The 28-year-old Australian actress has successfully made the cover of many glossy magazines. Unheard-of until ten years ago, the beautiful star has made a name for herself through some stunning performances covering the genre spectrum, one of which was her role as Donna Freedman in the soap opera Neighbours.
Determined to try her luck in Hollywood, she made her American debut in 2011 in the television series ‘Pan Am’, followed by ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ where she made her breakthrough, ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘I, Tonya’, nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and the SAG Awards! Not to mention ‘The Legend of Tarzan’, or ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, no less!
It is said that Queen Elizabeth 1st, whom you played masterfully, I was going to say regally, in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, powdered her face to the extreme with toxic products to hide her imperfections.
Yes, she owed the almost clownish whiteness of her face to white lead. It was a lead-based powder! There were reasons why the women of that time had to have white skin. The aim was to stay youthful and pristine in appearance. That was the look that women of this social class were aiming for. White lead was a very expensive cosmetic that only the aristocracy could afford!
Looking back, tell us a little about your transformation?
At first, we all imagined a pale-skinned queen, with her flamboyant wigs, her outlandish dresses, and a big bump on her nose, but then we delved a bit deeper whilst researching and discovered the effects of smallpox. At the time, the disease was wreaking havoc! 60% of those affected were permanently scarred, especially on the face. My make-up took 3 to 4 hours to look like Elizabeth 1st! At first, I was worried about taking on the role of this extraordinary woman. Especially since the last one to play her was the actress I admire most in the world, Cate Blanchett (Ed: in 1998 in Shekhar Kapur's biopic Elizabeth: The Golden Age). Fortunately, Josie explained to me that she wanted me to play her like a simple young woman. As soon as I stopped thinking of her as an assertive queen and approached her as a woman, I was able to understand her. I naively assumed that she had had a very easy life, when in fact her childhood was extremely traumatic. And of course, that didn't stop when she came to power.
If I say wine, what are the words that come to mind?
Joy, family, friends, pleasure, sharing, travel?
Because when you drink wine, I hear "foreigner", you are transported to a different place. When I was younger, I remember that when my parents talked about Bordeaux, it made me go and look for the city in my Atlas or on my globe! We often talked about France at the table, its gastronomy, its terroir, its history. For special occasions my parents would buy good wines. I can see my father uncorking them with great respect. He often told us that opening a good bottle required a certain amount of ceremony. In other words, you shouldn’t rush anything!
Remember your first tasting?
It was at a wedding. Neither me nor a female cousin as young as I was could understand why adults enjoyed tasting this ‘grape juice’. So, on the sly, we drank what was left in the bottom of the glass. To be honest, we didn't find it very good! I must have been something like five years old! And if I remember correctly, even that tiny swig made us very cheerful! (laughs)
What about your best wine memory?
A candlelit dinner with my husband, his wedding proposal and the good wines we enjoyed all evening!
And the worst?
Lunch at a friend's house where we were served plonk! I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time because the owner of the place had bought ten cases of this very run-of-the-mill wine! He seriously thought he had got a good deal. For all we know, he knew that his wine was undrinkable, but as he didn't want to lose face, throughout the entire meal he led us to believe that these bottles were a long-term investment! My husband and I pitied his heirs!
What do you miss most now that you no longer live in kangaroo country?
Vegemite! I'd eat it from morning till night! (Ed: Vegemite is a fairly salty, dark brown spread made from yeast extract, mainly eaten in Australia and New Zealand). I don't think you should pair it with a grand cru classé though! That’d be one heck of a mismatch!
Interview by Frank Rousseau, our correspondant in Hollywood
Photographs: all rights reserved