Excision opens in limited UK cinemas this Friday and is well worth hunting down. A fascinating film from first time director Richard Bates Jr., Excision is adapted from a short he made in 2008 and tells the story of a rather disturbed teenager named Pauline.
Played by AnnaLynne McCord, Pauline is troubled in many ways and has an obsession with surgery and the more bloody side of life (and death). The film explores her character’s thought processes in a very interesting and, in many ways, empathetic manner and the way in which Bates treats this central character is very much in the film’s central draw.
Playing Pauline’s rather strict and unsympathetic mother is Traci Lords and I was lucky enough to ask her some questions about the film and her part in it.
Were you familiar with Richard Bates Jr.’s short film before you starred in the feature and what did you initially think of it and the idea?
My agent sent me the script and short film. I was intrigued. And after several meetings and a screen test…the role was mine .
Was there one thing in particular that most drew you in when you read the script for Excision?
Phyllis was a role I hadn’t played before. I felt challenged by her emotional journey and wanted to explore that.
The empathy and sympathy that an audience feels for the main characters in Excision is complex. How did you personally feel towards the characters and did this effect the way in which you approached your performance?
Phyllis was a really difficult character to play. She was written really cold and bitchy. I knew that what was behind that – the pain – needed to always be there lingering. And I needed to bring a sense of humour to the role.
Was there any particular experience or research that you drew on for the role of Phyllis?
I just really thought about what it would be like to have a child that I didn’t like. The pain, the guilt and the denial that would dig at you. I have a 5 year old son and I know how blessed I am. I adore him! The thought of “not liking”, although loving, ones own child was rich for me. It hit me emotionally.
What sort of rehearsal period did you have for the film and was there anything surprising that came out of that?
Ricky and I went through the script page by page. It took us two days. We changed dialogue, added pieces….played. We found some humor in those sessions.
What was the hardest scene to shoot and why?
The dinner scenes were the hardest to shoot because we “Block Shot” them which means all my coverage for every one of those scenes was shot in one afternoon. I had like 16 pages of dialogue and the scenes were scattered throughout the film. It was hell. The reason it was shot this way was…MONEY! We had such a small budget and very little time. It was brutal on the actors. I remember bawling my eyes out as I drove home that night, so exhausted and worried that I had forgotten something in the madness.
How do you read the ending? Do you find it cathartic, bleak, optimistic?
The film speaks to the experiences of teenagers in a way that is perhaps far more meaningful than a lot of popular culture aimed at teenagers. Do you agree and if so, was this something that drew you to the film?
Yes, it’s horrifying what children are doing today. Shooting up schools, killing their parents, destroying their bodies.
What’s most surprised you about the reactions to the film?
Nothing. I expected people to either love or hate it. And they do. I am very proud of my work in this movie.
I’m a really big fan of Cry Baby and thought you were wonderful in it, and Serial Mom too. Do you have any plans to work with John Waters again? Did you discuss it at all on set?
Ahhh, thank you so much! John Waters is a dear friend of mine. I put Ricky in touch with John. I knew he would find Excision twisted enough to be worth doing. I’m delighted he said yes, as was Ricky! Any excuse to work together we will!
Excision is getting a limited theatrical release from Friday the 2nd of November and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 12th.