Contending with the trauma of the past and learning how to turn that agony into strength can be a cathartic, fulfilling experience for victims of abuse. South African-born actress Alice Krige’s protagonist of Veronica Ghent is one such strong-willed woman who refuses to be a victim anymore after she was exploited by an adult she trusted in her adolescence in the acclaimed thriller, ‘She Will.’
Kitty Percy and Charlotte Colbert co-wrote the script for the psychological horror movie. The latter also made her feature film directorial debut on ‘She Will.’
The drama was nominated for a British Independent Film Award at the London Film Festival, where it had its world premiere. It then won the Golden Leopard for best first film at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. ‘She Will,’ which was then released in American theaters and On Demand on July 15, courtesy of IFC Midnight, is currently generating award season buzz.
‘She Will’ explores the story of Veronica, an aging actress who, after a double mastectomy, goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt). She discovers that the process of such surgery opens up questions about her very existence, which leads her to start to ponder and confront her past traumas, including the abuse she suffers at the hand of Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell), the director of her first movie set when she was 14. The two develop an unlikely bond as mysterious forces give Veronica the power to enact revenge within her dreams.
Krige generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘She Will’ during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the actress discussed that she was in part interested in starring in the movie because she was instantly intrigued by the intricate, layered elements of Colbert and Percy’s screenplay, particularly in terms of Veronica’s journey of overcoming her past trauma. The actress also shared her appreciation over how the scribe-helmer took the time to thoroughly share her personal insights into the protagonist’s backstory and personality with her before and during the film’s shoot.
ShockYa (SY): You play protagonist Veronica Ghent in the recently released psychological horror thriller, ‘She Will.’ What was it about the character, as well as the overall screenplay, that convinced you to take on the role?
Alice Krige (AK): I was sent the script by my agent in the United Kingdom, and I found it to be a very unusual project. It’s rare that you get a script that’s so layered with intertwining strands that all tell the story, one way or another, although they all appear to be unrelated in the first instance.
For example, with all the images of the night sky, the Earth and the soil, you don’t initially know where all of that fits in. But by the time you’re done (watching the movie), you’ve been made aware of all the intertwining relationships of the various dimensions of the witches and the power of nature. They all tell the story.
Also, the character had such an arc of a journey; she starts off in an extraordinarily hurt, angry and highly protected place, in which she holds everyone at an extreme arm’s length. She has become sour and difficult, and she’s really at the end of the road.
But then she’s taken on this journey, quite inadvertently. The script is two things, really – the spirits of the witches and the memory of the land.
Also, (Veronica’s) kicking and screaming against the young woman, Desi, as she’s obliged to take her along as her nurse. I found that to be incredibly moving, because this young woman has also suffered her own emotional trauma, and her response to that is to reach out and help others. Ultimately, she offers Veronica redemption and the possibility of believing that love exists and that one can start again.
So I just found the story to be so uplifting at a time when the world is going through such turmoil. It’s also incredibly rich.
It’s very clear what (Veronica) wants. When she appears to him (Hathbourne) from this other dimension, he says “What do you want?,” and she says, “The truth.” Of course, he can’t tell the truth.
Since he can’t tell the truth, he winds up dead. She didn’t go out to kill him; she wanted him to tell the truth so that he won’t do it again and hurt all those little girls who are lining up to play the role she played when she was 14 and he hurt her so badly.
So to me, it was just a gift of a role and a wonderful opportunity. It was fantastic doing it.
SY: The movie was co-written and directed by Charlotte Colbert. What was your experience like of collaborating with her to develop your portrayal of Veronica?
AK: She’s wonderful to work with, which can be quite rare these days. She didn’t ask me to put some scenes on tape; she just asked to meet me, which was wonderful. We met at a restaurant in a hotel, and we just took to each other like ducks to water, really.
She gave me insights to the storyline, and it was the beginning of a really wonderful collaboration.
We talked a great deal, but she was often up in Scotland, finding locations. One time I flew up to Scotland to spend the afternoon talking to her face-to-face. She’s a very hands-on person and very much in the moment.
She’s also an established, fine artist in her own right. That sensibility of exploring one’s self and life journey through your art is something she’s done as an artist quite extensively and powerfully. She brought that sensibility to making this film, and I think that’s what makes it so unusual and unique. She also brought a visual sensibility of her gift as a artist to the film .
We were both very much supported by Jamie (Ramsay), the cinematographer, who was quite wonderful. He operated the camera, as well as lighting, and worked so fast. He was always there, so it was like a triangle between him, me and her. Then whenever Kota joined us, it would be between the four of us.
But it was a very close, easy relationship in which we all communicated very rapidly. I shot in just under six weeks, and worked five-day weeks.
