In her film based on Rachel Klein’s hit novel The Moth Diaries, acclaimed Canadian director Mary Harron explores the tumultuous and tender relationships formed in an all-girl boarding school. Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) returns in the fall and haunted by her father’s suicide she is desperate to maintain close ties with best friend Lucy, (Sarah Gadon) but becomes obsessed with new girl Ernessa (Lily Cole). When a teacher is murdered and Lucy falls ill, Rebecca is determined to pin the responsibility on the spooky Ernessa.
Sitting down with Sarah Gadon and Sarah Bolger for a candid chat was an absolute pleasure. Gadon recently worked with David Cronenberg for his TIFF Film A Dangerous Method, and Bolger has matured from child star to young actress, with roles in films like In America and BBC’s The Tudors. The young women boast an impressive body of work, but still exude genuine excitement about their journey ahead, which is most definitely set to include major Hollywood roles.
At the Intercontinental Hotel, we sat down with the Sarahs to talk about The Moth Diaries and finding balance in an industry that strives to be anything but stable.
What drew you to this project?
SB: Mary Harron. Her movies are so dark and masculine.
SG: Mary. Hands down, Mary. I definitely wanted to work with a female Canadian director. The exploration of young female relationships is very important to me. She (Harron) talked about that intensity of emotions and those kinds of friendships that you have before you have your first boyfriend. I remember that time in my life very clearly and I just thought it was a significant point in a young woman’s life that was never really emulated much in the cinematic world.
What was your high school life like? Could you relate to Lucy and Rebecca in The Moth Diaries?
SB: ALL GIRL IRISH CATHOLIC SCHOOL (said in a way that makes it clear she knows all too well about high school drama.) You can see how relationships develop, obsessive and otherwise. I think that’s what we wanted to create in this movie, a real sense of those relationships – to relate to that time in high school when your best friend is that one person in the world you can relate to, that girl in that class.
SG: Cardinal Carter and then Interac at Vaughan Road. It was a really tight-knit program. Going to an arts school, you spend a lot of time in a very focused environment. You’ve got a lot of super creative kids and your imaginations are running wild. It was really easy for me to draw on a lot of my high school experience. When you are young like that, you really see the difference between powerful girls and girls who are more submissive or girls that are having a difficult time asserting themselves in female relationships.
How did Mary’s directing style differ from other directors you’ve worked with?
SB: It’s lovely to say that we are friends after filming. She is very calm. She doesn’t need to yell, to panic, it’s a relaxed style of directing.
SG: I think because she is a woman, and we were dealing with a very female piece, we talked a lot about everything. Her vision, the relationships and the dynamic of the relationships…that was really helpful for us before shooting. Mary wanted to hear us a lot, we read scenes a lot. Unfortunately female directors are rare in film and I think sometimes, some female directors feel they need to assert themselves in a typically masculine way in order to get the kind of power they need on a film set. Mary is not like that at all. She’s very quiet, she doesn’t concern herself at all with the power dynamics with relationships on a set. It’s very refreshing and you feel like your director is completely approachable.
What was the most fun part of shooting The Moth Diaries?
SB: The Guitar Hero scene! We spent a whole day rehearsing that. I fell out of work mode at that moment, I mean – I was still Rebecca – but I was just hanging out with a group of girls…five girls sitting around, singing our hearts out to songs we had just learned.
SG: We had a lot of fun shooting this film! It was a location shoot, so we were all kind of living and discovering the city together. On set and off set we were biking around the city, going to dinner, getting to know each other. That’s what is so special about this project, I came around with so many great young female relationships. It was nice to sit back and just talk about the industry, film, choices and projects….it was really positive in that way and I credit Mary for setting the tone.
If you could sit down with one actress in the biz for an intimate tete-a-tete, who would it be?
SB: I am very fortunate to have just finished a movie with Claire Danes. She’s a dream to work with and not only that but she has the perfect life. She lives in NYC, has the most gorgeous husband, Hugh. She’ll go home and Skype her husband and be with her little dog. She is very secure in her life. That’s what you need and that’s what I learned from her. She has a great look upon the business, as a business, not as a lifestyle.
SG: Probably Tilda Swinton. She just blows my mind away in everything she chooses to do and does. She’s so fierce. Also, I think Sarah Polley. I love her and think she’s been able to balance working in the USA and Canada in a really great way. Her transition into directing, writing – I think her career is really amazing and I’d love to talk to her about it more.
So, when you aren’t shooting a film, or running around promoting it, what does a perfect weekend look like to you?
SB: In Dublin, I live with my mom, my dad and sister. My mom and I have been growing lemons and grapes and making these ridiculously sickly sweet cakes. Honestly, to get away from all this for awhile, to be at home and just turn off the Blackberry and hang with my dog, Cooper.
SG: In Toronto? I’d definitely go to the Brickworks organic market, I LOVE that place. Maybe I’d go to an open dance class in the city and then definitely hit up David’s Tea. I’d go there to smell seven different kinds of tea and buy six of them! At night, I love just going out for dinner on Ossington with some friends. Chilling out…in the best city in the world!!
Sweet, smart and extremely talented, we can’t wait to see where the careers of these two young ladies go. And won’t be surprised to see them in the next Vanity Fair Young Hollywood. Trust us, they’ve got big things ahead.