Actress Sadie Frost as Diane in the film A Bird Flew In

Sadie Frost

With over three decades in film, theater and television, Sadie Frost is producer, actor, fashion designer and author. She has starred in films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” by Francis Ford Coppola and TV dramas like “Uprising” and has worked with directors such as Paul W.S Anderson and Ildikó Enyedi. In 1999, she founded a production company called Natural Nylon with fellow actors Jude Law, Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller, which went on to produce the science fiction/horror feature “eXistenZ” by David Cronenberg (1999), followed by Pat Murphy’s “Nora” (2000). She then went on to co-produce the Angelina Jolie and Gwenyth Paltrow starrer “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” by Kerry Conran (2004). Frost also set up her own fashion label called Frost French, on which she worked extensively throughout the 2000s. In 2012, she co-founded the production company Blonde to Black Pictures with producer and long-term friends Emma Comley and Andrew Green. Dedicated to developing challenging and quality films whilst also nurturing exciting new talent, the company regularly works with debut feature directors including Ben Charles Edwards for “Set the Thames on Fire” (2015) and Tom Beard’s “Two for Joy” (2018).

At this year’s Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival, Tara Karajica talks to Sadie Frost about her career in film and TV, feminism and film, her role in Kirsty Bell’s debut feature “A Bird Flew In” that screened in Competition at the festival, and what she’s up to next.

 

 

 

 

What made you want to become an actress?

Sadie Frost: I think I wanted to be an actor at three or four years old. I lived in a young parents hippie commune and the only way I could get any attention was to dance and act and sing and shout. So, I used to get on the table and start acting and do performances to get their attention. And then, I went to an acting school as a child.

How did you get on board A Bird Flew In?

S.F.: I kind of got a bit of a history working with Kirsty Bell and Goldfinch. I’ve been in another film of theirs called Waiting for Anya and then, I directed a documentary about Mary Quant. While I was directing that, Kirsty had the idea of A Bird Flew In about people being in lockdown and falling in love and relationships. So, she offered me the role and it fitted in well with my schedule. I thought it was a great idea and was happy to support it and be part of that.

Can you talk about your character of Diane in A Bird Flew In? How you see her?

S.F.: I was directing. It was funny because I was working a lot with an editor in lockdown. So, in a way, I was kind of mirroring what I was doing in my creative and film art. It was a nice project because it was so natural and the characters are all, of course, ensemble. But she is just lonely and feeling very lost, unloved and gets this connection and really wants a little bit more, but is scared of being hurt, so she’s quite vulnerable. It was good character to play, especially during lockdown.

How did you prepare to play her apart from being in lockdown and experiencing the pandemic as we all have been?

S.F.: I always just look for similarities and try and relate to the character. I don’t do too much preparation. I think I’ve been doing acting for such a long time now that it really comes naturally. I think the less you do sometimes the better. And, you just have to make the character comfortable. I was also working on my own film, so it was quite natural and improvised and Kirsty [Bell] is really easy to work with. She gave me great direction and Ben Charles Edwards as well. I’ve had a very long working relationship with them; we’re really a strong team.

A Bird Flew In is about the need for human intimacy and validation during self-isolation and couldn’t be more relevant. Can you talk about this and your lockdown experience and what you have discovered about yourself during that time?

S.F.: Well, I was so excited to be having this amazing job opportunity and I was just about to start filming. We had done a few days and then lockdown happened. Day by day, people started falling away – really amazing guests – because obviously everyone was worried. Everyone was joking a bit about it at first and then everyone started cancelling. I’m very accepting of situations and I think that you just have to accept stuff rather than react to it and fight it. So, I was very lucky that it was just a coincidence – we rented a place in the countryside with me and my partner’s children around that time, just before lockdown, when they said you weren’t allowed to travel. And, I had all my kids with me. We were in lockdown with all my four children and their partners and their friends and my partner’s kids, so we just did a lot of baking and arts and crafts and we did a running club. I was so grateful that I could actually connect with my children, especially my sons Raff and Fin who had left home had come back home, and we really created a strong bond. I was terrified of it. My mom had it really bad. My friend had it really bad. And then, I have a serious lung condition, so I was quite worried that if I got it something bad could happen to my lungs. I was panicking inside, so I did a lot of mind over matter, meditation and running. I was also being very creative. I thought I had to do something to take my mind off it and that was editing, shooting other things and doing photography. So, I made the most of it. I must admit I was very scared, but I was very lucky to be surrounded by loved ones.

Can you talk about your directorial debut, Quant, and working with Kirsty Bell?

S.F.: We started Quant before A Bird Flew In and I was directing and it was great to have been given the opportunity by Kirsty. I was quite nervous and I’ve had a working relationship with Ben Charles Edwards. He’s been my muse, and I’ve been his muse. And, I brought him along to Quant and introduced him to Kirsty. I think we will work together forever, me and Ben; we’re very aligned. But I think Kirsty saw a good thing and to find a creative partner is quite rare and quite special. So, she then worked with Ben and, at first, I must admit, I was like: “He’s my partner” And, I’m laughing now! But I think it’s all about being creative and working with lots of different people and encouraging each other and I think that’s what we do. I can act and produce, I can direct and so can Kirsty and so can Ben and I might cast him in my next film, getting him acting. I think it’s just nice to have a relationship where you can you can get to know people and you understand each other creatively, but I work with a lot of other people as well. I have a business partner, Andrew Green, who produces my films. We’re all just like a nice creative melting pot.

How much of you is there in every character you play? Do you manage to dissociate yourself from your own persona in other to play someone else?

