Thomasin McKenzie a Force of Nature
Might Debra Granik’s latest film launch New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie into the same stratosphere as the Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence? Vanity Fair investigates.
Granik’s work feels like a salve to the kinetic blockbuster that fuels much of Hollywood’s ecosystem. She explores the stories of those on the margins, people living without safety nets who are struggling to get by. It’s a quest she takes very seriously.
“Maybe I was assigned the beat of a different zip code,” Granik said in a recent interview. “I took that assignment and I feel committed to keep reporting for duty. I bring forward stories from the lives of everyday Americans. Those whose path hasn’t been set out on easy street or who haven’t been given it all, those who are actually forging ahead because of their own personal resources, their moxie, their survival instincts.”
McKenzie, 17, is a force of nature, a clear-eyed adventurer you’d eagerly follow into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Granik discovered her during a Skype audition and couldn’t let go, attracted to McKenzie’s grasp of the material and quest to learn more about her character. Plus, there was no “ick factor” with the actress.
“She had no fear of bugs, no weirdness about getting dirty or being active,” said Granik, adding that McKenzie became a pro at feathering sticks, a neat little trick that makes for good kindling. “I love that she was living an ordinary life. She hadn’t left school or turned into a full-time Hollywood kid.”
To Granik’s producing and writing partner Anne Rosellini, who has worked with the writer-director since her first feature, casting is one of Granik’s secret weapons. “Debra won’t be swayed by anything other than her gut in casting,” Rosellini said. “Pedigree doesn’t matter … For Winter’s Bone and Leave No Trace, there might have been more obvious choices in young actors. But for Thom, she had a level of innocence and otherworldliness that spoke to Debra, and to us.”
Original article by Nicole Sperling, Vanity Fair, June 26, 2018.
Photo by Scott Green.