INTERVIEW: FLORENCE HARTIGAN
Florence Hartigan is an American-born, New Zealand-raised, LA-based actress and musician whose latest film, the Ridley Scott produced sci-fi thriller Phoenix Forgotten, was released this month. The Justin Barber directed horror movie purports to show what happened to a group of teenagers who vanished in Phoenix in 1997 while filming a UFO sighting. We spoke to the talented young actress about how she got involved in the captivating film, the true story that inspired it, and what’s next for her.
-PH: How long ago was it that you got involved in the film?
-Florence: I first got involved with this project a couple years back actually – I had done a few commercials and music videos with our director, Justin Barber so when he and T.S. Nowlin, our writer, asked if I’d be interested in being a part of a test shoot for a found footage UFO documentary they were working on I of course said yes! We shot in Phoenix for a few days, and what we had turned out great, but you never know what will come of things like this, or what your involvement will end up being down the line – there are so many variables with production. Then Scott Free became part of the equation, and I was asked to audition, and was very grateful to get to play the part! To see this project through from beginning to end has been something very special for me.
-PH: How was the character pitched to you?
-Florence: Originally Sophie had a sister, not a brother, and was a teacher who lived in upstate New York, and I think her name was Sarah? But as the script evolved so did the character. There was always the sense though of this person that had been left behind in the wake of this terrible tragedy – something that was years ago but still ever-present. That was interesting to me.
-PH: Who was it that selected you for the role? Did Ridley Scott have a say?
-Florence: I’m not sure what Mr. Scott’s role was in the casting of the project – I know most of these decisions are a collaborative effort so I’m not sure who made the final call, I’m just glad it went in my favor!
-PH: Love your look in the film! Did you toy with different looks for your character?
-Florence: Actually, pretty much everything I wear in the movie came from my own closet, so thanks very much, haha! We had an amazing costume designer, Aggie Rogers (who did costumes for a couple little movies like Beetlejuice and Return of the Jedi) who is a total delight, and who also took my clothes and put them together for Sophie in ways I had never thought of. Also one day I went there for a fitting and brought her stuff from my wardrobe to use, and left wearing only a tiger onesie I had brought as a joke. She used everything, including the shirt on my back! I think she had more fun with the teens’ clothes though – the scenes with the teens in the movie all take place in 1997, which was more of a fun challenge for her probably!
-PH: How does this movie differ from, say, other found footage movies like Blair Witch?
-Florence: I think the cool point of difference in our movie is the blending of fact and fiction. The story pivots around a UFO sighting that actually happened, and we interview real people in the movie, about some of their real experiences. That’s all woven together with the narrative we’ve created, and I think the result is something that feels like a real documentary about someone unravelling a tragic mystery… that then gets super creepy.
-PH: Can you say you’re alike your character at all?
-Florence: I think I have the same curiosity and relentlessness when I get fixated on something. I don’t know that I could be as brave as Sophie though. I’m for sure a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor! I always think the best characters have a lot of you in them, but I also took inspiration for character bits and pieces from journalists and documentarians – especially ones like Chana Joffe-Walt from Serial, who become part of the story they’re documenting.
-PH: Do you have a favorite horror movie?
-Florence: I thought Get Out this year was totally amazing, some perennial faves are Shaun of the Dead and Jennifer’s Body and a New Zealand horror called Housebound, which if you missed you should see immediately. If you want just one you need to narrow the category down sorry! I’m talking sub-genres!
-PH: Can you tell us what else you have coming up?
-Florence: My next upcoming project is Malevolent – an animated horror film starring Morena Baccarin of Deadpool, where I play an emotionally damaged valley girl dealing with addiction and a very bad family dynamic…. it stars Morena Baccarin from Deadpool, and William Shatner from everything.
“Phoenix Forgotten” is now available on Blu-Ray at Amazon!