Movies: American Honey

Andrea Arnold, Shia LaBeouf, Sasha Lane.

American Honey offers a refreshingly unconventional take on the coming-of-age drama whose narrative risks add up to a rewarding experience even if they don’t all pay off.

Star, an adolescent girl from a troubled home, runs away with a traveling sales crew who drive across the American Midwest selling subscriptions door to door. Finding her feet in this gang of teenagers, one of whom is Jake, she soon gets into the group’s lifestyle of hard-partying nights, law-bending days, and young love. rt

First-timer Sasha Lane on getting a taste of acting in ‘American Honey’

Actor Sasha Lane didn’t have a lick of experience when she landed the lead role in “American Honey” but there was something that made her stand out.

Spotted at Miami spring break by director Andrea Arnold, the free-spirited teenager instantly connected with the filmmaker, best known for her work on TV series “Transparent” and award-winning films such as “Fish Tank.”

Roughly a month and a half later, she was in front of Arnold’s camera playing Star, a forlorn American youth who joins a ragtag group of teens selling magazine subscriptions across the Midwest.

With the exception of Hollywood actors Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough, granddaughter of Elvis Presley, nearly everyone around Lane was a non-actor too.

“American Honey” is a sprawling drama that runs nearly three hours long. It’s punctuated by bursts of violence, sex and extended plays of modern pop songs like the Rihanna staple “We Found Love.” The film arrives in theatres after winning the Cannes Film Festival jury prize and playing the Toronto International Film Festival.

Lane spoke with The Canadian Press about making her first movie, which opens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Friday. It expands to Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Victoria and Winnipeg on Oct. 28:

CP: You’ve got a claim to fame that so many aspiring actors and models dream about: getting scouted in public. What was it like arriving on set with the camera in your face for the first time?

Lane: It was kind of odd but also I think I developed such a close relationship with Robbie (Ryan, the film’s cinematographer) and Andrea. I felt very supported by everyone on set. They made me feel like I could do it. Yeah, there was a big camera in my face but it almost disappeared in my mind.

CP: Arnold’s filmmaking tactics are known for being unconventional. The actors tend to influence the script, rather than the other way around. Did you feel like you were playing a version of yourself?

Lane: I definitely think we have a lot in common. It was harder for me because I never acted…. Some of the time I’d be like, “Andrea, I wouldn’t do that.” And she’d be like, “Yeah, OK, but you’re Star.”

CP: You certainly bring a sense of naturalness to the screen.

Lane: I was in this bubble with everyone and it was just kind of like we were spending a summer together. It was a really crazy, emotionally-intense summer, but they were my family. They were people who I was surrounded (with) constantly. I was just in it.

CP: You portrayed some pretty intimate emotional moments on camera. There’s also a lengthy sex scene with LaBeouf. Did you find working with a female director gave you a stronger sense of trust? (Note: gossip magazines have suggested LaBeouf and Lane had an on-set romance that fizzled shortly after the film wrapped.)

Lane: Andrea, when she told me, she’d be like, “It’s about this connection. So it’s the breathing and all that.” I feel like I haven’t really done a sex scene, I’ve just showed a very deep connection through (my) body. The eye contact, the breathing.