Though his face is now associated with Amazon Prime Video’s show of the summer, “The Summer I Turned Pretty”, actor Christopher Briney will also appear in TIFF’s closing night film “Dalíland” alongside Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Sukowa, Ezra Miller, Suki Waterhouse and more. Directed by Mary Harron, from a screenplay by John C. Walsh, the film was shot in the spring of 2021 in the UK, before Briney worked on the eventual hit Prime Video series. In fact, “Dalíland” was his first acting role ever.
“Independent film is where my heart has always been, and it’s always been my dream to do that as much as I can in my life,” Briney said in an interview with TheWrap. “Whether it’s acting or directing down the line, it’s a world that’s inspired me a lot and a world that’s a big reason why I love acting. I’m just absolutely blown away and honored to be a part of [“Dalíland”]. It was my first job so it was pretty crazy.”
Briney takes on the role of fictionalized James Linton, an art assistant who eagerly accepts an invitation to work with surrealist Salvadore Dalí (Kingsley) after admiring him from afar.
“Dalíland” provides a glimpse into Dalí’s relationships in the later years of his career, mainly with his wife Gala (Kutowa) and the art assistants he worked with during the tense unraveling of his marriage. Opening briefly in 1985, cutting to 1974 New York and Spain and then back to 1985 where it ends in Spain, the film takes Briney’s James on a journey through Dalí’s parties, artistic process and personal life.
“James is based on this sort of archetype that was present in Dalí’s world. There were these young men that were assistants to Dalí and that were sort of around in the world whether Dalí wanted them or Gala wanted them there or vice versa,” Briney said. “I was sort of able to use what was happening in my life to play. I was a kid out of school way over his head surrounded by these giants, by these legends.”
Briney’s connection to his character’s situation positioned him to learn from his veteran cast members, much like James dives deep into the art work after barely learning how to discern an authentic lithograph versus a copy of a painting.
“I hope that James can be a window to this world and help people be as excited about it as I am about the film and as James is about the world,” he said. “I hope he just provides a layer of curiosity for people. I saw him as just the window that allows the story to be watched.”
James journeys into Dalí’s orbit, and in certain scenes, his transportation into Dalí’s flashbacks provide intimate glimpses into the artist’s mind.
“We filmed pretty much all of those in Wales because they were shooting in Liverpool. There were two days on either end of shooting — the very first two days and the very last days of shooting were there — so they sort of bookmarked the entire experience,” Briney said. “For me it sort of felt like being transported, and my very first scene was one of those and my very last scene of our first set of shooting was that, and so just being there was sort of enough to get me there. I was obviously so aware that I’m standing right next to Sir Ben and watching what’s happening, and so it did feel like we were transported places. It felt like we were in my dreams in a way.”
“Daliland” premieres on the closing night of the 47th Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 17, 2022. As for Briney’s role in “The Summer I Turned Pretty, production on Season 2 is currently underway in North Carolina, and Briney describes the show’s sophomore season as nostalgic, fun and dynamic.
“There are a lot of different things that are being explored and that’s very exciting as a storyteller,” he said. “I really think that there’s a lot for anybody who’s a fan of these characters. I think everybody has a lot of really good moments and other characters are exploredI think there is something for everybody. As much as I want to be like, there’s some bad moments for Team Conrad, there’s also some good ones.”
While Briney is excited to see how fans respond to the second season of the show, he’s also eager to direct a film of his own some day.
“In college I watched Noah Baumbach’s ‘Kicking and Screaming’ (1995), and subject wise, it felt so relevant to my life,” he said. “I had a moment where I was like, ‘I would love to make something like this — my take on friends from college and lives intersecting and relationships and the way they’re affected by life. I want to make things about people.”