Read my interview with Jessie Buckley, star of the striking psychological thriller Beast which is in cinemas now.Find your cinema and book tickets
Sarah Cook: What drew you to Moll?
Jessie Buckley: I just had a really guttural reaction to her and the script. I think on paper there was something very visual which was very unique to how Michael had written the story. It was something I felt a connection to straight away. I thought there was great potential to explore aspects of her personality and aspects of the character. Sometimes there is usually a sheen over them but this time the cracks of her personality were allowed to be seen from the outside. What I loved about her and learned about her was that her strength was garnered by engaging with the cracks. And in the context of love that love sort of injected those things back into her.
SC: I find that you distrust her more as the movie comes along, with all that innocence at the beginning somewhat feeling like a trick and how she opens up more with Pascal.
JB: Yeah. It’s a film about the secrets and things that we hide. Also, inherently, in every human being there is a seed of beastliness. In Moll’s case, she is boxed by the conservative and oppressive environment and that seed starts to opened up.. You as an audience go on a journey with her and find out, morally, where she lies. It’s a rebellion on morality. It’s a rebellion on society telling us what’s good or bad. The rawest and most feral elements in us – what happens when they are brought out?
SC: Are these quality she instantly recognises in Pascal?
JB: Yeah. They are attracted to the fact that they wear those things on the outer layer of their skin. They see each other and they allow each other to be themselves which Moll’s family is against. With each other, their open.
SC:: There’s quite a lot of dirtiness against the pristine…
IB: A bit of muck and tumble in the hay.
SC: Her issue with her mother is very interesting because Moll has expressed violence in her past. But it’s trying to figure out whether she is a product of her mother or her mother’s domineering is a product of Moll’s behaviour?
JB: I think it’s a mixture of both. I think Moll’s mum is trying to pull in all the threads that have frayed around her. Like her husband has dementia and her daughter has an outrageous personality. And she is trying to control everything. The danger in being that controlling, especially over yourself and how you let out those feelings, those emotions find a way of coming out. I think it’s both of those things. It’s the environment but also it’s innate.
SC: You and Johnny (Flynn, who plays Pascal), the chemistry is right there from the beginning. Was it instantaneous with you both or did you have to work on it?
JB: I love Johnny so much. We’ve become really great friends. I was just saying to a friend, it’s so rare that you meet someone like that. I have such respect for who he is and we both are looking to experience similar things in what we do whether it is acting or music. We were hungry to tell this story – all of us. It was such a fantastic script. It was intrinsic to unleashing these characters. I was so lucky to have Johnny. Those relationships are so rare to find such a like-minded person. We pushed and surprised each other.
SC: Moll’s darkness is indicative of this rise of anti-hero female leads and characters. Though there are classic ones such as Carrie, Misery, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Was there anyone you based your character on or drew inspiration for?
JB: I don’t think there was any template which I drew for Moll. I read a book on inner-shadows about those qualities we try to hide. But I use a lot of music to echo different colours for characters And me and Michael shared a lot of film ides such as Badlands, Le Boucher, and Breaking the Waves, which I love.
It’s an intense story but I never felt heavy because of it. There’s a simmering darkness beneath her and I sort of felt enriched and enlivened because of it. That phobia of trying to hold herself together despite having this dark voice within her. I absolutely loved this.
I do think you’re right, there is a real conversation and openness to explore. Now we’re ready to explore – for men and women – like films such as You Were Never Really Here. She describes him as having a “head full of broken glass.” That’s such a beautiful description. We need more male heroes like that and equally for women – just to have the complexities of humanity. We were giving young people a false image of perfection but now they are allowed to explore their emotions.
SC: That’s a perfect way to end.