Scottish actress Kate Dickie has starred in the high-profile likes of Filth, Prometheus, Game Of Thrones, and can be currently seen on cinema screens in atmospheric period chiller The Witch – a critically-acclaimed gem that’s undoubtedly the most talked-about horror movie of the year.
She spoke to Mark Butler about badly-behaved goats, being drawn to damaged characters, and why Scotland needs to back its filmmaking talent.
Making The Witch
Kate speaks with genuine love about the breakout “low-budget film made in the middle of nowhere”, which won awards at Sundance and has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It’s a Grimm’s fairytale that stays with you, and the drama of a family completely cut off from the rest of the world was something that really appealed to me.”
Despite the heavy subject-matter, it wasn’t always the most serious of shoots either.
“Funnily enough, I remember a lot of laughter! As dark as the material was, we all just bonded so well. I did my audition with Ralph [Ineson – who plays husband William], and we had great chemistry from the start.
“We lived together, worked together, ate together. We keep in touch and see each other when we can.
“Rob [Eggers – the writer-director] was fantastic to work with. Never a chore. He’s both a very easy-going guy, and completely clear about what he wants.
“He grew up in New England near the woods, with all these tales of witches and steeped in history, and he did meticulous research on everything.
“Ralph’s socks were made from exactly the material they would have been woven from back then! It makes your job easy when you have these authentic costumes and props around you.”
Working with animals
It’s the one thing they say you should never do.
But shooting a film set on a 1600s farmstead, the cast of The Witch really had no choice but to rub shoulders with a medley of wildlife, including sinister hares, malevolent ravens – and one very badly-behaved horny creature.
“Charlie the goat turned up not knowing his lines, let me tell you! Anything creepy you see from the goat in the finished film was down to the magic of editing.
“He was unpredictable to be around. Ralph ended up in hospital three times. There was no love lost, and Charlie certainly wasn’t doing what he should have been!
“But the goat was treated very well. I think he had a great time actually…”
The end result
Seeing the film for the first time at Sundance was an emotional moment for Kate. In more ways than one.
“It had been made with so much love and care by a tight-knit team who gave it their all. It was more than a job in the end. Seeing Rob’s vision up there on the screen was fantastic.
“It was scarier than I thought as well! If I wasn’t in it, there’s not a chance in hell you’d get me to see that film! I’m just not good with scary stuff.”
One of Kate’s most memorable roles from recent years was her turn as the isolated, disturbed Lady Lysa Arryn in hit HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones.
Breastfeeding a nine-year-old son while raving maniacally and threatening to throw beloved characters to their doom through a Bond villain-esque trap door, it was certainly a part to savour.
“That was so much fun, because she was so on the brink all the time.
“It was amazing to play a character who doesn’t hide anything, and literally leaps from one extreme of emotion to another. But I had to be so careful because you don’t want her to become a caricature. She’s a very damaged woman, ultimately.”
Picking those parts
Having acquired a reputation for complex roles in hard-hitting dramas, Kate admits that she’s drawn to less than stable figures when it comes to screen acting.
“I do tend to gravitate towards characters who have struggles in their lives. I like to explore what goes on under the skin, and the things people don’t talk about.
“I’ve got another film out this month called Couple In A Hole. It’s a beautiful story about love and grief and loss and connection.
“And For Those In Peril was another special project. George MacKay is an incredible actor.
“I tend to work in films that are low budget, so you pitch in more and it creates strong bonds.”
Supporting the Scottish film industry
The acclaimed actress, who won a Scottish BAFTA for Red Road and provided memorable performances in Filth, For Those In Peril and other recent Scottish successes, would love for her native film industry to boom – and for the potential of its leading creatives to be backed more fully.
“A lot of it is down to funding. There’s lots of talent in Scotland. Crew, writers, directors. Everything.
“We need to get a film studio started up here. There’s a lot bubbling.
“I haven’t worked here a lot lately. I haven’t actually been offered work in Scotland for a while. But I love to live here, and if work was on the doorstep that would be amazing.
“There’s no lack of talent, that’s for sure.”
The Witch is out now in cinemas
Main image via Getty