When I heard I was going to be interviewing Pollyana McIntosh, who stars as the titular character in The Woman, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Other than Offspring I hadn’t been aware of her prior work. So even though I’d spent several hours watching her act onscreen, I had no idea what her voice would even sound like. I had accepted her so completely as the (mostly non-verbal) character of `The Woman’ that the idea of a conversation with her didn’t even really make sense.
When I finally hopped on the phone with her last week, all of the dots that didn’t connect disappeared. I found her to be an intelligent, verbose and composed conversationalist. After her convincing turn in Lucky McKee’s film the last word I thought I’d associate with Pollyana McIntosh would be `refined’, so I suppose the joke’s on me. The fact that she is so night and day different from her character makes me appreciate her performance all that much more.
“The story follows a successful country lawyer who captures and attempts to “civilize” the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast in the wild for decades, thereby putting the lives of his family in extreme jeopardy.”
Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers and Angela Bettis, the film prompted furious debates and walkouts during its world premiere in the Park City at Midnight program at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Reports surfaced of people becoming sick while watching the graphic scenes and one irate Sundance audience member went so far as to say THE WOMAN “ought to be confiscated, burned. There’s no value in showing this to anyone.” Whether a “wonderfully bizarre tale” or an “inhumane degradation of women,” you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Hit the jump to read the interview!
Bloody-Disgusting: Even though you spend the bulk of the movie in chains, it seems like a really physical role. Was there any sort of training required?
Pollyana McIntosh: If it was a studio picture I’m sure they would have put me through boot camp. But instead my trainer at the time, I just told him about the role and that I wanted to have clearly defined muscles in places that she would have them given the kind of life that she leads being a hunter and survivor in the wild. And he was great, he literally had me leapfrogging around the gym like an animal and hanging off the monkey bars. And it was the 24 Hour Fitness in the middle of LA. And I grew my hair out in every imaginable place, trying to be as “authentic” as possible.
BD: It’s also an emotionally intense role. There’s a lot that you have to convey with pretty much no dialogue.
PM: I literally have “please” and “thank you” as my only English lines.
BD: Yeah, and the rest seems to be the character’s own dialect. Can you talk about the process of conveying so much without actually saying anything?
PM: Thank you. For me it was really about the research on her and really feeling connected with her life outside of that [situation] and what she was missing, what she was away from. There’s this wonderful book called “A History Of Myth” and it talks about how one creates a story and how religion began. And a lot of it came out of our becoming hunters and not being okay with the idea of killing another creature so we created a mythology around it as way to make it sacred. I don’t know if that makes sense to you having seen the film but for me it was important to have something very very important that I wasn’t allowed to do whilst I was in that cellar. Something to get back to. And to me that became about the hunt. Because my family was already taken away from me by the beginning of the film, which if you’ve seen Offspring you know how that happened. Also it’s my judgement of the Cleek family and how I perceive them. Especially Chris. He was insane to me. And so I had this little board that I would look at every morning in makeup and of pictures of him and pictures of animals in hunting packs. Pictures of animal families, like hyenas and big cats and stuff. I think a lot of people can relate to that. Being taken away from what’s important to them. You just have to think about what’s important to your character, really.
BD: Absolutely. That inner truth comes across clearly. And in terms of audience, it informs how she assesses each family member. Because she has sort of a different relationship with each of them.
PM: She’s so rare in this regard. You know, it sounds weird to say this, but I was in a shark hunting in a competition a little far out from Catalina. And I had this mako on the end of my line, and we saw that it was going to be a six footer. And I start reeling it in and this shark with a massive hook in his mouth, obviously in pain and fighting for his life it goes after another line and grabs another mackerel. Just intuitive. That is animal survival. That shark wasn’t going, “oh poor me! Why is someone being so cruel to me? Why is there a hook in my mouth and pulling me out of the water where I belong?” It was thinking about its survival tactic, to get enough food to get the energy and power to get out of this situation and keep consuming. So that’s the character that The Woman is. And it’s a rare joy to play someone whose intentions are so singular. She has the capacity for human emotion and thought but she’s essentially an animal.
BD: I want to touch on the controversy that came out of the Sundance screening. Were you there?
PM: I was. That was the first time I’d seen the film. And I was on a roller-coaster having a great time as an audience member. And then I see Lucky come in for the Q&A and then this dude gets up and I’m so excited to stand up there next to him. And then this dude gets up and all hell breaks lose. And I was kind of scared that it was going to get ugly because he was refusing to move. I don’t necessarily think he should have been moved by security, everyone should be able to voice their opinion but there was a point where you realized he wasn’t going to let anyone else speak.
BD: It seemed like he was beyond the point of being able to interpret another point of view.
PM: Yeah his brain was busted.
BD: With [everything] he was saying about control and society and what it means to be human, ironically it echoed the father in the movie.
PM: I know, isn’t that weird? He had this white knight issue about saving all of us women from the misrepresentation, and yet most of the women in the audience know they can think for themselves and want him to fuck off. And trying control and contain something like art, you could draw parallels with something like that with the Cleeks for sure. He certainly wasn’t listening to us. He’s also a local politician who ran for Governor of Utah or something like that.
BD: That makes sense!
PM: I still don’t know what he imagined he was going to watch. If he’d read the program he would have known.
The Woman opens in select AMC Theaters on October 14th.