Today we have Haley Webb in to chat about her new film Sugar Mountain where she costars with Melora Walters and Drew Roy, what it was like to play Patti Smith and much, much more! Read on for the full interview below…
Hello there, thanks for taking some time out to speak with me today! How are you?
I’m very well, thank you for asking!
First up let’s talk about your new film Sugar Mountain, can you give us a brief outline of the film and your role within it?
Sugar Mountain centers around 3 friends (2 of whom are brothers) who grew up together in a small town in Alaska. They come into some financial hardship and plan an elaborate hoax involving one of them seeming to disappear in the mountains, in order to sell the sensational “survival” story. As you might imagine, things don’t exactly go as planned. I play one of the three, the girlfriend of the character who goes missing (played by the sensational Drew Roy). Her name is Lauren Huxley and she’s a wonderfully complicated young woman whom I relished playing.
And what particularly drew you to the film?
The script and character really drew me to this film. A friend of mine recommended me for the role and I got a call from the director, Richard Gray, one afternoon. He sent me the script and I read it in an hour and called him afterward pretty much demanding that I play the part. The legends are true that truly complicated, independent female characters are difficult to come by, so I really wanted to the opportunity to bring her to life.
What was it like on set during filming? There’s some serious talent involved in this movie…
There is definitely some incredible talent on this film! I will say it was by far my most cherished filming experience to date. I can’t speak highly enough of all of the cast and behind the camera talent involved. It’s tricky when you first meet your contemporary actors, you hope they share your passion and commitment to the film, and that could not have been truer. Both Drew Roy and Shane Coffey gave this movie their all and I’m so excited to see the trajectory of their careers. It was a childhood dream come true working with Cary Elwes. That man could not have been more generous, supportive and spirited if he tried. He had the absolute best stories about some of my idols that I just drank up. Melora Walters was another huge one for me, because I have been a massive fan of hers for so long. I saw Magnolia when I was a teenager and first really getting film and she took my breath away. I’ve been keeping tabs on her ever since, so needless to say, I was surrounded by some of the people I admire the most on this film. I’m incredibly proud of the work that was done on this film and can’t wait for it to reach audiences.
I can’t wait to see it as it sounds great and I am a huge fan of Melora’s work! Talking of people we admire I’m also a big Patti Smith fan I’m going to have to ask you a few questions about the short you made… was it just a general appreciation for her work which inspired the film, or was there a particular reason why it came about?
I love that you’re a fan! Meeting other Patti Smith fans has been the greatest experience that has come out of making this film. There were a few reasons that conspired to create a perfect storm around the creation of this project. Firstly, I completely self-funded it. I’m lucky to have an unbelievably talented musician as a brother, who was able to bring his musician friends on as well. They were all just stoked to pay homage to The Godmother of Punk that I could pay them in donuts and compliments, luckily.
Here’s why I made this film: it was equal parts homage and audition. My Dad used to work in radio back in the 70’s, so I grew up listening to all of that wonderful music all the time. He used to grill me when we would listen to the radio in the car with not only who sang the song that was on, but who wrote it. So, I became a fan of Patti pretty early on. There is something about her raw earthiness, genuine rebellion and beautiful respect for humanity and nature that I am just drawn to. I find her a kindred spirit and that is a rare thing to come across, so I’ve held on to that. A couple of years ago there was talk of her autobiography Just Kids being turned into a film and I just said ‘There’s no fucking way anyone else will play this part except me’. So, I rubbed my pennies together, gathered all of my talented people and set out to create it. It also happens that my Dad is a brilliant screenwriter and is also a die hard Patti fan, so he wrote the entire first half of the film, the green room part and we went through her interviews from the 70’s etc. together and just built it. We actually got each other Just Kids for each other for Christmas without knowing, which was also a sign that we had to make this.
I also just had to put him in the movie, so he plays a roadie named Tupelo Jones and is hanging out with my brother in the background of the green room stuff. He has long hair and is such a hippie, it was impossible not to put him in.
