Hobo with a Shotgun is a highly anticipated release for many, but especially for those of us who are part of the film community in Halifax. Early last year I heard that my longtime friend, Molly Dunsworth, was cast as the film's female lead, but it wasn't until this week, when she got back from the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, that I finally get to sit down and talk to her about it.
It was "the intensity of the script" that drew her to the project, she says at her downtown apartment. "I always felt one of my favourite characters was Alabama Worley in True Romance, and Abby reminded me of her. She was just so cool. Plus, there was so much blood, guts and horror. I just thought that if I got to be a part of this madness it would be crazy." Most reviews have been referring to Abby as "the requisite prostitute with a heart of gold" (Variety and others), but Dunsworth describes her differently. "Abby is us: the one character we can all connect with," she says. "She's a young prostitute trying to keep her focus on what she needs to do, which is make money, but then a hobo comes along and changes her world."
The film was shot in the spring of 2010 and Dunsworth spent 16 days on set for the 24-day shoot. It was interesting to me how she took such a hands-on approach when it came to doing research for the role. Prior to principal photography, Dunsworth visited Stepping Stone in Halifax, a harm-reduction-modelled drop-in centre for sex workers. She met a small group of sex workers and spoke with them about their work and street life. "Visiting the centre probably isn't something I would have done if it wasn't suggested to me," she says, "but I was surprised to find how open they were to talking with me. One woman told me how she once jumped off a balcony to escape being threatened at gunpoint."
As an actor I can attest to the importance of hearing other people's stories. Sometimes a personal story can mean everything. "It didn't so much affect the character directly," says Dunsworth, "as much as it just taught me how tough Abby really was." The actor began to dress in high heels and spent time walking around Halifax by herself, completely in her own head, getting into character. "You'd have to be confident."
Having this kind of confidence and control over your character, while maintaining the high energy performance necessary to playing this kind of an intense role, would be difficult to say the least. "My emotions are just so on edge all of the time, that's why it's so easy for me to snap in and out of character on set, going from laughing to balling, it's what I'm like," she says. "I can call on my own pain and experience to get me through some of the more excruciating moments in the story."
Perhaps Molly Dunsworth is on her way to becoming a method actor, but if not, she certainly has an interesting career ahead of her. I can't wait to see her on the big screen, wielding a shotgun.
Hobo with a Shotgun will be released March 25