On the occasion of the release of The Serpent on Netflix, rediscover our interview with actress Ellie Bamber from our issue #78.
A talented young actress, Ellie Bamber was already performing on the stage of the London’s Player’s Theater at the age of 12. With a first decisive role on the big screen in a remake of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” she enchanted the public with her angelic features and beautiful ginger hair. Now at only 19, the British actress joins the cast of Tom Ford’s much-awaited latest feature film, “Nocturnal Animals,” alongside Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. She tells us about her filming experience with Tom Ford, her debut in theater and love of cinema, as well as the beauty of staying true to yourself in both the acting business and in life.
You are starring in Tom Ford’s latest feature film, “Nocturnal Animals.” What attracted you in the script?
I read the script and I completely fell in love with the story. It’s such a powerful story about love itself. Also just Tom’s writing is incredible, and so is the cast! This was just a wonderful experience for me, and being part of such a special project is just amazing.
How did you experience working with Tom Ford?
It was a great experience, Tom is very detailed and I love that about him. He thinks about every detail that creates the characters and the story itself so that everything helps build the depth of your character. It’s such a wonderful process to be on.
Was he very directive, or did he give his actors a lot of freedom?
We had some freedom, but I think Tom is also very specific. It was nice because I felt like we had this relationship where we had the freedom to embody our characters but he was also there as the director essentially. He just has this incredible aesthetic, which I have never seen with anyone before, which makes him a great director. It’s also amazing to wear Tom’s clothes, he is such a brilliant designer and filmmaker. He really knows how women feel and want to feel, his designs are so beautiful and stylish!
You’re starring in the film along with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. How was it to work with the cast?
It was just amazing to watch such experienced actors work and learn so much just from watching them in their process. Watching someone like Aaron Taylor-Johnson work is incredible; he really became sort of this different person! I learned so much just from watching them all.
You began your acting career with theatre as part of the London’s Player’s Theatre. How was your experience on stage?
I didn’t always enjoy school, but I always enjoyed it when I was on stage or acting. I had an amazing acting teacher, who really got me inspired to act. There is an immediate feeling with theatre. I really loved my first experiences with theatre, that’s where I learned everything. I was really into history when I was younger, so it was a way of combining the two for me at the time. Then I did a play by Trevor Nunn and Andrew Llyod Weber called “Aspects of Love,” that was one of my first professional jobs. Again, I got to work with such experienced actors like Katherine Kingsley and Michael Arden, which was such an eye-opening experience for me.
You started your career very young, at the age of 12. Did you always want to become an actress?
Since I was young, I knew I wanted to do something like that. I think I found what I wanted to do from a young age because I had such an inspiring drama teacher. I remember one day, I was having a singing lesson and my teacher told me I should audition for the next musical. I had never thought about it before, but I did go. After doing the first audition, I read the script, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
Recently, you starred as Lydia Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” and you appeared in the 2014 film “The Falling.” What did you learn for these first experiences on the big screen?
Again, I got to work with such an incredible director, Burr Steers, on “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” That was my first proper film experience. I was on the set, learning from Douglas Booth, Lily James and the others. I was working with people with so much experience, who always supported me and gave me advice. Continuity was a new thing for me. I think that was the start of my film career, at least I hope! It was a special experience for me. I feel like the younger public today never seem to want to read the classics, and I felt like it was a way for them to be inspired by somebody like Jane Austen. For me it was a fun film, and it was cool to have the mash-up of the two: the zombies and Jane Austen’s work. It’s definitely a bold choice, and I love bold choices!
Would you say you are now more attracted to film, or would you like to pursue theatre in the future?
At the moment I’m very much attracted to film because I’m enjoying the process a lot, but I would love to go back to theatre in the future. It’s such an important place for me, that’s where I really grow as an actress. I love both, but at the moment I’m really loving film.
Who are your favorite filmmakers, or the ones you’d dream to work with?
There are so many! Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola… I do love Wes Anderson’s work, I grew up watching his films, “The Royal Tenenbaums” for example. I loved the colors that he used, and I was fascinated with how he always has such an amazing color scheme. He never fails to take you on an adventure and I never seem to want to take my eyes off of the screen. Sofia Coppola is one of the filmmakers I would absolutely love to work with, so is Kathryn Bigelow, and so many others! At the moment I’m working with someone who I really admire and who I always wanted to work with, Lasse Hallström. I watched and loved “Chocolat” when I was younger, so when I met him I was a little bit in all of him! It’s such a beautiful story, and the film itself is stunning. So working with him is a real treat, as well as working with Tom!
Do you have particular interest in fashion? You attended the Fendi Spring-Summer 2017 show in Milan. How did you like it?
I love fashion, Fendi and Chanel are my favorites, and so are Tom’s clothes. Fashion, like acting, has always been a way of expressing myself. I love experimenting with colors, and essentially for me it is important as an actress. I think costumes and make up are essential for characterization when you’re working on a part.
Have you met Karl Lagerfeld?
Yes! I met him at the Chanel haute couture show, and I love him! I saw him at the Fendi show as well, and I have to say this new collection is just incredible. I love Fendi a lot, because for me it’s about being fun and cool. It has such a bright energy, there are so much bright colors, fun designs and details.
You shot this Fendi-dedicated story in Milan for us. How was it being in front of the camera as a model?
It was a wild day because I attended the show in the morning, and then I went to shoot with you. I loved that experience as well, and the photographer I got to work with, Alexandra Catiere, was amazing. She took a different aspect of me and the clothes, and I really enjoyed that. It was so much fun to wander around and get to wear these beautiful Fendi outfits. And I got to have a lot of pasta!
“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.” This is a quote from Emma Stone from your Instagram. What does it mean to you?
When I was younger, I didn’t always enjoy school, but I always remembered it’s important to just be you and to not live behind a facade. People will either be drawn to you or they won’t, and that’s the nature of life. Not being afraid to be yourself is for me where real beauty lies. There’s obviously the aesthetic side of beauty, but essentially for me beauty comes from within.
How do you see your career evolve in the future?
I’d love to just continue doing what I’m doing, working with such incredible filmmakers and actors because I feel like I really do learn from them. I want to take chances, step out of my comfort zone and be challenged!