Many of you may remember an article I did a little while back on a film set to star Malcolm McDowell titled ‘Bereave’. Since that article, I have been given the great opportunity to interview Malcolm’s costar Hannah Cowley. Not only is Hannah a fantastic actress with a love of horror, but she is very well educated. She has a very impressive list of films coming out in the next couple of years.
Hannah: I grew up in a council ﬂat in the East End of London – they’re tall high-rise buildings and you know everyone who lives around you. The Dorans’ downstairs were like family to us, and still are. Betty Doran, who helped raise me, entered me into a modeling competition when I was little. I got ‘runner-up’ and my photo was in the newspaper. An agent saw it and asked to represent me. My anarchist mother wasn’t too thrilled! I freaked out and cried when she asked me because I thought it meant being turned into a wax mannequin (clearly I had an odd imagination). Once I realized it was more like sunny and windswept kids rollicking around with new clothes, I accepted. That was my entry to cameras and sets in general, and it was amazing because I ended up travelling all over Europe with my mother and brother and just loved being on set, talking to adults and having responsibility. It felt much more natural than being at school.
LBoH: Not only are you very talented, but you are also well educated. How did you keep your career and education balanced?
Hannah: Ha, thank you – I don’t feel terribly educated! I’m constantly agitated by how much I haven’t retained or don’t know…but I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a country where education was free, so I could pursue art-related stuff while studying. I always wanted to work in film or music but going to college was just something most people did – irrespective of whether there was a vocational ‘reason.’ It was never an either/or situation and for the most part it balanced itself pretty well. Now I’m out of that world you have to be an autodidact -and disciplined- which is hard because I’m easily distracted by things and people…but if I can’t learn I think I’ll die. I really wanted to continue my PhD but it became too hard to commit to it and act: the lure of LA won out! There is no balance now, it took me a begrudging year to acknowledge that education is relatively futile in Hollywood except for your own entertainment – you’re better off learning how to negotiate and find parking! My apartment walls are slowly becoming covered in things I need to remember, poets and poems, chapters, prints, war speeches, battle patterns, dead sovereigns. I forget that sometimes people might think it’s a little alarming so I’m going to have to make guests stay out…but it’s a physical reminder to not slip into the cerebral insularity of LA; it’s a gorgeous Groundhog Day bubble here.
LBoH: Are you more comfortable acting or directing?
Hannah: It depends on the project. I’ve done a ton of projects I’d probably not choose as a filmmaker but have jumped at the chance to play a certain character or work within a certain genre or with a certain team. I love that acting allows you to explore all these worlds and possibilities and your entry to it owes to chance in a way, the uncontrollable measure of someone else’s interpretation of who you are and what they think you can play. I love that element of surprise and challenge. As for directing, I physically can’t take something on unless I can’t bear someone else doing it! Like academic stuff, it’s such a major commitment and you have to be prepared to be in that emotional head space of that project for a long time. It’s incredible though, who doesn’t want to be a (benevolent) dictator?! There are a few stories I’m dying to do which have been burning for a while but it’s been really a busy year with acting. Also, being war related I may have to get a proper budget for them!
Hannah: I always loved ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Omen’ and never realized they were ‘horror’ films as they are so cinematic and naturalistic – I think I fell into it really! In England there was a popular comedy franchise known as the “Carry On” films. My favorite was ‘Carry On Screaming.’ I got exposed to a lot of Italian horror films courtesy of my father, and I was just inexplicably obsessed with them: films like ‘Four Flies On Grey Velvet,’ ‘Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key,’ ‘5 Dolls for an August Moon…’ Between those two extremes I think I realized how broad ‘horror’ is – it really is an extremely diverse genre.
LBoH: Being a fan of horror, how excited were you to ﬁnd out that you would be working with Malcolm McDowell?
Hannah: Um, yeah. I was breathless. The latest film was a beautiful, unique drama with McDowell and the luminous Jane Seymour called ‘Bereave.’ It was directed by the incredible Giovanis Brothers – I’m really excited to see it. Previously, Malcolm and I both worked on ‘Shock Value’ by Doug Rath which hasn’t come out yet but it’s amazing. Funny, dark surrealism at its most horrifyingly weird. Malcolm’s role in that is film-stealing – he eats up every second. He has more screen presence in even the smallest thing he does than most actors would be lucky to have spread over their entire career. We didn’t have scenes together in either of those films so at the ‘Bereave’ wrap party we decided the third will have to change that! I could probably die happy just sharing three seconds of screen time with him. I was mesmerized by ‘Clockwork Orange’ and there are scenes in the extremely dystopian ‘Oh Lucky Man’ for which I was woefully unprepared – and which have definitely scarred me for life.
LBoH: What other names in horror would you like to work with in the future?
LBoH: You are involved in a lengthy list of ﬁlms coming out this year, which are you most excited about your fans seeing?
Hannah: Such a brutal call! I’m really excited about ‘In The Blood’ which is being released by Anchor Bay; we had an extraordinary time filming in Puerto Rico and Gina Carano is a goddess. I’m also very excited for ‘The Atticus Institute’to come out – it’s a unique horror directed by Chris Sparling, produced by Peter Safran (‘The Conjuring’). It shares some of the strengths ‘The Conjuring’ – it’s naturalistic, set in the 1970s – but it’s been approached in a very different, unusual way. It was unnerving shooting it, so I’m very interested to see what happens when it comes out!
LBoH: Will fans be seeing your name more in the cast or directorial part of the credits in the next year?
Hannah: I think there should be 6 or 7 films coming out this year acting-wise. Hopefully I’ll be able to direct something when things settle down, and finally inflict more experimental war films on people.
LBoH: You previously had your own radio show in Australia, do you have any plans of returning to the airwaves?
Hannah: If I got the opportunity I would in a heartbeat; I was in a unique situation where I got to program anything I wanted for 3 hours. I was a teenager, so I feel like I’ve gathered so much more music now that I’d love to play. I used to make long thematically linked shows, showing the connection between artists/labels/music history. Everything from Mahler, The Ronettes, Scott Wilson to Garbage…I’m obsessed with digging through and researching music, and the history behind it, and I feel like so much great stuff has been lost in favor of the ephemeral rot churned out today. Marilyn Manson told me I had the music tastes of a 40 year old goth from Florida. What a compliment! I don’t have a particular musical taste though – if it’s honest, someone’s voice has sincerity, it’ll probably seduce me. It’s so easy to find and access music now – which is exciting – but it’s also a deluge. I’m very excited about a Revolting Cock’s side project coming out soon called ‘Cocksure’, in the morass of stuff washing up online for free I really hope it gets out there.
Hannah: Definitely keep collaborating with amazing people, hopefully make some adequate films, read books, buy a John Deere tractor.
To keep up to date on Hannah Cowley and her upcoming projects, visit her IMDB page, like her on Facebook and follow her on twitter and Instagram (@innerwick). I for one cannot wait to see her future projects.