After the success following the release of ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’ we sit down to talk to actress Amber Thorne about her vital part as Alice, fairy tales, queer representation in horror and of course; Piglet!
An indie film with a tiny budget to get this big is insane! How has everything been for you since the production?
“Yeah, it’s been amazing. We made the film for around £20,000 and it’s taken in over $4,000,000 worldwide. It’s just crazy to think about it, I don’t think any of us expected such an amazing reaction. I do remember when I was filming, I messaged my mum and I remember at one point saying to her that I’ve got this weird feeling about this film, I think it could do really well. I didn’t think anything of it, then when the trailer started going viral and everything, I just thought it was crazy! I think the only word I could use to describe it is overwhelming. Honestly, it’s been unreal. As an actor (especially working in the independent genre) having a cinematic release worldwide is obviously a dream come true. I’m just hoping this will pave the way for more independent low budget films moving forward and hopefully they can have a cinematic release as well, and others reach out and have their film shown to a worldwide audience as well like we have in territories that you probably never thought you’d be able to show your film to.”
I can imagine it’s taken you all over with such a massive release.
“Yeah, we had the World Premier in Mexico, the European Premier in Amsterdam, and the UK Premier in Scotland. I’ve done some press in Sweden and I’m flying to Miami to do a convention in Florida. It’s not really anything to do with the production company, we have to pay for ourselves to go to these premiers but it’s a really nice opportunity to meet audiences around the world, do Q&As, meet fans, take photos, tell people about the film etc. It’s been amazing, the whole press experience has been great. I’ve really enjoyed doing the interviews, currently six or seven interviews a day, even months after it’s been released. It’s just heart-warming to see so much interest in it still.”
I heard you had a degree in theoretical physics, how did acting come about for you?
“I’ve been wanting to act since I was a little girl, it has always been my dream and passion. My parents were self-employed, and I was an only child, so I grew up being very independent. I realised quickly that the acting career is very unstable. Like, when I was at school, I had friends who were acting alongside being at school and they were telling me how hot and cold it is. Like one month they would have loads of auditions and then go four months without any. I thought realistically to have a Plan B in case this whole acting thing doesn’t work out. I am a huge nerd (laughs), I love science, I love maths and physics was my favourite subject at school. I thought ‘why don’t I go to university and study theoretical physics’ as you do… Graduate and then go full speed ahead with acting and that’s what I did. When I graduated with the bachelor’s degree, I still wanted to get some acting training so I did three months at RADA in London which was wonderful, Then I had a month at Beverly Hills Play house in LA (which was a Hollywood dream come true) and it’s just kind of been nonstop since then really.”
You have around thirty-six credits with twenty-two on the way; you present, act, produce and write… when do you breathe?
“(Laughs) I don’t sleep much. I have ADHD so my brain doesn’t stop. I don’t really get much sleep so to me every hour of the day can be a working hour!”
In the film you get abducted by Pooh and Piglet, and then you murder Piglet (that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say), are you a Winnie the Pooh fan?
“You feel weird saying that sentence, how do you think I feel killing off one of my favourite childhood characters! (laughs) It was wild. Growing up I loved Winnie the Pooh; it was one of my favourite childhood characters. I read the books, I watched the films, I had the toys and the games, but I also grew up loving horror films. When I saw the synopsis for ‘Blood and Honey’ I thought this is a really rare opportunity to merge two completely different things that I love into one. I think it’s nice in a way because I really loved Winnie the Pooh as a child and obviously this version is not catered to children. What we are doing with this film is basically redefining Winnie the Pooh for an adult audience. I never thought I would learn to appreciate the characters again as an adult and that’s kind of what’s happened with this film. Obviously now he’s a feral serial killer rather than a cute cuddly bear but I can appreciate him in a different way.”
How was it to be part of this project and to play Alice?
