Andrea Arnold’s fourth feature film, American Honey, is a marvel. Capturing a subconscious nihilism that she sees ingrained in the youth of America, Arnold gives us a raw glimpse into the lives this young generation.
The film’s lead, newcomer Sasha Lane, plays Star, a teenage girl trying to make ends meet throughout a bleak existence. Dumpster-diving for food, taking care of two children that aren’t hers, and dealing with an abusive man at home—the cards are stacked against her. But when Star meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf), he offers her an escape, a chance to see America, to leave her small town and make some cash while doing it. Joining up with a group of hard partying misfits who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions door to door, Star gets a taste of life, love and the post-American Dream landscape.
Paste had a chance to sit down with Lane at this year’s Fantastic Fest to discuss the film.
How did you get involved with American Honey?
Sasha Lane: I was on spring break in Florida and Andrea came up to me on the beach and we just ended up really connecting. It was crazy how that whole situation worked. It just felt right for the both of us. That’s the way the universe works, you know?
She approached you out of the blue?
Lane: Yeah, I know! People ask me that and I just say, “Yeah that’s what it was.” We both kind of go off energies and vibes and I remember thinking, “This feels right. I don’t know what we’re getting into, but let’s do it.” I felt like it was meant to happen.
Your story with Andrea is similar to your character’s in the film, Jake comes out of nowhere and asks, “Hey, you want to go do this thing?”, and you’re off and running.
Lane: There’re so many things that correlate and correspond, it’s like, “Whoa!”
Was acting something you had thought of pursuing?
Lane: Not at all. I’m actually really anxious, so cameras, all of that pressure and attention freaks me out, so I never would have imagined.
What direction was your life going in before this trip to Florida?
Lane: Before I took that trip, I was really struggling, I felt like something was missing. I was dealing with a lot, but I also had this feeling something amazing was going to happen and I didn’t know what that was or how much longer I could hold on and wait for that. I was exhausted. My mom actually sent me on that spring break trip as her non-emotional way of being like, “Please live a little. Stop stressing.” So, I did.
Being so low is what allowed me to be so open and so down to do something that, normally, I would have been like, “Yeah, right. Get out of my face.” So, I’m very thankful I was at such a low point where I had nothing left to lose, it turned into such a blessing.
I’m in Texas where a year and a half ago I was sitting around thinking, “What are you doing?” And now, I’m in a room with a poster that has my name on it, with an amazing director and an amazing group of people. It’s such an amazing experience that we’re sharing with the world, and that people are connecting so hard to. I’m just like, “Wow, how beautiful.”
The film feels very natural, almost like a documentary, and the cast is made up of mostly first-time actors. What was the shoot like?
Lane: We were living in motels, and out of that van. It was like a summer road trip, like real life. So, it was exhausting and it was crazy, because that many people all together all the time, but it was also the most exhilarating, free, beautiful experience.
I mean, there was a script and there was clockwork and all of that, but there was a lot of love on set, there was a lot of everyone being there for a reason, even if you didn’t know why, and we were all kind of down for it,. Even if Andrea had to say, “These are your lines,” she still gave you freedom to say it how you would say it.
Most of it is very much scripted, but she gave us a freedom to say it how we would say it, which made it hard for editing, but perfect for us because it was natural and we did say the words, and we did form legit bonds with each other.
How long were you out on the road for?
Lane: Two months exactly. And it was tough. It’s super fun, but there were times where we were all just like, “Are we going to make it out of this alive? What are we doing? This is so crazy.” But, we were all like soldiers: “We’re here for a reason. Let’s keep on going,” There was a lot of respect and love, and it was like family. So, it all worked out at the end of the day. We were all like, “You’re my close sibling.”
Paste: Two months on the road and in motels is intense.
Lane: Yeah. We stayed in one nice place during the shoot and we actually hated it, because when you stay in a shitty motel in the middle of nowhere, no one cares. They’re just like, “Okay, there’s a bunch of random loud people in the parking lot.” Most people think, “That’s sketch,” but everyone else would just walk up and say, “Yo, dude. Can I borrow a lighter?” We were in this world of complete freedom and complete chaos and beauty, and this feeling of who cares, it’s 7 am and I have to work in an hour, but I’m going to go party with everyone.
Are you planning on doing more acting?
Lane: Yeah. If I can keep doing it the way that feels good with me and feels right every time, I definitely want to keep at it.