Vicky Knight was eight years old when she was badly burned in a pub fire. Her two cousins and the man who saved her died. Now 23 and working as a healthcare assistant at Broomfield Hospital, she is the star of the new feature film Dirty God which is released this Friday (7 June).
Vicky plays Jade, a young mother who is the victim of an acid attack. The film follows her attempts to rebuild her life and reconnect with her daughter whilst dealing with the trauma of the attack and the psychological effects of her scars.
For Vicky, whose burns cover a third of her body, being cast in the film has been a turning point in her life.
“Before filming, I was at a stage in my life where I didn’t want to live with my scars anymore. I’d had a bad experience when a TV documentary humiliated me. They said they wanted someone with burns to see how they live their life, I agreed to do it and it turned out to be a dating programme called Too Ugly for Love. After that I refused to do anything else.
“When the casting director called me up and said ‘We’d like you to play a part in this film’, it took me a year to decide whether I wanted to do it or not.”
Vicky has no previous acting experience and has worked as an HCA, mainly in A&E, for the past five years.
Her relationship with the hospital began in 2003 when she was treated here by Professor Dziewulski after the devastating fire at her grandfather’s pub The Prince of Wales in Stoke Newington.
Vicky and her cousins were sleeping upstairs in a locked flat when the blaze took hold. Pub regular and local plumber Ronnie Springer rescued Vicky and her cousin Denise but the fire claimed the lives of Charlie (four) and Christopher (10). Ronnie Springer died six weeks later from his injuries. Vicky suffered 31% burns and stayed in hospital for three months.
“I got bullied a lot at school,” she says. “I was labelled as a monster and Freddy Krueger and I started to feel like that. I preferred an insult to a compliment.
“Going on set and having to reveal my scars to the world was very difficult but very rewarding. When I saw myself on screen, I thought ‘Wow’. I didn’t know what I was thinking for the last 15 years because there’s nothing wrong with me. I was completely blown away by it. It’s such a powerful film and has given me such great hope.”
Vicky, who wore a prosthetic on her face to match her real-life scars, also hopes to change perceptions of people with scarring.
“We’ve got a campaign going with Changing Faces and the BFI and the BBC are now refusing to fund any films that have villains who have a facial scar or disfigurement. Kids are growing up seeing people with scars and automatically think they’ve done wrong. It’s about raising awareness as well as educating people.
“I’m proud of my scars and I’m not afraid to show them anymore so if it can do that to me, I really hope it could do it for someone else.”
Vicky travelled to the world-famous Sundance Film Festival in America and has toured over twenty European cities to promote the film. Next week she heads to Australia.
Her performance has been described as “fearless” by the Hollywood Reporter, “electric” by Empire magazine and “stand-out” and “impressively nuanced” by industry bible Variety.
So what are her ambitions now?
“I’ve got an agent so I’m hopeful I can get more acting jobs and I’d like to write a book about my life. But if I don’t get any more acting roles then I’ll carry on being a healthcare assistant. Everyone at the hospital has been brilliant. They’re so proud of me.”
For a list of cinemas where you can watch Vicky's film debut, go to: https://www.modernfilms.com/dirtygod