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Elizabeth Debicki steals her way into the hearts of Hollywood

Actor Elizabeth Debicki arrives for the world premiere of Widows at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada, September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Elizabeth Debicki steals her way into the hearts of Hollywood

Elizabeth Debicki steals her way into the hearts of Hollywood

Towering at 6′ 2”, Elizabeth Debicki is a startling beauty juxtaposed with her humbling nature. She sits down with MiNDFOOD and talks family, acting, and self acceptance.

By Michele Manelis

Discovered by Baz Luhrmann (who cast her in The Great Gatsby), Elizabeth Debicki now stars alongside A-listers such as Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell in Steve McQueen’s new pulsating drama, Widows.

Now starring in Widows, for which she is garnering rave reviews, we see another side to the elegant actress we’ve seen in Man from Uncle, and the award-winning series, The Night Manager.

Have you ever had problems in your career being so tall?

What I always think when I am asked that or have to consider that is that if I did not get a role because I was too tall, then I don’t think I wanted it anyway. My agent was never going to call me up and say, ‘Look, they didn’t want you because you’re tall,’ because there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m sure it’s happened. It’s been a process in my life but I’m really proud of it. It’s been a journey coming to terms with it.

It must have been difficult when you were growing up.

I remember when I was a teenager I used to shrink down on my hip. I was lucky that my parents were tall and they were both ballet dancers so I was taught to really own my height. I was also really blessed that the very first role I played was in Baz’s film Great Gatsby, and Baz was somebody who really loved that about me. He taught me to embrace it really early on and that was a blessing.

How was working with Viola (Davis) and Michelle (Rodriguez)?

I love the women in this movie so, so profoundly. We had incredibly honest conversations from the beginning and a lot of that is to do with [director] Steve [McQueen].

How so?

I’ll never forget he actually walked in from the monitor and he said to the room and sort of the universe in a way, ‘I demand the truth and I won’t take anything but the truth!’

Did that help all of you bond on set?

We come from such different places. As creatives we have such different processes, such different training and material that we’ve been working with, different ages and race. Being aware of all of this and knowing ultimately what was going to make this movie work is if life married art in a way.

What do you think Widows is about, at the heart of it?

I believe so much that this film is about female compassion and about breaking down the barriers of what we unconsciously build thinking that we have less in common than we have similarities. That was definitely our experience. Funnily enough, for such a dark film we had an amazing time and we would all dance a lot on set.

That sounds like fun?

There would be these weird nights where we were night shooting and we were in heist gear and our masks kind of hanging off our heads and we’d be dancing to Michael Jackson at 4:00 in the morning. Viola is an amazing dancer and so is Steve. It was a really beautiful set.

Does everyone in your family work in the performing arts?

My little brother and sister both shunned the performing arts. My mother ran a ballet school which means that when it’s the end of your recital, you play every part that’s not the lead part.

Did you study ballet as a kid?

I did. I went to ballet class almost every day of my life until I was about 16 and I am very grateful for it. I think most people who study dance feel the same way. It’s very hard and you kind of look back and think “God, where does your childhood go when you’re in ballet class every day?” It teaches you a great deal of discipline which I think is a very useful thing as an actor because it’s such a solitary way to work.

You often play characters with complicated love lives?

That’s a light way to put it, yeah (laughs).

Is it hard to play these types of characters?

I think with characters that on the screen read as dark or maybe unlikable, the only way you can engage with those characters as an actor is to actually have a huge amount of compassion for them. I hope they come off as real people and the thing they need to resonate in the story will come through in a true way. It’s just a strange experience as an actor where you deeply dislike that person as the audience and that’s what you’re sort of supposed to do, I guess.

Where do you live?

I live in London.

What do you miss about Australia the most other than your family?

Maybe it sounds a little strange, but I actually miss the nature. I think because I live really inner city in London I really miss the air which you can get a little bit sometimes in California. I always grew up in cities but I love fresh air so I miss that I think and I also really miss Australian pubs. There’s something very soothing when you’ve grown up in that country.

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