Lauren McCrostie made her feature film debut in 2014, playing the role of Gwen in Carol Morley’s mesmerising The Falling. Since then, the twenty year-old actor has appeared in the 2015 short Brothers, as well as landing one of the starring roles in Tim Burton’s much-anticipated Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, alongside Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson. You can see it from September 30th.
So, first thing’s first: Tell me about the film.
The film! Well, it’s about a boy, Jacob (Asa Butterfield), who thinks that he’s anything but peculiar, or special. He thinks he’s very ordinary. But, after following a trail left by his grandfather, he finds himself arriving at a mysterious island, where he comes across Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. That’s where the fun starts! It’s such a brilliant film, and it’s absolutely everything you expect from Tim Burton. I’m so proud to be a part of it.
Working with Tim Burton must have been special, especially for such a young actor. How it happen?
Tim’s amazing. After I did The Falling, I got an agent who would send me through auditions, one of which was for Tim Burton. I didn’t think I’d ever get the part, but I thought it would be a good experience to meet the casting director. I did the audition and it went okay, but I assumed that the part would be far too big for me at this stage, so I didn’t really think anything of it. I didn’t hear anything for seven months and was really busy with exams, so it just wasn’t really on my mind. Then, I got a call from my agent. I knew that it could only really be about Miss Peregrine’s. My agent asked me if I could go to Tim’s house. Tim’s house! I was like: ‘Erm, let me think about that. I probably could…’
I’m sure you were able to squeeze it in.
I was freaking out, it was so crazy.
He’s not just a huge figure within film, but within popular culture, too.
Exactly! I couldn’t believe I was meeting the Tim Burton. Someone whose films I’ve grown up on and loved. But, I went there, and he was so lovely – and I got the part. He’s an amazing director. He makes everyone understand exactly what he wants from them – he’s so focused.
You play Olive, one of the peculiar children. She’s a pyrokinetic.
She is! I loved playing Olive. As an actor, it was a really interesting paradox to play with, because her peculiarity is associated with anger and rage and destroying things, but she isn’t that kind of person. I didn’t see her as fire, really. It was more warmth.
In the novel, she’s one of the youngest characters. In the film, she’s one of the eldest. That’s an interesting change, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. I guess it makes her situation a little more tragic. When I was preparing to play her, I came up with a story that she was at the School because she’d accidentally burnt down her home with her family inside. It was pretty dark, but it helped me understand how a girl would struggle with something like that. If she was a young child, she could almost be oblivious to the loneliness of her peculiarity. But as one of the older children, it’s something she’s conscious of and has had to grow up with.
It’s almost like the old Skittles advert, where the guy can’t touch anything without turning it into Skittles. I still maintain that’s one the saddest things I’ve ever seen on television.
[Laughs] I’d never thought of it like that!
In terms of genre, what I think that Tim Burton does best is taking the fantastical, the other-worldly, and placing it within the everyday.
I agree! I think that the film has a really important message, too; it’s okay to be different. Even the tagline on each of the posters, ‘Stay Peculiar’. Film can be amazing at doing that.
I think that fantasy is probably the perfect medium for those kind of messages, too.
Exactly. Tim’s really good at that – look at Edward Scissorhands. I think this film is important because it’s about embracing the things that you make different. There’s no point trying to conform to an idea of what you should be, or trying to be somebody that you aren’t. The peculiar is what makes you who you are! Why be ordinary?
You worked with some incredible names on the film. Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson. How was that?
Eva Green is incredible. She’s so focused and intricate, but at the same time, she knew the name of everybody on set, from the co-stars to the production staff. Samuel L. Jackson, too. I only had one scene with him, but it was surreal. He’s such a presence.
And, of course, Judi Dench.
My favourite day was the one when she came in. She was so, so lovely. She put her hand on my shoulder and I haven’t washed since.
Never wash it. She’s the queen.
She’s amazing! It was such an honour. She spoke to me, and I can’t even remember what was said. I just completely blacked out. I think that probably happens to her a lot. She must think we’re all really stupid.
I don’t even think I’d say anything, I’d just offer my services, mutely. I don’t know what I could give her, though. I could try and build a house for her, or something.
She probably has like six already. That she lets out to charities. Because she’s so amazing.
I need to learn how to build houses. This is what my life has been leading up to. Building a house for Judi Dench.
This is your calling.
Okay, let’s move on, before this gets really weird. As an actor, what would you love to do next?
I’m obsessed with Noah Baumbach. I mention him in almost every interview in the hope that he’ll read something and decide to look me up. Frances Ha is one of my favourite films – Greta Gerwig is amazing. I want to play every kind of character, though. Recently, my mum asked me if I’d be able to get a ‘pretty role’ soon.
[Laughs] I know! When I told people that I played one of the peculiar children in the new Tim Burton film, they were like ‘ah, I see, that makes sense’. I want to do everything though, not just the ‘peculiar’ kind of roles.
Outside of acting, you’re a vocal green activist, aren’t you?
Yes! I think it’s very important. Look [She reveals the reusable cup from which she’s drinking green tea], this is my KeepCup! Did you know that standard coffee cups aren’t recyclable? It’s so bad – nobody knows! With this, though, you just refill it each time. And it’s so pretty!
Do you think that it’s important that actors use their platform to promote these kind of positive messages?
Yes, I really do.
Leo DiCaprio does it really well. As does Mark Ruffalo.
I love Mark Ruffalo! Have you seen Spotlight? So good.
I want him to be my uncle. He’s so cool and nice. Maybe I can build him a house, too.
Maybe they could live together. That’d be an amazing home. You should really do this.
Finally – what is your fault?
My fault is that I’m practically incapable of making any decision. I’m so indecisive! I plough over situations for weeks and weeks, constantly demanding my friends for their opinions on what I should do. And I can be quite hot tempered sometimes! I suppose it’s my red hair..but I’m working on it!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out in cinemas this Friday, September 30th.
Words Niall Flynn
Photography Jack Alexander
Styling Edith Walker Millwood
Hair & Make-Up Shamirah Sairally
Special Thanks Tooting Tram and Social