The Other Side of Sleep star An­to­nia Camp­bell-hughes shares girl-talk with Tara Brady,

The Other Side of Sleep star An­to­nia Camp­bell-hughes has been an art stu­dent, fash­ion de­signer and heavymetal vo­cal­ist. ‘My life has been a mish­mash of recre­at­ing my­self and fit­ting in,’ she tells Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

SHE LOOKS like a lovely changeling and she eats sweets from a bag. Not reg­u­lar grown-up candy ei­ther, but Haribo sweets from the de­fi­antly gooey end of the day-glo food groups. If we didn’t know it be­fore, we’re quite sure now: An­to­nia Camp­bel­lHughes is a girl’s girl.

Her CV con­firms her unique ap­peal for fe­male di­rec­tors: Jane Cam­pion, Ais­ling Walsh, Re­becca Daly, Deb­o­rah Kamp­meier and Alexan­dra Mcguinness have all wielded a mega­phone at the de­light­fully pixie-ish 29-year-old. There’s a whole lot of girl love go­ing on. “I know im­me­di­ately when I walk into an au­di­tion,” nods Camp­bell-hughes. “I ei­ther ap­peal or I don’t. And a lot of the women who have cast me are quite like me. There’s a love thing there from first sight. And it’s mu­tual. I’ll think ‘Oh I just want to put you in my pocket and keep you there for­ever’.”

So An­to­nia Camp­bell-hughes is a Mar­mite brand? “Well, I know peo­ple say you’re sup­posed to love or hate Mar­mite but I’m

kind of on the fence with it.”

Only a crea­ture as sin­gu­lar as Camp­bel­lHughes could ven­ture such an ec­cen­tric no­tion. But that’s why there’s no­body else like her in indige­nous cinema or any­where else. Born in North­ern Ire­land and raised be­tween Ger­many, Switzer­land and the US, she was an in­ter­na­tional en­tity even be­fore she got into the global busi­ness of movie-mak­ing.

“I was born in Derry but we moved to Switzer­land when I was two and to the States when I was five,” she says. “I was very Amer­i­can by the time I came back. Even in Europe ev­ery­body was half Amer­i­can. They were Ger­man-amer­i­can or Swiss-amer­i­can.” It all sounds very ex­otic. “Switzer­land and Ger­many are great places but I wouldn’t call them ex­otic,” she laughs. “And then Bloom­ing­ton, Delaware. The home of white-col­lar big­otry and sta­tion wag­ons. Def­i­nitely not ex­otic.” Still, mov­ing around and re­con­fig­ur­ing her­self to dif­fer­ent schools and cliques was, she says, good train­ing for her fu­ture ca­reer.

“My life has been a mish-mash of recre­at­ing my­self and fit­ting in,” she says. “I wasn’t ‘oh, woe is me, I don’t fit in I’m such a loner’. But I kind of was a loner. And it’s a good thing. It gives you a free­dom. When you grow up with the same peo­ple they can keep you down to some ex­tent.

“There’s al­most a fear of break­ing out be­cause ev­ery­body is go­ing to give you a hard time about it. Get­ting back to Dublin was a huge part of my school­ing. It’s the first place where I felt re­ally free.”

A pre­co­cious creative force, she was an art stu­dent, a suc­cess­ful fash­ion de­signer (with her

own cloth­ing line at Top Shop) and a heavy-me­tal vo­cal­ist be­fore she found her true call­ing.

Her Euro­cen­tric up­bring­ing had left her with a taste for the films of Mike Leigh and Lynne Ram­say and for the act­ing work of Asia Ar­gento and Char­lotte Gains­bourg. She loved cinema but ad­mits she “had no clue” how to join the club.

“I was look­ing up the yel­low pages,” she re­calls. “I was crip­pled with shy­ness as a kid. I couldn’t speak to hu­mans. Act­ing was a bizarre but log­i­cal choice for me. Like ev­ery­thing I’ve done it came about or­gan­i­cally. It just hasn’t been a very de­fin­able process.”

She first came to promi­nence in Jack Dee’s Lead Bal­loon, a four-sea­son comic turn that brought her to the at­ten­tion of MTV, where she cre­ated and de­vel­oped Blue­bell Welch, in­com­pe­tent celebrity in­ter­viewer ex­traor­di­naire. But across a se­ries of day jobs in UK TV sta­ples such as Silent Wit­ness and Ca­su­alty, Camp­bell-hughes proved her worth as a gen­uine thes­pian tal­ent.

By 2009, the big league beck­oned. Her im­pu­dent scullery maid was quickly recog­nised as the bright­est as­pect of Jane Cam­pion’s Keats biopic Bright Star and she walked off with the picture from un­der the noses of big­ger billed col­leagues Ab­bie Cor­nish and Ben Whishaw with a per­for­mance Van­ity Fair called “stun­ningly vivid and win­somely win­ning”.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the ac­tor has kept in touch with Cam­pion, whom she now de­scribes as a men­tor.

“It’s only now I re­alise what a big deal it was,” says Camp­bell-hughes. “At the time it wasn’t clear. I love Jane Cam­pion. I re­ally wanted the job. But at the time I kept get­ting re­called for Polly Sten­ham’s That Face, a play at the Hay­mar­ket. And Polly is one of those

“This film re­ally changed me . . . I had to strip my­self of ev­ery­thing that made me me. Mu­sic, books, phone, con­tact – ev­ery­thing went”

girls we were talk­ing about. I had that love thing for her even though I was far too old for the role. So when I got the call about Bright Star I was gen­uinely think­ing I might do the play in­stead.”

What hap­pened? “Ev­ery­body said ‘ you fuck­ing what?’ They were right. I was think­ing about the film like it was all these amaz­ing ac­tors and this funny lit­tle freak play­ing a funny lit­tle freak. But I get why that worked now.” She is funny but we won’t agree to freak. Camp­bell-hughes’s ac­cent, though very glo­be­trot­ting, is pep­pered with Irishisms. And oc­ca­sion­ally she says things that could only come from the mouth of a north-westerner.

“I think I’m get­ting into cars and driv­ing,” she ad­mits. “For the past month or so I’ve been fly­ing into Derry and hang­ing around Done­gal where my fam­ily are. I’m start­ing to get the driv­ing thing. Or I fly into Dublin so I can get the bus up. It’s a ghetto bus but it’s part of my process. The sec­ond I com­mit to

do­ing a film I can’t breathe. I wish there was

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