Every so often, a movie comes along that completely takes me by surprise. It doesn’t always have to be horror but when it does fall into that genre category, it’s as if the cosmos aligned just perfectly for me. That would be the case for Adam Egypt Mortimer’s latest film, DANIEL ISN’T REAL.
Tackling themes such as mental illness, DANIEL ISN’T REAL centers around a troubled college freshman named Luke (Miles Robbins) who, after suffering a violent family trauma, resurrects his imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) only to find out that Daniel may not be so imaginary after all.
For the release of the film, we had the pleasure of speaking with actress Sasha Lane who plays Cassie, a close friend of Luke’s. During our chat, we discussed everything from bringing her character to life, working closely with Adam, and tapping into her creative side.
What was it about Cassie that attracted you to this role?
Sasha Lane: First and foremost, it was Adam [Egypt Mortimer], the director. When I met him in person for the first time he just had this energy. I was looking forward to starting a project and it kind of fit, plus he’s someone that is so passionate and so on fire. We talked kind of personally, about the balance between Miles [Robbins] and Patrick [Schwarzenegger] and kind of what the characters were going through. We see how [Luke’s] mom deals with [mental illness] first and [Luke’s] experience dealing with it. Then that turns into Patrick’s character where you don’t really know if [Daniel] is an imaginary friend or if this is now turning into a crazy horror film. I thought [the film] was really personal but intriguing.
One of the reasons I loved Cassie so much was because she’s an artist and a creator. Was that something that you were able to easily tap into?
Sasha Lane: Yeah, especially being an actress. I like writing poetry and all that and I studied psychology. The way my brain works I just felt like it was something relatable and something that I could easily, in a way, tap into. During filming it just all kind of made sense that my energy would go somewhere good and somewhere that was kind of familiar.
What was your experience like working so closely with both Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger?
Sasha Lane: Miles and Patrick are great. We did a lot of rehearsals before we started filming. Every day we would go in and pretty much go through the entire script each time. It was almost as if we were filming the way we would do each scene and multiple takes of it. We all kind of instantly got close. I think Miles’ character is such a sweet, sweet guy and Patrick’s character is so interesting – they both matched their characters so well. I think when Patrick got into the whole vibe of his character it was kind of freaky though (laughs). They both worked so hard.
When it came to bringing the character of Cassie to life, did you work closely with Adam or did he give you the creative freedom to do what you wanted with the character?
Sasha Lane: A little bit of both. I feel like Adam has really strong energy and at that point in time, I also was coming in with really strong energy. I kind of used it in a way of like, “This is what I feel” but he knew that character so well. Sometimes directors only happen to really know one or two of their characters, but he was really into each character, so he offered a lot when it came to helping me build Cassie. He had her built up for me and then I put my own personal touches on it.
You are no stranger to the genre, having been in 2019’s Hellboy and now this. Have you always been a fan of the genre?
Sasha Lane: I’m a very paranoid person and very jumpy so I’m scared of my own shadow, so not really (laughs). This one was more psychological, so for me, I watched a bunch of murder documentaries, probably too many for my own good. Everyone else thought [DANIEL ISN’T REAL] was horror but for me, I think I took it more literally (laughs).
Lastly, do you have any projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
Sasha Lane: I just wrapped an Amazon show called Utopia which will hopefully be coming out this year. I’m really excited about it and I think it’ll be really good.
DANIEL ISN’T REAL is now in theaters, on digital, and on-demand. You can read our review here as well as Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with co-writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer and co-writer Brian DeLeeuw.