Growing up without baby
By John Esther
It took years for writer-director Hilary Brougher’s film, “Stephanie Daley” to reach the screen. The timing could not have been much better
Developed through the 2001 Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab, “Stephanie Daley” is a story about a 16-year-old girl, Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn), who discovers she is pregnant moments before discarding the new human member, and what ensues in the bloody afterbirth aftermath.
Faced with criminal charges, Stephanie’s defense is that she never knew she was in a family way. To determine the validity of her mental state, the state hires a psychologist, Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton), who happens to be pregnant.
Juxtaposing the lives, loves and labors of Stephanie and Lydie, “Stephanie Daley” ingeniously interconnects extremely different attitudes about what it means to reproduce.
More importantly however, this film about youth, reproduction and the rights thereof, hits theaters within days after the United States Supreme Court upheld the Federal Abortion Ban.
A major blow to women’s health, this ban will likely produce an increase in Stephanie Daleys. If impregnated girls have nowhere to go, they will be inclined to hide. “Stephanie Daley” could spark some much need dialogue, action, and recourse.
In the middle of this cinematic political whirlpool is Tamblyn. Perhaps best known for the titular role in the TV show, Joan of Arcadia, Tamblyn previous credits include, The Ring, The Grudge 2, The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants. For this performance Tamblyn received an Indie Award nomination.
In an exclusive interview, we spoke with Tamblyn about Stephanie, Swinton and sexuality.
JEsther Entertaiment: Why did you want to make this film?
Amber Tamblyn: I wanted to make the film because I felt like it was an important film that needs to be seen a lot. I knew it was going to be very difficult as far as marketing goes. It took over a year to get sold. So that was difficult. It’s kind of funny that I was nominated for an Indie Spirit Award before the film actually came out. Tilda Swinton was a major reason. I was and am a huge fan of hers. And the writing was really good and the dialogue was strong.
JE: What did you learn from working with Tilda?
Tamblyn: Tilda was the first real acting teacher I’ve ever had. I’ve never said that before either. She was the first one because she showed me how to talk about the process. We came in a week early and we did a lot of rehearsal. I also discussed the birthing scene. I haven’t had a kid but she’s had twins. I talked to her about what that felt like and she was very incredible and we’ve stayed very close friends.
Tamblyn: Oh God, I think every woman has a little commonality with her, because she is sort of the ultimate naïve innocence we all go through at a certain age. Even men as well, I would gather. That sort of young, scared, partly uneducated person we all start out being and we have to learn our way. Except her story is much more tragic/horrific/scary than anybody else’s.
JE: Your most intense scene in the film is done without you making a sound. How did that challenge you as an actor?
Tamblyn: It was really difficult. But it was a great scene. One of the qualities of independent film is that there’s not time to spend three hours in between setting up shots; so there’s just you, the director and the cinematographer just getting it done. We shot through the crack in the bathroom stall, and a couple of angles inside, and we did it very fast. When you are in that kind of motion and rhythm it’s very easy to accomplish the art form side of it.
JE: In what ways have people changed toward you after making this film?
Tamblyn: This film has allowed me to be recognized as a serious actress, which feels great. People have been incredibly supportive of this film, which has had an incredibly hard time getting distribution.
JE: Do people see you differently?
Tamblyn: People have been deeply affected in the screenings. A lot of women come up and say it was hard for them to watch but they really loved it and the story was told. People are perplexed by it a little. They ask questions. What was the symbolism of the deer? Why did Lydie say thank you to me in the end? Men as well are very intrigued by the film.
JE: What do you want younger kids get out of watching this film?
Tamblyn: Oh my God. Somebody at [name of publication withheld] asked me, “Well you did Joan of Arcadia, and you did Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Do you feel that since this film is ‘strangely dark,’ you’re alienating any of your fans?” And I said, “God, who are my fans?” And she said, “You know, the teen base and all that kind of stuff.” And I said, “I would pray to God that teens see this film more than Joan of Arcadia or Sister of the Traveling Pants put together.” I hate using the word “important” because the film’s not an educational tool, but I think any parent, family member, anybody who’s young, should see the movie.
JE: While it took awhile to find distribution, you do have the gift of perfect timing with the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to ban abortion. How do you think this film will fit into the current debate and what will now be an intense battle for women’s reproduction rights and women’s health issues?
Tamblyn: I am for the right to choose, absolutely. I am also pro-life. I believe that it can come to a consensus to a ground where both parties agree. Yet at the end of the day I will always be for the woman’s right to choose. One of the sponsors of the film is Planned Parenthood. A lot of people call it “Planned Butcherhood.” I’ve heard terrible things: “Oh Amber Tamblyn supports Planned Butcherhood.” I have two friends that work for Planned Parenthood and the stories I’ve heard about how they’ve saved women’s lives, and give them the correct, full knowledge of what you can do with your own body and how you can prevent pregnancy in the first place by abstinence and birth control and all those options. They really are the most honest and best support for any kind of information about that stuff. I am for education.
JE: Do you imagine there will be an increase in neonaticides?
Tamblyn: Could be. Why not? That’s our country. It’s possible.
JE: What can you tell me about your role in the upcoming film, Normal Adolescent Behavior?
Tamblyn: It’s a film I’m really proud of. I would say it’s similar but it’s also talking about sexuality. It’s like “Carnal Knowledge for Teens.” It’s about this group of six best friends that all grew up together and they’re all in a monogamous relationship with each other. The sixsome. Three boys and three girls in high school all have sex together. They trade off. It’s not an orgy where they pile on top of each other having sex. It’s intimate because they are very close. It’s about love. It’s not about random hookups. Everyone in the school looks at it like a cult. Whereas everyone in our group looks at everyone else in the school like they’re sex fiends, and their blowjob parties. Which is actually very true for teenagers right now. My mom who’s a school psychologist was telling me that’s a big problem right now in high schools.
JE: What is a big problem in high school?
Tamblyn: The amounts of random sex that kids are having. One of the latest things is the influx of getting cold sores in the throat for girls. They literally have things called “blowjob parties.” This film is about looking at the laws that kids place on themselves at a young age and what they can do and can’t do and what’s moral and what’s not moral. How they learn about intimacy.
JE: Since you mother is psychologist, do you discuss the kinds of roles you take on?
Tamblyn: Sometimes. With Stephanie Daley we discussed a lot about that. She loves the film so much. She saw things in the film that Hilary didn’t mean to write. Both Lydie and Stephanie are at a party where they both feel uncomfortable and they go somewhere else to get fresh air and a guy comes in and tell them to trust them. Hilary was like, “Oh my God, I didn’t even know I wrote that.” My mom sees a lot of the unconscious.
JE: Lastly, what do you think about these interviews where you sit and talk about your work? Do you think it serves the work or should the work speak for itself?
Tamblyn: If you have a giant company that’s going to put $50 million dollars behind promoting it, it’s much easier to do. With little films like Stephanie Daley I do everything I can. It needs all the support it can get.