21 April

Feature: Elizabeth Debicki for Flaunt!

It’s been a breathless few months for Elizabeth Debicki and it shows no sign of slowing down. The Australian converses from her apartment in Brooklyn, where she’s having a momentary break from learning lines for her next role. She’s just finished filming on one of her biggest roles to date—playing Diana, Princess of Wales, in the upcoming season of The Crown— and next week, she’s back on set with James Gunn, filming the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Sitting on the floor, leaning against her sofa, and grabbing a quick slice of pizza, Debicki says she’s happy to be busy and among people again after a “surreal” lockdown spent largely alone. “At a certain point in the pandemic, I was super isolated,” Debicki says. She speaks slowly, in low tones, considering every question pensively, replying thoughtfully and reflectively. “It was before I’d gone back home to see my family and [because] of a number of factors, I went through this passage of time on my own. It’s incredible how your sense of self dissolves and becomes quite swampy and murky when you’re not touched or witnessed by people.”

The 31-year-old Australian actor, who was born in France and raised in Melbourne, has had little time for rest since landing a dream role straight out of drama school in 2013 in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby—a role that won her the AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actress. A stint in theatre with Cate Blanchett followed, as did acclaimed roles in The Night Manager alongside Tom Hiddleston, the Steve McQueen-directed Widows, and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet—one of the first big films to hit theaters after lockdown.

Debicki, who recently debuted as the face of Dior Fine Jewelry, spent the majority of her twenties in front of a camera or audiences—without that in lockdown, she says, she lost her sense of self. “All of that illusion of you being self-sustaining in any way as an artist is shattered when suddenly people can’t congregate,” she considers. “I can do some acting in my living room like I’m currently doing, learning some lines. But what is it when I’m on my own? To actually do your craft, you have to be watched.”

Debicki elaborates how the lack of communication and contact with others took a toll. “When I was forced to stop, I remember it feeling absolutely devastating and I was full of internal chaos. I had this sense of like incoming entropy. I felt like it was all going to collapse because you build momentum [in your career], and you feel like momentum is the most important thing. I didn’t yet know how to stop, trust, rest, or recoup… It was telling the way that it hit me like this absolute, gut-wrenching thing. It all came crashing down and it was very confronting. You start to reassess and analyze.”

Even before the pandemic, Debicki says she was always prone to analyzing. After landing the role in Gatsby as Jordan Baker alongside Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Toby Maguire, Debicki says she walked away from that project anxious about where and when her next role would arrive. “I went back to my life after Gatsby thinking, ‘Was that it?’” She explains that she didn’t have another job for almost a year after filming and returned to a relatively normal existence in Sydney. “I remember going back to my very student-y life at that point. I was in a big house share and I’m not going to say it’s Withnail and I, but it was full of artists and people who were sculpting out of Styrofoam,” she laughs, “and everybody—apart from me—was smoking weed.”

Debicki shares that despite the success of her critically acclaimed turn in the film she “had to really hustle” for parts in the months that followed and often got rejected. “It was a very healthy kick-in-the-butt reality check,” Debicki says, reflecting on the period. She says it taught her the value of never taking her career for granted. “There are just no givens with this job,” she explains. “I would wrap on a big movie, and I would look at all of it wistfully, like… ‘Well, at least I got a shot! Thanks for having me!’” Debicki thinks it’s instilled in actors from “the beginning” about “how few and far between opportunity is” and a constant feeling of “you may not work again after [your current job]”— messages she’s taken to heart. “I guess I maybe did that to myself, to keep me working really hard.” [More at Source]

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