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T

he flawless alabaster skin, chiselled cheekbones, regal

stature, cool demeanour. It’s not hard to imagine

Australian actor Elizabeth Debicki as a goddess, or high

priestess as she is officially called, in the latest Marvel comic adaptation

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

in cinemas now. Gold from head to toe,

standing on platform shoes (even though she stands 188cm tall in bare

feet) and surrounded by golden subjects, she is a magnificent Ayesha,

ruler of the Sovereign planet.

Not surprisingly, canny film reviewers have already drawn Oscar

connotations and the film’s writer and director James Gunn has joked

that the look is “a subliminal message to the Oscar voters out there”. But

while comic-book heroes, or villains, are yet to win such lofty awards

Debicki is on a meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the A-list and has

been marked as a name to watch.

Born in Paris and raised in Melbourne, Debicki was exposed to a lot

of different kinds of theatre from an early age but she was barely out of

drama school with just one small part in a local rom-com behind her

when Baz Luhrmann was on the phone asking her to audition for

The

Great Gatsby

. She joined the cast alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey

Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton as Jordan Baker in Gatsby’s

inner circle. She admits it was the first real training in acting for the

camera she had as her school, the prestigious Victorian College of the

Arts, was very traditional and theatre-based. Immediately she won an

AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

It’s perhaps too obvious that she should be compared to Cate Blanchett

and Debicki says that although she is flattered by such comments she

dislikes the media’s need to attach labels to her. Nevertheless, Blanchett

was a role model for her growing up and she confesses to feeling

starstruck when she eventually got to work with her on stage in Sydney

and on Broadway in

The Maids

, which also starred Isabelle Huppert. It

was another great learning opportunity for Debicki who often turned up

to rehearsal times when she wasn’t needed, just to watch her two co-stars

in action. That role earned her a Helpmann award nomination.

Meanwhile Blanchett herself is full of praise for Debicki and has said,

“There is no-one like her. She has an incredible generosity of spirit and

an utterly unique combination of goofiness and self-possession. I love her

to pieces and have infinite respect for her as an artist.”

Since then Debicki has become a sought-after actor with an

international pedigree. She has appeared on stage in London (in

The

Red Baron

), in films including Guy Ritchie’s

Man from U.N.C.L.E

, in

Macbeth

alongside Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and in

Everest

, which also starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin. On television

she has earned equally high praise, and a Best Actress AACTA Award,

for her lead role in Foxtel’s drama series

The Kettering Incident

, filmed

in Tasmania, and received a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for her

role in

The Night Manager,

the latest mini-series to captivate audiences

on SBS. Debicki has been called “the most memorable performer in the

piece”, a bold call when her co-stars in the John le Carré spy thriller are

Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.

It’s not surprising, then, to anyone except Debicki, that a blockbuster

franchise would soon come calling. “I completely didn’t expect it,” she

says and, of course, she was thrilled. “I loved the first movie. I thought it

was hilarious, clever and heartwarming and I loved the characters. I was

just so happy to be involved.”

It’s also been one of the most successful movies from the ‘Marvel

Cinematic Universe’. The first instalment earned more than $700 million

worldwide at the box office and a 91 per cent approval rating on review

aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

Director James Gunn certainly wasted no time in casting her for Vol.2.

Like Baz Luhrmann he cast Debicki immediately after her audition, even

though he already had someone in mind for the part (and he looked at

hundreds of people before he cast Chris Pratt as Peter Quill). He wasn’t

disappointed. He’s on record saying “she’s one of the greatest actors I’ve

ever worked with”.

Beyond her work, you’re not likely to find out a lot about Debicki’s

life. She is a very private person and she is not on social media, initially,

she admits, because she didn’t really understand it and then because

she didn’t think she was that interesting. But if

Guardians of the Galaxy

Vol. 2

is anywhere near as successful as the first instalment and her star

continues to rise along with the list of top notch roles on her resume,

then that will surely change.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

is on now.

Marvel: Creating the

Cinematic Universe

is on at GOMA from 27 May to 3 September

Elizabeth Debicki’s star is on a

meteoric rise, a trajectory that

began even before she joined the

Marvel Cinematic Universe

BNE May/June 2017 |

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