9 things you learn making an Iranian skateboarding vampire movie

Released this week, director Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish debut A Girl Walked Home Alone At Night, about an Iranian, chador-wearing, skateboarding teenage female vampire known only as ‘The Girl’ – is sure to become a cult favourite.

Matthew Turner spoke to the film’s star, New York actress Sheila Vand, about her weird and wonderful experiences making the movie.

1. A good pitch is half the battle

“When Lily came to me the script wasn’t written yet – all I knew was it was going to be a black and white vampire film that was a cross between Sergio Leone and David Lynch. To me, that already sounded like the kind of thing I wanted to be part of.”

2. Vampires are easy to relate to

“The fact that the part of The Girl was written for me, there was a lot that I could relate to in her. In particular, I think her boredom and her sadness are two things that I understand at the very core of me. Her desire to want to feel alive, even though she doesn’t, is something that I have experienced before.”

3. YouTube is a great tool for vampire research

“To prepare for the role, I watched a lot of spaghetti westerns, lots of vampire films, some surrealist films. I read up on vampire literature, I didn’t really know much about the mythology of it until I was preparing for the part. And I also watched a lot of YouTube videos of vampire bats, snakes and cats to create a sort of physicality, so that The Girl would feel slightly supernatural.”

4. Skateboarding is hard, even when the director is your teacher

“I tried to learn to skateboard. I’m still not very good at it. Lily sort of taught me – I had a couple of lessons with her and then at a certain point, our producer was like, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have our lead actress, like, potentially break her arm two weeks before the shoot?’ So I can ride a skateboard, but I can’t do any tricks or anything. In the big wide shot where The Girl is riding the skateboard all the way down the street, that’s actually Lily.”

5. Wearing a chador in smalltown California makes you feel like an alien

“Walking around in a chador in Taft, California was one of the funniest experiences I’ve ever had, because it’s a very, very white, middle-of-nowhere town and half the time I was kind of scared that somebody was going to pull out a shotgun and shoot me or something. But I already feel like a weirdo in my own life and it was kind of nice to just go all the way there – I really felt alien in that town, in the chador.”

6. Biting off a pimp’s finger is harder than it looks

“With the scene where I kill a pimp, I only had one chance to bite that finger off, because there was only one prosthetic hand, so I had to actually hold his finger in my mouth for a long time to make sure they got the shot, because once I opened my mouth it would be a mess everywhere and we weren’t going to be able to re-set it. So that was a really funny experience of being directed while I had blood pouring everywhere and I’m growling and I’m biting through his finger and from the other room, Lily is like yelling directions like, ‘Tear off the finger!’ It’s really interesting how in the moment, horror can actually be quite hilarious. And then when you see it on the screen it can change into something scary.”

7. The ability to kill is really empowering

“I love the character of The Girl so much. I love how fearless and unapologetic she is. She lives by her own set of rules and that’s something that I’m always striving to do. There’s a serenity to her and the ability to kill is a really empowering thing, especially for a woman, and I miss that feeling sometimes. I miss that power that she had.”

8. There’s girl power in The Girl

“I think [the film] absolutely advocates girl power because of the fact that there’s a female lead who doesn’t get her strength from mimicking a man’s behaviour. It’s something that’s important to me because I don’t think that women are portrayed that way often enough in film and television. There are so many powerful women in real life, they just need to be represented more often in cinema. They exist everywhere.”

9. Transgender rockabillies end up on the cutting room floor (but get saved for deleted scenes)

trans rockabilly 2

“I actually did get a chance to see the deleted scenes and there’s a lot more of the rockabilly character, the transgender character who you see dancing with the balloons in the movie. You get to see a lot more of his story, which is fun to watch. And there’s a few pieces between The Girl and Arash that I think people will enjoy because so much is left a mystery in the movie, so there are some little Easter eggs you’ll get to explore on the bonus features.”

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night hits cinemas this Friday. Watch the trailer: