Talking Fashionista – A Fantastic Fest 2016 Interview
In addition to reviewing Simon Rumley‘s new film Fashionista, we were fortunate to sit down with him and the cast before the premiere at Fantastic Fest for a lively and laughter-filled discussion about the film, its influences, the city of Austin, allergic reactions, and much more.
The Ink & Code: The end credits begin with a shout-out to Nicolas Roeg. I always smile when I see “inspired by” credits honoring other filmmakers. Roeg is one of the greats. Was there a particular film of his that stands out as inspiration?
Simon Rumley: Basically, he executive-produced my previous film Crowhurst and, in doing so, I met up with him a bunch of times … He always has been pretty much my favorite filmmaker. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to make a film like Nicolas Roeg’s were structured and never really knew how to do it … In [Crowhurst] there’s a little bit of cross-cutting here and there; not very much. He certainly pushed it a little bit with his involvement in it. So when it came to this film, I had written a script, which I completely changed and started again from scratch … I pretty much rewrote the thing. I knew roughly where I was going with it but it was a bit of a blur. It’s kind of an unusual process because the script was what is on screen whereas, I think, with his films, they had a linear script and the structure changed in the edit.
Bad Timing was the film I gave to Ethan and Amanda, and said, “Watch this. This is the film that’s closest to what we’re doing.” And it’s different, of course, but there’s a bit of psychosexuality to it. And it’s told a bit more in a series of flashbacks. It’s not a dissimilar structure inasmuch as the stuff in hospital is in the present tense but the bulk of the film is in the past.
I wondered about putting “inspired by” at the end. I went back and forth, and in the end, just thought that if he hadn’t been a filmmaker then I probably wouldn’t have done a film like this.
I&C: Speaking of filmmakers, some of the movie posters in the April’s and Eric’s apartment stuck out. Just set design? Favorites of yours? Or other inspirations?
Simon: I can’t claim anything for that. [It was the apartment of a friend] Mark, who lives downtown and is a music/film nut. It was an amazing space to take over and use … All the film posters are great for both those characters. There’s Mad Max stuff…
I&C: And two Argento posters…
Ethan Embry: There was Nosferatu up there too.
Amanda Fuller: And the Nazi one?
I&C: That was The Night Porter. Well, Lili Marleen was a Nazi one too.
Simon: And, actually, he’s got a signed Romper Stomper photograph.
Ethan: What’s up with this guy?
I&C: Simon, this is your second film set in Austin. As someone born outside the United States, what draws you to this particular city?
Simon: As an English filmmaker, I always wanted to do a film in America. I grew up watching American films, listening American music, being inspired by American fashions in the 1950s. So I came over here in 2006 and met Tim League, who is Fantastic Fest basically, and everything went from him. On Red, White & Blue, we had an amazing experience with lots of great people. [With Fashionista] we have the same co-producer, the same casting director, the same actress, the same DP, so a lot of people came back. It’s such a friendly town. [There’s] something basically very American about Austin in that kind of musical, Americana sense. I think the fact that it’s the self-proclaimed musical capital of the world does something for me, because I’m a massive music fan. And the neon lights, I love. Beyond that, everyone’s so friendly and generous, and kind. Everyone helps us out so much. In the end, why wouldn’t we want to come back? Everything about it was a pleasure from beginning to end.
Amanda: I love all the crews I’ve worked on, but there’s something about Austin crews. They do it because they love to do it. There’s no agenda … In Austin, more than anywhere I’ve experienced, people are just committed to the journey of it. It’s so wonderful.
Ethan: They’re genuine. And there are so many characters too. Like what other city would you have Byron on wardrobe? [editor’s note: Byron Scott Thomas, wardrobe supervisor]
Alex Essoe: Byron’s a gem.
Amanda: It’s such a collaborative experience.
I&C: Amanda and Simon, after making Red, White & Blue together, was it always the goal to make another film together?
Amanda: I hoped to, yeah. That was one of my favorite film experiences of my career. It was the first time I ever really had the chance to just say something true and just ride the wave of raw story and take risks. Not have a network bogging me down, or people telling me how I need to look or act in order to accomplish some sort of identity for the masses. I feel like [Red, White & Blue] was more of a cathartic experience because, in and of itself, I’m not in as much and there’s these other storylines, so it wasn’t as technically challenging for me. I was to sit in the awesomeness of Simon and making this film without it being too taxing. It was emotionally taxing but I’m a masochist, so I love that. This one was much more of a challenge physically. From little things, like I woke up the morning of our first day of shooting with an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite the night before. My eye was swollen shut.
Ethan: And she’s in every single shot of the movie.
Amanda: We had to rearrange the whole schedule. If you watch it again, you will see there are certain shots were my eyes look a little puffy. It’s not just that I’m exhausted…
Ethan: You don’t notice it at all.