I’ve never played a real live person before, so it was daunting not only from that aspect, but because SHE’S PATTI SMITH! She’s such an intangible creature that to even presume I could try to get her mannerisms down, let alone her essence and spirit down, was completely daunting. But … I’m not one to shy away from a challenge at all. I would much rather go down in a blaze of glory and embarrassment than never try.
I will say, though, my biggest goal with this film was not to be perfect. I wanted to bring the things I find most beautiful and emblematic about her to the screen as opposed to being a carbon copy. It was more important for me to bring those aspects of her personality and showmanship to the forefront as best I could, than to be pitch perfect. So in a way, I approached it with complete abandon and didn’t worry about being perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I did a ton of research and worked for weeks to get my voice in her register, but my wig was terrible and I didn’t care. I thought it was more appropriate for her, too. I suppose in a way, I thought she would appreciate that more.
Did you find it easier to direct the short, I would imagine that that might give you a little more distance and enable you to detach from the character somewhat…?
Yeah, I gotta say, directing was a ton of fun! It’s something I’ve always been interested in,and this seemed like the natural first project on which to stretch those muscles. It did give me that distance in a way, though I never like detaching from my characters all that much. So it was an interesting balance in staying in character while telling my brother his motivation. But because I was directing, there was also that pressure removed a bit of, well if I completely fuck this up, it will be my fault alone. There was something thrilling in that. Again, I’m not one who is afraid to fail, in fact, I kind of welcome it. I will say that I have worked closely with my Director of Photography, Alexander Drecun, for quite some time and completely trust his taste. He is also a director and a brilliant one at that, so I was lucky to have him there to correct me if I steered off course.
And have you heard anything back from Patti Smith herself regarding the film?
I love that you asked this. I actually tracked her down to hand it to her personally. There was another press release about a year after I made the film that she thought that Kristen Stewart could play her. Now, I have absolutely no problem with Kristen Stewart, in fact, I am rooting for her and am invested in her career. But, she already nailed Joan Jett, she can’t take Patti away from me.
I discovered that Patti was playing a concert that night in LA, so I bought a ticket, went to the show, loved it (in part because both Flea and Johnny Depp made a musical appearance) and waited for her outside of the venue for an hour and a half. She left in a black SUV, so I didn’t get my chance, but I got online and found out that she was having a book signing the next day in San Diego. So, I got in my car, drove down the next day, waited in line for hours and made sure I was the last one in line. When I finally arrived (after almost getting into an altercation with an elderly couple who were really angling for the last spot in line), I just handed her the DVD and said, ‘I know you love movies, so I made you one’ and handed it to her. She was so sweet, thanked me, asked me my name and put it in her pocket. I have no idea if she ever watched it, but I have not heard from her yet. But again, I never give up!
That’s fantastic that you were able to give that to her like that! Now you have another short on the way called The Gift, what’s that one all about then?
The Gift is a short film a friend of mine produced that I play a part in. My father actually plays the lead character in it and I must say that he is so heart breaking and wonderful in it.
Great! And what other projects have you got coming out which we should be keeping our eyes open for?
I was just on an episode of the new TNT show The Librarians, which was amazing to be a part of! I love that genre and loved my character on that show so much. I also have an episode of the new show Backstrom coming out in March, starring Rain Wilson, that I’m also really proud of. I just shot another short film that I star in, produced and co-wrote with Alexander Drecun, called BYoutiful. We wrote it for me and my dear friend Emma Bell. Alexander directed it and we are currently in post. I am also currently shooting a really interesting new project for Google. It’s a multi-platform experience that is based on the author James Frey’s new triology, Endgame. Google and James have partnered with Fox as well to produce the films, and I play a character from the second book. It’s a really exciting new project. I am also currently shooting a romantic-comedy feature which is a ton of fun. I’ve never really played a part like this, so it’s really excited to try it out. And again, Sugar Mountain is scheduled to be released later this year. All in all, it’s a really exciting year and I couldn’t be prouder of all of the projects I have coming out and that are being developed!
Fantastic, well thanks again for speaking with me today!
Thank you so, so much for your questions. I really enjoyed them.
And that’s all folks! Be sure to drop your thoughts in the comment box below before you go!