HOME­WARD BOUND

Actor Bella Heath­cote is com­ing back to Oz af­ter her Fifty Shades suc­cess.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy SYLVE COLLESS Styling GEMMA KEIL Words AL­LEY PAS­COE

She may have been liv­ing in Los An­ge­les for seven years, but Bella Heath­cote hasn’t lost her Aus­tralian ac­cent. The Mel­bourne-born actor, who starred on Neigh­bours be­fore her big move, scoffs at the no­tion that it’s as glam­orous as aspir­ing ac­tors imag­ine: “Oh mate, not at all.”

De­spite re­ceiv­ing a Heath Ledger Schol­ar­ship, which helps Aussies try­ing to break into Hol­ly­wood, Heath­cote says the re­al­ity of mak­ing it in Tin­sel­town in­volves a lot of hard work.

“When I’m in LA, most of the time I’m hus­tling to get a job or run­ning around go­ing to au­di­tions and meet­ings,” she ex­plains. “It’s a lot of re­jec­tion. I’ve gone a year or so with­out work­ing be­fore – and then you get a good run. You’ve just got to ig­nore the re­jec­tion and keep go­ing at it.”

This year will be a “good run” for Heath­cote, 29, who starred as Chris­tian Grey’s for­mer sub­mis­sive, Leila, in the re­cently re­leased block­buster Fifty Shades Darker, and will ap­pear in the up­com­ing bi­o­graph­i­cal pic­ture Pro­fes­sor Marston & The Won­der Women, as well as film­ing the third sea­son of TV drama The Man In The High Cas­tle.

Heath­cote in­sists that the roles haven’t flooded in since Fifty Shades Darker, al­though the direc­tor of the last film she shot did tell her that be­ing in the erotic drama helped her get the part in that film. Af­ter crack­ing the main­stream, she isn’t about to rest on her lau­rels. Dressed in lo­cal Aussie la­bels, Heath­cote epit­o­mises un­der­stated style at the Stel­lar shoot in LA. “I al­ways feel like ev­ery job is go­ing to be my last,” she says. “That’s the pre­rog­a­tive of an actor; to think you’re go­ing to be un­em­ployed for the rest of your life.”

De­spite roles along­side Johnny Depp in Dark Shad­ows in 2012 and in the cult hit Pride And Prej­u­dice And Zom­bies last year, Heath­cote doesn’t con­sider her­self the Next Big Thing. “I feel like I was called a ‘break-out star’ five years ago. That gets said – and it’s a lovely sen­ti­ment – but I don’t put too much stock in it,” she ad­mits. “I feel like

I ‘break out’ and then I crawl back into the box. And then five years later, I break out again.”

If her ca­reer to date has been any­thing, it’s been di­verse. Heath­cote has ticked off hor­ror ( The Neon De­mon), sci-fi thriller ( In Time) and his­tory-drama ( Be­neath Hill 60) from her genre list. She in­sists the va­ri­ety of roles has not been a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion on her part. She sim­ply isn’t gun­ning to be the next Ni­cole Kid­man. “I don’t think about fol­low­ing in any­one’s foot­steps. It al­most feels like a jinx or not the right way to look at it [to do that],” she tells Stel­lar. “I just want to be a work­ing actor. Se­ri­ously, I just hope I get to keep work­ing and do dif­fer­ent roles that ex­cite me. I don’t have to be a lead­ing lady.”

Just as she doesn’t want to fol­low in any­one’s foot­steps, Heath­cote also doesn’t com­pare her­self to other ac­tors. When she did her oblig­a­tory Mel­bourne­ac­tor stint on Neigh­bours in 2009, Heath­cote starred along­side Ash­leigh Brewer (who has gone on to find fame on The Bold And The Beau­ti­ful) and Mar­got Robbie (who has be­come a megas­tar since star­ring in The Wolf Of Wall Street, The Leg­end Of Tarzan and Sui­cide Squad). And yet, Heath­cote doesn’t feel pres­sure to be­come the next Aussie A-lis­ter: “They’ve got Mar­got for that. I’m just go­ing to cruise along.”

