El­iz­a­beth De­bicki ad­mits the price of her stel­lar screen ca­reer is long flights home to Syd­ney, writes Justin Burke

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - The Night Man­ager

It’s been a heady few years for El­iz­a­beth De­bicki, from star­ring with her idol Cate Blanchett in The Maids on stage in Syd­ney and New York, to an en­vi­able run of roles in films from The Great Gatsby in 2013 to last year’s Everest. But for the 25-year-old, be­ing re­cently de­scribed in the Bri­tish press as a “peer­less” ac­tress by the doyen of spy fic­tion, John le Carre, was a sin­gu­lar thrill. “Ac­tu­ally, I’m not go­ing to lie: it was a lovely feel­ing,” she says, ahead of the pre­miere of le Carre’s The Night Man­ager on BBC First (Fox­tel) to­mor­row night.

The six-part TV se­ries was adapted from le Carre’s 1993 novel of the same name by David Farr ( Spooks), and is di­rected by Su­sanne Bier ( Serena). It has been warmly re­ceived in Bri­tain, where four episodes have al­ready screened, in­clud­ing one fea­tur­ing a bare-bot­tomed Tom Hid­dle­ston, who plays Jonathan Pine, in con- gress with De­bicki’s char­ac­ter Jed. The show also fea­tures Hugh Lau­rie as arms dealer and all­round bad guy Richard Roper, and Olivia Col­man ( Broad­church) as spy­mas­ter An­gela Burr.

Speak­ing to Re­view from At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, a mere three hours af­ter wrap­ping film­ing on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — a role sure to bring her even greater recog­ni­tion — De­bicki ex­plains that work­ing on the thriller was ex­cit­ing but that le Carre’s world of se­crets, lies, and de­cep­tion be­came all-con­sum­ing.

“It was an un­usual shoot in that we were to­gether like a trav­el­ling cir­cus for about four months,” she says. Film­ing lo­ca­tions in­cluded Lon­don, Switzer­land, Mar­rakesh and Ma­jorca. “A lot of ac­tors talk about ‘de-rol­ing’, like when you’re do­ing a play and you don’t want to bring Hen­rik Ib­sen back into your home; but this was a re­ally un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence where the lines be­tween act­ing and the real world blurred; but I just em­braced it and let it take hold.”

De­bicki is ea­ger to ex­plain that Jed is not just an­other two-di­men­sional femme fa­tale or Bond girl stereo­type.

“I get it,” she says. “Part of the thing we love about spy thrillers is we want to see the archetypes. There is a fa­mil­iar­ity, which is a big part of what en­ter­tain­ment is. With James Bond you



sit back with your pop­corn and you know pretty well when you are in­tro­duced to a fe­male char­ac­ter she is not go­ing to chal­lenge the stereo­type — but I per­son­ally didn’t have an in­ter­est in play­ing that sort of role.”

De­bicki, Bier and Farr cre­ated a back­story for Jed that doesn’t ex­ist in le Carre’s novel, re­lo­cat­ing her from Eng­land to work­ing-class Middle Amer­ica. “As a woman, you read roles that plateau very quickly, or they don’t have the depth that the male char­ac­ters have, not as com­pli­cated or as morally am­bigu­ous,” she says. “Jed is a re­ally messy per­son, su­per com­pli­cated and in­con­sis­tent, and I’m re­ally grate­ful for that back­story be­cause it meant in­stantly I had a re­al­ity that I could grasp as an ac­tor.

“It’s not giv­ing any­thing away, but we learn that she has made a de­ci­sion ear­lier in her life for which has a lot of re­gret which trails her around, and you re­alise one of the rea­sons that she does what she does is so she can sup­port her life back home that she left for var­i­ous rea­sons.”

De­spite her run of suc­cess, De­bicki says the act­ing game never gets fun­da­men­tally eas­ier.

“Firstly, I don’t feel like a big movie star when I wake up in the morn­ing,” she says. “There is an un­chang­ing el­e­ment of an ac­tor’s life that you have to tap dance on this ta­ble, and then tap dance on that ta­ble like a vaude­ville act, and you’re like, ‘give me a job’.

“Ac­tors of­ten feel like they’re be­ing ex­am­ined un­der a mi­cro­scope. Some days I feel like it gets eas­ier, un­til some­thing hap­pens where you feel slammed straight back into re­al­ity. I still have to fight for roles, but it’s al­ways ground­ing.”

Aside from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is sched­uled for re­lease next year, and the pre­miere later this year of The Ket­ter­ing In­ci­dent, in which she plays the lead role in a gothic Tas­ma­nian mys­tery, De­bicki is keep­ing her plans close to her chest, though she does want to re­turn to the stage (“ab­so­lutely”) in ad­di­tion to other screen projects. (Be­sides, “ad­vanced” talks on a se­cond sea­son of The Night Man­ager have been re­ported.)

But her im­me­di­ate plans in­volve re­turn­ing to Syd­ney, which de­spite the al­most con­stant travel for work, she de­fi­antly de­scribes as “home”.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask me, ‘Are you mad you haven’t moved to LA?’, but to be hon­est it is so im­por­tant for me to come home and re­cal­i­brate be­tween projects,” she says. “If you can find a place in the world that makes you feel like your­self, that’s worth ev­ery se­cond on an aero­plane for me, and that is where I am at in my life.”


be­gins on BBC First to­mor­row

El­iz­a­beth De­bicki with, from left, Hugh Lau­rie, Tom Hid­dle­ston, Olivia Col­man and Tom Hol­lan­der in The Night Man­ager

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