Ac­tress and film­maker Camilla Belle be­lieves in main­tain­ing a healthy work/life bal­ance—in­clud­ing East End get­aways.

Ac­tress and film­maker Camilla Belle’s re­fresh­ing per­spec­tive on life, film, and fashion re­minds us to em­brace the fall sea­son with style, strength, and open-mind­ed­ness.

Hamptons Magazine - - Contents - by ALLISON BERG pho­tog­ra­phy by MIKE ROSENTHAL

HAV­ING LUNCH WITH CAMILLA BELLE dur­ing her first Hamptons hol­i­day last year, I was cap­ti­vated by her buoy­ancy and a ma­tu­rity well be­yond her years. Since we first chat­ted, the en­er­getic ac­tress has com­pleted an in­de­pen­dent film with James Franco and pro­duced her first doc­u­men­tary, and she’s cur­rently shoot­ing her sec­ond—sus­tain­ing a healthy ca­reer/life bal­ance all the while.

It is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent to any­one who meets her that the 30-year-old Belle is a firmly grounded old soul. Ex­hibit A: Her high school girl­friends still make up her in­ner cir­cle. Af­ter step­ping away from pro­fes­sional act­ing, be­tween the ages of 13 and 16, the blos­som­ing star­let sang in the school choir, acted in school shows, and played ten­nis with the school team. “It was such a won­der­ful time in my life that I was able to be a nor­mal per­son,” she says. She cred­its this idyl­lic teenage break for root­ing her in re­al­ity. It in­spired her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for pri­vacy, her solid so­cial choices, and her abil­ity to put her ca­reer in proper per­spec­tive.

“I al­ways make sure to main­tain a rich life out­side of work,” Belle says, “so that when I’m not work­ing, I’m not stay­ing in bed de­pressed. I’m al­ways proac­tive—i have a great life.” As an only child, she sur­mises, not hav­ing sib­lings has caused her to choose friends more ju­di­ciously. Qual­ity is more im­por­tant than quan­tity, and her clos­est friends are like fam­ily. Even when she re­counts her most trea­sured Hamptons mo­ments, each anec­dote in­volves close friends. “I feel re­ally lucky that I was able to travel with a great fam­ily to East Hamp­ton and have a true local’s ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Know­ing about the Hamptons party scene mostly through hearsay, Belle was pleas­antly sur­prised by what she dis­cov­ered upon ar­rival: The East End is shock­ingly peace­ful and “preppy but not too preppy,” she says. High­lights of her time here in­clude back­yard bar­be­cues, brows­ing Red Horse Mar­ket, hang­ing on Main Beach in East Hamp­ton with a “God­fa­ther” sand­wich from Villa Ital­ian Spe­cial­ties, lunches at Tutto il Giorno, and din­ners at Sant Am­broeus and Bost­wick’s Chow­der House. Stand­ing in epic lines for her mint-chip ice cream cones at Scoop du Jour— ar­guably her ini­ti­a­tion into be­ing a Hamptons reg­u­lar—felt per­fectly ac­cept­able to her. As for shop­ping, her fa­vorite desti­na­tions are AERIN in Southampton and RRL in East Hamp­ton. “It’s just such a per­fect lo­ca­tion, with the front lawn and picket fence,” she says of the lat­ter.

Belle’s proud­est Hamptons mo­ment by far, how­ever, has been learn­ing to stand up while wakesurf­ing with Global Board­ing in Sag Har­bor. She re­wards her­self with a visit to Bud­dhaberry, where the self-pro­fessed diehard frozen yo­gurt and candy lover wants to try the whole lot. When not spend­ing time

with friends, Belle con­fides that she is a Spo­tify junkie. “Mu­sic plays a mas­sive role in my life,” she says. If she weren’t act­ing and mak­ing films, she adds, she would likely be scout­ing mu­si­cal artists. Mak­ing playlists and search­ing for new mu­sic has al­ways been her fa­vorite pas­time: “I love, love, love that! I ac­tu­ally met one of my clos­est adult friends look­ing for new mu­si­cal artists.” Friends make fun of her broad mu­si­cal tastes—she’s a big fan of both Mum­ford & Sons and Latin mu­sic, for ex­am­ple—and her cur­rent fa­vorite is ZZ Ward’s new­est al­bum, The Storm. In pre­par­ing for roles, Belle even ha­bit­u­ally cre­ates custom playlists for her char­ac­ters.

