Suki Waterhouse is trying to convince me that she isnt famous. Its a hard sell, since the 25-year-old London native has been modeling professionally since she was street scouted at 16. In addition to being the face of Burberry and Redken, Waterhouse has modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and H&M, and appeared on the covers of several countries Vogue. Shes done editorials for Elle and Marie Claire, and walked the runway for Burberry and Balenciaga. Still, Waterhouse assures me, Wikipedia pages can be deceiving. I have been around famous people quite a lot, she laughs, So Im like no, Im not famous. Waterhouse is presumably referring to her group of photogenic British cohorts, which includes Cara Delevingne, Clara Paget, and Georgia May Jagger (just dont call them a squad). Waterhouse also garnered headlines for her 2-year-long relationship with Bradley Cooper, which ended in 2015. But exes and girl gangs aside, Waterhouse is an undeniable talent and soon-to-be star in her own right.
In her latest film and biggest role to date, Waterhousewhos dabbled in acting for a few years nowmore than rises to the challenge. As Arlen in director Ana Lily Amirpours The Bad Batch, she navigates an endless dystopian desert punctuated by acid raves, scavengers, and cannibal sects. Within the first few scenes of the film, Arlens arm and leg are sawed off for dinner. After tricking and incapacitating her captor, Arlen escapes to a nearby collective known as Comfort, only to wind upthrough a series of violent and tense adventuresforging a relationship with one of the cannibals, played by a hulking and terse Jason Momoa. Waterhouses ability to turn a near-silent interaction or close-up into a moment that audiences cant look away from makes The Bad Batch far more watchable than any two-hour long, El Topo-inspired dystopian cannibalism thriller ought to be.
Waterhouse, who Amirpour has described as both a light, beautiful, brave angel and tough, wild, and feral, doesnt disappoint in person (Waterhouse, for the record, returns the favor, calling Amirpour a badass visionary with a freaky mind). In the dark, empty, blissfully air-conditioned restaurant of Williamsburgs William Vale hotel, Waterhouse orders a pot of green tea with loads of honey and lemon on the side.
For the next 45 minutes, Waterhousefidgety, urgent, inquisitive and quite funnytells me about The Bad Batch, the modeling industry, overcoming what felt like an endless sadness, and her irritation with social media. Eventually we break, with a hug, and Waterhouse runs off to take a smoke break outside, presumably basking in these last few months of anonymity.
So how did you get involved with The Bad Batch?
I just went for an audition basically, because I started coming to LAobviously you have to start coming to LA and doing your rounds of auditions and just sitting in rooms with ten other girls around you and like wanting to kill yourself. So I went and did an audition, and then I went to see [Amirpour]. And it was, I guess Im really lucky, it was one of those things where she saw me and it was like, Oh thats the girl. And I got really attracted to, I remember on the audition email it said dont try out for this movie unless you understand that its going to be really brutally difficultand that made my antenna just go whoopme please! So that drew me in, and obviously I had seen her first movie before so I was just praying every night that I could maybe get it. I went to the second audition, and she took me. And this never happensyou usually get a call from an agent or whatever. She just said, Can I take you out to dinner now? And then she said, I want you to do this, but the conversation was more like, I want you to do this, but you have to understand that youre going to really suffer and struggle and Im going to take over your life for this amount of time and youve got to surrender.
Were there any conversations you two had about her vision for the film that really stuck with you?
See, Lilys not really the kind of person whos like, Were making a film about politics and feminism,or anything like that. I think she just wants people to ask questions, and to ask themselves questions. Its been so interesting, listening to what peoples interpretations of it are. Theres a lot of empty space in this movie; theres not a ton of words, so its not a load of certainty. So you have to do it yourself, and thats uncomfortable. But I think Lily likes to live in a state of some kind of honesty, and with that comes discomfort.
Theres this whole dystopian element to the film, where we see that America has turned into this strange, cruel place, but we dont really understand how it got there. And so while I was watching, I was thinking about how Trump probably wouldnt have been part of the conversation while you were filming
No, I mean Lily didnt even know. She wrote it three years ago. She had no idea.
And at the same time, its pretty relevant nowthere are these themes of illegal immigration, the border wall
Yeah. Its bizarre, isnt it?
It is crazy. Even when we were filming it, we didnt know that it would be such a thing. But its great. I think were really happily surprised that its happened. Did you feel like it was a really political movie?
I feel like everything is now.
Everything is political. I mean, but, its a love story and its a fairy tale and its violent and its touching
Its funny that youre calling a cannibalism thriller a fairy tale.
