Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel and directed by French filmmaker Laurent Cantet (The Class), Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang tells the story of the real-life 1950s gang from upstate New York who set out to humiliate and beat on men that were treating women poorly or taking advantage of young girls. While their underlying mission meant well, they got drunk on power and ended up getting involved in some seriously heavy crimes.
Portraying the feisty gang leader Legs, Toronto-native Raven Adamson shines in the role and goes beyond what one might expect from a first-time actress. She exudes confidence and talent in every scene, and left a lasting impression that will hopefully open the doors to a long, vibrant career for her. Criticize This! caught up with the young star to chat about the film, which is premiering at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Monday, September 10. Read our Q&A below.
I hear there’s an interesting story about how you were cast in Foxfire while you were a student at Wexford Collegiate in Scarborough. Can you explain how it all happened?
Raven Adamson: It was during the week of exams when my drama teacher (Ann Merriam) hesitated (because I had braces) before inviting me to audition for Foxfire. She described it as an improv workshop, an audition. I had never been to a film audition and found the offer extremely exciting. I had a math exam the morning of the workshop and was a little late and missed the introductions and was thrown in with the first group of seven. Before I knew it [director Laurent Cantet] had his camcorder out and described a scene to us in as few as four sentences and we had to start. I didn’t say much and tried to speak only when I had something to say. I mostly just observed. I wanted to learn as much from the experience for next time. Next time came sooner than expected when I got a call-back a week later.
Did you know much about the gang when you got the part?
RA: I read the book before the fourth call-back. I loved it.
What did you find most intriguing about playing Legs?
RA: Her will. Her ability to be in the moment, to be so uncompromising in her beliefs, so honest. She knew who she was and she knew no one could ever take that away from her, and even when she had to pretend otherwise she did it with dignity. She saw past everybody else’s idea of how things should be and found her own truth with an unforgiving love. A love that binds the gang together and ultimately pulls them apart.
A lot of first-time actresses would not have been able to pull off a major role like this, yet you completely owned it and carried the film. Was that more because of your own determination or from your training at Wexford (or a bit of both)?
RA: Definitely both. The teachers at Wexford built my confidence and burned into me how committed I needed to be as well as collaborative, disciplined and grounded. They trained me through breathing exercises, workshops and performing. Saying things like “Leave your ego at the door.” Above all they believed in me, once you are accepted into the program (drama focus) you are a part of something more, you are a part of the team, you are grateful to be able to give and you appreciate all you can get. Apart from that, when I found out I got the role, I felt a huge responsibility to Legs. I can’t describe to you how important it was for me to play Legs so people would see the Legs from the book and the script.
It looked like it must have been a fun film to make. What was the vibe like on set?
RA: The crew were incredible. Most wanted to be working on the film for artistic reasons, either a fan of Laurent, the script or both. So there was a joined desire to be on set everyday. Locations were always neat, it’s a period piece so it was very much like stepping into another world. As overwhelming as it was, I learned to trust myself more. Ultimately it comes down to that moment when you let yourself go, and I was in an environment where I learned I could do that.
What was the most challenging aspect of making the film for you?
RA: The consistency of the work, doing the scenes was energizing but keeping the focus in between was emotionally and mentally exhausting. I also had to learn to enjoy myself even when shooting the heavier scenes. It wasn’t a state of mind I could easily slip in and out of.
How exciting is it for you that the film is premiering in your hometown at one of the world’s largest film festivals?
RA: I’m over the moon. I feel so grateful and I’m finding it very surreal.
What do you hope to tackle next in your career?
RA: Another great role like Legs. Working alongside people who inspire me in the next year would be great. Or in the next 5 years, that’d be great too. I am going to find a way to move forward in this business. There’s a lot to filmmaking and I’m in love with every aspect, I’m in awe of what it takes to get it together. I hope to continue sharing my creative participation in filmmaking whether I’m acting, writing, directing, designing, producing, so long as I get to be engrossed in making something I can feel good about.
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang screens at TIFF 2012 on Monday, September 10 at 5:45 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre and on Tuesday, September 11 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas.
Follow all of our TIFF 2012 coverage at criticizethis.ca/tiff.