She’s the standout, breakthrough star of Sean Baker’s new film, The Florida Project. You only need to say, “that end scene” to anyone who has seen the film, and they will know exactly what you’re talking about. Brooklynn Prince is the youngest star of this year’s awards season. Her performance as the precocious Moonee in Baker’s film is memorable to the max. Shot when she was just six, the film follows Moonee living on the outskirts of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It’s summer and her mom lives in a rundown motel managed by wise and tolerant Bobby (Willem Dafoe). The Florida Project gives us a stark look at the homeless population in the Sunshine State. Baker does a superb job of tackling an important issue as seen through the eyes of Moonee to make it the journey completely engrossing and enjoyable and he’s made one of the very best films of the year.
Moonee is the ringleader among her friends, running them around the motel grounds and doing all the things children love to do outdoors. It’s a throwback to the innocence and pure unadulterated childhood fun that kids once had, before we became attached to our phone screens for distraction and entertainment.
Brooklynn has been ensconced in a Beverly Hills hotel for her LA press tour. She’s been up early making the rounds on morning TV, talking about her character. After our interview she’s off to a photoshoot. She and I talk about her experience of working on her first feature film and discuss some of her favorite things — including ice cream, pizza, and Harry Potter.
How are you finding the whole experience of traveling around the world and talking about the film?
It’s great. There’s not a part where I’m like, “uh, I don’t wish I could not be here.”
You’ve been doing commercials for a while, but this is your first film. How did Sean Baker find you?
He found me on Crowdshot and he reached out to my mom and asked if I could come in to audition and I did. I auditioned with the other kids.
What were you told about Moonee and the character you’d be playing?
My mom, dad, and Sean Baker told me that my character was going to be a troublemaker, and sometimes she was going to be angry, and she was going to be everything that I like to do — but not get into mischief and yell at people. I don’t like to cuss at people, but everything else I was cool with. I was really excited to say my first bad words.
You’re only allowed to say those on film though.
Did you have a lot of lines to learn or did you get to be you and just improvise?
We did a lot of improvisation because Sean encourages it. That’s what he always says, so I got to do that a lot.
OK, let’s talk about some fun scenes. I was just talking to Bria who plays your mom Haylee in the film and she said, she loved the meal scenes because she ate so much food.
Oh yeah. She had to pretend to eat pizza. Seriously. She would pretend to eat it.
She didn’t actually eat the pizza?
No, she didn’t.
What about you?
I ate all the pizza. There was so much food that night. I just wanted to throw up.
There’s also a lot of ice cream.
I never ever got sick from eating ice cream. I’d get a brain freeze, but I’d still eat more ice cream.
Your final scene in the movie is very emotional. What were you told about shooting it and what was it like filming that?
I actually didn’t know I could cry on cue.
There you go, you learned something about yourself.
I didn’t know. I was preparing for it, but I thought they weren’t going to get the shot they wanted and I apologized to Sean. I was so surprised at the end and thought, “Did I just do that?” and it was one take too.
Then, there’s the final scene where you get to run through Disney World.
I did. I’ve been to Disney World a lot of times, but that was fun because Disney World means fun to me so I could go on all the rides.
What were some of the favorite scenes for you to shoot?
I loved the abandoned condos scene. The hardest one to do was the DCF scene.
You’re having so much fun talking about the movie, but what was it like for you when you saw the film for the first time. That was at Cannes, right?
Yes. I was super nervous because I knew the crying part was going to happen. It was like a scary movie where I was so nervous. I don’t see scary movies.
But you can imagine what they’re like.
Yes. It was crazy. When I saw it I walked out of there bawling.
You cried too?
I was so embarrassed because I ugly cried in the film.
It was a cute cry. I think it’s one of the best crying scenes and it’s going to be remembered.
After that scene, everyone came up to me and cried on my shoulders and I was crying on their shoulder.
What are some of your favorite films?
Harry Potter. Stranger Things, but that’s not really a movie, and Star Wars. I love Maleficent.
Disney and Harry Potter. Have you been to the Harry Potter world?
I have. It’s so much fun. I went to the one in Florida. There’s a huge Diagon Alley and there’s a big dragon that sits on top of the bank and every five minutes it breathes out fire.
I’ve never been.
I’ll take you.
OK, so next time you’re in London you have to go on the Harry Potter Experience because it’s the best thing. You get to ride a broomstick and take photos.
Oh, they do? I need to go. Maybe I’ll go to the one in Hollywood.
So, do you want to keep acting after this experience?
I totally want to keep doing it.
What would be a fun part for you to do?
To play Millie Bobby Brown’s sister.
We’re going to put it out there.
So, every celebrity. Millie Bobby Brown, Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Daisy Ridley, and Gal Gadot. I want to be all their friends and sisters in some movie.
Listen to Brooklynn’s bucket list below:
The Florida Project is on release now. Prince is being considered for Best Actress in a Lead Role.