S.F.: It’s interesting because I’m acting in a film right now called The Chelsea Cowboy, and I am working with Ben Cookson who cast me in Waiting for Anya, which Kirsty produced. In my twenties, I’d play the child, I’d play the teenager, I’d play the femme fatale, I’d play the older femme fatale. I was then playing the young mother, then the old mother. I got sent the script and I went through the script and I found my character and she was the old bat of the village and I was like: “Really?! Have I come to this part of my life where I’m playing an old ugly bat?!” And, that was so far away from me, obviously. Then, Ben cast me in this next role that I’m doing now and I’m playing Cissy Bindon. It’s the life story of John Bindon, which is an amazing story. The character is very far away from me and she’s very cockney, very working class. He cast me in that film even though the character is not like my character, because he realized the way I talked about my children and the way I talked about my sons was what he wanted from Cissy Bindon in The Chelsea Cowboy. So, there was that bit of that character. There’s always a little essence of each thing. When I was playing the scenes with Alex Pettyfer who is playing my son, it felt really emotional because I was just really imagining my sons Raff, Fin and Rudy. I think the interesting thing of doing A Bird Flew In with Kirsty is that I’ve been sitting for weeks with someone working over Zoom, so I could kind of see how you can get lost and lonely and the madness that’s involved with that.

Has any character that you have played, changed you radically, altered your worldview completely, or has done something to you that has stayed with you since?

S.F.: There were two, really. I did a big TV series quite a few years ago called Uprising and I played a true character. She was a freedom fighter in the Warsaw ghetto, and it was all about the Jews living in the Warsaw ghetto and escaping through these tunnels. The research for that and the knowledge that I discovered about what actually happened in World War II firsthand, speaking to people who had been through that experience, and playing that character, it was really tough and emotional. You’re doing it with a group of actors and then you become closer and then be like: “Well, this person didn’t make it, that person didn’t make it.” That changed me and it was quite grueling. We had a lot of physical exercise and I had to lose a lot of weight. And, I guess, in a way, Dracula changed me too, because I was so consumed and absorbed in that character of Lucy and being a vampire. I used to keep my teeth in quite a lot and I really did feel like a vampire for quite a long time. It really was quite haunting. So, those two parts quite definitely changed me.

Do you have a favorite role among the ones you have played?

S.F.: Not really, but I’m really looking for my favorite role. I think I’ve really enjoyed acting recently. I’ve just done three films in the last year. And, I enjoy playing cameos and smaller roles. In fact, I’m doing something in the new year, which I’m excited about, but I can’t talk about. I think probably the most lavish, extreme character of Lucy in Dracula… I would love to play something as equally lavish.

Well, I was just about to ask you if there was a character or a person you would like to play, a dream role if you will.

S.F.: My friend and I were talking about how we wanted to do the stage version of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. I thought that would be good especially because I like playing these crazy older ladies. I think I’d love to do Lady Macbeth and I’d love to be in something like a proper high profile TV series like The Crown. I’d love to play Princess Margaret because I love historical figures.

Do you prefer TV, film or the stage?

S.F.: I’m a big supporter of independent film. It always seems to be the thing that I’m most involved in. I’ve done a few plays, which I’ve loved and I’ve done so much work, which has been terrifying. With doing theater, you need the best director. And, I will never work again in the theater unless I find a director I completely one-hundred percent trust. I started off my whole career in TV. And, I always do TV, but you fall into a little niche sometimes and then it’s hard to get into something else. I do feel like I’m always busy with something. There’s always something exciting going on. I haven’t had a day off in years. So, I think next year, when this all dies down with everything that’s happening now, there’ll be some opportunities I’d like to explore.

There’s been a lot of talk about women in film in the past four years. What is your take on it? Do you see any change?

S.F.: I went to Stanford University and studied Women in Film for my MA and things happen because women would be playing the role of raising children and I wanted to see how that truly affects why women don’t get so many opportunities and why they drop off. If a woman has had kids, she might not do her second film. So, I was really aware of all that. Things are definitely changing. Things are equaling out, but to some degree, and you may be seeing women cinematographers and all kinds of other roles. But my problem is that the film industry is still run by men. A lot of the financing is men. A lot of the little boys’ clubs is still going on. I think that’s where it’s got to change because they’re the people that make the decisions of what films are going to be made and they need to be not just greenlighting more male films and more films for men. There needs to be more female financiers or in those roles and making those decisions because then, I think we would have a better balance of the type of films being made.

Do you have a favorite film by a female filmmaker, a favorite female filmmaker and someone you would really love to work with?

S.F.: I admire people like Samantha Morton, Billie Piper and Emerald Fennell. I’ve seen so many things recently and a lot of big TV shows made with female writers and directors. Someone like Phoebe Waller-Bridge who I met recently. People like that are really changing the industry.

Do you have anything in the pipeline?

S.F.: I’m developing two-three other documentaries. I’m writing a feature at the moment called Blackout, which I want to direct. And then, next year, I’m working on a film called Boxed In, acting. And then, there’s a couple of opportunities with TV work. So, it’s already looking very exciting.

 

 

 

Photo credits: Courtesy of Goldfinch Entertainment.

This interview was conducted (virtually) at the 2021 Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

Previous Story

Kirsty Bell

Next Story

Charlène Favier

Latest from FADE TO...

Mia Hansen-Løve

French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve has made eight feature films, rising to international prominence in 2014 with

Sahar Mossayebi

Sahar Mossayebi was born in Tehran. She graduated in Theater with a BA from The Azad

Claire Denis

Idolized not only by the next generation of talents in today’s Cinema such as Alice Diop,

Isabel Coixet

Following her 2022 documentary El sostre groc, Catalan trailblazer Isabel Coixet returns to fiction with Un

Kitty Green

Australian director Kitty Green follows up her critically acclaimed feature debut The Assistant with her sophomore