Velvet Buzzsaw‘s Zawe Ashton said she almost stopped pursuing her acting career before Velvet Buzzsaw came around.
According to her interview with Variety, Ashton had been acting for years in the UK as well as earning recognition as a playwright and slam poet. However, at the end of 2017, she decided to get out of the industry, especially after her grandfather died.
“It was super sad, but also, I hope we all go like that,” she said. “He was 97 and still having a whiskey off the drink cart in the hospice.”
“I wanted to quit acting and as soon as I decided that, the call for Velvet Buzzsaw came through.”
Her demo tape also brought an emergency her way. “The night before the self-tape, I chopped the top of my finger off,” she said, adding that she spent four hours in the emergency room “holding the tip of my finger with a kitchen roll” until 5 a.m. the following morning.
“The next day, I was tired, mad, had a huge bandage on my finger while doing a scene with a cell phone I was having trouble holding. I watched it back and thought, ‘You look mad. Not pretending to be insane, you look like an actual insane person. And I think there’s something about that that’s going to work.'”
Her ordeal allowed her to impress director Dan Gilroy, who told Variety that she got the humor he was going for with the script. “It was the scene where her character is explaining to Rene’s gallerist character that Toni Collette has been killed by an errant piece of art. And of all the auditions we saw, Zawe’s was the only one that made us laugh,” he said. “It’s not indicated in the script or the dialogue, but Zawe intuitively understood there was a satirical element to what was happening that imbued everything. She’s a tremendous actress who can write and direct and I can’t wait to see what she explores in the future.”
Velvet Buzzsaw is streaming now on Netflix.