Ophelia Lovibond: Nowhere Boy's Breakout Starlet
NYLON Guys October 2010
Ophelia Lovibond (actual name, not the alias of a Burlesque act) wanders into West London’s High Road Brasserie—a suburban, no-membership-required sub-project of the Soho House group—wearing a swipe of ruby lipstick, and the air of someone who doesn’t quite know why she’s here.
It’s partly a geography issue. She is a West London girl by birth, but even though she recently graduated to the altogether hipper East, she has chosen to meet in the less convenient side of town. Perhaps this is her real comfort zone. Because this—my questions, our interest—isn’t. Yet.
Though she’s perfectly happy to do this whole interview/photoshoot thing, and be completely charming, she just can’t believe she warrants the attention. “My boyfriend says I need to stop being so romantic about it all and realize it’s not just about the acting,” she laughs, sipping a soy cappuccino, blotting crescent kisses onto the clean ceramic.
From the outside, the interest is obvious—and, now, global. She will have appeared in four films within 12 months, including Nowhere Boy, a John Lennon biography directed by photographer Sam Taylor Wood. It is a small, significant role that can be filed under “breakout” on her résumé. “I thought it might get me other auditions; I never thought it would get me other parts.” Especially, she says, because her biggest scene was cut. “I only realised at the premiere when I was sitting there with my mum. She was gasping, ‘Oh no, baby!’ I was like ‘Shhhh!’”
But Nowhere Boy earned Lovibond a Hollywood agent and five solid months of auditions, meetings, and work in Los Angeles. “You have a team of people reading scripts on your behalf,” she says, her dazzling hazel eyes widening. “You’re having to remember everyone’s name so you can say thank you properly.” She has just finished playing Ashton Kutcher’s haughty English girlfriend in No Strings, a rom-com due out later this year. “It’s not a big part at all—at all,” she says. “But I was so grateful Ivan Reitman cast me, even though I was just some girl from England who nobody had ever heard of.”
That anonymity won’t last long. Lovibond has been acting since she was 10—when her mum sent her along to a Saturday drama workshop with her brother, Rupert—and her delicate heart-shaped face is already quite familiar to Brits. There have been consistent bit parts in British soaps and TV staples, as well as edgier stuff including a role in the surreal cult comedy Nathan Barley. “I was a coke-head model who sold sexual favors for money to fund her habit,” she says. “I’d just turned 18—which I think was legally necessary.” Then, continuing a theme, Roman Polanski cast her as a Victorian prostitute in his adaptation of Oliver Twist. “I feel funny saying this, but he was really lovely,” she says. “The first time he spoke to me I was on set reading The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. He said ‘It’s beautiful, are you enjoying it?’ So my first words to Roman Polanski were ‘Um, yeah, yeah....’ Great.” It was her first film role but she paused her ascension to study English Literature at college, not as a fall-back plan, but just because she wanted to. Recently she insisted on arriving late to a red carpet event because she’d been down the road at a poetry reading. “Everyone else was there in cardigans and corduroy, and I was there in a little sequinned dress.”
Evidently, the acting hiatus did her little harm: After Nowhere Boy came another performance opposite Aaron Johnson, her on-screen Lennon, in the thriller Chatroom. That will be followed by the girl-gang romp 184.108.40.206. Due out in October is the fourth of this year’s Lovibond offerings, London Boulevard starring Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell. “Most of my scenes were with Colin,” she says. “He was very quiet and very still. He’d really regard you and think about his answers before saying anything.”
Time is getting on, and she has to go—she has a video audition to film. “I have to find someone to read my lines with me. Last time I tried to do it with my boyfriend and it was a disaster. I couldn’t let him look at me,” she laughs. She kisses me goodbye and trots off into a muggy London evening—lipstick slightly smudged, future sharper than ever.
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