“We all go through things or have mo­ments that can never be re­pro­duced. That was one of them,” Belle says as she rem­i­nisces about por­tray­ing Rose Slavin, a trou­bled, iso­lated teen, in 2005’s The Bal­lad of Jack and Rose, which she con­sid­ers her best role to date. The film’s script was one of the first she read when re­turn­ing to act­ing at 16. She fell in love with di­rec­tor Re­becca Miller’s writ­ing and char­ac­ters, and Rose, like Belle, was 16 and dis­cov­er­ing life and love. A close sec­ond best, Belle says, is her role in the new his­tor­i­cal drama The Mad Whale, pro­duced by and star­ring James Franco: “He is such an in­ter­est­ing hu­man. It is al­ways nice wit­ness­ing his sup­port of young film­mak­ers.”

All pro­ceeds from the film will go to the non­profit group The Art of Ely­sium. Founded 20 years ago by an ac­tress with a friend who had been di­ag­nosed with leukemia, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that no child goes through treat­ment alone, among other en­deav­ors. “I was raised to al­ways give back,” Belle says. “Even if it’s not fi­nan­cial, you can al­ways give your time, which is in­valu­able and price­less.” Vol­un­teer­ing at The Art of Ely­sium has been a pri­or­ity for her; she leads im­pro­vi­sa­tions and

act­ing games with chron­i­cally ill and dis­fig­ured young peo­ple to help them cope with emotional chal­lenges. Franco’s Ely­sium Ban­dini Stu­dios, a phil­an­thropic stream­ing video plat­form, com­bines The Art of Ely­sium with his Rab­bit Ban­dini pro­duc­tion com­pany in a col­lab­o­ra­tion to sup­port fledg­ling film­mak­ers.

Set in the late 1800s, The Mad Whale tells the story of women in a men­tal asy­lum who stage a play based on Moby-dick. Belle’s char­ac­ter, Is­abel Wal­lace, has been un­justly com­mit­ted by her hus­band and pre­vented from see­ing her daugh­ter. It was def­i­nitely a chal­leng­ing role, Belle says, and she did ex­ten­sive re­search, read­ing books and es­says about men­tally sta­ble women who had been thrown into asy­lums. The qual­ity she ul­ti­mately con­nected with most was Is­abel’s strength. “I al­ways find some­thing I can re­late to in a char­ac­ter and hone in on that,” she ex­plains, adding that phys­i­cal or emotional strength is some­thing she looks for in po­ten­tial roles.

“Ihave never been an ac­tor who just shows up, does her work, and leaves,” Belle says. “I al­ways love spend­ing time with the crew and learn­ing from them on set.” In­trigued by the idea of work­ing be­hind the cam­era, she got her feet wet by pro­duc­ing the doc­u­men­tary fea­ture Look­ing at the Stars in 2016. The heart­warm­ing film tells the story of the As­so­ci­ação Fer­nanda Bian­chini, a bal­let school for the blind in Belle’s mother’s home­town of São Paulo, Brazil. A for­mer dancer her­self, Belle couldn’t stop cry­ing while view­ing the orig­i­nal short film, shot by a cin­e­matog­ra­pher friend, and felt com­pelled to pur­sue the spe­cial sub­ject as a full-length doc­u­men­tary. She has also lever­aged some down­time this sum­mer by tak­ing a film pro­duc­tion class at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Though her work sched­ule doesn’t al­low her to com­plete shorts like other stu­dents, she is study­ing the latest and great­est tech­niques in di­rect­ing and cin­e­matog­ra­phy. A con­sum­mate

pro­fes­sional, she never as­sumes that decades on set have taught her the en­tire busi­ness and is im­mers­ing her­self in the in­tri­ca­cies of cam­eras, lenses, and light­ing.

