One of the most exciting parts of SXSW 2017 was watching a new crop of relatively young actors prove themselves, and few made as much of an impression as Bailey Noble. You know the 26-year-old actress from her roles in HBO’s True Blood and the horror remake Martyrs, but she takes center stage like never before in Valerie Weiss’s feminist fugitive thriller The Archer.
The Archer stars Bailey Noble as Lauren, a young archery prodigy who gets thrown into the corrupt for-profit juvenile detention system. Ostensibly being mentored by a fellow archer, Bob Patrice (Bill Sage), she’s told a parable about the “Archer’s Paradox,” which states the arrow must first wobble before it straightens out. But Bob’s speeches cover up a deep-rooted sexism, and Bob’s facility is abusive in more ways than Lauren can handle. Before long she’s on the run, bow and arrows in hand, hunted by Bob and willing to do anything to win her freedom.
I was trapped in my hotel room at SXSW, sick after the unexpected downpour in Austin that weekend, when Bailey Noble called me on the phone to talk about her role in The Archer. We discussed the finer points of archery and the importance of realism in action movies, a genre she wants to pursue in the future.
There’s no word on when, exactly, The Archer will reach a theater or home entertainment system near you, but – as you can tell from my review – I hope it’s soon.
Crave: The question that I think has to come first, because it’s the one everybody’s going to want to know, is how good an archer are you really?
Bailey Noble: You know what? I hit the bullseye a few times. I studied with Matt Berling at Pasadena Roving Archers. In the weeks leading up until the film about twice a week I would go and study with him, and he is a level 30 archery coach, which is a step below Olympic level. So he was incredible, and yeah, it was a blast. So yeah, everything in the film I actually did.
So you actually shot out the tires of a car?
No, I didn’t shoot out the tires of the car. That would have been too dangerous. We weren’t allowed to some of that stuff but the scene in the beginning, the archery meet, I shot my own arrows there. And I shot my own arrows in the [scene] with Bill Sage. The arrow that hits right in the crack of the tree? That was one of my arrows, yeah.
Was that an issue when you auditioned? Did they ask if you were an archer already, if you were ready to be an expert archer?
No, I met Valerie [Weiss] and she and I hit it off as friends. Like, I cosmically met her. One of my friends was in her last film, A Light Beneath Their Feet, and she said “Hey, can I bring my friend to the premiere?” and she was like, “Sure, who’s your friend?” and she said “Bailey Noble,” and she said, “What? My production company just told me to check her out for my next film!” So I went to the premiere with my friend and nobody said anything to me about this, and I met Valerie and we hit it off. She was like, “Let’s get coffee sometime,” so we did and she was like, “I actually have this film that I want you check out.” I read it and I fell in love with it.
And so the archery, yeah, I had never done the archery before this film. But yeah.
Archery has become sort of a symbol lately, in a lot of cinema, particularly feminist cinema with films like Hunger Games and Brave. Was that a concept you were aware of in The Archer? Was it something you were consciously adding to, or is it a coincidence?
Yeah, well what’s so cool is that those are fantasy, and ours is set in reality, so it brings a different dynamic to bringing archery to the screen.
It occurs to me that there could be a significantly pulpier version of this story that could be told. But your performance, Bill Sage’s performance and Valerie Weiss’s direction is rather grounded. Why do you feel that was important?
I think it’s important to make it as real as we can because a lot of these events, it’s tragic that this actually happens in real life with our private prison systems and kids going to juvenile detention centers, being locked up for something really as simple as flipping their teacher off, and then the course and direction of their life is changed forever by the way they’re treated there. When they get out they’re not getting the… it’s terrible. So we really wanted to make it as real as possible. It is real.
Do you view your character as an inspirational figure, or as a stand-in for that plight?
I am inspired by my character and her journey just because, in the beginning of this film she’s got this internal fire that she has suppressed for so long, with being a lesbian, with just the way she was raised. It was very cool for me to get to explore her character arc because she finally snaps and uses everything that’s inside of her for a better good, and I think that happens when we start to speak up and use our voices for certain causes, and we stand up for ourselves. If that’s the example I can give to women and young women that’s amazing.
It’s like, I love Bill Sage’s monologue in the film about the arrow wobble. Because it’s so true. Even in our country right now, we’re wobbling so much, but I think it’s necessary. A wobble is necessary for us to straighten out and start going in the right direction.
What is next for you?
So right now I’m recurring on an Amazon series called The Last Tycoon. We’re about halfway through shooting. It may be out in the spring, I think. It’s with Matt Bomer, Kelsey Grammer, Lily Collins. Really fun 1930s gig. And I was recurring on the last season of Timeless so I hope that gets to come back and I my character will be explored more in that.
As far as movies are concerned, do you hope The Archer gives you more opportunities to pursue and action milieu?
Yeah! Absolutely. I had a blast doing this film. Just the physicality of it, I mean, I got to run around in nature for two weeks. It was awesome. I would love to do more action, absolutely.
Any particular fantasy you have in the action genre? Any particular type of movie or franchise you’d love to participate in?
Marvel is amazing. Anything Marvel, maybe. [Laughs.] But I’m fascinated with the idea of space and time travel and all that kind of stuff, so maybe an action film set in space. That would be fun.
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William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.