Tom Beasley talks to rising star Ivanna Sakhno about her role in comedy-thriller The Spy Who Dumped Me ahead of the film’s arrival on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK…
You may not have heard the name Ivanna Sakhno yet, but it’s a name that will be on everybody’s lips in the next few years. She made the jump from her native Ukraine to the United States in 2013 and now, aged just 21, she has since picked up some plum blockbuster roles. This year alone, she played the violent assassin Nadedja in The Spy Who Dumped Me and a cadet pilot in Pacific Rim: Uprising.
The former movie is out on DVD and Blu-ray this week, so Flickering Myth got chance to chat to Ivanna over the phone about her involvement in director Susanna Fogel’s spy comedy. She also spoke about what it’s like to work with Kate McKinnon in full improv mode and revealed her wish list of future directors.
Congratulations on the film! One of the first things I wanted to ask is that this is a project with women at every point of it, so how important was it for you to be a part of a project like that?
It was not only important for me personally, but also for everyone working on this movie. Working with Susanna Fogel, first of all, has been an amazing experience, getting to know her work process, seeing her being so involved with every aspect of the film and being so excited to create something together. It has been a really great adventure. I think the main gift that she brought into the film is her being an incredible director. It doesn’t depend on the gender but, with her, I did feel a sort of connection and energy that I am so grateful for.
The character you play, it’s fair to say, is not very nice. What attracted you to doing a role like this and how did you get yourself into that frame of mind?
Playing a negative character like Nadedja is incredibly appealing to me because I just find her and I to be absolute opposites. I had the chance to create her really from scratch together with Susanna and I would describe her as a psychotic assassin who works as a model. She’s very alien to me and so I just had a great time really bringing her to life.
Could you tell me a little about the big circus acrobat scene you have? It’s spectacular to watch, but what was it like to film?
It has been challenging and fun at the same time. We had a really fantastic stunt coordinator and second unit director, Gary Powell, and he is absolutely incredible. We had an amazing stunt team and working with them has been a fantastic experience because they were obviously really careful, but they also allowed me to be a part of the experience. Whenever I wanted to be involved a little bit more in the stunts, they were always very supportive of it and cheered for me as we went along.
I’m interested to ask you to compare working on the action in this film with Pacific Rim: Uprising, which is a lot more CGI-driven. How would you compare those two projects?
Both experiences were very different. Pacific Rim took a lot longer to film and the physical training for it began about two months before the actual shooting period. It did have much more CGI so, besides the command pod, everything else was green screen and it was the first time I have ever worked on a film set like that.
On The Spy Who Dumped Me, we didn’t really have any green screen. The trapeze was so incredible because they built the whole stage of the circus. While we’re filming, we’re hanging in the air really high up so if you have a fear of heights, it’s a whole new adventure for you. But both of those projects were very different experiences and experiences that I have found to be very important to be.
On this film, you got to work with both Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. What were you able to learn from them?
I think every project that you do, you get to learn from every person that you work with. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do – to gather as much knowledge as I can. With these two amazing women I got to work with, I have so much respect for their work ethics and for them as people in general. I just find them to be incredibly talented and I loved watching them and being engaged with them in the filming process. I got to truly learn from the experience of working together on this film.
You share quite a few scenes with Kate, who is notorious for her improvisation. How much of that was there on this set and how was it for you to work with someone doing that?
Again, it was new for me. I haven’t done much improvisation before and it’s a whole new technique when someone is so knowledgeable in it and really knows how to bring the best into the scene by doing improv. I don’t think that every person is successful at it, but I find Kate to be incredibly talented so watching her do it has been really a teaching moment for me. I got to, I think, find love for comedy on a whole new level by working with her and I couldn’t appreciate her more.
Looking at the films you’ve made so far, are there any other directors you’d love to work with if you have the chance?
I really love Ruben Östlund from Sweden, who has just done a movie called The Square. He also did Force Majeure and I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s incredible. There’s Ron Howard, who I really admire as a director, and so many others. Kathryn Bigelow would be fantastic.
One of my first films that I remember seeing as a little girl was the film Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and that was amazing. So there’s many directors I would want to work with. There’s quite a few and that’s just a small part of the list.
Just before I let you go, what are the next things we can see you in?
They’re all in the process of production right now, but you’ll find out next year.
That’s exciting. You’re keeping us in suspense. Thank you very much for your time!
The Spy Who Dumped Me will be available on both DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from December 26th.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.