Pollyanna McIntosh has performed in a wide variety of roles from stage to screen, ranging from the girl next door to a feral, cannibalistic cave-dweller. A fascinating and charming woman to chat with, we discussed her work in The Woman, the black comedy about Scotland's infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare and what the lovely Scots lass has coming up next.
Starburst: Thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Pollyanna McIntosh: My pleasure.
You were born in Edinburgh but had a very cosmopolitan upbringing growing up in several different countries. Were there any major influences because of this that made you want to become an actress?
It was all my mum’s fault! When I was nine years old, living in Edinburgh, I was a hyperactive child, always up to something loud so she thought that excess energy could be put to good use in an after school acting class once a week. As far as moving around, I suppose frequently adapting to new cultures and situations is a good grounding for an actor’s observing eye as well as their adaptation into new characters and into new on-set families. As a newcomer or outsider you’re more watchful of others and you learn about people’s ways pretty quickly. I always felt very lucky to get to move about the way we did.
What attracted you to the story of The Woman?
I had played the character in a previous film, Offspring, after the director/producer gave me the novel of the same name by Jack Ketchum to read. I was fascinated by it. Then, half way through shooting Offspring they decided to keep my character alive as I was having, “too much fun” with her. After Lucky McKee saw the film and was asked if he would consider collaborating on a novel and screenplay to take my character’s story forward, he and Jack Ketchum wrote The Woman for me. I feel very connected to this character, she’s nature itself. A survivor.
I was happy so see that Lucky McKee finally got his big break with an indie production. Many studio pics take away your creative control, stifle creativity and you end up with a film that barely resembles what your original idea was.
Lucky’s experiences in the studio system were unlucky in many regards after his great success with his first indie feature May. Here, with The Woman, it was imperative he had creative control and he got it. He’s a great filmmaker.
The role of the Woman looked physically demanding. Did you do a lot of prep work for it?
Yes, physically I worked out a lot, concentrating on the muscles she would use in her lifestyle. This meant I was sometimes leapfrogging around the gym or hanging off the bars like a monkey. I must have looked really daft. I also grew my hair out in every conceivable place and spent a week in the woods alone. Studying animals such as wolves, big cats and apes in nature documentaries and in zoos was a big part of it too as well as studying our ancient myths, especially with regards to hunting. I had to create a sense of my life if I were outside that cellar, what was most important to me, so I knew what I wanted to get back to and how I judged the family I was now faced with.
Chris is extremely well portrayed by actor Sean Bridges. He has the characteristics of an alpha male sociopath and your character is a woman out of her element brought into a dysfunctional family environment creating a lot of conflict and drama. Did you and the cast do a lot of rehearsing together before filming?
No, we didn't rehearse but I swapped notes regarding everything in the script with Lucky for four months before hand and as Lucky and Jack Ketchum also wrote the novel at the same time, this gave us all even more insight into the characters’ minds. I was working with such a great cast and Lucky makes you bring your best as he allows you to work as individuals, with the freedom to try things on for size yet has a very clear overview of the piece. He’s really incredible, it’s hard to describe.
Burke and Hare. Here's a film that had all the markings of a successful movie with John Landis directing, starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tim Curry, yourself and yet, it only made $947 in the one theater that I was fortunate enough to see it in here in the United States. What do you think happened?
It was the number one comedy at the box office in the UK for some time. IFC did the distribution here and I don’t think they did near enough publicity. People keep asking me when they get to see it in US theatres and I have to tell them it came out already, just nobody was told! It’s a shame for all involved, but also the US audiences who missed a beautiful looking film as it’s meant to be seen.
It's a very funny movie! So, what do you have coming up next?
I just wrapped on Love Eternal with director Brendan Muldowney who had adapted the novel Loving the Dead by Japanese author Kei Oishi (much has changed from the book, waaay less horror oriented) about a man who has been a shut in for ten years and comes out to face a world he no longer understands. I play a grieving mother who forms a relationship with him and we bring each other back to life, as it were. Next up is a drama called I Do with Jamie Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt and Brit David W Ross and a comedy by Brian McGuire called Prevertere. He and I worked together already on a few projects including Carlos Spills The Beans which comes out soon.
In the meantime, we urge everybody to see the critically acclaimed cult classic in the making The Woman, which is out now in the UK on DVD/Blu-ray. Read our review here.