Ellie Bamber is dressed in a pink Emilia Wickstead dress with splashes of bright-blue paint in her blonde hair, newly dyed for GLAMOUR’s art-tastic shoot. “This is totally my Mad Hatter’s tea party moment,” laughs Ellie. “I love experimenting with make-up colours, using them in unique ways and doing wild things, because on a day-to-day basis, I sometimes feel mad -but in a good way.”
Ellie’s energy, as well as her talent for breaking your emotion with a single glance, is quickly making her one of Britain’s most in-demand actresses. Having been plucked from her school aged 11 to star in Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects Of Love, she landed her first TV role in the ITV drama A Mother’s Son in 2012 and went on to tread the West End boards in The Lady From The Sea. But she is arguably best known for her 2016 role in Tom Ford’s intense-as-hell Nocturnal Animals, where she played Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher’s ill-fated daughter. Oh, and she got to live the Shawn Mendes girlfriend fantasy, when he chased her all over Paris for his music video, Theres Nothing Holdin’ Me Back. Not afraid to take on dark roles, Ellie will hit the big screen this year in The Seven Sorrows Of Mary, the true story of an American exchange student who, after being kidnapped in Brazil, alongside her boyfriend (played by James Frecheville)
endured a brutal gang rape in a tiny van. Ellie confesses that taking on the role was deeply troubling, “I was sent a link after filming to watch it, and I still can’t revisit it, yet.”
After months spent filming horrific rape scenes in the confined space, she says, “I asked if I could torch the van at the end. The emotions were so intense on set and in my head – most people only spoke Portuguese, so l couldn’t speak their language and felt even more apart from everything that was happening around me. I did feel quite lonely at times.” How did she escape putting her body and mind through such a harrowing experience? “I watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians at the weekends; I feel like that was a nice release.”
Away from the cameras, Ellie has always defiantly forged her own path, admitting she’s as happy “riding my skateboard wearing Chanel” as she is, placard in hand, marching through Trafalgar Square on a protest. It’s this empowered attitude that helped her land the career-defining role of Cosette in BBCs recent Les Misérables series. Described in the original 1862 book as, ‘a barefooted adventuress with gypsy blood in her veins’, Cosette is an apt reflection of Ellie’s bohemian 2.0 personality
So, does she see any of herself in these strong, spirited characters who’ve faced hardship, especially as a woman in this post – #MeToo world ? “I ‘m not afraid ou to be me and push my opinions. At school, it always felt like girls were pitted against each other-that’s so awful and sad and something that I never do. It’s about accepting everyone and their choices.”
Part of Ellie’s endearing charm is she’s as self-assured and down-to-earth in her moral code as she is with her beauty routine, admitting in the past that she still goes to her gran’s a former hairdresser- in Essex, to have her roots done. But despite being a new-gen Ginger Spice thanks to her days – and roles as a redhead, Ellie is in fact “naturally this blonde. I had my hair dyed red for Pride And Prejudice And Zombies in 2015, and I’ve only just gone back to my natural colour,” she confesses, swishing her hair. But as a young feminist, how does she feel about the question that will not die: can you be a feminist and be into beauty? “Women should be able to do what the hell they like – unless it’s against the law!” she replies, puffing out her cheeks.
“Beauty is important to me, but I don’t think it defines me”. She has the same no-BS approach to handling life in spotlight, even more so since attention started swirling round her relationship and break-up with Bodyguard’s Richard Madden last year. Her secret? Stay grounded. “It gets dangerous if you change the way you act, if you stop being yourself,” she confides. “I would never stop being me. Everyone has a subjective opinion and I think it’s better not to worry about what other people think”. It’s why you can forget getting into dating chat – AKA the bane of many twentysomethings lives – with Ellie. “I’m so focused on my career,” she says.“I am my own independent woman, so why does it matter who I date?” Destiny’s Child would, no doubt, approve.
The Seven Sorrows Of Mary will be released later in 2019
At only 21, actress Ellie Bamber has already walked in a Chanel show, starred in a film by Tom Ford, and soared to the top of practically every best-dressed list, so it’s pretty clear she doesn’t need any help in the style department. But still, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms star isn’t above taking some outfit pointers from one of her fashion icons.
For InStyle’s February issue, we connected Bamber with her current style crush, Jessica Biel who has been charming us for the last two decades with her chic choices (ahh, the 7thHeaven days). During the chat, Biel reminisced about some of her most memorable looks and also got candid about what she wishes she would’ve known back when she was a red carpet newbie. Her biggest regret? All those years of dressing sexy.