“I was so grateful to play Alice; when I saw the character break down, I straight away knew she was the character I wanted to play. I think representation is really important, especially authentic representation. When I read the scripts and saw that Alice was in an LGBTQ+ relationship it made me really happy because the way it is written in the script is incredibly genuine and her queerness is just part of who she is. In most films (especially low budget indie films) when someone is in a LGBTQ+ relationship, they have a tendency that their sexuality becomes their defining feature and their defining personality trait. It’s often pushed into the audience faces throughout the film, it’s just very inauthentic. When I read this script, I saw that was not the case; Alice’s sexuality is just another part of who she is, mentioned very subtly a few times in the film. There are some people who watched the film and didn’t even notice, and I thought that was so genuine and felt so realistic. Yes! This is a type of representation that we need! To me that was the main reason why I wanted to play this character. Also, I feel a lot of characters in this film don’t really have a journey, they don’t particularly have a story arc whereas Alice really does. She goes on a huge journey from the beginning to the end of the film; she’s the only human character to successfully take on either Pooh or Piglet. We’ve got representation. Tick. She’s a badass? Tick. Takes down Piglet? Tick. Ticks all around! We filmed a scene with Alice and her girlfriend character where they are kind of talking about the relationship and how Alice is really comfortable because she had previous relationships with other women, but her girlfriend hasn’t. It was just really nice and developed the characters. They ended up cutting it from the final film which I think was a shame because it would have helped people to understand the characters a little bit better but by removing that scene, it makes their sexuality a bit more authentic. I’m not sure why they removed it, but I guess it was kind of a good thing!”
Was there anything that particularly sparked your love of horror when you were younger or even a particular movie?
“My parents love horror films and I used to have this tradition with my mum where every Friday after school we would go to Frankie and Benny’s or Pizza Hut and then we would go to the cinema and because my mum loves horror, she would take me to the cinema to watch them. From a young age I was watching all sorts of films; I couldn’t say I just have one favourite horror film. I think there’s a couple of franchises that I love, a favourite would have to be the Saw franchise because I love how the films are so gory, but they still have such a great story. I think that’s such a hard balance to find because films often have a great story but are not scary enough or they are blood-and-guts galore without much plot; the Saw films are fantastic because they find a balance there. I love the Scream franchise, Halloween, Final Destination, The Purge… Oh the list could go on, I love them all!!
You are no stranger to practical effects but your death in the movie it pretty hardcore. How was the experience for filming this scene?
“It was physically the most uncomfortable and weird death scene I’ve ever filmed. Every death scene in the film used CGI apart from mine which was all practical effects. There was a lot of time where I was having this very long wooden knife pushed into my mouth (which was then just chilling there for a while). It was very uncomfortable, but I feel it looked really cool. I was really happy with how it turned out. Normally with deaths there is a little bit of special effects, this is one of the first ones I’ve had that was purely practical, honestly, I really enjoyed it. When I’m watching a film, I can tell straight away if something was done practically or if it is CGI and I feel like sometimes CGI can take you out of the story a little bit especially as an actor. When you do something that’s practical it’s right there in front of you, you can touch it, even using fake blood instead of CGI fake blood makes such a difference.”
Did you find anything particularly challenging whilst working on the film?
“I think low budget films as a whole can be quite a challenging shooting experience because you have to film so much in such a short timeframe. Some big budget Hollywood films can take six to eight months to film whereas we shot ‘Blood and Honey’ in eight days i.e., our principal production block was only eight days which is crazy, shooting ten to twelve pages a day. With independent films, sometimes you can be shooting up to eighteen hours and this film was all night shoots outside too, in the South of England, in April and May so it was freezing. We were shooting very long hours in conditions that were quite physically challenging but at the end of the day, I’m a night owl so I love night shoots and I also love nature so I’m quite happy being outside; it’s challenging but I love it. I just make sure I have a few days of really good rest before the shoot and the same afterwards. I find ways to switch off at the end of every day whether that’s gaming on my PS5 or reading a book or binge watching something on Netflix just to switch off so you can go back to being yourself again instead of the character helps.”
Any facts you can tell us about being on the production of ‘Blood and Honey’?
