‘It Just Felt Right’: Actress Dylan Penn On Working With Her Dad in the Cannes Drama ‘Flag Day’

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Your character does a kind of 180, in that she goes from struggling with drug abuse to getting sober, getting a job, and generally taking control of her life. Did you go through anything similar in your own life that you could draw from?

There was a period of time right after I stopped modeling when I moved to New York for a guy and I didn’t have a job. I was 25, and I was there for a year, and he was working nonstop and I kind of started living a double life. I was kind of like his—I don’t want to say “arm-candy,” because we had a real relationship, but he just wasn’t really present. When he would go to work, I would go off and do a lot of drugs and drink a lot, and I was out with people that weren’t friends of mine. I ended up getting sober, and I did a 45-day stint in an all women’s group therapy healing center in Arizona, which was really life-changing. And after that I did a year and a half of sobriety just to see how I felt. And I think that really changed who I was at my core. It’s something that I’m really grateful I did at a young age, because it really set me up for the rest of my life.

Did you bring that experience to Jennifer’s character?

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Yes, especially when she was younger—doing drugs and partying and trying to escape her reality. I completely remember that. It feels so far removed from me, but I could really tap into that time in my life, especially when she goes to college and tries to find out what her purpose is. I think that really came to me after I did this 45-day stint.

What did you do after the 45-day stint?

I did a halfway program for two months, which was really intense. Then I moved home, and that’s when I decided to continue my sobriety.

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Are you still sober?

No. I don’t do drugs anymore—they don’t really interest me. But my relationship to alcohol completely changed after I did a year and a half of sobriety. I never drank or did drugs by myself, but I really missed the social aspect of drinking.

What was the most surprising thing that you found out about yourself on set?

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I was really surprised that I could tap into a dark place really easily. I was in a really good place in my life during filming. I became really close with the crew and obviously my brother was there, so to switch from that happy-go-lucky place to a darker place was really easy. I was surprised by that.

Do you think it was because you were in a good place that you were able to access that more freely and not be afraid of it?

Yes, and I think [my dad] created a safe set so it felt okay to be naked.

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I’m assuming you’re going to continue to pursue acting after this. You have to have some kind of love for it to give the performance you did.

I definitely want to pursue it further, and I did have a lot of fun, even though the film is a lot of me crying. But I want to continue doing it for sure.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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