When I ask Ellie Bamber for the names of some of the actresses she admired growing up, her answer unintentionally provokes a giggle. “Definitely Nicole Kidman,” she starts. “Moulin Rouge was one of those films that I watched as a kid and was like ‘Oh my god, that’s what I want to do.’ And I love Emma Stone, I think she’s a really amazing actress.” I pause, waiting for the moment of recognition, then laughing, point out the common theme of red hair, shared also by Ellie. All at once, she’s surprised and apologetic, almost as if it didn’t occur to her. “That’s so weird, sorry!” She nervously laughs. “When I was a kid, I was blonde. I’m naturally blonde. It’s weird how as a kid I was already gravitating towards that – that’s funny actually.”
Real or not, Ellie Bamber is a redhead rising through the ranks, her signature strawberry-blonde hair a striking point of difference from many of her peers. It’s this hair that would have played at least a small part in snagging her career-making role in Tom Ford’s haunting 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals, where she joined a flame-haired acting trifecta completed by Amy Adams and Isla Fisher. After a disturbing, but powerful performance as a daughter on a doomed family road trip, it sparked excited murmurs surrounding the Berkshire-born newcomer. But hair is just one thing. Talent is another.
And talent is something that Ellie has in buckets. She’s been lauded as somewhat of an industry chameleon, seamlessly embodying all manner of roles. Pre-Nocturnal Animals, there was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a comic, feminist, gore-filled riff on the Jane Austen classic which saw her train for two months in martial arts. Last year, she made her much-celebrated Donmar Theatre debut for a modern adaptation of the famous Henrik Ibsen play, The Lady from the Sea. In 2017, after the visuals for Shawn Mendes’ hit “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” were released, fans went into a frenzy investigating the identity of his music video love interest – played convincingly by Bamber, a free-spirit in the early raptures of love.
A stint as Tom Ford’s muse means that her style – which she describes as “a combination of classic, pretty things, and street style” – has also snagged her opportunities such as being appointed as a Chanel ambassador. Casual. She’s also the lead in upcoming project, Taipei (High Resolution), a love-in-the-age-of-social-media tale, about “a couple who takes loads of drugs together, film themselves and put it out on the internet.” Currently, she’s speaking to me over the phone from Brazil, where she’s shooting a harrowing abduction true story, The Seven Sorrows of Mary, which she calls a “tough” but also “really important piece of work.”
Ellie Bamber graces the cover of Rollacoster’s Autumn/Winter 2018 issue, available now to pre-order.
Here’s what the 21-year-old The Nutcracker and the Four Realms actress had to say…
On her favorite actresses: “Definitely Nicole Kidman. Moulin Rouge was one of those films that I watched as a kid and was like ‘Oh my god, that’s what I want to do.’ And I love Emma Stone, I think she’s a really amazing actress.”
On her upcoming Les Mis mini-series: “The funniest thing is that I was in the musical version of it at my school when I was younger. I really like re-imagining the classics and looking at all the different adaptation. With our version of Les Mis, it’s very much based on the book – which is wonderful because there’s so much detail in it. It’s 1500 pages!”
On her acting journey: “I think I can be very self-critical, for sure. I’ve still got tons to learn. But it makes me really, really excited, I think you can probably hear that. I don’t know much at all, so I’m looking forward to being challenged more and learning more from my peers and directors. I’m always ready. I just want to be as open to that as I can possibly be.”
For more from Ellie, visit Rollacoaster.tv.
Ellie Bamber is no stranger when it comes to the classics. The 21-year-old is set to portray Louise in the upcoming film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, followed by a starring role in the BBC’s six-part version of the iconic musical Les Misérables. And while Ellie’s version of Cosette (played in the 2012 film by Amanda Seyfried) won’t be hitting any high E’s — since the series will not be a musical — the performer is certainly comfortable singing her heart out.
Ellie tells Teen Vogue on the set of the Young Hollywood shoot that her first dip into acting was onstage, in a musical called Aspects of Love. From there, the rest is basically history, since she fell in love with performing. Incidentally, this won’t be Ellie’s first trip to 19th-century France; she also performed in a production of Les Mis when she was in school. However, she adds that Cosette is “a dream role,” noting that this version of the musical will be a totally different experience.
“You’re going to see these characters in different ways because we’re going back to the original novel,” Ellie explains, citing the 1,400-page classic by Victor Hugo. “We’re bringing details that have never been seen before,” she adds, describing elements being included as “very romantic” and “stunning.” The actor notes that fans of the musical are in for a “new and interesting” take on the popular Broadway classic. She starts filming in Brussels soon and has gotten a chance to see some of the wardrobe — which she knows is an essential part of telling a character’s journey.
The young artist’s upcoming projects may take her out of the theater momentarily, but she raves about the lessons she’s learned while working on productions in venues both big and small. She recounts doing the musical comedy High Society at the Old Vic in London and working with Kwame Kwei-Armah, who changed the way she looks at new roles. Ellie describes the experience as being like one big family, thanks to spending countless hours in a close environment, which included plenty of dancing around to playlists brought in by the other performers.
For Ellie, one of the best parts of revamping these classic titles is bringing in new audiences. Even if musical theater isn’t your cup of tea, you might fall in love with this version of Les Mis and want to go see it onstage — and Ellie hopes that’s exactly what happens. “There is really nothing like seeing a live stage performance,” she promises.
Les Mis isn’t the only classic that Ellie gets to bring into 2018. She tells Teen Vogue that The Nutcracker — which will be released in theaters in November — is a “reimagining” of the traditional story found within the holiday-themed ballet. The film also stars Twilight’s Mackenzie Foy as Clara, Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger.
In addition to her passion for telling timeless stories, Ellie cares deeply about gender equality within Hollywood — especially in light of the current Time’s Up movement. She notes that it’s essential to have women behind the camera as well as onscreen, adding that everything that happens behind the scenes “translates to the front.”
“The idea of bringing equality not just to entertainment but to every walk of life, I think it’s very important,” she says. “There should be no segregation. Everyone should be united, and everyone should be seen as equals.”
If Ellie has her way, Hollywood will continue down this path. She hopes that roles will continue to get better for women, and she also looks forward to obtaining more challenging roles herself — ones that would “take me somewhere that maybe I haven’t been before.” Given that she’s already accomplished so much, we’re expecting to see her go to many new places — and continue to shine all the way.