‘Acidman’: Dianna Agron talks how improv and conversations moved this emotional story

Dianna Agron as Maggie in ‘Acidman.’
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Dianna Agron and Thomas Haden Church tackle a complicated father-daughter dynamic in their latest feature, ‘Acidman.’

Agron’s Maggie leaves her home (and her own tricky situations that reveal themselves as the story goes on) to find her estranged father, played by Church, who now resides in an isolated location deep in Oregon. 

Referred to as “Acidman” by some of the other locals, Lloyd has changed a lot in the decade that he and his daughter have not spoken, and she is looking to bridge the gap of time to repair their relationship. But as we see unfold on screen, it doesn’t happen easily, but it does happen beautifully with a raw script and lots of emotional  and hilarious improvisation with the small cast.

To dive a little deeper, Agron sat down to chat about the film, her character and what went into making this heartfelt film that ultimately examines something we all strive for— human connection and relationships

Dianna Agron and Thomas Haden Church in ‘Acidman.’Brainstorm Media

I saw that Alex sent you this script—what were your initial thoughts and why sign on with this project?

Alex (Lehmann), I loved his work—I loved ‘Paddleton’ and ‘Blue Jay’, and I made it very known that I wanted to work with him. He sent me a script, and he’d originally imagined and designed it to be a father-son piece. He sent it to me thinking that, you know, it would be Maggie and Lloyd and asked me how I found his script to be. We just had the most beautiful conversation. I felt so immediately connected to him and his filmmaking process, which includes a lot of improvisation, which I had really wanted to explore…especially with him knowing that I had seen how his other films had been and how special they were.

And luckily Thomas, who we so saw as Lloyd, said yes. The three of us had months of speaking to each other about our own personal lives and who these characters were, and who they had become while they hadn’t had access to each other, because there’s a 10-year gap where they haven’t spoken. So that was really helpful to have those many conversations surrounding what those worlds had been for each other before we got to Oregon and then filmed the movie.

You mentioned that you and Alex always had Thomas in mind to play Lloyd. What is it about him that made you both think of him for this role?

There is just such a wonderful quality to Thomas in his performances—his vocal quality, just who he is and what he brings to his characters. And it was just something that we both discussed immediately, and we were so hopeful that he would respond to the script and his character. And he did. It just felt very harmonious that it had all unfolded in such an easy way, and it felt as if it should have been that way in a sense.

Why was Alex’s style of improv appealing for you as an actress? Especially with an emotional story such as this one?

For a piece like this, especially a two-hander, you are spending so much time with these characters on screen. I think the freedom to say to each other, okay, we really understand these worlds and we really understand these characters, and in each scene, we understand what the goal is, what the character wants, what the character is trying to say and what is going to move the story forward. Then also the flexibility of whatever comes to mind to say it. 

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There are some moments, and I think as you watch the film, you can kind of imagine what is coming out of either Thomas or myself is really honest and really natural. That was built off of months of conversations and the freedom to give it a shot. I know it makes it that much harder for Alex and Courtney, our wonderful editor, in the aftermath of the film because you have so many options. So you really have to understand that sometimes even though a moment is wonderful and either heartbreaking or hilarious, it doesn’t fit the scene and therefore it can’t make it into the final film. But, there are so many things that you tried and there are so many things that are in the film that we couldn’t have predicted. 

Does any scene stand out to you from ‘Acidman’ that was born out of improv?

There was this moment, and it was the first scene where I feel that Thomas and I’s character are having fun together, in the back of the truck. There were so many details of the story that Thomas was laying on that were very, very funny. A lot of it was seated from this one particular story of his youth, and he kept embellishing and kept embellishing. I wish that that the full story could have made it to the final film, but it was just such a fun moment for us as characters. Because so much of what we had shot before had been these moments of tension and these moments of not being able to fully lean into a connection. So, that scene in particular stands out to me as one that I particularly loved

Let’s talk about your character, Maggie. What does she go through throughout this film? 

I think it’s a big leap that she takes to show up on her father’s doorstep, not knowing what his reaction is going to be, not having spoken to him in a decade. A lot has happened and a lot changed. And yet, she has her list of wants. She wants to reestablish a relationship, she wants to feel familiarity—she wants all of these things and he’s not going to give them to her in the way that she hopes or possibly predicts.

That was the thing that was so fun to work out with our characters on set. In relationships, you can only be yourself and you can’t control other people and you can only offer real honesty and vulnerability and then see what happens.  The more open and vulnerable the two get with each other, things start to unlock for them. There are certain scenes where you see one of them softening and the other putting up walls, and I think for me, I wanted them to have the breakthrough. I just had so much compassion for the two of them as people who ultimately love each other and just had made some decisions over the course of time that didn’t sit well, and then too much time passed. 

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What do you hope audiences take away from ‘Acidman’? 

I think that for us, the hope and goal of this film is that if somebody watches it, they might pick up the phone to somebody they haven’t called in a while or bridge a connection that feels a bit scary to try and there can be a positive outcome if you potentially make that first step. 

Catch ‘Acidman‘ in theaters and On Demand March 31.