“Cate Blanchett is a ge­nius, but that’s not who I am”

ELIZ­A­BETH DE­BICKI

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy DUN­CAN KIL­LICK Styling MA­RINA AFON­INA Creative Di­rec­tion ALEKSANDRA BEARE Words VIC­TO­RIA HAN­NAFORD

ON BE­ING THE NEXT BIG THING

The most re­veal­ing mo­ment in Stel­lar’s con­ver­sa­tion with Eliz­a­beth De­bicki comes in the form of a ques­tion, rather than an an­swer. Talk turns to the com­par­isons made be­tween her and an­other ac­tor, the cel­e­brated Cate Blanchett. In be­tween sips of tea, De­bicki asks whether such com­par­isons are usu­ally made be­tween male ac­tors. Her point is clear – it’s far less com­mon for men to be com­pared to more sea­soned ac­tors.

“Men are al­lowed to be their own crea­ture, their own for­ma­tion,” she says. “That liken­ing to some­one else [for women], it’s there be­cause the un­known can be scary and not nearly as palat­able. It’s safer if we are able to la­bel. If some­one presents them­selves in a way we’ve never seen be­fore, heaven for­bid, we don’t like it or it chal­lenges our idea of fem­i­nin­ity.”

If, at 26, De­bicki speaks with the author­ity of a vet­eran, it’s be­cause af­ter only a few years, she’s al­ready notched up an im­pres­sive body of work. And it’s easy to see why; she has the kind of pres­ence that com­mands a room. She strides con­fi­dently across the bar to find the qui­etest cor­ner for our in­ter­view, and makes a waiter blush when she com­pli­ments his ac­cent.

De­bicki has been touted as the “next big thing” in act­ing since grad­u­at­ing from the Vic­to­rian Col­lege of the Arts in 2010. Her break­out role came in 2011 when she was cast as Jor­dan Baker in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and took home an AACTA for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress. Since then, she’s worked in the theatre, TV and film, gar­ner­ing awards and crit­i­cal ac­claim, and star­ring along­side Blanchett in a 2013/2014 stag­ing of The Maids in Syd­ney and New York.

“We could not be more dis­sim­i­lar, and then in many ways sim­i­lar,” De­bicki says. “It is a huge com­pli­ment [to be com­pared to Blanchett], I’ll never deny it and I think Cate’s a ge­nius ac­tress. She’s a unique, amaz­ing crea­ture, but it’s also not who I am. I am my own per­son.”

IT’S CLEAR DE­BICKI is in­tent on ex­press­ing her­self through her ca­reer choices. Last year saw her star in two hit TV shows, The Night Man­ager and The Ket­ter­ing In­ci­dent, for which she picked up her sec­ond AACTA. On­stage, she starred in The Red Barn, which she says was the ful­fil­ment of a life­long

dream; both to be in a work writ­ten by the­atri­cal heavy­weight David Hare, and to tread the boards in Lon­don.

And her 2017 is no less busy, with four films slated for re­lease. Two are big

bud­get sci-fi pro­duc­tions, God Par­ti­cle and Guardians Of The Gal­axy Vol. 2. The other two are lower-bud­get movies, with more emo­tion­ally driven roles; she plays Eva in the adap­ta­tion of Tim Win­ton’s novel

Breath, and co-stars in thriller The Tale. De­bicki ap­pears com­pletely un­daunted by tak­ing on block­busters. “Both are sci-fi and very in­volved in terms of green-screen work,” she says. “One of the ac­tors on God Par­ti­cle said it feels like the imag­i­na­tion Olympics. It’s a huge chal­lenge and so dif­fer­ent from

Breath, where my char­ac­ter’s life is in a beach shack and ev­ery­thing’s real.

“What I loved about the Guardians set was how easy and breezy it felt. [Co-star] Chris Pratt is so lovely and sweet, but a bril­liant comic mind as well.”

She shot all four films back-to-back last year, on top of her the­atri­cal run in The Red Barn. “I played so many dif­fer­ent types of women. That’s what I’m look­ing for,” she says.

Yet the in­ten­sity of her sched­ule even­tu­ally caught up with her. “All my fam­ily came to [visit me in] Lon­don and I had five days off from the play. I promptly caught the flu,” she says.

But De­bicki isn’t the kind of per­son to let a bout of ill­ness mess with her plans. “I de­cided to in­vite about 11 peo­ple over. We all ate Christ­mas din­ner off our laps – I cooked 12 dif­fer­ent birds in the oven. I’m like a Pol­ish mother, I push food on peo­ple. It was a re­ally amaz­ing year – I learnt a lot.”

Nikki Bar­rett, the cast­ing di­rec­tor who put De­bicki for­ward for The Great Gatsby and

Breath, says the ac­tor’s tal­ent was ev­i­dent from their first meet­ing.

