acts like they’re on an endless Spring Break — partying outside motels, drinking and singing along in their sad van.
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What you see onscreen is sort-of-accurate, says Lane. They each got their own motel rooms, but they really did drive around in that van, and really did pick their own driving music. Usually it was rap and Top 40.
“I had the more chill songs,” Lane says. But everyone got used to that. “I remember I played one song. At first you could tell everyone was like, ‘Oh, Sasha, her and her vibey stuff.’ But eventually it just settled everyone. Everyone started chilling out. It was a really serene moment.”
Lane wouldn’t play just anything she liked. “I enjoy a lot of sad music,” she explains. “People would think it’s sad, but for me it’s another form of creativity. That’s another part of my brain I like exploring. But I’m not just trying to downhill everyone. Those songs are more when it’s a one-on-one, or with three people. I’m all about moods and vibes and energy. Like, ‘I’m gonna need candles for this. It’s gonna take a lot of care and effort to set the vibe.’”
She agrees being sad isn’t a bad thing. “People are very afraid of feelings,” she says. She doesn’t like when people are constantly happy or on. “That’s wack. That’s what I think is insane: when someone’s constantly one thing.”
The cast would spend most of their off-time hanging out, partying. Because Star often lights out on her own — sometimes with the organization’s predatory second-in-command, played by Shia LaBeouf, one of the only actors who wasn’t a non-pro — Lane wouldn’t always get time with them. (One day she and Arielle Holmes, one of the crew members and the volatile star of last year’s drug saga “Heaven Knows What,” wandered off and got tattoos.) Even when she did she’d sometimes wander off to be by herself.
“I’m a really good casual dipper,” she confesses. “I’d be hanging out with them, then be like, ‘Alright, cool,’ then walk off. I float in and out. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me liking my space. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me staring off or sitting at the window or being in the corner chilling. I keep everything internal anyway — I don’t put my energy on other people. I’m good with myself.”
One of the scenes she did apart from the group finds Star whimsically getting in a car with a group of aging cowboys, who invite her back to a house for steaks and drinks. The scene is tense: You’re probably sure they have bad intentions. (This is an art house film after all.) But they stay gentlemen — or as much as you can when you’re plying a teen with booze.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Are you sure they’re not gonna try to f—k me up?’” she recalls, laughing. “But I love it because it’s so true. Sometimes you see someone and you’re like, ‘This is going to be this.’ But no, they’re just having a good time. You never know. You can’t judge a beginning so harshly.” (The scene also involves them giving her money to drink multiple tequila worms, which Lane really did, but with apple juice.)
As for the notion of roaming young magazine peddlers, it’s based on a real thing, of which Lane was aware. “You’ve probably actually been in contact with someone selling something or a magazine, but didn’t know it,” she explains. Some of Star’s magazine pitches were done for real. “I walked up to someone and said, ‘I’m trying to study psychology in college and go on this trip — it’s an intern thing.’ They’re like, ‘Here, 20 bucks, get out of my face.’”
After two months on the road, shooting constantly and spending time with her new friends, Lane had trouble readjusting to real life.
“It was so depressing. It was like withdrawal,” she says. “It was like I need to hear voices outside the door, knowing I could just walk outside and they’re in the parking lot, chilling.”
Since “American Honey” wrapped — and played the Cannes Film Festival — Lane has become touted as the Next Big Thing. She’s been tapped for the YA movie “Hunting Lila,” which has yet to be finalized. She’s also relocated to Los Angeles, which is a huge gearshift.
“I’ve met good people, but there’s also people who are like, ‘What do you do? Why are you important for me to talk to at this moment?’ Pretty not cool,” she explains. “But it’s not all that Hollywood s—t. I’m trying to stay more about that than anything else.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge