The Interview: Elizabeth Debicki

Actress Elizabeth Debicki is, quite simply, beauty personified.

Lithe and lissome, the former ballet dancer uses her graceful body as an instrument that allows the characters she plays to not just speak, but sing from the depths of their soul without making a sound. Her performances are magnetic and entrancing, her demeanor positively regal. 

And while her exquisite features beguile audiences and critics, there’s more to her than just looks. Her keen intellect, sharp wit and vulnerability allow her to transcend the scripted word in a chameleon-like fashion.

Be it villain, housewife, mistress or gilded high priestess — Debicki plays every role with relish and unwavering commitment to explore the essence of the characters she embodies, digging deep into her psyche to unleash the part of herself that connects with those she portrays.

Born in Paris to ballet dancer parents of modest means, Debicki moved to Melbourne, Australia, when she was five.

A self-described “dag” — Australian slang for nerd — Debicki’s childhood dreams of becoming an archaeologist gave way to an affinity for dance, the family business, which she credits with teaching her discipline and tenacity.

“The older I get and the more experience I have, the more it becomes apparent that your truest strength is to speak with your own voice. It’s scary to be authentically yourself.”

When she realized that her height — Debicki stands at a statuesque  6’3” — made her too tall for ballet, she set her sights on law school. Yet her interest in becoming a lawyer waned as she drifted into acting and instead chose to pursue drama at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Upon graduation, she managed to capture the attention of famed Australian director Baz Luhrmann who cast the unknown actress in the pivotal role of Jordan Baker in 2013’s The Great Gatsby, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan.

Just 22 when the film was released, Debicki stole her every scene, mesmerizing audiences and critics with her poise and charm. The echo of old Hollywood glamour lurking behind azure eyes that sparkle even brighter than the sequins on her Roaring Twenties-era dresses.

On the heels of the film’s release, Debicki took to the theater opposite stage and screen legends Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Maids which won her the Company’s award for best newcomer, further establishing her acting chops.

By 2015, her dance card was full. That year she appeared in three major productions, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Macbeth and Everest, an eclectic choice of roles that reflect Debicki’s incredible range and versatility.

“The beauty of acting is that you can try on so many different roles without having to commit to them in real life.”

In 2016, Debicki starred in two acclaimed television series, playing the lead role of Dr. Anna Macy in Australia’s The Kettering Incident and as Jed in The Night Manager, based on the John le Carré novel.

“Dancing gives an innate physical awareness — it’s physical training. Acting feels like the same medium but just with words.”

As a result, her career continued to skyrocket. In 2018 Debicki appeared in five major films, most notably as Alice in director Steve McQueen’s Widows alongside Viola Davis. That performance earned her the best reviews of her career, and the cast of all-female leads spoke to her passion for supporting women’s empowerment.

In addition to her whirlwind acting career — Debicki has appeared in a total of 18 films, three plays and three television series in the past 11 years, won two Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and the Cannes Film Festival’s Trophée Chopard  — she is also a global ambassador for Women for Women International, a non-profit organization helping provide support for women survivors of war around the globe.

Her penchant for helping others is just one of several traits she shares with the late Princess Diana, whom she will portray in the final two seasons of one of the most-watched series in history, The Crown, set for release in 2022.

The casting of Debecki as Diana is a stroke of brilliance. Both have a similar blonde, lanky look and share expressive blue eyes that speak volumes about emotions ranging from dark inner turmoil to sheer delight with a mere gaze.

Some have called it the role of a lifetime for the actress who turns 31 this year, but undoubtedly the greatest role Debicki has played is that of herself. Majestic beauty aside, Debicki’s intellect, power and strength  make her a force to be reckoned with now and for years to come.

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