Darlin’, Pollyanna McIntosh's directorial debut, premiered at Cinepocalypse last week. While it’s been met with mixed reviews from film critics, horror fans seem to love the evolution of the story which began in the film adaptation of Jack Ketchum's Offspring and spawned a sequel, The Woman, directed by Lucky McKee.
McIntosh was kind enough to make time for a phone interview shortly after Darlin’s premiere (read our review). I truly hope we get to see more films from McIntosh in the near future, because her go-for-broke style was a refreshing change from the standard social-commentary-heavy horror films.
How long have you been working on Darlin'?
Pollyanna McIntosh: From the time it took between writing it, getting the treatment together, and shooting it, it took about two years. It seems like a long time, but it goes by so fast!”
How did you choose Louisiana for your filming location?
Pollyanna McIntosh: That was our producer, Andrew van den Houten. We were looking at using Atlanta, because I was still shooting "The Walking Dead" and we were in pre-production. It ended up being Baton Rouge was the best place for it. He’d shot there before, and it worked out great for us. We found amazing local talent in the cast as well as crew, so I would definitely shoot there again.
Being a continuation of your character from Offspring and The Woman, was Darlin’ something you and Jack Ketchum planned together, or were you able to start fresh with your own vision?
Pollyanna McIntosh: It was definitely the latter, definitely a story that I wrote completely. He saw the treatment, and he knew what direction I wanted to take it in, and when he read the final script, we chatted then about how it came out. But it was nothing changed, he didn’t need anything changed. He was really happy about how it all turned out. And (Jack) Ketchum, we were lucky enough to have him on set not long before he passed away. He made the long trip from New York to Baton Rouge to come and see us. And though was looking, you know, a little thinner than I was used to seeing him, he had the biggest and brightest smile on his face during production. So, I think I did him proud.
Would you describe Darlin’ as a feminist film?
Pollyanna McIntosh: I’d hope that more people are feminist at this point than the old dirty word of it, you know? I would definitely describe it as a feminist film, but I think for a lot of people that’s confusing and off-putting, oddly. I think that they think it’s something other than suggesting that women are equal and should have equal rights to men. But I definitely think Darlin’ is coming from a female perspective. I hear from audiences, male and female, that they really connect with it and it really stays with them, because they’ve gone on a journey with Darlin’. It’s a funny thing, because of course I’m a feminist, but I would say that for those who find it off-putting, they needn’t be afraid. Darlin’ is something they can really enjoy and relate to.
For all the social commentary presented in the movie, Darlin’ has a lot of very lighthearted and funny moments between the characters. What was your process in balancing these elements?
Pollyanna McIntosh: That’s the way I live life, I feel like even in the darkest moments there’s really a lot of humor to be found, mostly gallows humor. I think that’s because of where I come from, Scotland. It’s quite a Celtic thing. I find that in films that are relentlessly one tone, I can’t really get with the characters as well, and I naturally write with humor, and it’s something I’ll continue to do. But rather than being a horror-comedy or comedy-horror, I really feel like this is a horror movie with a lot of true life absurdity in it, and it was a joy to write.
How did you go about casting the role of “Darlin’”?
Pollyanna McIntosh: Oh my God, we were so lucky with Lauryn Canny! I think she’s absolutely phenomenal, and I’m so excited for audiences to see her in a leading role. She’d been in L.A. for four months, coming from Ireland, and I’d heard her described by Juliette Binoche of all people as her favorite actor working today. When I met her in the audition room, in the waiting room, she was the first person I met. I found her to be so warm and funny and open and grounded, and I thought, “God, I hope she can really act.” Because I think she’s someone who can be on the set for months to lead a film, and really be a great collaborator. And sure enough, she killed it in the audition. For traditional auditions, David Guglielmo was our casting director for that role, but Lauryn was just a no-brainer for me, she was just really, really incredible. I was really lucky to have her involved.
What would you say are the biggest inequalities between men and women in today’s world, and what steps can take us in a better direction?
Pollyanna McIntosh: That’s a big one. I’d say the most obvious inequality is a discrepancy in pay levels. But I’d also say the largest thing is that women are still seeing, to a great degree, even by those who wouldn’t consider themselves to be sexist, a standing of “lesser-than.” There’s just a long history of us being “lesser-than,” or “lower-than,” and it’s important that it be done with. There’s great strength in the feminine, as I’m sure you’re aware. I think it’s about respect, understanding, and stopping and listening. We’ve had a lot of our stories told from the male perspective for centuries, and there’s nothing silly or less impactful about the female voice than the male. It’s really about listening, listening to that experience and relating to it, and getting over the fear of the feminine. I really think it all comes from the fear.