Agyness Deyn defined early aughts cool, with edgy campaigns, punky hair, and her own tough-girl-turned-elven persona and becoming one of the first supermodels of the 21st century. But it's been 12 years, and Deyn, known for her ever-changing chameleon looks and pushing the boundaries, has gotten a bit bored with catwalks and editorials. Having pioneered the new model/street-style star/blogger-bait persona, Deyn has decided to leave modeling behind and head to the big screen with a starring role in Pusher (opening October 26 and currently On Demand).
A remake of the 1996 cult movie directed by Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn, the new version pays homage to the gritty Danish original; in fact, Refn served as the new film's executive producer and blessed director Luis Prieto's re-interpretation. Like the original, the story is centered on a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Deyn plays Flo, the bystander girlfriend of Frank (played by Richard Coyle), who desperately loves her man even though he consistently puts business first.
For her first major role, Deyn is absolutely captivating. Her Northern English purr and long, slender features steal nearly every scene she is in, and part of the film's tragedy is that Frank doesn't appreciate Flo the way the audience does. The survival driven, tough-but-delicate character feels similar to the persona Deyn has projected — a parallel she, herself, has noticed.
Did you watch the original movie before playing your part?
"Luis (Prieto) didn't want us to watch the original movie because he didn't want us to imitate someone else's performance, so I didn't. Have you?"
A long time ago, but your character in this version is much more empowered and sympathetic than the original. In the other one, you don't get the feeling that Frank loves his girlfriend. Do you think Frank loves Flo?
"I really think there was something there, between them. I suppose you don't stay in a relationship for nothing, whether it is good or bad. You are in it for a reason, and I really feel like whether it is conscious or subconscious, there is a pull they have on each other. She is really in love with him, and he makes her feel safe, and she makes him feel safe. She is a haven for him."
Photo: Courtesy of Radius
How was it to go from modeling, where who you are portraying doesn't have much of a story, to acting? What adjustments did you have to make with your preparation?
"I did the work. I built as much reality as I could with her. From her being an addict to being a stripper, I explored as much as I could about her life. I wanted to know her inside out, and watch movies and read books. I kept my eyes and ears open, and I tried different things and listened to Luis, and I was there and in the process of it all. Never having experience doing it before, I was just riding the wave of it."
What books and movies did you read?
"I read books about girls who have had a tough life; strippers and dancers who have written books about the industry. And I was watching movies like Goodfellas and Casino, and stuff that was very much driven in that way. I suppose, that's why I love her so much. She has this positivity about her and is able to see the best of people and has hope for people. Flo sticks around and is loyal, and wants others to remember to be better."
[SPOILER ALERT] The end of the movie is a cliffhanger, with Flo trying to decide whether or not she forgives Frank. It's left open, but to you, what did she do?
"I think Flo left. I think she has such strong integrity. She stuck around and then was betrayed. She has so much hope and love for him, but if you do something wrong to her, she wouldn't forget about that. And, in a way, she saved his life, because she went away, and so now he isn't going to go to Milo's (to be killed). She has so much strength."
Do you relate to her in that way?
"I suppose I do, especially in terms of being driven by feeling. I can relate to her on that level. She wants to feel complete. She is just trying to survive and I understand that. She is such a romantic, and she sees the world in this really hyper way."
Do you believe that love conquers all?
"I definitely believe that love conquers all, yes."
This is another example of a movie where the nightlife in England is explored in intimate detail. What do you think it is about London that makes people want to explore electronic music and the club scene?
"It is captivating, isn't it? England has such a great scene of electronic music, and I think that was very prominent in Pusher, and the nightlife was the beat of the film. I feel what is really great about Pusher is that it wasn't about drugs and guns and strippers. That was just all circumstantial. I felt like it was really about people and how decisions and circumstances can change relationships. Something just happens. Everything changes for a reason."
Speaking of change, we've heard you are giving up modeling. Why now? Why acting?
"Everything about acting drives me and gives me the need to really try it. It's an evolution — doing the same thing for 12 years is kind of a chunk. Anyone would be up for a little bit of a change. It is so rewarding to do a movie, and so enjoyable. It's hard work, but really wonderful."
Photo: Courtesy of Radius