I mean, she ends up with Jason Momoa. Thats kind of a fairy tale, isnt it?
Is that what you think happened?
Oh, you werent sure? See, that says something about you. Thats interesting, because some people are like, Ah they end up together! But theyre more romantic people. Some people are like, Oh, I dont know, she might be for dinner next.
But you read it as a love story?
Well I think I was definitely into Jason Momoa
I mean my character! My characterthey have that moment under the sheetObviously its never that explored, that whole thing, but I think its likeGoing to Comfort is sort of like following all of the things that you think you should have, or all the things you thought you wanted. But I think that going back to Jason is saying, no, what are the simple things around me, what are the little things I can do? Just having a barbecue at the end of the movie with a dude and a kid. Its kind of nice, isnt it? Just have some food and breathe.
Sure, but overall I think its safe to say the film is pretty dark. Did that darkness impact your personal life in any way?
This movie, likeI literally got cast in it, and then my personal life just [mimes an explosion]. So many bad things happened! It was really crazy.
Waterhouse and Bradley Cooper broke up in March 2015 after two years of dating, around the time she was cast in Amirpours film.
Because you were putting yourself into this? Or unrelated?
I dont know! I think when Lily wrote it, she had this feeling of being dismembered. You know, when literally your heart just feels like theres a hole here. I was like that. And then just more and more. Shit, shit, shit. But I dont know, I think Im actually very grateful that that happened. Because I was this girl that didnt know what the fuck up and down was, and I was completely lost. And then I met this woman, and I went to the desert for two months. And I was just alone, having one of the best experiences of my life that would go on to change the course of my life. I mean, how fucking lucky am I that I got to do this movie? Its nuts. And then [Arlens] putting herself back together and trying to find her way, and that was kind of me; I feel like thats been me the past two years. So it was kind of emotional. I remember before we went to Venice, and knowing that everyones going to see it, and watching myself as that person two years agoI find it quite disturbing to watch the film, to be honest.
Well, me too. But probably in a very different way.
Yeah, that movie completely likeit was the coolest thing ever. But its like anything, isnt it? You have to go into the dark to go into the light. So I was actually really glad that that all happened around then. Because it was like, I dont think I can do this, how am I going to know if I can do this movie? All this doubt, and I was feeling like shit anyway. And then I just decided, Yeah, I can do it.
Its interesting, I was going to ask how you managed to tap into the emotion of being physically dismembered, but I guess you found a way.
Yeah. When you just feel like youre not whole. its likesorrow has the longestits just this giant, long, endlesswhen you really have it, it just buzzes through you, and it takes a long time to get out. And it has a way of just sneaking back in. You can always feel a little bit sad for a long, long time. But Im like fucking great! Thats my first movie really, the first film Ive ever done. And now Im just great! Whatever life throws at you, its all perfect, because you need to be able to tap into those feelings.
One of my favorite scenes was this moment when Arlen tapes a picture of a models arm to her mirror and stares at herself, trying to imagine herself whole again. I was interested in the idea that even in a brutal dystopian society, women will still be judging themselves in the mirror.
I dont think its that hard to relate to. I wish I could sit here and be like, Ive never wanted to look different, and Id love to be able to sit here and say, I wake up every morning being like I love every single part of my body. But Ive worked in an industry that is basically designed to make you not like the way you look. And Ive worked in an industry that was designed to make other people feel like they dont look good enough. But it doesnt matter if youre a model or an actress or youre considered the most beautiful girl in the world, its the system thats drowning us. And the most punk, radical thing you can do is to be likenot just think oh Im good, Im beautiful, Im perfectits not about thinking it, its about really feeling it. Because we know thats right. But youve got to do whatever you can to actually feel it.
And coming from the modeling world, was it freeing to not have to be preoccupied with looking pretty?
Id like to be doing that every day. If I could do every single movie like that I would. I was very much brought up like, my dads a black belt karate; I trained with him my whole life. Im someone who wanted to put mud all over my face as a kid, Im kind of a tomboy. And I love physically exerting myself. I loved doing this moviethe fact that every day youd wake up and feel like youve been hit by a truck. Id walk in and not be able to shower and have shit all over me, but thats peace to me. Theres nothing in your head thats even thinking or being anxious or manic.
Was it hard to turn off the part of yourself thats trained to look a certain way for the camerafinding your most flattering angles, or something like that? Or was it an easy transition?