We were working in very grueling conditions in November and into the first part of December, up in the Cairn Gorm mountains of Northern Highlands of Scotland. It was pretty intense, physically, as it was very cold. But that all added to the drama and atmosphere of it. So every aspect of the experience feed into the final product.
SY: Speaking of the fact that ‘She Will’ was shot on location in rural Scotland, what was your experience like of filming the feature there? How did shooting the drama on location influence your portrayal of Veronica throughout the production?
AK: It’s interesting that where we filmed in the Cairn Gorms was where the last two women were indeed burned as witches. It’s a very dramatic, powerful landscape.
The dark night sky really was present, and there were incredibly tall trees growing up out of riverbeds and ravines. So it was very potent energy, and I think you can feel the presence of the landscape in the story.
Veronica is so captivated by it so quickly in so many ways. Intellectually, she’s astonished by the beauty of it. As she gets off the train and crosses the footbridge, there’s a moment where you can see that the weight of London and of the past begin to lift off of her in that landscape. It is so vast that you yourself become very small in the midst of it. That obviously played into my acting.
The whole thing of being barefoot most of the time when I was outside, with mud and pine needles between my toes, all feed into, and informed, the character’s physicality and that growing sense of becoming alive again.
SY: You mentioned working with your co-star earlier, Kota Eberhardt. What was your experience like of collaborating with her and the rest of the actors to build your characters’ relationships?
AK: I think Kota, bless her, gave a truly beautiful performance. It is so nuanced and delicate that you don’t even see it happening. You get the full impact of what she did right at the end. But she’s been building it so precisely and with such delicacy.
She joined us after we had begun shooting. We had been up there for a good week before she arrived because there were issues with her work visa. So she was really tipped into the deep end.
She was having all sorts of experiences. She was staying in an apartment during the production that had a ghost. It was throwing things off the mantel piece. So her first week there was really intense, between the apartment and the fact that we had almost no time to prepare with each other.
The ghost in her apartment settled down. But when we moved down the mountain to shoot in the house – we shot the outdoor scenes first to protect us from the extreme weather in December – both Kota and one of the crew members kept on seeing a little boy that no one else could see. So she had this really intense psychic experience going on in real life, parallel to what was going on in the film. But she was really lovely and brave in the way she leapt in.
It was also fabulous for me to work with Rupert (Everett) because we had been in the same class at acting school about 42 years ago, and we hadn’t seen each other since. So it was this wonderful moment to be reunited. We never worked on a production together at acting school, so we were finally able to work together on this film.
Then, of course, there was also Malcolm McDowell, who I’ve been always been amazed by. I’ve never met him before, but the first time I ever saw his work was in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’
I was this 17-year-old from South Africa (in 1971), which was the most controlled society. We didn’t have television, and books were censored, so certain books weren’t allowed into the country. All the movies were family-type movies. So ‘A Clockwork Orange’ never would have made it into South Africa.
So I saw the movie when I went to England with my parents and brothers for a holiday. I don’t remember how it transpired, but they went and home and I stayed with some colleagues of my parents. During that time, I went to see ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by myself.
I had never seen anything like it, and I was blown away. The credits came up and everybody left, and I was left sitting there alone in the cinema because I couldn’t move. So the ushers came to see if I was alright.
Then I was finally able to meet Malcolm on this film. I stood outside the trailer with my heart beating and my legs like jelly. But of course, he’s wonderful. He kept the entire set in laughter, and everyone was hanging on his every word. He makes things funny and endearing, and I don’t know how he does it.
That aside, I also think he’s a wonderful actor. Even with little to work with, I still think he gave a complex performance as the director.
So as you can see, it was a lovely experience with everyone.
SY: ‘She Will’ was nominated for a “British Independent Film Award” at the London Film Festival and won the “Golden Leopard” for best first film at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. What does it mean to you that the drama is receiving such acclaim?
AK: I had a great time making it. As an actor, that’s all you’ve got – the moment of doing it, and the exchange between you, the other actors, the director, the cinematographer, the hair, make-up and costume departments, and possible the writer.
That’s the joy, and then it’s taken away. Then between six months and a year-and-a-half year later, you get to see it. I had no idea what people would make of, and take away from, it, or if they would have any connection with it at all.
But it seems like lots of people were extraordinarily struck by not only the story, but also how beautiful and unusual it looks. That was quite wonderful.
I also loved the score. I thought that what (composer) Clint Mansell did was create another character out of the score. There was this single voice with a group of other female voices, which ultimately became part of the story.
So I was fascinated by it and thought it was extraordinary. But I do remember thinking, there’s not a single male in the film that’s portrayed positively. So I thought, is that really going to get a guy’s notice, or are they going to get offended? There’s no one good or kind guy in the story, so I didn’t know how people would receive that. But I haven’t come across a single man who’s watched the movie and has been offended by it. So it has been interesting to receive people’s response to the film.