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ONE ON ONE WITH SIAN BRECKIN

By

Tony Medley

 

Sian Breckin is a beautiful, 27-year-old British actress who makes her movie debut in the Indie ďDonkey Punch,Ē which opened at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles in January. I met her and her mother, Lynn, for lunch at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. Although ďDonkey PunchĒ is her first film, she comes across as refreshingly feisty, clearly her own woman.

 

TONY:       How did you become an actress?

SIAN:        Before I went to drama school, I did research for a year Ė researching lots of different types of schools Ė all the classics really, then I auditioned for drama school.  That was about six years ago and then I trained for three years and then Iíve been working professionally for about three years.

TONY:       What is your educational background?

SIAN:        Just the normal way; I did my A level which is what you finish when youíre 18, and then I didnít go to the university --  I took a year off and then I went straight to drama school when I was 20 and then I started acting when I was 23.

TONY:       What made you think you wanted to be an actress?

SIAN:        I didnít, actually, I just liked it and I liked people who were involved in it and so it was just something that I wanted to spend time doing.  And then when I was in my third year, a director said to me ďIs this what you want for your career or is this just something you enjoy?Ē  And that was enough to make a decision. 

TONY:       What were you going to do if you werenít going to be an actress?

SIAN:        I really didnít have a game plan.  I just went to drama school because it was just something I enjoyed doing.  I hadnít really thought about my career.

TONY:       So, you used drama school to become Ė specifically to be an actor, or as a director or writer?

SIAN:        Drama school has a lot of different courses, but I didnít go with a career plan.  It was just something I loved doing.  I learned it through high school.  Drama is something people take because itís a drop out class.  So to do drama school was with 30 other people who say this is what they want to do and meeting great people was something I enjoyed doing, really.

TONY:       How did you get your big break?

SIAN:        Through my agent Ė my last agent.  I had met this costume director called Jeff Hamilton who is open minded and deals with a lot of different people and I met him in Leeds which is where the girls (in ďDonkey PunchĒ) are from. We had about three auditions for the film.  I expect that ďDonkey PunchĒ was my first big break, really.

TONY:       But I thought you were in television first?

SIAN:        Thatís since Donkey Punch.  The first time I was on screen was in Donkey Punch.  Thatís my baptism of fire.

TONY:       So you were a novice when you did that?

SIAN:        Absolutely.  Thatís my learning experience, right there.

TONY:       You read the script before you took it?

SIAN:        Yes, obviously it changed.  There were three drafts that I saw.  So it was in development for maybe Ė I donít know how long, probably about 8 months.  We improvised a lot and we added a lot to it.  The director was really happy to have that kind of experience.  I think thatís why it worked so well because itís believable that we were friends and they were people that you could identify with that you either know or were like at some point.

TONY:       Did you improvise while the camera was on?

SIAN:        Yeah, what happens is that you begin to improvise and it becomes what youíre going do.  But it keeps it very fresh and alive as well because you never know what anyoneís going to do.  But then sometimes you have to follow the script because it depends on sound as well.  But the whole beginning sequence when they go into the bar and the taxi and all that, that was all improvised.

TONY:       Was it scripted to be improvised or were there lines there to be said?

SIAN:        No, there were no lines.  I think it was just like girls go into a bar, girls, do this, girls do that and was kind of loosely drafted and then we went from there.  They didnít tell us where we were going and we got all dressed up and they took us to this really fashionable bar in South Africa and all just went from there.  Some of the people were just in the bar.

TONY:       So the people in the bar were real people and not extras?

SIAN:        Some were extras and some were real people.

TONY:       Did you know about all nudity?

SIAN:        Yes, I knew about the script, but I had never been on the screen before. In fact, all the other actors had, so it was great to learn from them really.  That was a real ensemble experience.

TONY:       But that didnít bother you, all that nudity?

SIAN:        I wouldnít have done that if I didnít think it was important to the film.  In fact, without that, thereís no story, is there?  They would have just gone home.  Do you know what I mean?

TONY:       Well the sex is necessary for the story, but the nudity isnít necessarily.

SIAN:        Well, no itís not anything that bothers me.  Otherwise, I wouldnít have done that.  We were very much in control of that scene.  We spent seven hours doing it and it was a closed set and it went as far as we wanted it to go. The director, said ďWeíll work together on that.Ē So I never felt it was something that I didnít want to do.

TONY:       Did the other girls feel the same way?  There was only one other girl that was there in the nude scene.

SIAN:        I think she felt the same way.  No, like I wouldnít be here, would I, if I felt that I had been taken advantage of or anything.  And itís supposed to be fun, you know, and I think thatís what people think.  Some people find it difficult that itís young people having fun, which isnít always shown, is it?  Itís only someone if itís a situation where a woman gets attacked, or something like that. But itís not. Itís just a bunch of young people who arenít afraid of their bodies and who are having a fantastic time and thatís why it goes so wrong and thatís why this film works and it changes from that moment of fantasy.

TONY:       Did you talk to your mother about it before you did it?

SIAN:        She picked up the script from the first draft and told my dad and hadnít told me. Then my dad said ďYou sure youíre going to do this film?Ē  And I was just a bit like ďItís my job, isnít it?Ē  So, I knew I wanted to do it and I think that Iím supported by my instincts and Iím looking to have fun with it, so there was no issue.

