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INTERVIEW: Sasha Lane says filming DANIEL ISN’T REAL “felt like home… voices are no stranger to me”

The story about how 24-year-old Sasha Lane came to be an actor is one of those legendary stories that can only happen in Hollywood as filmmaker Andrea Arnold spotted her sunbathing and after an audition made her the star of her 2016 movie American Honey, opposite Shia Labeouf.

A few years later, Lane has been appearing in a number of interesting projects including Hellboyearlier this year, but she has a smaller role in Adam Egypt Mortimer’s horror film Daniel Isn’t Real. The movie stars Miles Robbins as Luke, a college freshman with a dark past who created an imaginary friend named Daniel as a kid, and now has to contend with the older Daniel (played by Patrick Schwarzenegger), who is far more malevolent. Lane plays Cassie, an artistic soul Luke encounters who helps push him to deal with his issues using his photography, something that makes Daniel even angrier.

The Beat got on the phone with Ms. Lane last week for the following interview, and she briefly spoke about appearing on Gillian Flynn’s new Amazon series Utopia

THE BEAT: This is a pretty freaky and crazy movie, so did you just find it through normal means or did Adam reach out to you?

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Sasha Lane: I think I was sent the script, and I read it, and Adam wanted to meet with me. He possibly already had me in mind, and we ended up meeting at some coffee shop and just had instant chemistry and really bonded over how we both felt about the script would be and talking a lot about Daniel’s character versus Luke’s character. It was like we were both game from the beginning.

THE BEAT: What was it about the script or character of Cassie that interested you? 

Lane: The main part that interested me was basically Luke dealing with this imaginary friend who, from my experience, would be something like a mental illness manifesting itself or trauma manifesting itself to this imaginary friend and how he was dealing with it, the voices and all of that. We got a glimpse that this might be something serious, because of his Mom’s disorder. That was me from the jump, and I was very intrigued by that, and the passion behind the way Adam spoke about it and what he wanted to do with it. He spoke very highly of Miles and Patrick, and he got me all kinds of excited for it. 

THE BEAT: Had Miles and Patrick already met and done any rehearsing before you got involved since they have a lot more scenes together?

Lane: They definitely have more scenes together, but I think we all pretty much showed up at the same time. We actually rehearsed pretty in-depth a couple times before filming. Adam had all three of us in a room with one another, going through the script in full for days, as well as doing little exercises between me and Miles and between Miles and Patrick. I think it was really him just trying to get us to really tap into our characters early on, so that way when we film, we really were able to own it.

Daniel Isn't Real
Samuel Goldwyn Films

THE BEAT: I have to assume it must be weird to be doing scenes with two other actors but ignoring one of them completely since Cassie is not aware of Daniel’s presence for most of the movie. 

Lane:  To me, honestly, it felt like home, dealing with my own illness. Voices are no stranger to me, so it was kind of an interesting thing and a little humorous to me to do what I always do, which is just ignore one and focus on the other. I’m just kind of used to that part, so it was kind of a neat process.

THE BEAT:  It must have been a little strange though to keep pretending Daniel wasn’t there.

Lane: Yeah, and Patrick did really well. He was so strong in his character that it was really intense but in a cool way that he really just owned it. So between Miles and I, it really was having to ignore this really strong force. 

THE BEAT: Are you a fan of genre films in general? I know you did this and Hellboy, and there are a lot of opportunities out there. 

Lane: It’s really not usually my cup of tea, and I think it’s that I don’t feel like… I feel like there’s as different skill with a horror film acting, because everything is so intense, and you really have to play it up. I think Cassie was my kind of perfect way to get into that realm. It was a psychological one, too, so I leaned more toward the psychotic side of things. 

THE BEAT: I was wondering about that, because if you’re a horror fan and on a horror movie set, you’d want to be there for all the gore and crazy stuff, buts Cassie doesn’t have to deal with that as much. Were you there when they were doing some of that stuff anyway.

Lane:  I was there for some of the whole face-smashing and I had my fight scenes, but the intensity was different than when Miles and Patrick would work together. They would send me videos and pictures, and I’d be like, “Wow, that’s a whole different level” but I really wasn’t as much a part of the actual horror part.

THE BEAT: You’ve done a lot of other movies with other actors around your age, so what was the experience like working with Miles and Patrick compared to other actors? Did you find you had similar styles?

