The weirding way

Pollyanna McIntosh on Tales Of Halloween

by Jennie Kermode

Pollyanna McIntosh
Pollyanna McIntosh Photo: Max Crawford

As the nights draw in and everybody goes looking for something spooky, the traditional anthology film of creepy tales comes to the rescue. This year, pride of place goes to Tales Of Halloween, and we were delighted to have the chance to catch up with one of its biggest stars, Pollyanna McIntosh, who re-teams with The Woman director Lucky McKee for the film’s strongest segment, Ding Dong.

“I’ve been really excited about how well received it’s been,” says Pollyanna. “I find horror such a fun genre to work in and the fans are really into it and they loved all the references we made. I love Ding Dong because I got to play such a strong character and it’s lot of fun but it’s also really dark and moving. It was also very physical and funny – that’s Lucky’s style. We work well together. It’s about a couple who are not able to have children and then of course it’s Halloween so there are lots of children coming to the door...”

I tell her how much I like the segment; she seems genuinely surprised and slightly bashful, not quite what one expects from this imposing woman. So how did she get the role?

“Lucky called and said, ‘I’ve written a thing you need to do, will you do it?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course!’ And Mark Spencer was working on it too and he’s lovely to work with. And the timing was really good because at the time of shooting I was” – she hesitates – “I was going through an awful break-up, so it was the perfect distraction and it gave me the opportunity to be really emotional. It was a strange two and a half days of shooting. I couldn’t have been more grateful for the timing.

“I got to see it at Frightfest, which was the UK premiere, and the audience was really into it, which was great fun. I really enjoyed all of it. I’d never seen an anthology film before and I loved it.”

I’m a bit surprised by that statement about anthologies, as they’re so common. Was she spending all her time outside on Halloween instead?

“I loved trick or treating as a kid!” she declares. “I can’t wait to have kids myself so that I can take them trick or treating. And I just love Halloween generally. It’s always great fun and I think it brings everyone together.”

What are her plans for this year’s celebration?

“I’m going to a party and I’m going to go as Diane Ladd from Wild At Heart, with lipstick all over my face and the horrible fake hair and the horrible fake nails,” she says gleefully.

She’s always loved playing outsiders. I ask if she thinks that stemmed from moving around a lot in childhood, when she travelled between countries and was treated like something of an outsider on returning to Scotland.

Tales Of Halloween
Tales Of Halloween

“I think what my childhood did for me was, well, it was a really good upbringing for an actor because I was always moving around so I was always having to adapt to new places and new cultures, and learning languages. I was always a wee tomboy so I think the weirder roles are better for me.”

Did it help that her dad was also an actor?

“He was an actor in the Sixties long before I came along, but I think it’s a joy for him see what I’m doing now, even if some of it’s a bit... different. But he dropped out and became a businessman because he wanted to have more stability and have a family... “Obviously there are ups and downs in this business, financially and otherwise, so I think it helps have stability in yourself and in your friends and your family. That’s a bit difficult for me at the moment because I’m constantly going from Los Angeles to London and back but that’s just how it is. I’m very happy with my life but it’s not for everyone.”

Does she hope to do more work in Scotland, too?

“I love working in Scotland. I did Filth, of course, which was shot in Scotland, and I did White Settlers which was set in Scotland. I’d love to see Scotland opening up more to film but I think it could take a leaf out of Ireland’s book when it comes to funding.”

She’s spoken in the past about her background in modelling. It’s notoriously difficult to transition between the two worlds and get taken seriously as an actor, but she’s glad she made the move.

“I’m grateful for the time I spent modelling and all of the friends I made and all of the places I travelled to but there are real problems in the modelling industry. The expectations of women in terms of media images that are supposedly attractive – well, not only is it not true but it’s demoralising and distressing. But – this might sound strange – I think I’m lucky to have been through an eating disorder when I was so young because it enabled me to recognise all of the things that my body can do for me now. I’m really grateful that I got through it when I did because I’m very aware of all the things that I can still do with my body and if it had gone on much longer then I might not be in that position. I’m grateful for my health and I’m grateful that I’m not a not weak, almost passing out girl any more. I think we need to celebrate bodies for all of the things they can do and not just for that [looking thin]. And it’s not real, either. Those pictures are so touched up and a lot of those girls and those women are going through hell.”

In film, one of the problems for younger women and glamorous women is that all they get offered are love interest roles without much actual character. Pollyanna says that her overt disapproval of that sort of thing has kept such offers at bay, but she still sees the film industry’s attitude to women as problematic, too.

“I think the disparity in roles that are out there for actresses compared to what’s out there for actors is ridiculous. We’re a larger percentage of the population as a gender, just basically, and we have just as much inner life and inner strength and inner conflict and all the rest of what gets written into male characters, but I’ve found in my work as an actor that actually the creatives have been very open to my input into the roles I play when I suggest ways to make them more real and more complex and more diverse in attitudes and actions. I haven’t come across anyone trying to squash that in me. I think actually sometimes men are more open to female suggestions – that sounds really sexual! – than we think, especially to ideas and understanding about things they don’t experience and don’t get, so I think we really need to use our voices as much as we can and when we do come up against that just don’t stand for it.”

She’s also doing some writing of her own, and breaking into directing. She tells me that she’s just been in Ireland directingthe first part of a film she wrote herself, and she’s been co-writing a crime drama which has been picked up in Los Angeles. Then, as an actor she has another film coming out this year.

“Oh yeah, Native. I’m actually going to get to see that for the first time in a few days. It’s just going into the festival circuit now. It has Rupert Graves and Elle Kendrick who played Anne Frank in that recent television movie of her life. I play a character on this planet that’s the sci-fi version of Earth so I’m looking forward to seeing that.”

Tales Of Halloween is out now on DVD

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