“She was only a few weeks out of the VCA, but al­ready car­ried in­cred­i­ble author­ity and in­tel­li­gence on­screen,” Bar­rett says. “It was a for­mi­da­ble role to take on so young, but she held her own.”

De­bicki has also just been named an am­bas­sador for the up­com­ing Longines Golden Slip­per Car­ni­val, part of the 2017 Syd­ney Car­ni­val, and will be a spe­cial guest for the Longines Golden Slip­per Day on March 18 at Rose­hill Gar­dens. And she’s throw­ing her­self into the role with as much gusto as an act­ing gig. “The more I learnt about the Longines Golden Slip­per Day, the more I re­alised it’s an im­por­tant day on the rac­ing

cal­en­dar in terms of the horse that wins and its lin­eage,” she says.

While dressed in au­tumn race-day looks for the Stel­lar shoot, De­bicki re­veals she’ll be work­ing with an as-yet-un­named lo­cal brand to cre­ate an out­fit for the oc­ca­sion. “I’m excited to col­lab­o­rate with a de­signer – there are so many iconic [race-day] looks,” she says. “I want to shake it up.”

At 1.9m tall, the ac­tor is a nat­u­ral clotheshorse. When she was be­ing cast in The Great Gatsby, she was given a wardrobe full of Prada gowns to choose for her au­di­tion. Her train­ing in bal­let – both her par­ents were dancers, but she gave up bal­let for act­ing – has given De­bicki both poise and the abil­ity to hold poses for the cam­era, which make her a de­signer’s dream. “Fash­ion is so much a part of what ac­tors do,” she says. “You work on a project, then you pro­mote it, which is so tied up with red car­pets and fash­ion. I de­cided to em­brace it; use it to say some­thing about my­self: you don’t have to ad­here to any sta­tus quo.”

It’s this love of fash­ion that has led her to a more nu­anced re­sponse to the #Askhermore cam­paign, which has been cham­pi­oned by ac­tors such as Lena Dunham and Reese Wither­spoon. While its pur­pose is to see women ques­tioned about more than their fash­ion choices on the red car­pet, De­bicki is happy to show off her gown, too. “Usu­ally when I wear a dress on a red car­pet, I love it deeply. [#Askhermore] is about, ‘Let’s not talk about me as an ob­ject and don’t judge me out of 10.’ I’m all for that, I’d pre­fer if we left that bullsh*t aside, but I’ll talk about the dress, be­cause I feel strongly about it.”

De­bicki also feels strongly about the need for more women in her in­dus­try, both in star­ring and pro­duc­tion roles. She’s been vo­cal about how much she en­joyed work­ing with a fe­male di­rec­tor on The Night Man­ager. “It’s the ar­gu­ment, ‘We need more sto­ries driven by fe­male pro­tag­o­nists, and more women to di­rect and pro­duce them.’ Sta­tis­ti­cally, we know so many films are made about men and the women are sec­ondary.

“We’re still hang­ing on to the MGM stu­dio sys­tem – it’s, ‘Are you a Mar­i­lyn, or are you a Hep­burn, or a Bette Davis; a thinker or the body?’ I say, just smash it all to­gether and let women be their own thing. Let’s not com­part­men­talise women any­more.”

The 2017 Syd­ney Car­ni­val runs from March 11–April 15; the­atc.com.au.

“I use fash­ion to say some­thing about my­self: you don’t have to ad­here to any sta­tus quo”

ELIZ­A­BETH WEARS Gucci blouse, gucci.com.au; Bot­tega Veneta skirt, (02) 9239 0188; Suzy O’rourke beret, suzy­orourke.com.au; Bul­gari jew­ellery (worn through­out), bul­gari. com.au; (op­po­site) Chris­tian Dior dress, (02) 9229 4600; James Perse knit, net-a-porter. com; Nerida Win­ter hat, ner­i­daw­in­ter.com; Longines watch, (03) 8844 3300; Alexan­der Mc­queen shoes, har­rolds.com.au

ELIZ­A­BETH WEARS Prada trench coat, skirt and belt, (02) 9223 1688; Neil Grigg hat, neil­grig­gmillinery. com; Ba­len­ci­aga shoes, har­rolds.com.au; (op­po­site) Her­mès top and skirt, (02) 9287 3200; Suzy O’rourke head­band, suzy­orourke. com.au

HAIR Koh us­ing O&M MAKE-UP Sarah Tam­mer us­ing Nars at Mecca Cosmetica

Shot on lo­ca­tion at The Old Clare Ho­tel

STAR TURN Eliz­a­beth De­bicki as Jor­dan Baker in The Great Gatsby.

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