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New Aussie in Hollywood, Elizabeth Debicki, steals the film in the upcoming spy drama, Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Paris-born, Melbourne-raised actress has a great sense of humour (though she begs to differ) and talks about her towering height, her driving abilities (or rather, inabilities), and anxieties about the red carpet.

New Aussie in Hollywood, Elizabeth Debicki, steals the film in the upcoming spy drama, Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The 1.9 metre Amazonian stunner, whose breakthrough role in The Great Gatsby garnered much attention, will next star in the much-anticipated thriller Everest.

ACTRESSES IN HOLLYWOOD TEND TO BE ON THE PETITE SIZE WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP AS A TALL WOMAN?

Well, I grew up in a very tall house so obviously I am not the anomaly. My parents were ballet dancers and I did a lot of ballet when I was young so I learnt how to hold my body and not slump over, though I do recall being in high school and desperately wishing I was shorter.  I did the whole one hip sort of slouch thing, you know. My mother used to just whack me when I was slouching so I grew out of that quite fast.  It’s funny being tall in this industry because how you are physically affects the roles that you’re offered.  It’s an image-based industry and how we look on screen determines a lot of things but I accept that about myself.  People ask what it’s like to be tall but I don’t know any different.  There are certain roles that I can use my stature to my advantage and I suppose I incorporated that into this role, as Victoria. She knows who she is and she knows what she looks like and she’s really created this image and she has a power in that.  But being tall gets in the way in a casting sense but there’s nothing you can do about that and so many things about this industry is not in your control.  You just have to surrender and let it be.

WHAT ABOUT SHORTER MEN?  AND WHAT ABOUT ACTING OPPOSITE ACTORS MOST OF WHO ARE ON THE DIMINUTIVE SIDE?

I have dated shorter men, yeah.  Its a thing working with shorter actors when they have to stand on apple boxes.  I just did an AMC series working with Hugh Laurie who’s actually very tall. I think he’s 6′ 1 and we were doing a scene where the two of us are sitting next to each other on a bed and for the first time ever he had to get a pancake to put on under the covers so when he sat down on the bed he was taller than me.  That was like a first for both of us but I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of actors who very graciously stand on apple boxes to do love scenes. It certainly takes the romance out of it. It’s so instantly unromantic (laughs).

YOU COME ACROSS AS VERY CONFIDENT.  WHERE DOES THAT COME FROM?

It’s so funny. I think one of my only skills in life is looking very relaxed when I’m not.One of the things I hate doing the most is presenting at awards and I’m always terrified.  I recently did one in L.A. with Tim Minchin, who I adore, and he wrote me a joke.  I’m terrified about being funny because I just think I am so deathly unfunny.  I think I was scarred as a teenager trying to tell a joke to a group of friends and I didn’t get the punch-line right and thus I’ve never been able to tell a joke since.  And so he wrote me this joke with a punch-line and I was begging him backstage saying Tim, please don’t make me do it.  He said,Just trust me. And if there’s anyone I’m going to trust to be funny it’s Tim Minchin because he’s a comic genius.  I told the joke; I just said it and I remember hearing myself saying, God, I hope this works.  Then I heard roaring laughter and I looked at him like, It worked, Tim!  It was like therapy. I got over my punch-line fear. I came off stage and everyone said, You look so confident!  My knees were shaking (laughs) but I think that that’s something that you learn to do as an actress. You’re always scared but you have to be able to sort of bite the bullet and get on with it.

WHAT ABOUT RED CARPET MOMENTS? ARE YOU CONFIDENT ABOUT THOSE?

No. No. They’re awful! They’re like a kind of purgatory. You kind of stand there and there’s just flashing bulbs everywhere. For me, it was a baptism by fire becauseone of my first carpets was Cannes for GATSBY.  That is red carpet on crack! It’s like the Disney World of red carpets and they’re on either side of you and the bulbs are just going but I had an amazing time because I was on the Cannes red carpet with Leo (Dicaprio) and I don’t think anyone knew I was part of the film (laughs). I just kind of slid through and no-one called my name and then I was like scot free but then I had to climb those stairs and I nearly died.   I think since Cannes nothing has ever been that terrifying so once I think everyone should do Cannes first because any red carpet after that feels like a breeze.

I HAVE TO COMPLIMENT YOU ON YOUR DRIVING IN THIS MOVIE.  APPARENTLY YOU DONT HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE?

Yes.  That was very stressful.  Extremely stressful.

THAT CAR WAS BEAUTIFUL…

That car was so beautiful and it was slightly lost on me being a non-driver.I actually got driving lessons on the set (laughing) which was quite hilarious and so I learnt to drive in manual in a manual E Type Jag! Not a lot of people can say that on a paddock in the Warner Brothers Leavesden lot so that was an experience.The last few days everyone has been asking about stunts because there are so many amazing stunts in this film but my greatest stunt and achievement was taking off in a manual car and just driving in a straight line (laughs). When I can put all those things into the right position and clutch, gear stick, blah blah blah and there’s one scene where I sort of storm out of my house and I’ve got my headscarf and sort of throw my clutch in the car and take off.  That for me was the most complicated acting moment of my life because I had to be really angry and yell at my guards.  In my head it was an 8-part manoeuver when it took off (because they’re quite jumpy those cars), so when it didn’t backfire on me in front of the entire crew I felt like I’d really achieved something! (laughs) and then Guy (Ritchie) came up after one take and said it was really good. Maybe just a bit faster. I said you have no idea how this is for me butI think they might have sped it up in post a little bit.

WHAT ABOUT FASHION?

 I’m very specific. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I grew up wearing a lot of vintage pieces. I love op shops in Australia and my mum is a really wonderfully sort of glamorous, artistic woman and so we grew up loving clothes.  In terms of what I wear on an everyday basis, it’s funny as an actor because getting dressed up is part of your job so one of the joys of not working is wearing your tracksuit pants. I think my style changes all the time and I just cut all my hair off so Im going for a more androgynous look at the moment but it changes all the time.

 YOU GREW UP IN MELBOURNE AND DIDNT DRIVE.  HOW WERE YOU GETTING AROUND? TRAMS?

Yeah, trams, the train, bike.

WHY DIDNT YOU EARN TO DRIVE?

It’s a funny thing. I’m just a completely impractical human being. I can drive a car – just not manual.You just don’t want to be in it with me on the road but I think what happened, the actual explanation I use to excuse my strangeness is that I was 17 when I finished school and I kind of missed the boat.  Everyone got their learners and then their driver’s license and I missed the wave.  I never got on it and then I went to VCA and I lived in the city and I just rode my bike everywhere and I literally just became an even less practical human being and just started working on films and just, you know, gypsy-ing around the world so it just didnt happen.

BUT WILL YOU BUY A CAR NOW THAT YOU CAN DRIVE?

Yeah, I’m going to get my license. I just turned 25 and I feel like this is the year of the driver’s license!

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