With the num­ber of Aussies in LA, you’d think there would be some healthy com­pe­ti­tion be­tween them. Not so, says Heath­cote. “I don’t think there’s ri­valry. These chicks are all my friends and ev­ery­one’s pretty sup­port­ive. I think we’re each other’s al­lies, more than com­pe­ti­tion. We all un­der­stand each other and stick to­gether,” she in­sists. “I think 99.9 per cent of the time when some­one gets a role, I’m gen­uinely happy for them. There’s just that 0.1 per cent that I have to man­age. [That feel­ing] is nat­u­ral, and it’s pretty fleet­ing.”

What helps her get through that 0.1 per cent of the time? “The thing that makes me feel bet­ter [when I don’t get a role] is that we’re all so dif­fer­ent; we all get cast for dif­fer­ent rea­sons,” Heath­cote says. “My fi­ancé [Andrew Do­minik, 49] is a direc­tor and I see him go through the cast­ing process and peo­ple are ei­ther right for the part or not. There’s noth­ing you can do about that. It’s a relief hav­ing that knowl­edge.”

While Heath­cote and her New Zealand-born, Aus­tralian fi­ancé are firmly planted in the LA act­ing scene, Mel­bourne will al­ways be her home. She’s head­ing back Down Un­der next month for the first time in three years to launch and at­tend the Vir­gin Aus­tralia Mel­bourne Fash­ion Fes­ti­val (VAMFF), a public event cel­e­brat­ing fash­ion, art and ideas across three week­ends. “I love great Aus­tralian fash­ion. Ev­ery time I come home I make a men­tal shop­ping list, so I’m ex­cited to see what’s on of­fer,” she says, list­ing Camilla and Marc, Dion Lee and Macgraw as some of her favourite brands. Of the 30 run­way shows in the pro­gram, Heath­cote says she is most look­ing for­ward to the Na­tional De­signer Award fea­tur­ing Aus­tralia’s up-and-com­ing tal­ent.

The actor her­self is no stranger to the world of fash­ion, hav­ing starred in a Miu Miu cam­paign in 2014 and walked for Ba­len­ci­aga in 2015. But that’s not to say she’s com­fort­able be­ing a clotheshorse. “Be­fore the Ba­len­ci­aga show, I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘I am not a model. I don’t know how to do this.’ I was ab­so­lutely

“I THINK 99.9% OF THE TIME WHEN SOME­ONE ELSE GETS A ROLE, I’M HAPPY FOR THEM… THERE’S JUST THAT 0.1%”

ter­ri­fied,” she ad­mits. “But once you’re on the cat­walk it’s an adren­a­line rush.”

How will she calm her nerves when she launches VAMFF in front of her home crowd? “I find two te­quila shots help. One is not enough and three is too many,” she quips.

While she’s ruled out be­com­ing an actor-slash-model, Heath­cote is al­ready a se­cret food blog­ger and shares photos and recipes on In­sta­gram. Al­though the dishes vary from nu­tri­tious choc-chip cook­ies to zuc­chini noo­dles with lentil ragu, Heath­cote says her dream isn’t to be the next Nigella Law­son – what she re­ally wants is to mix busi­ness with plea­sure.

“I would love to do a film with my man,” she says, adding that one of the ben­e­fits of be­ing en­gaged to a direc­tor is that Do­minik un­der­stands and sup­ports her as an actor.

“It’s great to be with some­one in the [film] in­dus­try; but not two ac­tors… be­cause then it gets crazy.” VAMFF runs from March 1–19: vamff.com.au.

BELLA WEARS Michael Lo Sordo jacket and pants, michael­losordo.com; (op­po­site) Scan­lan Theodore dress, scan­lan­theodore.com; Chanel brooch, 1300 242 635; Man­ning Cartell pants, man­ning­cartell.com.au; Bally shoes, 1800 781 851

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