Imogen Poots is the British actress making waves with roles in this years biggest films. With the release of A Long Way Down in which she acts alongside Breaking Bad heartthrob Aaron Paul, we talk to the star about her on and off screen love affairs...
Some people are born so exquisitely attractive; their looks separate them from us. Imogen Poots doesn’t seem to understand that she belongs to ‘them’ and not ‘us’. One might be mistaken for thinking Imogen is just another cute actress. However the characters that this complicated, dirty blonde is drawn to are often deeply troubled individuals. Embracing on-screen sex scenes, nudity and drug taking, her compassion for the dysfunctional is truly masterful. Arriving an hour late for our interview after a morning stuck in back to back traffic, a lithe and longhaired Imogen Poots suddenly appears, leaping from a black Mercedes. Dressed in a beat up grey knit and blood red Converse and wearing not a scrap of make-up, she still appears breathtaking. Shaking every hand on offer, smiling at all times, Immy sits down to chat, playing with a few loose hair extensions which tumble, all too perfectly, from her pretty head - a product of her latest role in which she works alongside Breaking Bad heartthrob Aaron Paul, whom she describes as “like a brother,” for A Long Way Down. Last year was an incredible year for the ambitious Gemini. Landing a breakthrough role into the world of film via Danny Boyle’s unforgettable cult movie 28 Weeks Later when she was just 18, Imogen has shot 10 films over the course of the past 12 months and 21 feature films in her lifetime.
“As an actress i’m willing to go anywhere and try anything. If you trust the director you can create work you never thought imaginable.”
With a tendency to be typecast as a love interest or chief temptress, Immy was recently romantically linked to Zac Efron. With her full mouth, exquisitely pointed nose and penetrating azure eyes she effortlessly acts and appears like a natural born icon. Positioned at the forefront of a society in which twenty-something women rule the world, with their billboard flawless smiles and front cover pristine poses, she seems to be somehow oblivious to the power her beauty affords her. Thinking carefully before speaking, rarely interrupting any of her fluency with a “like” or “know what l mean”, she is the product of a childhood spent raised on classic literature and international cinema, helped along by her father Trevor Poots, a well-known television producer. When asked who she would like to interview if our roles were reversed, Immy answers elegantly, “Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Faulkner or Lars Von Trier. I would love to pick their brains but maybe they would be too high to be coherent.” Imogen has worked on set alongside cinema legends Steve Coogan (he flirted with her) and Christopher Walken, and was cherry picked by Terence Malick for a lead role in Knight of Cups. She also starred in Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love and the adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth.
Posing in the freezing cold one late February afternoon, Immy’s lips turn slightly blue and she shakes uncontrollably but she never complains. Polite to the end, i-D hid from the bitter winds to talk intimately about her on and off screen love affairs.
What was Terrence Malick like to work with?
I was so excited to work with Terrence. He was amazing, there is a magic that surrounds him. I wasn’t let down in any way when l met him, my mind was blown, he really had such an impact upon me as an actress and as a human being. At the end of the day you turn up to meet somebody and all you have is yourself. I think intimidation is inevitable but at the same time, if someone doesn’t like you, you can’t really change their point of view.
You’re typically cast as a love interest, what impact does that have on your off screen relationships?
The characters l tend to play are always strong women in their own right so I’ve never really considered them as love interests. That side of my work is completely separate to my life and past boyfriends have never been my on-screen boyfriends, I’ve never dated Jeff Buckley or Jimi Hendrix! I think that it’s good when life experiences inform your work. It’s a wonderful thing when you become close to somebody who’s playing your boyfriend, because you can make two characters feel so authentic. Whether you go home with them or your real boyfriend is another story I guess.
Have you ever fallen in love with someone you’ve dated on screen?
I’ve definitely fallen in love with characters, but not necessarily the boys playing them. But I think the former is more important. I did this movie called Greetings from Tim Buckley, in which Penn Badgley plays Jeff, and the two of us spent so much time together learning Jeff’s music. I loved the character I was playing so much, this wild 90s New Yorker, she was all that I aspire to be. So it was really fun making that film. You can’t help but listen to Jeff Buckley’s music all day long and feel deeply moved.