TONY:       Did you take into consideration the fact that there was a lot of nudity in this for your first role Ė you might get a reputation as being kind of a soft porn actress?

SIAN:        Do you think itís a soft porn film?

TONY:       Yes.

SIAN:        Do you?

TONY:       Oh yeah.

SIAN:        So why are you covering it?

TONY:       Oh, I thought it was a terrific, entertaining, thought-provoking film.

SIAN:        So thatís not all it is, is it?

TONY:       Oh no, it Ďs a great movie.  You read my review.  Oh no, it was great, but I thought that the sex was too much. In fact somebody said it almost got a NC-17 rating.

SIAN:        Yeah, maybe the fact that theyíre enjoying it Ė people are finding that difficult, you know.

TONY:       You mean the sex?

SIAN:        Yeah, if she was getting attacked or raped or something, I think it would be fine.  It would be easier.  People seem to deal with violence easier than they do sex.

TONY:       Let me ask you about the sex scenes, were they rehearsed?

SIAN:        We spent seven hours doing it, so we sort of broke it down and some of it was already choreographed, so we knew exactly what we were doing at this point.

TONY:       Well how about the intimate parts, at one point he puts his hand on your breast.  Was that rehearsed or is that just natural or did that bother you?

SIAN:        It came from improvising, which is natural and then it becomes set, you know exactly whatís happening.  That was in the middle of the shoot, so we were all quite close then.  So there was a lot of trust and if anyone felt uncomfortable or had a new idea, we were all very supportive and we could talk to each other about that.  The director was happy to have our input.

TONY:       He was?

SIAN:        Yeah, you donít seem sure about that.

TONY:       [Laughing]  Well, I know directors.

SIAN:        Well, it was his first feature film, as well, so he was Ė the casting part took a long time and a lot of it was about getting the right actors to all gel together and he believed in the film and he could communicate with us as well.  So, it was a really responsive group to be out there.

TONY:       Were you there for the whole shoot because you die about in the first 45 minutes?

SIAN:        Yeah, it was 24 days, and we had a week and a half rehearsal, so we all went and we were there for the whole experience together and then came back, which I think is why it works.  The beach scene is shot out of sequence.  It was shot at the end of the shoot.  Most of it, though, was in sequence.

TONY:       Was that body you, when you were dead, or is that a body double?

SIAN:        When it popped up through the water, thatís me Ė not when they throw it into the water, thatís not me and when it sinks, obviously not me.  That was actually done in a water tank where Marcus is tying the anchor onto the body.  That was done at the studio.  And when theyíre carrying the body through the boat, that was me.

TONY:       How about when youíre lying on the bed, dead?

SIAN:        Yeah, thatís me.

TONY:       And when he gives you the donkey punch, it was so fast, you couldnít even see what happened.  Was that just basically music and noise, or did he actually do something?  Because I donít remember seeing him hit you in the back of the head.

SIAN:        Well he never hit me.  I think they filmed it on two separate shots.  They filmed the shot with me, when I fall, then comes the shot with him when he raised his hands like that.  It is done very quickly, isnít it?

TONY:       Yes, and why did you have such heavy accents?

SIAN:        Because they did a big part of it in England, and particularly theyíre not associated with us working class people, as opposed to middle class people, which the boys were. The girls were from a lower class than the boys.

TONY:       I couldnít understand the bad guy at all.  I kept asking my friend, ďWhat did he say, what did he say?Ē through the whole movie.

SIAN:        But yet you still liked it.

TONY:       I loved it Ė I mean it will remain one of the best movies of the year.

SIAN:        But it didnít bother you that you didnít understand him?

TONY:       No, but I could figure it out. It was almost like a silent movie.  You knew what was going on.

SIAN:        Well, I think thatís probably a testament to Tom, as an actor, and maybe thatís half of the appeal as well, that youíre not quite sure what heís saying.  Heís a bit cool; heís a bit different, isnít he?  But I think that kind of adds to it.

TONY:       Yeah, and the acting was so good.  Were all of them novices?

SIAN:        No, well Iíve done stage before and I think everyone had done some screen work before.  I think some of the actresses had trained in drama school, so I think it was all about everyone pulling together and learning from each other, really, which was great.

TONY:       So, whatís your goal Ė where do you go from here?

SIAN:        Where do I go from here or whatís my goal?

TONY:       Both.

SIAN:        This is the first time Iíve been in the light and Iím going to come back for pilot season, so weíll see what happens there.  And just continuing to do make movies with interesting work, that Iím proud of like Donkey Punch, and work with great people who want to make things happen.  I believe in it all.

TONY:       Do you have anything else going?

SIAN:        Yes, Iím guest appearing in England next Tuesday.

TONY:       But no movies?

SIAN:        I have three short films that I just did in England.  One of them was for the London Festival, but no other features as of yet.

TONY:       Well, itís a great movie Ė I hope it doesnít just go straight to DVD.

SIAN:        No, I hope that too.  People think that it seems to be received with success this time around, so weíll see.  They enjoyed it in Sundance too.  So weíll see what happens.  Yeah, but Iím glad you liked it and thank you for covering.

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