Its such a different medium. When youre doing photos, everything ends up so different to how it might even look on the screen when youre on the shoot. You can have ten pins behind you and youre sucking in and [makes a ridiculous face]. Actually, some of the best actors understand where the camera is and how to work it to their advantage. The tiniest adjustments. So I havent learnt that kind of stuff with the film camera yet. But no, I wasnt like sucking in my cheeks andVoguing. Voguing in the desert.
Voguing in the desert with Jason Momoa
I was never going to look like a model next to him anyway!
So I know that this is Williamsburg. But if you were on the street at home, you would get recognized, right?
Ok, if were on like Oxford Circus, maybe a couple of kids that have come down to London for the day would recognize me. But I promise you, my experience of life is not at all like that. I have been around famous people quite a lot, so Im like no, Im not famous. I can still do whatever, basically. I never have to censor my life.
Really? You must censor your life at least in terms of social media.
I dont know. I got told the other day, one of my agents was like, You have to start being betteryoure acting crazy on it!
You got told off?
Yeah! She was like, You look hungover. I was like, Im not! I just woke up! I dont even drink! But so no, I dontI mean, I dont feel like I censor. If I had a private account maybe it would be a bit more interesting.
You dont have a finsta?
Whats a finsta?
Oh a finsta! You know what, some of my friends have finsta, and it is the most entertainingWe should all just have finsta and not public ones. Its the best! But its too much having one anyway, isnt it? Its already too much. Instagrams just likeI just feel like quite stagnant humans seem to thrive on Instagram.
What does that mean?
Just the fact that if I post something like a beautiful picture at a museum, versus a picture of me in a bikini holding coconuts around my boobsIts just so stupid! Theres such an algorithm of what people want on your page. Its just depressing. But I just did something really radical: I went on a week and a half holiday and I didnt post one picture.
Did you really?
Yeah I did. I went on a week and a half holiday, a road trip, and there were so many beautiful sunsets. And I went on a girls trip to Vegas with a bunch of people who people would like to see on Instagram, and we were up in a male strip club all getting multiple lap dances.
I would look at that picture.
Yeah, and none of us posted anything! Its punk to not post.
Was that a conversation you all had on the trip?
I think actually we couldnt post because someone was meant to be at work or something like that. But then its something thats just for you and the people who are around it, and thats cool. Social media is tiring. But I do need to get a finsta.
So you can post all your pics from the strip club.
So now that the movie is out there, I was wonderingdo you read the comments/reviews?
I stopped reading comments on January 1st of this year.
Like a New Years resolution?
Yeah. Im amazed that I stuck to it, because it was one of those horrible things that I would do to feel worse about myself. But I really was like: what is going to make my life happier? Youve got to stop, Suki. Its those Daily Mail things that are just the worst. And I have so many friends that read them too, and I literally just dont do it anymore, and my life is so much better. I actually only read the Guardian review from Venice, because I had heard that it was five stars. Because I cant change anything now, I dont think Im going to be really reading those. Because Im very critical of myselfincredibly so. Nobodys going to be able to beat me up as much as myself, and if I see the things that Im afraid of in print, then I might just go further down the rabbit hole. So I think Im just going to look up and on.
Were you proud of your performance when you finished? Or were you self-critical throughout?
To have not really trained and not really acted before and then to do that, I was really terrified. But the first time I saw it, I was really happy. So thatyour first mind is what really matters.
So what other projects do you have coming up?
Theres a movie called Billionaire Boys Club. And then theres another movie I did with Ansel [Elgort] called Jonathan. And then I did this movie called Assassination Nation, which is really dope. Its me and Hari Nef and this amazing actress called Odessa Young whos fucking great, Australian girl, and a musician named Abra. Its a high school movie that just getsdark.
We really need more high school movies.
I know! And our outfits are, everyone else at the school dresses normal, we look bonkers. Were dressed inIve got Miley buns, and my hairs pink, and were just wearing the most outrageous outfits to school. And then it takes a really scary dark turn. By the end of it were just in red leather coats, all of us, with Uzis. I think youll like it.
Is there anyone youre dying to work with?
Quentin Tarantino. Lars Von Trierhes the one who did Breaking the Waves, right? I fucking love that movie. Thats one of my favorite movies ever. And Emily Watson. There are so many directors that Id love to work with. Lily calls it creative intercourse. I want to work with really tough people. Not necessarily tough like difficult, but people who are going to really challenge me; who Im just desperate to hang out with. And I dont care if theyre difficult or weird, I dont care if they give me so much shit and yell at me for two months, I just want to go through something. But Id also love to do a movie where you go and train for six months, do martial arts.
So we need to get you a superhero movie.
Yeah, exactly. Id like to do stuff like that.
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