“It’s wonderful when you become close to the actor playing your boyfriend, it makes two characters feel so authentic. Whether you go home with him or your real boyfriend is another story I guess.”
Do you think any of the actors that you’ve worked with have ever fallen in love with you?
No. Maybe. I don’t think so but they should tell me if they have!
You’ve chosen to play some pretty twisted characters in the past, why do you think you are drawn to darker roles?
There’s something in me that finds darkness really intriguing and fascinating. A lot of things bore me, I find a lot of roles just leave me numb. Some characters get you, and you know you have to play them. I do choose hideous characters. If you can find sympathy for dark personalities you can give heartbeats to parts that could be written off as ugly, but if you can learn to love a part, and help an audience love a character, that’s a really wonderful choice to make.
Would you deliberately take yourself to a dark place to stimulate your creativity?
I think it’s inevitable that you do go to those darker places and that stands for books, music, poetry and life around you. But I think that if you’re going to play a role that’s melancholic or twisted, it’s complicated. If you look at a movie like True Romance those lead roles are such a hard thing to add humanity to. It’s such a crazy, bloody, violent film. For example, in Tarantino’s screenplays there’s something sensational about the characters he creates and how he gives feelings to an elevated storyline, anyone can still find something human there. As much as directors manage to create characters and actors take on those roles, like Christian Bale in The Fighter, on the page it must have been hard for him to love an ugly personality; but Christian plays that character in such a way that you forgive him everything.
Do you have experience of the darker underbelly of life?
I’ve had a pretty wonderful upbringing and life experience. I’ve been very, very lucky. But I don’t think that should shade the roles you take on, or the work that you want to do. You learn as much as you can by pushing yourself, changing yourself and finding yourself in points of struggle or darkness. On the flip side you can learn through hopeless optimism, which is something that I have.
Are there any film roles that you wouldn’t take?
I’m willing to go anywhere right now and try anything. A good director is always a huge plus to any role. If you can trust that person then you can really create work that you never thought imaginable. I don’t really want to protect myself right now from roles; I’d rather find out for myself what’s out there and have a lot of fun figuring it all out.
How did you first get comfortable with on-screen nudity?
That comes with growing up, it comes with comfort within yourself and your body. I fully admire people for being brave enough to explore on-screen nudity. I’m really curious about them. When l saw Take this Waltz with Michelle Williams, there’s a scene which shows a bunch of women in the shower, it’s a very safe situation to be nude in and it was such a necessary scene, with all the different bodies, shapes and sizes of these women; that scene was so good. I haven’t seen Shame but I heard that Carey Mulligan does an incredible scene in that. I think it’s a very brave choice to make as an actor and if it’s necessary and furthers your character’s nature it’s really important.
Do you feel physically comfortable in your own self?
Yes and no, obviously as human beings we’re all insecure, but I certainly feel that if I find that there’s a need to and it’s a good choice to make for the character then I’ll definitely go there. As a woman you’re constantly changing, the world is so in your face whether you like it or not, and if you’re young and you’ve got a good ass, you should just get naked if you want to!
Who do you think is the most beautiful woman in the world?
Man, there are too many! Meryl Streep is an exquisite woman. I always feel that there is such warmth to her as a human being, a lot of truth in her acting; but then again, l also love someone like Courtney Love, just to mix it up.
What’s the most loved item in your wardrobe?
My most loved item would probably be my red Converse. That’s a love affair that happens everyday; I just can’t let them go. I have a hideous collection of warm jumpers; I love a good Christmas jumper all year round.
What was your favourite look from today’s shoot?
The sock and the shoe combo that we did in the last stroll by the water, at first the shoes didn’t fit, but then they did fit, so it was a moment of double celebration. The stylist cut the socks to make them look like real socks - inside secrets!