‘Frank & Lola': Imogen Poots on Finding Empathy in Psychosexual Noir

     December 12, 2016

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From writer/director Matthew Ross, the psychosexual noir thriller Frank & Lola explores themes of love and sex, obsession and betrayal, and revenge and redemption. When up-and-coming chef Frank (Michael Shannon) meets aspiring fashion designer Lola (Imogen Poots), they fall hard and fast for one another, until Lola’s past becomes part of their present and jealousy pushes them to the edge of self-destruction.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Imogen Poots talked about what intrigued her about these characters, shooting in Las Vegas, how our past affects who we are, and the experience of working with Michael Shannon. She also talked about her time on the Showtime series Roadies and why she feels a sense of closure with the story they were telling, taking on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as her first play, and why it was so important for her to be a part of I Kill Giants.

Collider: How did this film come your way?

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Image via Paladin Films

IMOGEN POOTS: I was sent the script, and then I met with the director (Matt Ross), who by the way had been trying to get the film made for like 10 years, and I thought that was very admirable. So, we spoke about the film, and we spoke about the nature of love and obsession and whether sanity plays a role in that or not. I was really, really intrigued by these characters because, time and time again, you can take it back to the Greek tragedies. There’s a nobility and tragedy to people that try their best, but it doesn’t work out. I think that’s a very valuable thing to see explored through any art form.

What was it like to shoot this in Las Vegas?

POOTS: With the nature of the film and the storyline, you inevitably lose your mind because you’re shooting it in such a short amount of time. Because we were shooting in Vegas in some of the casinos and stuff, you would start your day at one in the morning and finish at one in the afternoon. In those casinos, they pump in oxygen to keep all of the gamblers awake, so everybody is tripping out, out of their minds. It’s so peculiar. I was wearing a gown at three in the morning. I love walking around and, obviously, Vegas is a lot more than just the strip. I barely went to the strip, at all. It’s more just the life that happens there. I remember on the plane flying in, this woman who grew up in Nevada gave me a list of restaurants and places to check out, and it was such a cool insight.

Knowing that this is a story that’s written by a man and told from a male’s point of view, was there anything you wanted to add to who Lola is to counteract that?

POOTS: As much as I could, yeah. The trepidation of playing a role like this is that inevitably someone is going to say, “Oh, she’s a femme fatale,” because you’re given the male perspective. But what I do think Matt [Ross] did was transcend that. You see her motives and they’re not malicious or intended to destroy or break down Frank from the inside. It’s actually someone who made a mistake and fucked up, which is a catalyst for Frank doing the same thing and learning that revenge is a solitary existence. But there’s something about Lola that I was drawn to because I could tell that Matthew Ross really, really had empathy for her. She was someone who was just trying her best and wanted something so much, but maybe wasn’t very good at it. She wasn’t very good at love. Some people aren’t, and she’s an example of that. I just found that extremely poignant. The games and the obsessive nature of that self-destruction aside, it really did seem to me like two people who fucked up their chances because they just corrupted it. Some things just are, and not just romantically, but in any relationship.

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Image via Paladin Films

Did you ever think about what might have happened to these two people and their relationship, if Lola had just been honest with Frank, from the beginning?

POOTS: Yeah, and I always felt she was trying. When you are in a relationship with somebody, your experience can be entirely different to theirs, and that’s a hard thing to remember. You’ll go and get a sandwich from a shop, and you’ll remember that sandwich shop a certain color, what sandwich you got and the cap the guy behind you was wearing. But then, someone else will be thinking, “Should I buy her sandwich, or should she?” There are always different points of view on things, and that’s something to take away from this relationship. Had she been honest, from the beginning, then maybe it would have worked out. But if people are really willing to listen and hear who you actually are, rather than the idea of who you are, that can keep things from disintegrating. That’s all interesting, I think.

Do you see her as someone who played a role in her own victimization, or do you think she is the way that she is because of this trauma that she went through?

POOTS: Inevitably, our past experiences always form who we are, especially with something as complex as sex. When you have a scenario in which you’re told it’s one thing, but it’s really another, all of that gets convoluted. You then hold that within you until you can confront it. Lola is quite impulsive, so it’s interesting to see that she held that for as long as she did before it came out to Frank. She had to fuck up before the truth came out, and you see that materialize in so many different ways with human beings. They want to protect the image of themselves that they know you have this idea of perfection of. You end up incorporating so much fiction into your existence that’s not who you really are.

What was it like to work with Michael Shannon and play this intense dynamic between your characters?

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Image via Paladin Films

POOTS: With a piece like this, you really have to just trust each other. If you really believe in a specific moment, you’ll carry everyone else with you with that belief. He’s such a wonderful partner in crime. He’s the bee’s knees. You just know that every single moment is going to be entirely real and fresh because you’re both listening. When that happens, it becomes something else entirely. It encourages you to forget. It’s quite amazing.

As a huge music fan and a concert photographer, I enjoyed Roadies, especially because there were so many moments that reminded me of experiences that I’ve had. Do you have a sense of closure with that character, or do you feel like there was so much more of her story left to tell?

POOTS: It’s funny, I had never done television before. At the start of those things, you have to sign a contract for a number of years, potentially, and the idea of that was terrifying for me. So, going into it, I loved Cameron [Crowe], I loved the cast and I loved the character. You’re only really given snippets of things, at the beginning of something like that. I’m sure sometimes you are, but we weren’t given the whole show. We’d literally get it days before we were filming, which was very strange. In a lot of ways, I saw it as a 10-part Cameron Crowe fest. I was sad because of the fact that we wouldn’t get to see each other every day anymore, and I had such a lovely time doing it, but at the same time, I was like, “You know, I think we told that story.” I really did feel that. That’s not a bad thing. I do feel like it suited what it was. So, I actually feel like we did tell the story and it concluded, in all its kooky fashion.

Do you know what you’re going to be doing next?

POOTS: Yeah, I’m really excited because I’m going to go do Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in London, in the West End (from February through May). It’s one of my favorite plays in the world, and the director, James Macdonald, is a pretty sensational director. I’m going to play Honey, and I’m just really excited for that. I’ve never done a play. I’ve been saying for so long that I want to do theater and at some point, you’re like, “If you really want to do it, then go do it.” Life is short. I think there are so many reasons to do it, and I’m really in tune with that.

You’ve also done the movie I Kill Giants, which is adapted from a graphic novel. Did you read the comic before doing that, or did you just work from the script?

POOTS: I worked from the script, and the writer and the animator were both there. I don’t know if you’ve seen (director) Anders Walter’s short film, but it’s pretty phenomenal. It is about death, but it’s not morbid, at all. It’s an extraordinary piece of work that transcends the chaos of life. So, I really wanted to work with him. It’s a fantastic script and a female-led piece. One day, I hope to be a mom, and that’s the kind of film I’d want my kids to see. It’s about this girl who’s bullied at school, and the giants are a metaphor for how you fight the fear and the intimidation. It’s a powerful story to be told.

Who are you playing in that?

POOTS: I play her sister, who’s holding things together. I went along for a whisper of a moment because I just wanted to be a part of the film and work with Anders. He’s a Danish maniac, who’s so talented, great and fun. Madison Wolfe is a force of nature, and Zoe Saldana was great. It was just great people.

Frank & Lola is in theaters and on-demand.

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