Interview: Bel Powley on the Power of Women as Werewolves in Wildling
Coming this week from IFC Midnight to theaters and VOD is Wildling, a wonderfully original take on the werewolf subgenre. Starring Brad Dourif and Liv Tyler, the film certainly has star power to elevate it to mainstream audiences. But the film is carried by Bel Powley, who takes on the role of Anna, a young woman whose body begins undergoing strange and terrifying transformations once she hits puberty. Both innocent and feral, curious yet withdrawn, Anna’s path is beset upon by those who think they know what’s best while failing to empathize with her story.
We’re very excited to bring you an interview with Powley, where she discusses memories from the set, how Anna’s story mirrors what she sees in our every day lives, what’s next on her plate, and more.
“Young Anna (Powley), who spends her entire childhood in a single room under the care of a mysterious man (Brad Dourif) she only knows as “Daddy.” He makes her fear the “Outside” by telling her of the “Wildling,” a creature with sharp teeth and claws who roams about eating little children.
At age 16, Anna is freed by small-town sheriff Ellen Champney (Tyler), with whom she finds a temporary home. For the first time in her life, Anna experiences the Outside, soon learning there’s no such thing as the Wildling. But as she begins to flourish as a young woman, a series of unsettling events unfold. James LeGros will portray the Wolf Man, an eccentric shaman who lives in the forest.”
Directed by Fritz Böhm, Wildling stars Bel Powley, Brad Dourif, and Liv Tyler.
Dread Central: I know it’s been awhile since the filming of Wildling so rather than ask what it was like on set I was wondering, when you think back on those times what are one or two striking memories that you have from that experience?
Bel Powley: Well I think swimming in a lake in the winter, covered in prosthetics, was a pretty memorable experience, then having to get thrown in a hot bath afterword so I wouldn’t get hypothermia. I mean, we spent a lot of time in upstate New York running around in the woods and nature, it was a pretty beautiful thing, I enjoyed it all.
DC: Your character Anna, she goes through so much in the span of the film and I was wondering, what was it like for you to prepare for such a uniquely written out character?
BP: I mean it was difficult and not difficult. I think what drew me to the project in the first place was that I immediately identified with Anna in what I feel Anna goes through in the movie is just a metaphor for what all girls go through when they’re growing up, so her turning into this kind of beast is representative of what it’s like to turn into a woman in today’s society and everyone who’s after her represents the obstacles we face as women in Western society. I really identified with it, it was difficult playing the beast but it was also easy because it just made so much sense to me.
DC: I’m glad you brought up this metaphor of Anna’s change into this beast as growing up and becoming a young woman because I saw the same thing in the film and I also saw how the men of that town saw her growth into someone and something powerful as a threat and I’m wondering if you can comment on that, not only in the context of the film but as you say, in the context of daily reality?
BP: Yeah, I think that it’s really a comment on, it’s a bit of a vicious cycle, isn’t it? We recognize that woman have these issues growing up, these obstacles placed against them but also lots of men don’t know how to deal with women and teenage girls especially, something that as a society we want to ignore that is happening. The patriarchy can try and control young women like that by telling them how to dress, how to look, who to have sex with, I think that’s who the men in the movie represent, especially the dad’s character. He has this little girl, he loves her, he nurtures her but he’s so afraid to let her out into the world and then what she does, he struggles what to do with her.
DC: In the grand scheme of cinema lately, horror has been gaining a lot of respect over the past few years and I’m wondering for you, what was it like to come aboard a genre project that, especially a werewolf movie which is a rare sub type in the horror genre?
BP: It’s always nerve-wracking to come aboard a genre movie because they are a very specific audience but I think the way to tackle it is to not see it so much as a genre movie. You need to find what it means to yourself an like I said, I saw that it represented the thing that made the most sense to me and that’s kind of how I approached it, rather than saying oh, I’m going to be playing a werewolf. It made sense to me in this specific way and that’s how I’m going to approach the movie.
DC: Now I do have to know, what was it like to work with Liv and Brad?
BP: I mean, they are both such lovely and brilliant people and Brad, I’m such a Lord of the Rings fan so that was pretty exciting. My dad used to read Lord of the Rings to me when I was a little kid so I’ve known it way before the movies came out so I was very excited to get to work with him in that sense. Brad is an incredibly intense, fantastic actor, he has these amazing eyes that look straight into your soul and he’s also incredibly gentle and kind and he was wonderful, I learned a lot from him. Liv and I remain very good friends, I think what they both have that works very well in this genre, they both have this gentle quality to them so for example, even though he’s supposed to be a character that at a point we’re scared of but you still find him moving an gentle, and the same with Liv, she has a calm, motherly nature to her, she’s got the softest voice.
DC: When people ask me to describe Wildling, as a horror fan I fall back on it’s a young woman on a transformation, on a metamorphosis to becoming a werewolf but I’m wondering, as you look at the film, from your perspective, how do you describe Wildling to people who ask?
BP: I’d describe it as a young woman who is trapped when she’s a child and when she’s released into society she reaches puberty which transforms her, a metamorphosis, into this beast and the people who are living around her, especially the men, can’t handle the fact that she’s turning into this beast, what it’s like turning into a woman, and they try and kill her because of it.
DC: One final question for you, what’s on your plate, what are you working on?
BP: I’m doing a Broadway show right now, by Kenneth London, which is not the same genre, I play a NYPD cop in 1999, so I’m going to be doing that until the end of June. Then I have a couple of movies coming out at the end of the year, one called White Boy Rick, with Matthew McConaughey, directed by Yann Demange, I play a crack head from Detroit, something quite different, it’s exciting, I can’t wait.
DC: Bel, thank you very much. Wildling is a wonderful film and a wonderful performance and I’m really excited for the rest of the world to see it.
BP: Thank you, thank you so much.