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Interview with Elinor Crawley, star of Burning Men

Written by Simon Ramshaw.

Photo from the article In our final interview with the cast and crew of brand-new British horror road-movie Burning Men, Simon Ramshaw got a chance to interview its leading lady, Elinor Crawley.

“When young musicians Ray (Ed Hayter) and Don (Aki Omoshaybi) are evicted from their South London squat, they decide to sell their precious vinyl collection and fly to Memphis in search of their destiny. Frustrated by the short fall in funds, they steal an ‘uber-rare’ Black Metal record at a Camden record fair and head out of town to sell it. As they drive north in their beaten-up Volvo Amazon, picking up hitchhiker Susie (Elinor Crawley) en route, they find themselves stalked by dark forces apparently unleashed by the ‘devil disc’ they have stolen.”

Simon Ramshaw: What drew you to the role of Susie?

Elinor Crawley: Right from the start, Jeremy said that Susie was purposefully left quite open to interpretation; him and Neil had almost underwritten Susie in a way, because they always intended for the actress that plays her to bring as much as possible to her as a character. More than anything, it was just such an interesting challenge to get to the bare bones of the character, and I had a ton of fun putting my stamp on her. There was loads I could play with in terms of her backstory and where she’s come from, who she is, whether or not she is who she says she is, and her elusive motives. She was an exciting character to be able to play.

SR: So how did you prepare for the role?

EC: I’m quite an instinctive actress. I don’t have any traditional training behind me, so I like to go off instinct. And for this character in particular, I think it was really important because she’s such an instinctive person. It feels like she’s always acting off-the-hoof, and she gets an instinct from Ray (Edward Hayter), she likes him, and that’s it, it’s quite simple for her. It was important for me to not feel over-rehearsed, so my choices on-set were quite instinctive. I love to listen to music to match whatever character I’m playing, so for Susie, I listened to a lot of David Ramirez, who is a kind of rock ‘n’ roll/country singer, and also quite a lot of Lana Del Rey. Her vocals definitely suit that kind of ‘lost soul’ vibe.

SR: Absolutely, she’s a very Lana Del Rey character.

EC: Yeah, I think so, I’m glad you think that too! [laughs]

SR: You filmed in a lot of different locations up and down the country: was it taxing doing a shoot of that magnitude?

EC: Yeah, it was a really full-on shoot. We were in London for the first week, and then we were on the road for three weeks. We didn’t stay for more than two nights in one location, so there would often be days where we’d spend the morning travelling and running lines in the car or in the Winnebago we all travelled in, and then getting to set, shooting a few scenes, and then maybe we’d be on the road again for the rest of the evening to get to our next pitstop. So it was intense, but it was amazing fun, and the whole thing felt like a huge adventure. And the locations! We got to see stuff that we wouldn’t have stumbled across otherwise.

SR: The visual approach to the film is a fairly strange one. I was talking to Jeremy the other day and he said it was the first “multi point-of-view” movie, so how did you feel acting directly into the camera all the time?

EC: It took some getting used to at the start. It was a bizarre feeling, because it goes against everything you’ve ever been told: not to stare into the lens. It was quite disarming; you felt very vulnerable. It takes a lot of imagination to really feel like you’re connecting with a person and to create a performance which still feels like you’re looking at someone. But we did get used to it quite quickly, and by the end of the shoot, we were used to it: we would block a scene, then our camera operator would stand in for each of us in turn, and then we would hide behind him to deliver our lines for the scene. We learned lots of technical tricks along the way; we learned that we would have to really hide if it was our POV, because when you’re performing with someone, they naturally want to find your eye as they’re talking to you. So up until the very last day, if you peeped round the camera, the other actor would immediately look to you. Human instinct, I guess. So we had to get really good at hiding. And it was difficult blocking a scene to make sure that whenever anybody was speaking, as another member of the cast had to be looking at them just so the camera could get that line if it cut to them. There were a few technical issues we had to be wary of, but honestly, on the next job I did, I would keep accidentally looking at the lens, it was really bad.

SR: I imagine that’s quite a difficult habit to break yourself of. [laughs] So, very simple final question: what’s next for you?

EC: I spent a bit of time last year in LA; I have a manager out there, and I had a lot of meetings out there, so I had some time to figure out how I felt about it. I’m still weighing up a move out there. But otherwise, I’m back in auditions and I’ve been up to some really nice stuff recently, so fingers crossed!

SR: Oh wow, best of luck with that!

Burning Men is released in select cinemas on 1st March, with a regional tour across the country. See here for more information.

This article was published on February 26, 2019.

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