ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with american cherry Hart Denton on the romantic dramatic thriller. The actor spoke about growing up in Arkansas and his attraction to darker roles.
“american cherry is a psychological thriller-romance about a mysterious and troubled boy who meets an impressionable girl in his small town,” reveals the synopsis. “Together they embark on a romance in which their love becomes an obsession as he tries to protect her from his dysfunctional family: he makes her a video diary confessing an intricate love affair, mental illness and the tragic consequences if left untreated. ”.
Tyler Treese: Hart, you’re from Arkansas. Did you identify with this theme throughout American Cherry of the pressure of a small town and feeling trapped in such a small area?
Hart Denton: Yes absolutely. I mean, it was such a surreal experience for me to go back and shoot where I grew up. I mean, right outside, it was a couple of cities over. I definitely connect with growing up in a small place, but it was very easy for me to do it because I was in my real environment, as it was for me growing up: being in a very undeveloped place with a lot of nature.
Originally we were supposed to shoot somewhere in… I don’t remember, somewhere in the Caribbean, or maybe… I think it was [the] Dominican Republic and something happened where we couldn’t, and then all of a sudden they wanted to shoot in Arkansas, not knowing I was from there, and it was perfect. It all lined up so well that I got to be in this environment that was very natural to me and led to what real life was like for me growing up.
That’s so crazy that it all happened by accident, but I’m assuming it just brings you more into that mindset, more into that character. I’m sure it was more natural to shoot so close to home.
Ah, it was. It definitely was. It felt very similar to how I grew up, even environmental wise, which was great.
Finn and Eliza’s connection throughout the movie was so powerful and well done. What did you find most interesting about these two people who have been through a lot and, in so much trauma, have found each other?
There’s actually a lot of that. I feel like there’s a lot of that in real life – that people tend to gravitate towards people who may have a shared feeling of trauma. It may not be the same trauma, but there may be the same outcome that has changed that person because of whatever that trauma is, and I felt it with them. They had this unspoken connection because of a mutual residual effect they had felt from the things they dealt with early in their growth.
I love the use of the young versions of the children in the film. I thought it was beautiful, especially Finn’s. I think the kid who played my young version did very well and portrayed that feeling of wanting his mother, especially, to love him so much and not really receiving it and how that can, over time, gradually change someone and affect someone. . It inevitably leads to what Finn becomes.
Those flashbacks are great and I was impressed with your chemistry with Eliza actress Sarah May Sommers. Can you talk about working with her and how the two of you managed to make such a great and authentic bond on screen?
Yes she is amazing. She is very talented and it was easy. Right away, we understood these characters and the way they viewed each other and it just felt perfect. She felt very natural. That’s a great testament to her. She is a great actress.
We get a good mix of scenes between Finn and Eliza. There are some sweet, slower scenes, there are some very intense emotional scenes. I was curious if there was one that really caught your eye and when you think about filming it comes right to your mind and you’re really proud of.
There are so many moments between them that I loved. First of all, we shot this movie on 35mm film, so you couldn’t do a lot of takes. It was not digital and that is a rarity today. A lot of things are digital and I think with digital you can see things right away. You can see what you just shot immediately. There is a lot of flexibility in the shots. And with this, we would get two or three takes with things. So I felt like the movie flew by and I felt like there wasn’t a moment where I was like, “Oh, gosh, that scene was like 30 long takes,” as has been the case on other projects. This was not that. It was…we had one or two takes, so it really kind of went like a blur and it all felt like…yeah, there were several moments, especially rewatching the movie, where I went back to that space. One of them was definitely that tattered barn we showed throughout, where it dominates all that vast greenery and it was a… that was a very hot day.
Most days it was, because we were shooting this in June in Arkansas and it was like a hundred degrees and with the humidity it feels like 120. I was so grateful to be doing the whole project and there was something to it. great old fashioned film camera that felt like a camera wasn’t there. It felt like we were just playing with each other. It was the first time I was shooting in a movie like this. And with digital, for some reason, I was more aware that there was a camera because you could see it right away and all that. But with this, there was something about it that felt like it was a mind trick. This footage has to be developed and is a long way from anyone to see it. There was a great freedom in that and it allowed Sarah and I to have a lot of great moments that were very authentic and organic. It seemed very natural to me.
You’ve managed to play these troublesome characters very well. Are you drawn to that type of role or did it just happen to be like that?
I don’t know… I wondered [Laugh]. That’s how I started a lot of my stuff, either riverdale either 13 reasons why either american cherry, I was doing these roles that were much darker and heavier in tone. It’s just the way she developed. I wasn’t necessarily trying to start that way, but I knew I didn’t want to start on the opposite side because I knew it was a tougher hill to get over if you’re not seen that way. . I like to be seen in a way from a professional standpoint that I can get to that place because I think it takes more to get there than the opposite side of things which is very light and happy.
But I’ve done two other movies coming out this year that are on the lighter side and doing them after these heavier, darker toned things that I did was a lot of fun. I made a movie called The duel which just won some awards at the Mammoth Film Festival and I have a lot of comedy in that film and it’s the first time I’ve been given this palette to play with humor. I was so thankful and it was so much fun and I want to do more stuff like that. But I like the mix of things. I’ve always been drawn to… I think the villain tells the story, not that Finn is the villain in this movie, but I think the villain carries the story because without the villain, there isn’t really a story.
There is nothing to overcome, there is no adversity there. I’ve always been drawn to villainous characters in movies, and especially since I was a kid, I even remember The Riddler when Jim Carrey was doing that. When I was… I had to be five or six years old watching it and I was so fascinated with that character, or the Penguin, a lot of the bat Man movies, there was a lot of stuff. I liked beetlejuice. There were these characters that were kind of anti-heroes and had a darker tone and I wanted to be that. My favorite movie as a kid was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Seeing Gene Wilder play this character who is good but also has his own intensity and his own flaws was very appealing to me. And I think that naturally all of that has come out in a beautiful way that I’m very grateful for, that my career has gone in this direction of being able to do things that were a little bit darker.
One thing I really liked about American Cherry was how emotional the ending was and how it really capped off the movie. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but can you talk about how he emotionally registered with you?
Yeah, I loved the ending too. We shot a little bit more footage and I don’t want to give away too much, but we did shoot a little bit of footage that was right at the end and I’m happy to see, in the final cut, that it wasn’t used, because it was a little bit more on the nose of how it ends. and a little more graphic. I like that it keeps it a bit ambiguous to a certain extent. You definitely know where the story is going after that, but there’s a sense of ambiguity that I appreciate they edited out the way they did.
It’s interesting to see an independent film on film, as you mentioned. What impressed you the most about working with director Marcella Cytrynowicz?
So Marcella came to me with this story. I had known Marcella for a while and she came to me with this story that was originally called… the original script was called fishbowl. When it changed to american cherryI always kept this feeling fishbowl throughout the project because I felt like I was living in this as a little fish tank like a goldfish would. She and I kept this dialogue throughout the project, which was very easy. It’s so easy to talk to her. She is such a calming person. She never seemed… sets can be chaotic at times. I’ve seen people lose their cool. It’s easy to do that on a set because, especially as a director, you’re handling a lot. You have so many people trusting your choices and your decisions and your orders.
With this being a first time role for her, she handled it very well. She handled it very gracefully and I loved working with her. And every note we had was just…it was almost like she had a therapeutic quality just in her voice and she has such good insight into what she sees and what she wants. I loved working with her and I love all of her family. Her sister is in the movie, Valentina, and I love her parents. Her younger sisters in it too. They are all amazing. I’ve known them for a long time and it’s a joy to be around them for about a month shooting this.