“I wish I would’ve explored some different shapes, and not gone so sexy all the time,” she told Bamber. “I think if you look at some of my earlier choices, maybe it didn’t need to always be about the body. I know it’s a vibe that you feel when you’re young, but still that’s what I would’ve done a little differently.”
Biel also opened up about being a bit of late bloomer when it came to the whole fashion thing altogether. It wasn’t until her 20s, she said, that she finally started moving past her tomboy days. “It took me a minute to get into those types of womanly things, like bags and shoes, but in my early 20s a light bulb went off and I was like, ‘Oh, I get it now.’” The actress’s first major designer splurge? A black leather Marc Jacobs bag, which she recalls being “super-high end at the time.”
Ellie Bamber: Jessica, first I have to tell you I loved The Sinner so much. I’m just getting into the second season right now.
Jessica Biel: Yay! Season two is just as crazy and weird.
EB: I’m very excited. And I also love your style. Your day-to-day look is so cool and effortless and then the gowns you choose for the red carpet have such simplicity and grace.
JB: Thank you, gosh! For me, fashion is fun because you can be one thing one moment, and something completely different another moment. I just try to find a balance. Some things that are super fashion don’t make a lot of sense on the red carpet. My off-duty look is usually just jean on jean with a pair of high-tops.
EB: Same. When I go to the pub, it’s almost always Air Force 1s with jeans. Do you have a piece that you’re living in right now?
JB: Yeah, I have an oversized embroidered jean jacket that’s on 100 percent repeat. It’s by Russian designer Katya Dobryakova and pretty affordable too. And when it comes to jeans, I’m loving my Re/Done Levi’s. Mother and AMO denim are great too.
EB: I have loads of jeans, but then I only wear like four pairs, which always include my AMOS. That white strapless dress that you wore to the Emmys last year was so gorgeous [above]. Was it a favorite of yours?
JB: Definitely, but it’s tough to play favorites. I feel like I need to Google myself and look at all the previous stuff. The other one that pops into my head was the sheer red Giambattista Valli gown I wore to The A-Teampremière [below]. I remember feeling incredible on that day in that dress. How about you?(more…)
Ellie Bamber has a confession to make: she judges books by their covers. “Sometimes – and I know people say this is awful – I do just go into a bookshop and think, ‘Oh, that cover looks nice’,” the actor laughs.
But that doesn’t mean the content of the book need be equally palatable. Her current read, My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, which she brings to breakfast with Stylist, has a quaint, period cover. But Ottessa Moshfegh’s second novel “is about this woman who gets loads of sleeping pills and decides to hibernate for a year because she thinks it might help her,” explains 21-year-old Bamber in a Bloomsbury cafe near her central London flat. “It’s intriguing. The author has a dark voice.”
Another less-than-light read is the reason we’re meeting. Bamber recently devoured Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in anticipation of her role as Cosette in a new dramatisation of the French historical novel. The six-part BBC drama dispenses with songs to stay closer to Hugo’s doorstop of a book. The period piece also draws parallels with contemporary global unrest.
It’s lavish, but it is gruelling. Fans of the novel, the blockbuster musical or this new adaptation on BBC One will know that Bamber’s turn as Cosette comes after several episodes of untold misery. She gets all the nice costumes but she doesn’t escape scot-free. “You see that Cosette is given away by her mother to this extremely abusive family and, as Victor Hugo says, she’s treated like the household drudge by the parents and children.”
We meet the week before Christmas and Bamber is working right up to the break. This is what it’s like when you’re an actor of the moment. She’s just back from shooting a film, The Seven Sorrows Of Mary, in Rio. Currently, she’s juggling work on another British film, The Show (“a comedy shot through an LSD lens”, she laughs) and a second BBC drama. It doesn’t leave much time for rest and relaxation.
“I was filming two different things all last week,” she says. “So I had a fairly chilled out weekend just hanging out and reading this book.”
Bamber has been in demand ever since she started acting at school, where she won drama scholarships. Brought up in Berkshire and with the support of her parents – her mum is her manager – she was on the West End stage with a part in a prestigious Sir Trevor Nunn play, Aspects Of Love, by the age of 13.
Television, theatre and film work followed but it was playing the daughter of Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher’s characters in Nocturnal Animals that gave her a Hollywood break. Chanel appointed her as an ambassador in 2016. But while Bamber is major red carpet material, she’s much more than outward appearances.
