Writer and actress Alice Lowe didn’t quite know what to do when she got pregnant at the age of 37. How could she support herself as a freelancer in an industry not exactly known for its friendliness to female bodies?
Lowe, who is known in the U.K. for her roles in dark comedic fare like Sightseers, said, “A few of my actress friends said to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone that you’re pregnant. Just keep it quiet, because if you tell people you won’t get work.’ And it won’t just be like three months or six months, it will be like five years, because people just assume that you are busy or that you’ve changed beyond recognition or that you have gone into a different casting bracket or something. People just write you off.”
Instead, Lowe wrote Prevenge, a blackly hilarious horror movie about a widow who goes on a murder rampage, egged on by her furious fetus. (Daughter and co-star Della Moon Synnott snoozed peacefully in a baby stroller throughout our interview, wearing a bear snowsuit with tiny ears.) The decision to direct it herself — as well as starring — was unexpected but liberating. “I was like, why shouldn’t it be me doing that instead of apologizing for my existence or for my shape or for the fact that I’m pregnant?” she told me. “What if I just went, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it, and do you know what, no one can stop me, and I’m going to put it in people’s faces.’”
Prevenge opens in Los Angeles, NYC, and on demand via Shudder.com on March 24.
People sometimes talk about the baby being able hear you in utero — did you ever feel weird about that?
No, not really. At the end of the day I’m quite a secure happy person, but I make really dark films. I think I exorcise a lot of the darkness and the things that scare me through making those films and through my creativity. So, I don’t see darkness as being a scary thing — I see it as quite healthy and I see horror films as quite healthy. When I was growing up as a kid people sometimes asked me, Why are you so dark? Why is your sense of humor so sinister?
I grew up reading fairy tales where the little mermaid does die in the end and Bluebeard has cut women’s heads off and has hung them in the room. I loved all those fairy tales and I’m glad that my parents didn’t have any censorship over what I read really or even if they were sort of like, Oh, you probably shouldn’t watch that scary movie, and I was watching it in secret anyway. I kind of could read whatever I wanted.
Your character seems like she’s acting out a female id, in some ways.
I hope it’s like a wish fulfillment kind of thing, it’s like catharsis; it’s all the stuff that you kind of think, Oh, I’m not allowed to do this.
I was thinking, well, pregnancy is thought of as being a very vulnerable, weak state. What if you took all of those qualities and just went, Yeah, but let’s turn it into an advantage? Really, that was what I was doing as well with making the film.
For anyone who is underrepresented in the film industry at the moment, it feels like you have to take those issues and put them up front and go, well, this is the advantage that I have, because a white male director can’t do this and I can, so at least it’s a fresh perspective. You hope there would be a point where you don’t have to make a film about the underrepresentation that you represent — woman, color, age, whatever it is. But at the moment it feels like if that’s the only way I can do it, then I’ll take it.
It’s like everything came together for you all at once in a way that it wouldn’t have maybe at any other time in your life.
I suddenly was like, it doesn’t matter what other people are saying. Who cares? Just do what you want to do. You know, I’ve got enough experience now to know that I’m not terrible at what I do. I think that’s plagued me throughout my whole career. It’s like, am I terrible at what I do? It’s very self-sabotaging. I think women do it a lot more than men, possibly.
Really, I still say it to my sister all the time, there are some people who are really terrible at what they do, but because they don’t care, they succeed because they have no self-criticism whatsoever.
Did it ever feel dangerous to be filming while you were pregnant?
It’s funny, I was really healthy and especially in my second trimester I had loads of energy. People don’t tell you. It’s almost like you’re on a high. I don’t think everyone has that, but I was literally like, yes, I can do everything. I’m a superwoman. Yeah, you want me to do some character comedy in the next couple of days. There you go, there’s a character. I’ve just written it.
I was the director, so there was no way I was going to push myself as an actress to do anything that was dangerous. We did have stunt doubles for certain bits. At the same time, I did sort of forget I was pregnant. I was leaping around and people were going, do you want to sit down? No, why? Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.