Actor Scoot McNairy had just 21 days to transform himself into poet and activist Steve Abbott for his new film, Fairyland.
Express Online recently had the chance to interview first-time director Andrew Durham about his stunning debut ahead of its release at the London Sundance Film Festival.
Based on Abbott’s life with his daughter Alysia (played by Emilia Jones and Nessa Dougherty), the biopic begins at the tail-end of the sexual revolution before dealing with the AIDs crisis of the 1980s.
Alysia moves to San Francisco when Abbott comes out as gay after the death of her mother and later finds herself looking after him when he contracts the virus himself.
“We would shoot all of those scenes in the early ‘70s with them together [in the morning],” Durham told Express Online.
“And then at lunch, little Nessa would be off the clock for the day. The camera would switch to digital and Emilia would show up.
“And Scoot would have to transform himself and age himself 10-15 years. And he had a whole new co-star!
“And I didn’t even realize what he was doing every day – because it was almost like we were making two movies every day – until I was in the edit bay.”
Director Sofia Coppola was initially approached to make the film, based on Alysia’s memoir about her experience with her father, before Durham signed on.
Rather than pausing production to allow for the weight loss another actor may have needed to portray an AIDs victim, McNairy and the director took a more ambitious and economical approach due to their tight schedule.
“I have so much appreciation for him,” he said. “He’s so incredible.
“He would disappear at lunch, he wouldn’t have lunch with us. And I always wondered, ‘Where’s Scoot?’
“Then I realized, ‘Oh, he was probably off getting into another headspace because he’s got to come back’.”
Durham also revealed several key scenes were shot in just one day, many of them taking only a couple of takes before they were in the can.
“Scoot has a very classic look,” he said. “He’s almost perfect for that sort of ‘70s era. It’s just him.
“He doesn’t have bleached white teeth and he’s a little rough around the edges – I love the way Scoot looks.
“We thought about this with him getting sick – because I lived through that – these guys wore layers and layers.
“I said, ‘We don’t need to see him rail-thin because these guys would wear coats and sweaters and caps and scarves’.
“That’s how we got through with having him healthier at the beginning then aging and getting sick – it was really done with wardrobe and just a little bit of makeup.”
Breakout actress Jones is best known for her lead role in last year’s Best Picture winner CODA and Fairyland also features performances from Geena Davis and Queen’s Adam Lambert.
Fairyland has its UK premiere at Sundance Film Festival London, which runs 6-9 July at Picturehouse Central. Tickets and more info at https://www.picturehouses.com/sundance