Pretty in pink

Chloe Levine on punk, physicality and taking on The Ranger

by Jennie Kermode

The Ranger
The Ranger

The headliner at this year's Frightfest, high spirited horror film The Ranger has been winning over audiences everywhere it's shown. It's the story of a group of young punks whose love of breaking the rules doesn't go down too well with local enforcement when they hide out in a cabin in the woods, and it centres on Chelsea, a young woman who is caught between two worlds as she explores her own identity and tries to recover her memory of a troubled past. Part of the reason it's making such an impact is Chloe Levine's forceful performance as the pink-haired heroine. A few days before the festival began we talked about the role and how she first came to get involved.

“In 2017 I was at South By Southwest with this film called The Transfiguration and while I was there I got the script for The Ranger and I immediately loved it," she says. "Jen Wexler, the director, was at the same festival with Most Beautiful Island and Like Me. We had a meeting, I was instantly taken with her, and then when we got back to New York we did some chemistry reads, and it sort of went from there.”

Young actresses are always telling me how hard it is to find decent roles that aren't about being somebody' love interest. Was she relieved to find this one?

At the cabin in the woods
At the cabin in the woods

“It was very exciting to me to get a character like that. There’s not a lot of mention of sex – she does have a boyfriend but she’s not really objectified in the ways that you would probably expect, and so she’s this incredibly strong character, which was so exciting for me. As an actress you don’t see that very often. So I would do things like I would listen to punk music. Jenn made me a mix of punk music and I would try to do something physical while I was listening to Chelsea’s music to sort of be as fierce and as powerful in my own skin, within her mindset.”

Was Chelsea right there on the page to begin with, or did she feel that she did quite a bit to shape the role herself?

“On the page she’s written really beautifully, she’s going through this struggle on the page, and Jenn and I talked a lot about the exact role of the memories and exactly where she fits into this friend group, so what the circumstances were was definitely in the script. We fleshed them out together and made things more specific. And then, for me, I just brought as much from my own personal experiences as possible, to Chelsea.”

Did she do much to prepare for the physical side of the role?

“It is very physical. It was really a lot of fun, and challenging in really interesting ways. I did prepare without even really knowing it because I was just running a lot and doing all these very physical things when I was already in my Chelsea mindset.. I love doing stunts and running and stuff. We had to hike a mountain at one point to get to the place where we were going to shoot, so it was a lot of fun.”

How did she and the other characters playing the punk gang develop such great chemistry?

Deep in the woods
Deep in the woods

“The first time that we all met each other, all of the punks, we read a few scenes and it was kind of wild, we all sort of melted into our little niches within the group. I was really lucky to have such incredibly positive and really lovely people as my co-stars. It was one of those things that just worked.”

Chloe has been acting since she was six. Was it always what she wanted to do with her life?

“I went through this phase where I wanted to join the Air Force, for a while," she says, "and I wanted to be a teacher for a little bit, and then when I was in high school I just got really serious about the acting thing and I started making my own movies as well. I would like to definitely pursue filmmaking from behind the camera as well in the future.”

We discuss her recent experience at Fantasia, which she describes as "really wild" and she enthuses about the beauty of Montreal, which she was visiting for the first time and says she'd love to return to. Then there's the business of opening Frightfest...

“It’s fantastic. I mean, I’m so excited to be there and see what people are saying. I’ve never been to London before so I’m just ecstatic, and I’ll be there with The Ranger and Jenn who’s like the first female filmmaker [to open the festival] which is like, insane. We put a lot of heart and a lot of love into this movie and I’m glad that people are sort of taking it and loving it. Or having some type of reaction to it, you know?”

Is she a fan of horror herself?

The Ranger poster
The Ranger poster

“I love genre. I think horror movies are fantastic. I mean, I’d love to do more horror movies. I’m also just interested in interesting and complex characters, whether in horror or anything else.

“I just wrapped on a Netflix show. It’s a secret, so I can’t say more, but that should be fun. Then I have this movie called Savage Youth which is coming out soon. I wrapped on this movie called Adam. So yeah, a lot of stuff.”

Of all the memories she's taking away from The Ranger, it's her working relationships that meant the most to her.

“I was really lucky to work with such incredible people. Jeremy Holm [who plays the title character] who’s definitely one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with. I think we had a really deep connection, sort of understanding with each other. It was lovely and special to work with him on this. It’s a really complex and delicate relationship that the ranger and Chelsea have. And working with Jenn – you know, this was her first feature, but she’s so wickedly talented and her confidence and watching her work... I don’t know. It was so lovely to help her make her vision come true.

“And then touring with it. It’s a punk movie and we’re like, on tour with it, I guess. Going to festivals and seeing how people react to it, whether it be really good or really not so good, just watching people have these reactions is what you want as an artist. Seeing the way people react to your art.”

Read What Jenn Wexler had to say about The Ranger.

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