Lane: I don’t know. I feel like they were both… I would think that everyone is just better at things than me, as far as preparation and all of that. They were just game from the jump, and when it came down to the rehearsals we would do, I wasn’t really used to, and maybe not even confident kind of in the beginning to guise so deep into the script when we weren’t filming. To play off people who really are going all the way each time, it kind of builds something up in you. I think they were both perfect for the characters. I think Patrick really nailed Daniel, and I think Miles just had so many different versions of his emotions for Luke that it really was cool to experience it.

THE BEAT: I don’t think you have any scenes with her, but did you get to meet Mary Stuart Masterson? 

Lane: Did I get to meet her? I think I met her… I didn’t say “hey” to her but I got to overhear her and her Miles having their phone conversation, but our worlds really didn’t mix unfortunately.

THE BEAT: That’s too bad. Are you familiar with her work in the ‘80s at all? Have you seen any of her movies?

Lane: I actually haven’t. I’ve heard of them but I haven’t seen any of her movies, I don’t think. 

THE BEAT: If you’d seen Some Kind of Wonderful, then you’d be amazed that Adam got her for this movie, since she hasn’t done very much lately.

Lane: That’s definitely what I heard. I know she was a prize on set. 

THE BEAT: You were in two of my favorite movies at Sundance in 2018, Hearts Beat Loud and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Since American Honey, you’re not doing three or four movies a year, so are you being very selective? What are you looking for in a project?

Lane:  Yeah, I am pretty selective, because in a way, I don’t know, there’s nothing in me that wants to … just the way I act, the only way I really know how is, I really have to feel the character. I really have to be able to tap into something that I can connect with or else, I’m just a blank slate. There’s just no way I’m going to be able to give anything unless I feel it. I guess I’m really picky when it comes to the projects that I want to do and where I put my energy, especially if it’s gonna bring something out of me that’s not really going to be easy to just erase from my mind when I’m done filming. I don’t just walk off the set and go, “Okay, everything’s great now.” So I’m just very picky when it comes to what I’m doing, because it’s a lot of energy. It takes a lot from you, so I don’t want to give it to anything. 

Sasha Lane
Sasha Lane in Daniel Isn’t Real. Photo: A24.

THE BEAT: Would you like to get to the point where you can be like some actors where they can literally just turn it on and off that easily? I guess it’s easier when you’ve been acting for twenty or thirty years. 

Lane:  I think that’s definitely a skill within itself. On this latest thing that I was working on, sometimes being able to rely on skill vs. just your own emotional connection to it, because it’s draining. That’s basically how you build the longevity. I feel like you can continue to keep going if you know how to sometimes rely on what you know vs. everything stirring inside of you. So that would be something I would like to… if I’m going to continue this, that would be good to do.

THE BEAT: What’s this movie you’re doing with Justin Kelly with a strange name… Weetzie Bat? Is that something you’ve finished shooting?

Lane: No, that hasn’t happened at all yet.

THE BEAT: Can you tell me what that’s about or what got you into that movie?

Lane: It’s something that’s so far away for me right now that I don’t necessarily want to speak on it, but it’s based on a really good novel, and I think that it’s characters that a lot of young adults would be really interested in and kind of a cool Y.A. novel story. 

THE BEAT: I like Anya Taylor-Joy, too, so it should be interesting. 

Lane: No, she’s great.

THE BEAT: Have you shot anything since making this? This was obviously at SXSW, and Hellboy came out in April or May, so have you been working on anything this year we might see in 2020?

Lane: I was just shooting in Chicago a TV series for Amazon called Utopia, and that should be coming out next year, hopefully. That’s one I’m really excited about. It’s the American version of a British show, so I’ll be looking forward to that. We just finished. 

THE BEAT: Is that your first recurring role on a TV series?  

Lane: Yes. I’m terrified to do television. (laughs) It’s such a commitment as far as you don’t know how your character is going to evolve, and like I said, I’m a very picky person. This one is obviously very special for me to jump on.

THE BEAT: It must be nice to develop a character more and have it evolve. 

Lane: Definitely. I think that’s probably one of my favorite parts about it is you really did have time to build along as you go, and hopefully continue to. Yeah, that’s a really unique part about television.


Daniel Isn’t Real is now playing in select cities and is available digitally and On Demand. To keep up with Sasha Lane on social media, follow her on Instagram.

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