Belle is also de­vel­op­ing and co­pro­duc­ing a doc­u­men­tary on the his­tory of women in fashion, spurred by a re­cent epiphany she had: In a trade pri­mar­ily fo­cused on women, no one has re­ally told the sto­ries of the women in the in­dus­try. Film­ing be­gan in June, and talk­ing to some of the most iconic fe­male fig­ures in fashion has been in­cred­i­bly in­spir­ing. “Each one of these women was told ‘no’ or fell on their faces a mil­lion times. Once some­one is suc­cess­ful, no one else knows or re­mem­bers the bad times she suf­fered to get there,” Belle says. “They have reaf­firmed how much our so­ci­ety has changed over the past sev­eral decades.” A re­cur­ring theme so far has been per­cep­tions of what’s ap­pro­pri­ate in dress­ing. One famed sub­ject ques­tioned when it be­came ac­cept­able to wear sweats all day. An­other re­called the days when she would rou­tinely change from her work wardrobe into a “proper” dress for din­ner with her hus­band. A third won­dered when the world stopped valu­ing the in­her­ent mys­tery in a little bit of mod­esty. An ad­mirer of Old Hol­ly­wood style her­self— think Au­drey Hep­burn and El­iz­a­beth Taylor—belle be­lieves ap­pro­pri­ate­ness is a top con­sid­er­a­tion. “It both­ers me when I go to a char­ity gala ben­e­fit­ing chil­dren or peo­ple with AIDS and women are es­sen­tially naked,” she says. “Put on some clothes!”

The crowd and the ac­tiv­ity drive Belle’s wardrobe de­ci­sions. In Los An­ge­les, life tends to be more ca­sual. When she’s in New York, São Paulo, or Rio, Belle kicks the for­mal­ity up a notch. In the Hamptons, her style leans con­ser­va­tive; her go-to uni­form in­cludes white jeans and tan san­dals by such de­sign­ers as Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors. But she’s not afraid to take risks in chang­ing up her style. Though her mother was a de­signer, Belle’s real en­trée into the fashion world was at­tend­ing the Chanel and Dior run­way shows when she was 18: “Meet­ing John Gal­liano and Karl Lager­feld and see­ing their clothes come down the run­way changed ev­ery­thing for me!” Since then, this de­sign­ers’ dar­ling has been dressed by the likes of Carolina Her­rera, Ralph Lauren, and Jean-paul Gaultier for her many red­car­pet ap­pear­ances, and she of­ten makes Vogue’s Best Dressed lists. The de­signer she ad­mires most is Her­rera. “She is a fem­i­nine icon in ev­ery way,” Belle says. “Not many women em­body her pol­ish and style. She is al­ways chic, pulled to­gether, and per­fectly pressed and steamed—even when dressed ca­su­ally.”

I can’t help but ask Belle where she sees her­self in 10 years. “I’ll be 40,” she gasps. “I have a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about this with my friends. We all thought we would have it fig­ured out by 30. We’d all be mar­ried with at least two kids—ev­ery­thing would be known and com­fort­able.” She ac­knowl­edges that she is in a very dif­fer­ent place than she an­tic­i­pated, but she has de­cided it’s no longer worth try­ing to pre­dict the future be­cause it will likely be dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent from whatever she can imag­ine. “I know what I want,” she con­fi­dently de­clares, “but whatever will be will be.” Tak­ing a pause, Belle adds that by 40 she would love to be more set­tled in her per­sonal life, to not be alone, and to travel more. But she as­sures me that she is com­mit­ted to stay­ing open to any and all pos­si­bil­i­ties: “I am go­ing to en­joy be­ing sur­prised by life, be­cause it does love surprising us.”

“I KNOW WHAT I WANT, BUT WHATEVER WILL BE WILL BE... I AM GO­ING TO EN­JOY BE­ING SUR­PRISED BY LIFE, BE­CAUSE IT DOES LOVE SURPRISING US.”

Dress, $6,900, by Valentino at Hir­sh­leifers, Amer­i­cana Man­has­set.

Dress, price upon re­quest, by Zuhair Mu­rad at Saks Fifth Av­enue, Walt Whit­man Shops. 18k white-gold, blue sap­phire, and princess-cut diamond ring, $590, at cirari.com.

Dress, $1,800, at Zim­mer­mann. Zig-zag band ring, $1,060, and baby rose baguette band ring, $1,620, at gra­zielagems.com.

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