She’s drawn to all sorts of stories, but she excels in dramas that blend her obvious glamour with substantial amounts of grit. It started with Nocturnal Animals. The work of a celebrated designer, Tom Ford’s film looked suitably stylish. But its substance dealt in the knottier, often violent aspects of the human condition. Bamber’s character, in particular, had a grim time of it.
Her new work, discussed over scrambled eggs and Americanos, also sits on the grittier end of the spectrum. The Seven Sorrows Of Mary is a terrifying-sounding thriller about a tourist couple who are kidnapped and tortured by a gang in Rio de Janeiro. The other BBC drama in the works is The Trial of Christine Keeler, a take on the political sex scandal that rocked the British establishment in the Sixties, written and directed by women.
Bamber plays Christine Keeler’s friend and fellow showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies, who challenged the characterisation of herself as a fallen woman. It’s a meaty role that should seal 2019 as Bamber’s year. She shows Stylist a snap on her phone of herself in character, complete with Sixties’ bob and red lipstick.
But while the actor enjoyed the glitzier side to Rice-Davies, she was drawn to the substance of her story. She read her memoir (Bamber really does her homework) in which the former showgirl proves herself to be more than what the headlines of the time portrayed.
“Mandy was so fun and vivacious, she didn’t hold back,” says Bamber, a woman who clearly likes to look beyond appearances. “But the way these girls got labelled by men at the time… it was a lot.”(more…)
Ellie Bamber plays Cosette
Tell us about Cosette
For me, Cosette is a representation of hope and the future for the story. Her journey is the story of her becoming a woman, but one from a really tough past. Previously I feel audiences have had a different idea of Cosette – she’s often seen as a passive character within the plot, but Andrew Davies’ script delves into her past so you can see why she is nervous at the beginning of her teenage life. She does have a huge capacity to love and that begins to show.
I haven’t played a character recently from this time period so wearing these amazing costumes is incredible, as are the sets.
Tell us about Les Misérables as an adaptation
I loved Andrew’s scripts, they are so eloquently written. An audience who hasn’t read the book but might have seen the play or seen the movie adaptation will see new details that they wouldn’t have seen or known before, especially about the characters’ pasts and where they are going.
Tell us about the relationship between Cosette and Jean Valjean
The relationship between Cosette and Jean Valjean is wonderful, as they depend on each other. She teaches him how to love and that’s beautiful. The interesting thing about the journey they go on together is Cosette becoming a woman: it’s a father holding onto his daughter, but also letting her go.
If you were going to categorise Ellie Bamber’s 2018, ‘intense AF’ springs to mind. No stranger to a gritty role – you will recognise Ellie from her chilling role in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals – Ellie jetted to Brazil to portray a real-life backpacker who was kidnapped, repeatedly raped and abused in the back of a tiny van for the film, The Seven Sorrows of Mary.
Then if that wasn’t gut wrenching enough for one twenty-one-year-old, she popped on a corset and tackled one of the most iconic roles of all, Cosette in BBC’s sans singing adaption of Les Misérables. Set to become Christmas TV’s break out star, Ellie’s star turn takes her from rising eugine to fully fledged power house.
Here, one of Britain’s best rising stars opens up her photo album and takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her 2018 from the trap music loving set of Les Misérables to the Chanel Couture show…
I don’t think this snowman has been my best work. With this being taken a year ago, I am looking back at myself in this picture and realise I have gone through tonnes. I don’t think I would speak to you about things in the same way, then. It’s hard to put my mind in the same place that I was because I feel like I’m growing at such a rapid rate that I can’t even keep up. Playing different roles escalates that growing up process, too.
My first reaction when I watched Les Misérables was, ‘wow, my hair looks good!’ They put half a wig in and I was always kinda worried it was gonna make my head look twice as big! This is the girl playing younger Cosette and I. It was actually really bizarre as there was an even younger child, called Milo and then there was a baby me. It was interesting to see what they had gone for and how similar they had made us.
The real lol was, one morning at 5am I asked Dominic West if it was it ok if I played trap music and he said, ‘absolutely I love trap music!’ Next minute I’m playing trap music and we’re having a dance around the trailer. That was fun.
Some Friday nights the crew put on parties in the car parks where we had the trailers. We had fire breathers, smoke machines, disco lights, like, 90s raves!(more…)