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