Earning her stripes
Australian acting export Danielle Macdonald tells
Stellar about her recent dream run in Hollywood, including playing Jennifer Aniston’s daughter in
Dumplin’ and co-starring opposite Sandra Bullock.
“Whoa! Someone else felt the way I did in high school”
Having played Jennifer Aniston’s daughter in Dumplin’ and starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the hit drama Bird Box, Danielle Macdonald has become Australia’s hottest acting export. Now the 28-year-old plays fashion muse for Stellar as she reflects on her, well, “stellar” year
Danielle Macdonald is not afraid of fear. The 28-yearold Australian actor was already chipping away at a career in Hollywood – clocking up a role alongside Dakota Fanning and Diane Lane in the film Every Little Thing, as well as appearing in American Horror Story – when she was cast well against type for her first ever leading role in a movie. The part? Patti Dombrowski, the aspiring rapper from New Jersey who is also the title character in the 2017 indie flick Patti Cake$.
“Patti Cake$ was so different for me,” says Macdonald, as she relaxes during a photo shoot for Stellar. “It was beyond anything I ever thought I could do.” She clearly proved herself wrong – and when the movie debuted at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, her performance caused a stir. “It was the first role that got me more opportunities,” says Macdonald. “I actually got to have a say or a choice when it came to picking my next project, which you don’t really get this early on in the industry.”
Macdonald grew up in Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, a world away from the rough milieu of Patti Cake$, which boasts a plot full of experiences she’d never had. And that’s why it piqued her interest. “There are certain things that I stayed away from, and then there are certain things I went towards – usually the roles that scare me. And [Patti Cake$] was scary. But I find that when I’m intimidated by a role, it’s usually a really good thing.”
True to her word, Macdonald was next drawn to Skin, a dark and confronting feature film that deals with white supremacy in the US Midwest. But after signing on to it, the role of Willowdean Dixon in Netflix’s Dumplin’ landed in her lap. Playing the titular plus-size teen, who is very comfortable in her own skin despite being teased and nicknamed “Dumplin’” by her pageantqueen mother, resonated with Macdonald.
Technically, Macdonald’s schedule wouldn’t allow her to take the role. She ploughed ahead, anyway. “I was so, so excited because it felt special to me, this one,” says Macdonald. “It was something that I could relate to and something that I really wanted as a teenager – and I never got. When I first read Dumplin’, I was like, ‘Whoa! This is so weird. Someone felt the way I did in high school.’”
Another drawcard for Macdonald was that Jennifer Aniston had been cast to play Willowdean’s mother. It wasn’t long before she found herself hanging out at
“Jennifer Aniston was welcoming and warm. I felt safe around her”
Aniston’s house so they could get to know each other ahead of filming. “She was just very welcoming, open and warm. I felt very safe and calm around her, which is good ’cause you can’t be thinking, ‘Oh, this is Jennifer Aniston!’ It needs to be like, ‘This is just my mum. What are you talking about?’ We had to get to that place and I felt like we found it easily. It was cool.”
Macdonald wasn’t quite as calm and collected, however, when she discovered Aniston had mentioned her to Sandra Bullock, her eventual co-star in last summer’s Bird Box. “I went to the table read for Bird Box and I met Sandy. First thing she said was, ‘Oh, I just had dinner with Jen. We were talking about you.’ And I was like, ‘What is happening? Why are Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston talking about me over dinner?’ I’m definitely OK with it, though.”
Bird Box sent the internet into meltdown when it hit Netflix last December, with Macdonald in particular singled out for the actions her character took. On reflection, she tells Stellar, it was an experience far more intense than she had anticipated. “I got death threats,” she says. “People came onto my Instagram to harass me. It was weird – Dumplin’ and Bird Box came out at the same time and so people in the street would either approach me with a lot of venom and hatred or a lot of love. Some people were both and they were like, ‘Ugh, I’m so conflicted, I loved you in this, but I hated you in this.’”
But Macdonald isn’t bothered either way. “I just think to myself, ‘Great. I’m doing my job, then.’”
DANIELLE WEARS Lee Mathews dress, leemathews.com.au; Aquazzura shoes, (02) 9362 0510
DANIELLE WEARS ASOS coat, asos.com/au; Atmos&Here Curvy dress, theiconic.com.au
DANIELLE WEARS Maticevski coat, tonimaticevski.com; ASOS dress, asos.com/au