ZOË KRAVITZ GIVES A LESSON IN HOW TO SURVIVE (AND THRIVE) IN HOLLYWOOD
SHE HAS SPENT HER ENTIRE LIFE UNDER THE SHARP GLARE OF THE CELEBRITY SPOTLIGHT. NOBODY SURVIVES THAT SORT OF MYOPIC AT TENTION… APART FROM A SLIGHT, POISED ACTOR WITH HER OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS – NOBODY EXCEPT ZOË KRAVITZ
”I FOUND BEING A TEENAGER hard to navigate, and MUSIC WAS A REFUGE FOR ME... songs were the emotional SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE ”
Ihave made Zoë Kravitz cry. I’ve only been sitting with her for three minutes and tears are trickling down her unbearably beautiful face. It’s an unusual way to start an interview. When Kravitz arrived for afternoon tea at the Rose Bakery, nestled at the top of London’s coolest store, Dover Street Market, full of instant hugs and apologies for being a bit late due to oversleeping from jet lag, I told her that we shared a sentimental connection. Around 3O years ago, I was staying on Harbour Island in the Bahamas with a boyfriend who had a young daughter back in London named Zoë. While we were there, we made friends with a fellow guest, a warm and friendly woman named Roxie who was thrilled to have just become a grandmother. ‘Look,’ she said, opening a locket around her neck. ‘That’s my Zoë.’ I later learned that Roxie was Lenny Kravitz’s mother – but, to me, she will always be the vivacious woman in white high heels, with whom I spent a night dancing in a tin shack. The boyfriend didn’t last, but as Zoë grew up – in the glare of the public eye thanks to the fame and extraordinary beauty of her parents – I watched her affectionately from a distance. Now here we were, crying. ‘I lost my grandmother when I was seven, and it’s kind of overwhelming to meet someone out of the blue who carries a piece of your history, but in a nice way,’ she says, reaching over the table, affectionately clasping my hands between her own tiny tattooed ones. Her left ring finger is host to a five-stone, rose-cut 18th-century diamond engagement ring and a twisted gold band from her recent wedding to the actor Karl Glusman. Her nails are covered in the raggedy remnants of apple-green nail polish. I am instantly besotted by this glimmering creature, who has ordered a ginger and honey tea along with a double espresso chaser to help wake her up. She is absolutely not what I was expecting. I had anticipated an overtired actor who, as the scion of rock ‘n’ roll royalty, loathes interviews and interviewers and is wary of letting anyone see the secrets behind those languidly lidded eyes. Certainly, her onscreen persona appears much cooler and more distant than she is. In person, she comes across as a warm, friendly, sensitive and smart young woman. She’s 3O, but looks younger. Her hair is chopped pixie-short and she’s dressed in a black The Row cashmere sweater, Dickies black work trousers and zip-front boots, her tiny waist cinched with a silver-buckled vintage black leather belt. ‘Fashion, it’s an addiction,’ she admits, as she shoves her crinkled-leather Saint Laurent bag (she is a global ambassador for Yves Saint Laurent Beauty and also a brand ambassador for Saint Laurent) onto the windowsill next to her. Kravitz is in London filming opposite Robert Pattinson in Matt Reeves’ upcoming movie The Batman, in which she plays Catwoman, but today she has come to talk about another project that is close to her heart: the new gender-flipped Hulu series High Fidelity. In addition to serving as one of the show’s executive producers, she also stars as Rob. The show is based on the classic relationship novel – one of the first to be written from the male perspective – by the British author Nick Hornby. Published in 1995 and adapted as a movie in 2OOO starring John Cusack, it tells the story of Rob, a failing record-shop owner with an equally hopeless love life. The film was a hit, with a legendary breakout performance from Jack Black and a love interest role for Kravitz’s own mother, Lisa Bonet (she played one of Rob’s paramours, a singer named Marie De Salle). Watching the two women’s performances in close succession, the resemblance between mother and daughter is uncanny.
