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
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…)
The 21-year-old actress – who is dating ‘Bodyguard’ actor Richard Madden – spent six weeks away in Brazil shooting ‘The Seven Sorrows of Mary’ and admitted her absence can be tough on her loved ones, but things are always fine again once they get chance to reconnect.
In an interview with the new issue of Red magazine, she said: ‘Being away puts a strain on family and friends, but my best friends came [to the ‘Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ premiere] and, even though I hadn’t seen some of them in ages, we just picked up where we left off.’
But despite being away from her loved ones a lot, Ellie always gets to spend a lot of time with her mother, as she’s also her manager.
She added: ‘It means we make time to see each other and she’s always got my back.’
Meanwhile, the ‘Nocturnal Animals’ actress doesn’t feel particularly famous but revealed there are aspects of being in the public eye that she finds tough.
She said: ‘[The hardest thing was] moving away from my friends and family… walking to the chip shop on a Sunday with a hangover, that’s not so good.’
‘I don’t acknowledge it, I don’t really feel I am famous in any way.’
Boyfriend Richard starred in ‘Bodyguard’ – one of the year’s biggest TV shows – and he and Ellie enjoyed watching it back together.
She admitted: ‘We watched it together at his house.’
Despite a very successful year herself, the ‘Les Miserables’ actress feels she is still “learning”.
She said: ‘I’m still finding my way, so it can be hard. I’m still growing, still learning, still changing.’
The 21-year-old actress was delighted to film alongside a star-studded cast including Keira Knightley, Dame Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Mackenzie Foy in director Lasse Hallstrom’s Disney fantasy and will never forget the experience.
She said: ‘It’s a live-action film and it’s a lot more story based than the ballet but there’s still going to be dancing‘.
”Getting to work with Lasse Hallstrom was so incredible and that cast, I mean… Mackenzie is amazing, Matthew Macfadyen is so brilliant – it was a really cool cast and being able to bring that magical tale to life… well, it was really, really special.”
Next year, Ellie can be seen in ‘The Seven Sorrows of Mary’, which is based on real events and sees her play an exchange student who is kidnapped, raped and beaten while in Brazil and though it was the ‘toughest’ role she’s ever had, the actress embraced doing night shoots in Rio de Janeiro.
She said: ‘It was very intense. I think it might have been my toughest role to date’.
‘We did lots of night shoots so I’d come home to see the sunrise. There was something really special about a beautiful end to the day.’
But it isn’t the British actress’ first difficult role as her big break came in Tom Ford’s dark thriller ‘Nocturnal Animals’, on which she formed a strong bond with her on-screen parents Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher, which helped her through filming.
She recalled to Britain’s Elle magazine: ‘On set, the three of us formed a really strong relationship together’.
‘We all got on really well and we’d hang out a lot outside of filming. I think that was really important because we had this bond with each other where we felt safe together, no matter what space we were put in.’
Ellie Bamber and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom) are set to headline crime pic The Seven Sorrows of Mary.
The film will be directed by Portuguese writer-director Pedro Varela (Os Filhos Do Rock) from his own screenplay, with shoot getting under way this month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Inspired by true events, the harrowing story follows Mary (Bamber), a 21 year old American exchange student, who is about to finish up her year abroad in Brazil. While out for a night on the town with her boyfriend Gabriel (Frecheville), they are both kidnapped. Gabriel is repeatedly beaten while Mary is raped by her captors during a six-hour abduction nightmare. After she gets away Mary is forced to choose between seizing a chance at freedom and letting Gabriel be killed, or returning to her brutal attackers.
The English-language film is produced by Blanche Filmes, Brazil and René Bastian of Belladonna Productions (Transamerica, Cold In July).
On paper, Bamber’s role has an echo of her memorable turn in Tom Ford’s Oscar-nominated Nocturnal Animals. The rising actress will next be seen in Disney’s The Nutcracker And The Four Realms and BBC’s Les Miserables.
Frecheville recently starred in BBC-Netflix gothic drama Requiem and will next be been starring opposite Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent and Barry Keoghan in Irish historical drama Black 47.
Bamber are Frecheville are repped by UTA. Bamber is additionally repped by Curtis Brown in the UK and Frecheville by MGMT and Sloan Offer.