Elizabeth Debicki is having a terrific end to the summer. She’s just been cast as Princess Diana in the final two seasons of The Crown, and we’ll soon be seeing her in Christopher Nolan‘s super-hyped spy thriller Tenet. To whet your appetite, here’s a handy guide to get to know the talented Australian actress and find out where else to watch her.
1. Her big break came when Baz Luhrmann cast her in his lavish 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
You wouldn’t know it from her captivating performance as Jordan Baker, a formidable golf player who’s best friends with Carey Mulligan‘s Daisy Buchanan, but Debicki has recently admitted she had “zero camera craft” when she made the movie. Debicki also said she was “fascinated” to watch Mulligan and co-star Leonardo DiCaprio in action – quite a masterclass in what was only Debicki’s second ever film role.
2. She trained as a ballet dancer before switching to acting.
Both of her parents were ballet dancers and Debicki thought she might follow in their footsteps before realizing she was probably too tall. Still, she believes her dance training has given her an edge in her acting career, and told Allure a few years ago: “Dancing gives an innate physical awareness – it’s physical training. Acting feels like the same medium but just with words.”
3. She stands at a statuesque 6’3, and definitely embraces her height these days.
“I realized that I couldn’t do anything about it,” Debicki told The Independent in 2016. “You just have to accept it, or it will be a burden for your whole life. I am very tall and when you’re a teenager, you want to be like everyone else. I used to slump a lot, it’s very human at that stage to want to be part of the crowd, and not want any part of you that is sticking out.”
4. She starred in Guy Ritchie’s underrated 2015 spy flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and learned to drive especially for the role.
“I actually got driving lessons on the set which was quite hilarious, and so I learnt to drive in manual – in a manual E Type Jag!” she told Mindfood at the time. “Not a lot of people can say that.”
5. She describes herself as “daggy,” an Australian slang term meaning “dorky” or “nerdy.”
“Yeah, I’m a big dag,” she told Variety recently. “I always have been. I was that kid in school who would always write 500 words more than the assignment required.”
6. She appeared in AMC’s highly acclaimed espionage thriller The Night Manager, and really impressed John le Carré.
In fact, le Carré told Debicki that she made her character Jed – partner of Hugh Laurie‘s scheming arms dealer Dicky Roper – more “interesting” than she was in his book. Debicki recently told The Guardian that she worked with The Night Manager‘s director Susanne Bier to make sure Jed was as fully rounded as possible. “It was our intention,” she explained, “because when people say, ‘I want to play a multi-dimensional woman,’ or ‘We need to give this character more dimension, she doesn’t have enough layers,’ what are they really saying? Usually they mean, does she have an opinion? Does she have an objective? Is she being idealized and commodified by not only the male characters, but also the lens?”
7. She says she loves listening to Olivia Colman – a co-star on The Night Manager – talk about her acting process.
“It sounds so vague, but it’s just this magic that Olivia does,” Debicki told The Guardian. “She’ll be like chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, and then turn around and bang, just smash out this amazing thing.”
8. Her breakout role in Steve McQueen’s 2018 heist thriller Widows sounds as though it was pretty intense to shoot.
Especially a scene where Debicki’s character Alice, a young woman slowly gaining in confidence, slaps Viola Davis‘s older and more authoritative Veronica after being triggered by her. “We churned through that scene. We really went into it. It was messy and pretty traumatic and all the good things,” Debicki told Vulture when the movie opened. “But it is really the only scene we have together just the two of us, and it felt like a wrestling match. We were up for it and wanted to find it and Steve was really in it with us. I am proud of that scene.”
For the record, Debicki didn’t really slap Davis – it was all cleverly choreographed by the movie’s stunt coordinator.
9. She actually asked to audition for Christopher Nolan’s new movie Tenet even though the director didn’t expect her to.
The movie, which opens in U.S. theaters September 3, remains shrouded in secrecy. We know little beyond the fact that it also stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Kenneth Branagh, and Aaron Taylor Johnson, and appears to have a time-traveling element. Debicki is playing the estranged wife of Branagh’s baddie, a woman whom Nolan has described as an “English Rose kind of character.” This certainly bodes well for Debicki’s upcoming role as Princess Diana, too.
“I certainly wasn’t asking,” Nolan said of Debicki’s audition in a Variety feature. “There’s a certain level of actor who, as a director, you don’t necessarily want to ask them. But she wanted to. I think it was important to her to know that she could do what I was looking for. And she came in and just blew everybody away. In my mind, she was only confirming what I already knew. What she did with it is far beyond my hopes even.”
10. She doesn’t do social media… so don’t expect to see her on Instagram any time soon.
Debicki says the platform is “kind of a foreign world to me” and stays away from it because it leads to “comparative thinking” which she finds unhealthy.
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