"American Honey" star Sasha Lane  in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 1, 2016. (Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times)

"American Honey" star Sasha Lane  in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 1, 2016. (Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times)

ELIZABETH WEINBERG/NYT

Some stars get discovered by a casting director at an audition. And some get discovered hanging out on a Florida beach at 4 a.m. during spring break.

Meet Frisco's Sasha Lane, whose head-turning performance in American Honey has quickly vaulted her into the stratosphere.

Two years ago she was a freshman at Texas State University in San Marcos, studying psychology and social work. She was partying down with her friends in Panama City for the annual spring bacchanalia when the British director Andrea Arnold spotted her. Arnold needed a lead for her new film, about a crew of teens traveling America in a van and selling magazine subscriptions. Lane's look — long dreadlocks, fierce eyes — compelled Arnold to approach her.

Lane's first thought, as she recalled in a recent phone interview: "Don't kill me, dude." But as they talked, Arnold earned Lane's trust. Enough so that Lane, then 19, agreed to spend a week with Arnold talking and shooting footage.

"American Honey" star Sasha Lane in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 1, 2016. Lane, a Texas native, was discovered by filmmaker Andrea Arnold while on spring break in Florida. (Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times)

"American Honey" star Sasha Lane in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 1, 2016. Lane, a Texas native, was discovered by filmmaker Andrea Arnold while on spring break in Florida. (Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times)

ELIZABETH WEINBERG/NYT

Before long, Lane, who had never before acted, realized she had found her calling. "I just remember feeling so whole and it all felt so right," Lane says. "I feel like this is a pathway that I can fulfill everything inside of me, and I can learn things about me and I can fulfill my purpose and I get to be free and creative and wild and whatever I am, you know?"

She didn't find much of that in Frisco, where she attended Liberty High School. Her free spirit chafed against her suburban environs.

"I'd just go to school and then go back home and sit in my closet and read books," she says. "By the end of high school I was really just like, 'Man, I am trying to get out of here.'

"You feel stuck there, in Frisco. You feel really, really stuck."

It's hard to imagine a more liberating way to escape and start anew than American Honey. It's a freewheeling, sexually charged travelogue through the country's often forgotten small-town and rural areas. Riding in a van through Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Florida and other parts of the lower 48, Lane's Star and her fellow travellers drink, smoke weed, crank the hip-hop and talk about most anything under the sun. Aside from Shia LaBeouf, as Star's love interest, and Riley Keough, as the crew boss who rocks a mean Confederate flag bikini, the cast is made up of first-time actors.

Arnold's style is tactile and improvisational, though Lane is quick to point out they worked from a script. The easy flow creates an immersive sense of lived experience, and makes the film feel shorter than its 163-minute running time. American Honey is the kind of intimate, regional American indie that once flowered in art houses, except its region covers anywhere that people are struggling to get by.

"I think it's about shining a light on people and parts of America that people refuse to look at or don't know about or turn their eye to," Lane says. "You've got to find your own beauty in people and in the places that you are and find yourself."

On the strength of her Honey performance Lane has two movies lined up for 2017 release. She's going places far from the Dallas suburbs. But she'll always be grateful for the English stranger who approached her at 4 a.m. on the beach.

"She saw me for me," Lane says, "and she thought I was beautiful."

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