MORTAL ENGINES STAR LEILA GEORGE TELLS WHO WHY SHE WAS ‘A LITTLE BIT EMBARRASSED’ TO FOLLOW IN HER FAMOUS PARENTS’ FOOTSTEPS
For a long time, Leila George resisted the acting profession. The daughter of two actors – her father is Law & Order: Criminal Intent star Vincent D’onofrio and her mother is Australian actress Greta Scacchi – she grew up being asked if she would follow in their footsteps and, partly out of teenage rebelliousness, she insisted she wouldn’t. Instead, George, 26, pursued directing.
“I wanted to direct because I wanted to boss them around,” she recalls with a laugh. “I was sure that I was going to put them both in a movie, like, ‘Stand there, stand there, do this, do that.’ I actually went to film school to study directing and loved it, but I ended up acting in all my friends’ thesis films instead.”
When it came time to face her inevitable calling, George remembers being “a little bit embarrassed”, saying, “I’d always said no, and you never want to go back on what you’ve said. As soon as I admitted it, they were both really excited because they never pushed it on me at all. My mum and I went out for a drink, and she was like, ‘Welcome to the club.’ “
George’s highest profile role to date is in big-budget “post-post-apocalyptic” adventure Mortal Engines (in cinemas now). Based on the novel by Philip Reeve, it is set in London, but it’s a version of the English city that’s never been seen before on film. For one thing, it rolls across mainland Europe on massive wheels.
In the film produced by Peter Jackson and directed by his protégé Christian Rivers, George plays Katherine Valentine, the daughter of one of London’s most prominent and respected leaders, Thaddeus (Hugo Weaving). When Katherine discovers Dad is not all he’s meant to be, it sets her off on a journey in which she questions – and challenges – everything she’s ever been told.
“It’s tough for Katherine,” George says. “It’s a brave thing to do to stand up to a parent in that kind of way. To know that you actually
know better – not to just act out – and to know you may not be able to change that person. That takes a lot of courage and strength.”
When it comes to her own relationship with her parents, George couldn’t be happier, saying, “They are my two biggest supporters and I feel it. They’ve never forced tips on me but if I need help, they’ll help me. I call them a lot, like, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’
She’s also worked with both of them, even if she didn’t get to boss them around. In 2014, George made her stage debut alongside Scacchi in Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company’s 2014 production of The Seagull, and she will be seen in 2019 in The Kid, a film directed by and starring D’onofrio, as well as Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt. “That was amazing – one of the best experiences of my life, because I trust him completely,” she says of being directed by her father. “I don’t think I will trust a director as much as I will trust my dad. It was an opportunity that I was so glad to have gotten, especially so early on in all of this. And I would do it again in a second.”
As George’s career heats up, she’s hoping to give up her day job – she works as a waitress in her home of Los Angeles. But she has already had her first taste of the attention that fame brings, having previously been linked with actor Sean Penn and photographed with him on a beach holiday earlier this year. “That’s never fun,” she says of the paparazzi attention.
Again, her parents’ experience with fame will serve her well. “They haven’t had that much of a hard time with it,” she notes. “They’ve also dealt with the public very graciously and been really grateful of their fans as opposed to fighting back at it. Growing up around them, I’ve been watching and learning, and I hope to be as
graceful with anything that comes my way.”
“I feel at home in Sydney,” George says. “I land and smell the air and I just want to live here forever.” so “I related to her in says many ways,” George of Katherine. “Mainly I loved the fatherdaughter relationship.” “It was exhilarating and exciting, and it gave me goosebumps and it terrified me,” George says of working on Mortal Engines.
George with dad Vincent D’onofrio in 2000. With mother Greta Scacchi in 2013.