One of the performances that made waves at last year’s Frightfest was Angela Dixon’s bonecrunching turn in director Howard J Ford’s action thriller Never Let Go.

Now heading to DVD, Dixon stars as Lisa Brennan, a mother trapped in a spiraling nightmare after her baby daughter is kidnapped while on holiday in a foreign country.

Brennan decides to take the law into her own hands, facing off against child smugglers, the authorities and assorted other villains as she looks to be reunited with her child.

Dixon is dazzling, a towering tour-de-force that has you hooked every second she is on screen, so it naturally made sense for us to track her down and ask a few questions.

Here goes:

Q. How did you first get involved in the project?

I knew about the project at the beginning of last year.  Howard had mentioned that he was writing something with me in mind but that the likelihood was I wouldn’t play the part as they would need a ‘name’ to sell the film. In fact the first Hollywood name who read the script said yes but their reps had serious doubts about whether the film could be canned on the budget and were worried for the artist’s safety. I was confirmed in role three weeks before the shoot although, it turned out that Howard had already booked me a flight 6 months before! Howard is not one to hang around.

Q. What was it about the character of Lisa Brennan that drew you to the role?

I love the fact that she is a complex character.  She is resilient, strong and yet ultimately flawed.  It’s those flaws that are really interesting to work with. She has a deep seated lack of self love, guilt from her father’s death and a desperate need for redemption.

Q. Lisa is an intriguing mix of toughness and vulnerability on screen, with emotions shifting from fear to anger to frustration (often in the same scene) – how difficult was she to play?

That’s really encouraging to hear you experienced her like that.  I worked really hard to understand each ebb and flow of her emotions and thought processes. I relished the depth I could go to with her. She is in a heightened state of being and when that happens you naturally flow from one emotional state to another. It was important to me that each transition was based on something very specific and real for her. The most difficult thing was to identify exactly what her internal journey in the film was and stay true to that in each scene.

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Q. The role calls for a lot of physicality – I gave up counting how many minutes of the movie had you running full pelt! Did you have to do a lot of preparation physically?

Yes, I did! I do run a lot in this movie.  I do a lot of exercise anyway but as soon as Howard told me about the film I increased my training.  I promised him I would be ready to play Lisa regardless of whether I did or not. In the last couple of months before the shoot I was working out 2-3 hours a day mostly boxing, combat, weights and yoga. I owe much of it to the generosity and hard work of my boxing teacher Steve Cole who let me train with him.  I pulled and strained a fair few muscles but came out of it mostly unscathed.

Q. The locations appear stunning throughout and add a real depth to the film. What difficulties (if any) did filming in Morocco provide?

The location was incredible, it’s like another character.  Filming always attracted a crowd and in one scene that was particularly emotional as I looked past the camera there were at least 30 curious faces squashed into an alleyway staring at me vying for a better view.  It was very hot so doing anything, let alone – yes – running, in 35-40 degree heat is exhausting. In the medina a lot of the buildings are made of adobe – mud and brick – and so scrabbling about on rooftops was precarious and sometimes a little scary. Also running barefoot in dirty, cobbled streets was difficult to do with speed and conviction. Luckily I only got glass in my foot once.

Albeit wrongly, this is the type of role audiences will be more used to being filled by a man – Liam Neeson in Taken is the obvious comparison. How important do you think it is that we get female-led thrillers like this?

Yes it is the type of role that historically has been male.  ‘The Missing’ with James Nesbitt was fantastic and yet the mother was given a fraction of his air-time. Sweden uses the Bechdel test which rates films based on whether it features two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than men. Can you imagine having to do that for men? I think it’s extremely important and also exciting that women are increasingly playing a more prominent role in story-telling. We take up roughly 50% of the population and yet Last year only 12% of all clearly identifiable protagonists in film and TV were female.   I do, however, get the sense that the tide has begun to turn; I notice more female-led dramas now Charlize Theron in ‘Fury Road’, Anna Friel in ‘American Odyssey’ and Emily Watson in ‘A Song For Jenny’ spring to mind. We do have a long way to go, still, I’m proud to be part of the movement toward expressing the female voice, long may that continue.

Q. How did you find working with director Howard J Ford?

I can’t say enough great things about Howard. It was an amazing experience to work with him. He is so talented. He created an intense synergy within our close knit team.  At times we were so connected that there was no need for words.  In those moments we were just completely in the flow and you really feel that when it happens.  It’s something very special.  This was low budget filming with high end results.  Watching Howard create this film was like witnessing alchemy.   People would be staggered by how ‘Never Let Go’ was pulled out of the bag.

Q. How do you feel now the film is out there for an audience?

I really hope that NLG gets an audience.  People who have seen it say that they are gripped and emotionally caught up in the story – eyes water and hearts pound.  I think this is what makes it really special.  It is low budget.  We didn’t have the money for bells and whistles but we gave our heart and soul to making it and that’s what people feel when they watch it.

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.