Amanda: I can see it but I’m glad that nobody else can. The pacing and how we shot the movie was also physically and emotionally demanding, knowing where we were at each point in the story. It was a massive amount.
Ethan: 360 scenes? How many scenes were there?
Simon: About 365.
Amanda: And the costume changes. There were over 150 costume changes … Every part of the puzzle had to be perfectly in place. I don’t know if we knew what the fuck we were doing. [Simon] knew the whole time!
Ethan: We didn’t have a script supervisor.
Amanda: It was all in Simon’s head. He’s kinda a dictator that way.
Simon: I try not to use script supervisors.
Amanda: But it worked. It was great.
I&C: With that in mind, Amanda, what was the most difficult scene to shoot?
Amanda: I cried throughout the entire film. I think the hardest for me was the relationship stuff because I was drawing upon past experiences that were incredibly painful and never go away. [That aspect] was the most connected to my own personal demons that I had to exploit, or exorcise. Every day we had some scene regarding that.
Ethan: (to Amanda) There’s this one shot where you see me and it hurts so much. Just genuinely wrung out. And you watch it unfurl to just become anger. That’s what I loved about your character so much. She’s fucking punk rock, man.
Amanda: When I slapped Sherry (Alexandria DeBerry) that was really hard for me because I’ve never slapped a chick. I’m not very punk rock, I guess. I’m kinda a softy. Like, where do I pull from for this? It’s cool to see it work, to see it manifested into this person who could exist, in Austin of all places. That girl lives here, if she lives anywhere … It’s nice to play a vulnerable leading lady who is also very much grounded and speaks from her strength too. It’s liberating.
I&C: Amanda and Alex worked together in Starry Eyes, what was it like to reunite for this film?
Amanda: Working on Starry Eyes together, there was a similar bond, in this weird way.
Alex: Amanda is incredibly easy to work with. It was nice just to be there with her. I was just excited to see what she would do, honestly.
Amanda: (to I&C) Put in “massive eye roll.”
Alex: Parentheses “eye roll.”
Simon: (to Alex) I said to Amanda, “Would you be happy to work with her?” You got the thumbs up.
Alex: Sweet, thank you!
Amanda: Yeah, obviously!
I&C: Ethan, it’s been a joy watching your career trajectory over the years. What attracts you to roles like this one, Cheap Thrills, and The Devil’s Candy?
Ethan: I think it’s this “arthouse” thriller/horror genre that’s taking the most chances. And it’s fun to do horror. It’s fun doing torture porn. To me, my favorite thing to do is to get the audience involved in these characters and then make the audience sit through them going through immense pain … All we want to do is create a response from our audience, whether it’s laughing, or crying, or whatever it is. We’re making you emote. And fucking fear and tension are such strong emotions. It gives me a hard-on.
Amanda: We know. Keep it in your pants.
Alex: She got you.
Amanda: He opened that door.
I&C: As long as he’s not opening his pants, we’re good.
Ethan: I walked into that one.
I&C: Going from fear and tension to other end of the spectrum, Devin, what was it like to be a force of good in the film?
Devin Bonnée: That’s what was written. That’s what the character was, the optimistic point of view and the lack of addiction.
I&C: And to wrap this up, what’s one article of clothing that each of you cannot live without?
Simon: I’m a massive jacket fan. I try to buy a new jacket every year, which I’ve been doing for the last 15-20 years, actually. So I’ve got a jacket that I’ve had since I was 18, which I bought at university. It’s a classic bomber jacket. I don’t wear it too much but every so often I bring it out. And I’ve got a reversible Dolce & Gabbana burgundy coat which is pretty amazing.
Amanda: But which can you not live without?
Simon: I got to go with that one. I don’t wear that one very often. Even now people stop me in the street, “Oh my god, I love your coat, man. Where’d you get it from?”
Amanda: My mother’s a costume designer and I have a huge love of clothing. I actually weed out everything every six months and do clothes swaps with my friends, so I don’t have a crazy attachment to my wardrobe in general. But there are pieces, like hand-me-downs, but I don’t know if I can choose one. To go the opposite route, I would say the pair of sweatpants that are the most comfortable thing in the world. They are literally the ones I couldn’t live without because I wear them the most.
Devin: My favorite article of clothing is a newspaper print jumpsuit.
Amanda: Are you wearing that [to the premiere]?
Devin: I’m not going to wear it tonight because I mostly only wear it by myself. It’s comfy and wonderful.
Alex: Probably this shirt. [displays a yellow t-shirt with the word “Sexual” with a photo of the Predator below it.] My brother has a matching one. I made matching t-shirts one year. We always made this joke together. So, now we both have them.
Ethan: These boots. I’ve had them at least 8 years. I wear them every day. My last motorcycle accident, they tried to cut them off of me. I was laying on Franklin [Boulevard], passed out. I woke up and they already cut my denim jacket off me. They were starting on my jeans, and I shouted, “No! No, I’ll take them off!