‘I was at the Chanel Métiers d’Art show in Rome when I turned to the person next to me and said, “Can you smell bacon or is just me?” It was insane but Karl Lagerfeld had created a full Parisian town with a patisserie and a boulangerie all cooking real food.’ Such glamorous experiences are something that 18-year-old Brit actress Ellie Bamber will need to get used to having caught the eye of Hollywood directors after her brilliant turn in Carol Morley’s acclaimed drama The Falling. But it was her role as Lydia Bennett alongside Lily James, Matt Smith and Suki Waterhouse in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies that really caught our attention. This month she plays Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher’s daughter in Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford. Here she talks martial arts, Southern accents and her ‘momager’…
We hear acting doesn’t run in the family?
‘No, my mum wanted to be a dancer when she was younger but didn’t get to do it. So I think that’s why she’s always been so supportive of me following my dreams. She’s actually my “momager” now. She organizes my diary and helps answer my emails. But she doesn’t come on set with me as she knows that’s when I need to bond with my co-stars.’
So how did your career start?
‘I caught the acting bug when I was at school. I was spotted in a show at London’s Players’ Theatre and it took off from there. Once I got my GCSEs out of the way I started auditioning. I flew back from holiday to audition for Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and won the part of Lydia Bennet.’
You’ve kept the red hair you had for the part?
‘Yes, my character Lydia is really feisty so the costume team decided to dye my hair red. On the big reveal I hated it. But then the next day I got used to it and fell in love with it. I’m never going back to blonde again!’
So blondes don’t have more fun?
‘No way! I love being ginger. You can be more fiery and badass. I really liked being a ginger zombie fighter in the film.’
What skills did you pick up?
‘Me, Suki Waterhouse, Lily James and Millie Brady spent two whole months kicking the s**t out of each other learning martial arts. It was so much fun. After all the training I felt much safer, like I could protect myself more.’
Did you bond with your co-stars?
‘The first day was like starting a new school. You’re kind of scared but then you settle in. Lily James and Matt Smith really took me under their wings. I loved watching them work and learning from them. We still see each other all the time.’
And next you play Jake Gyllenhaal’s daughter in Tom Ford’s film Nocturnal Animals?
‘Yes, I play Jake and Isla Fisher’s child. They’re the best parents! I look more like Isla than I do my actual mum. I had to do a Southern accent for the part so I watched Friday Night Lights back to back, and to practise I would walk into shops in LA and talk to people in my Texan accent. They didn’t seem to notice.’
Was it intimidating meeting Mr Ford?
‘It was so daunting. I remember thinking, “What the hell do I wear?” and ended up in a pair of flares. On the day, he turned to me and said: “Ellie you have good personal style.” That was a huge moment for me – like I’ve made it!’
Your Instagram is full of amazing outfit posts…
‘I love expressing myself through clothes. When I was little I used to look through fashion magazines with my mum and be like, “I would love to wear Chanel.” So when Karl Lagerfeld invited me to his Métiers d’Art show in Rome it was a dream come true. I even got to have dinner with him!’
So you must have loved the Chanel look on the InStyle shoot…
‘Yes, it was so fun. Everything was lush, especially that Gucci dress. I really enjoy doing shoots although they’re a bit hard at first because you’re playing yourself. I find being myself a bit daunting but because I’m quite an energetic person I tend to just dance around all day.’
So do you work out a lot too?
‘I have an Insanity DVD that’s full of fun Americans yelling at you to get fit, so I jump around at home to that. My neighbours think I’m mad.’