“We filmed part of the film in Ashdown forest which is actually the forest where the 100-acre woods were kind of based off! It was really cool that we got to film somewhere that, to me, is so prolific and is really cool for anyone who is a fan of the books. Another fun fact is that we actually re-shot the film three times. It kept being rewritten because of the more interest there was from the public, we got more budget to reshoot the ending and I think originally it was someone driving away in a car, then it was someone driving away in a car and someone’s head gets chopped off, then there was an explosion. So, by the time I was watching it, it felt like I was watching a Michael Bay movie! Some of the actors who had only done a couple of days said it felt like a different film because there were so many bits that they added or moved. I think it’s kind of cool because it’s like you’re watching it for the first time even though you’re still involved in the filming process.”
If you were to make a horror film using a different childhood story, which one would you pick?
“I think I would have to go with one of the fairy tales which was originally written by The Brother’s Grimm. Like the Disney princesses, lots of people think they are child friendly stories, but they are not. They were actually originally written with super dark origins, so I think something like Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, or Little Red Riding Hood. It wouldn’t be that difficult to push them from the originally fairy tales into a horror scenario, I would absolutely love to see that. Otherwise, I think a Smurfs horror movie could be hilarious (laughs). I feel like Scooby Doo could make a really good horror film with Scooby Doo frothing at the mouth with rabies and the only way you could get away from him is with scooby snacks, you have to throw them at him from a safe distance and there is a worldwide shortage of scooby snacks but the only places are like miles away so you have to trek to get them. There are so many scenarios I would love to see!”
That sounds more like a video game!
“Oh my God I would love to play that video game!” (Laughs)
Do you think the scientist in you would ever do a Frankenstein film?
“I would love to! I was obsessed with the Frankenstein films growing up, anything to do with like experimentation I always find fascinating. I would 100% be down for that!”
You’ve got lots of projects coming up, are there any you are particularly excited about?
“There are three that I’m talking about a lot at the moment. The first ones called ‘The Baby in the Basket.’ It is a gothic horror set in 1940’s Scotland where we are going to be filming on location in a monastery, which I am very excited about because I have Scottish heritage myself so any opportunity to go to Scotland always feels really special. It is a very different role for me because I play a nun called Sister Agnes (it’s the lead role in the film). The concept is a baby is left in a basket on the steps of this monastery, we don’t know where the baby has come from so my character takes the baby in as her own and over time, she realises that this baby is the son of the Devil. It’s a very interesting story and I’m very excited because even though I’ve done a lot of horror before, this one feel very different; I am excited to see how people react to that. The next one is called ‘Mr Hyde: The Untold Story.’ Just like Winnie the Pooh, it is a modern retelling of classic characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This story has a very big twist which I was not expecting. I am actually playing the villain which is fun because I don’t often get cast as the villain so when I do I get very excited. I’ve got some really cool action scenes that I’m really looking forward to as well. The third one that I am incredibly hyped about is called ‘Dying Breed’ it’s a Viking film about the end of the Slavic Paganism. It follows a group of Vikings who sailed to Scandinavia to find a safe haven but get shipwrecked on the English coast and come across a group of Saxons which includes my part, the lead female role of Mary. I am also co-producing the film so it’s kind of like my baby in a weird way. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it tells Ukrainians true history which I think (especially with the war going on) that it’s so important for this story to be told and to hear of how Ukraine was actually formed. It has such a rich beautiful history; I’m really excited for that to get into production. We’ve just had the movie picked up by a wonderful Swedish production company and we are talking about maybe filming in Sweden or Ireland which would just be amazing, this really feels like a dream come true.”
It must be exhilarating when all the projects are so different.
“I think that’s what I’m really excited about. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve done loads of horror films, but I’ve also done Sci-fi, comedies, action, dramas etc. a little bit of everything. Moving forward I want to actively make sure I have the opportunity to do as many different genres as possible because I am aware that you can be put in a box sometimes and I am genuinely passionate about so many different genres. That’s why it’s those three [films] I’m most excited for. Even though “The Baby in the Basket” is a gothic horror, it is very psychological so it’s more in the thriller territory. ‘Mr Hyde’ is kind of an action drama, and ‘Dying Breed’ is kind of a romance, drama, action, mediaeval film; it’s got everything in there. I think it will be good fun and it’s a really nice range to have lots of different characters to be able to play.”