The 1O-part series follows Rob, who has a habit of replacing her real opinions and feelings with a series of ‘top five’ lists. When her boyfriend Mac (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir) breaks up with her, she makes a list of her top five relationships and goes on a mission to discover where she has gone wrong. As she examines her failed attempts at romance and happiness, she is forced to examine her own behaviour and is pushed, albeit reluctantly, towards adulthood. There will no doubt be talk about this show being a ‘woke’ attempt by Hollywood to tick many of the current PC boxes: a beautiful woman of colour playing a famously downbeat male lead. But Kravitz is not interested in beating the politically correct drum. It’s the content that speaks to her. ‘The part of Rob is the closest thing to me I have ever played,’ Kravitz tells me as she inhales a piece of the café’s legendary carrot cake. ‘I know Rob so well. I, too, found being a teenager and young adult hard to navigate, and music was a refuge for me, somewhere to hide. I made playlists and would lie on the floor of my room listening to Jeff Buckley, learning the lyrics to songs that were the emotional soundtrack of my life.’ It’s not just the music in this show – David Bowie, Ann Peebles, Nick Drake, Swamp Dogg, Frank Ocean – that makes it such a good fit for Kravitz. The hip, nostalgia-tinged production was also shot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, not too far from her
“THE BEST PART OF BEING married is being able TO HAVE THE ODD FIGHT AND knowing neither of us is going TO WALK OUT THE DOOR”
own home in Williamsburg. The costumes, by Colleen Atwood, are mostly tweaked vintage finds that Kravitz helped seek out and look as if they could have been plucked directly from her own wardrobe. ‘Most of them are now living in my closet,’ she says with a laugh. She even wears a leather coat similar to the one Cusack sported in the film. The melding of vintage and modern is the central theme of High Fidelity, which also casts a funny and ironic look at the world of influencers. As Rob struggles with contemporary concepts such as streaming, social media and modern dating, she and her sidekicks use the record store as a refuge from the outside world. Debates rage about moral integrity, including the thorny issue of selling a Michael Jackson album. In the remake, Jack Black’s shoes have been hilariously filled by a sassy-mouthed Da’Vine Joy Randolph. And while Bruce Springsteen made a cameo appearance in the original film, jamming in Cusack’s bedroom and offering him advice on love and life, Blondie’s Debbie Harry turns up in Kravitz’s living room in this retelling (look out for her fashion-forward flip-flops). Hornby himself – with whom the actor regularly exchanged playlists – has given the project his blessing. ‘When I first met her, I could see how bright she was, and how well she knew the book and the film – and how much it resonated with her, along with her innate love and understanding of music,’ he says. ‘I immediately wanted to do anything I could to help her.’
It may be hard to imagine that Zoë Kravitz has much in common with the angst-ridden Rob, but coming from a family with such immaculate hipster credentials wasn’t as easy as one might think. Her father, Lenny, and mother, Lisa Bonet (best known for her role as Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show) split when she was two, and her early years were spent living an easy, outdoorsy life with her mom in Topanga Canyon, California. There was limited TV and she went to a Rudolf Steiner school, which she loved. At 11 she moved to Miami, where she lived with her father in an altogether more sophisticated scene, filled with celebrities. It wasn’t a comfortable world for her: ‘I didn’t like my new school. I didn’t fit in anywhere, and I was surrounded by an enormous amount of beauty and posturing. I was a chunky, perfectly normal-looking 15-yearold, and yet I had this remarkably beautiful, skinny mother and a father who was dating a supermodel. I felt short and ungainly.’ At one point, Nicole Kidman – her future costar in Big Little Lies – was secretly engaged to her father, rendering her a potential stepmother. ‘I was a grumpy teenager with her,’ Kravitz remembers. It was a lot to handle, and Kravitz became bulimic. Not long after, she moved to New York, so she was able to hide her condition from her parents at first. But once they discovered what she was going through, she began therapy. She suffered with the illness for about a decade. ‘I’m OK now,’ she says thoughtfully. ‘But I am vigilant. It’s a disease, and I never let myself forget that.’ In New York, she enrolled in another Rudolf Steiner school and later took acting classes at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts. She was in her mid-twenties when she landed the roles – in 2O15’s post-apocalyptic Mad Max: Fury Road, followed by Big Little Lies in 2O17 – that would catapult her into the major league. These projects addressed sensitive issues about women and empowerment at a time when Hollywood was having to reassess itself and its own behaviour. ‘I learned so much from my Big Little Lies family,’ she says. ‘Much as everyone would like us to have been bitchy and competitive, we all got along so well.’ She counts Reese Witherspoon as one of her best friends. And of the once ‘grumpy teenager’, Kidman now says, ‘I feel protective, like a big sister, toward her. She is carving her own path with confidence and grace. She’s having a big moment now, but it’s only going to get bigger. She’s a triple threat, because she can dance, sing and act. She is deeply feminine, and she always smells so good!’
Family life is rarely easy for an actor, but Kravitz is pragmatic. ‘I’m used to my family living in different cities, yet we stay close while all doing our own things.’ Does the same go for being a newlywed? ‘Yes. I mean, Karl has his own career and needs to focus on that, but we’ve been together for a few years now, and we know where we are. If anything, the best part of being married is being able to have the odd fight and knowing neither of us is going to walk out the door. The commitment feels safe.’ Kravitz has her acting family to hang out with while in London. Tonight, she will meet up at one of the capital’s select music venues, the Jazz Cafe, with Ben-Adir and Callum Turner, her co-star on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. But first, there’s shopping to be done. We decide to grab a glass of champagne and take advantage of Dover Street Market’s expertly curated fashion floors. Molly Goddard snoods are snapped up, delicious tiny suede evening bags by The Row are admired, and the genius of Bottega Veneta creative director Daniel Lee’s twisted knitwear is shown respect. Kravitz pulls out an ethereal tea-stained Victoriana top by Peng Tai. ‘That would look amazing on my mom, even though she’s not that into fashion… unlike me, who loves it.’ But it’s when we get to the warren-like basement of the store, where the cooler young designers are sold, that she really gets excited. Once on, a leopard-print beret by Noah does not come off her head. She pulls out an Ashley Williams yellow silk skirt covered in black cats and takes it to the fitting room to try on. The assistant looks at her when she comes out, delighted and twirling in it, and says, ‘Look at you, Catwoman!’ Kravitz turns to me with a conspiratorial laugh. ‘Oh my God, he doesn’t even know! That’s a sign!’ As if she needs one, I think. Her sign is written high in the sky, in spotlights.