Meet the 25 year old Australian actress making her teenage dreams come true in Belle & Sebastian’s God Help the Girl and taking on the tough job of playing Tom Hardy’s wife in Legend.
Emily Browning is a very troubled character. Or at least, she always plays them. An impressive seven of her films have been set in mental institutions and while this is probably a subconscious decision, she seems drawn to the dark and disturbing… perhaps something she should talk to her therapist about. “Come on, I live in LA! Everybody has a therapist,” she half jokes. “You’ve gotta have your vitamix, your yoga instructor and your therapist… all the essentials.” Roles so far have included an abused orphan turned badass street fighter, a haunted teenager and a student forced to sell her body, all of which the doll-faced beauty has portrayed brilliantly.
Sitting pixie-like on the bright orange corduroy jacket she nabbed from the Legend wardrobe department, Emily hugs her knees, sips her coffee and smokes a cigarette as she discusses the book she’s reading (The Little Friend by Donna Tartt) with the team on set. “I’m working my way through her novels and I just can’t stop,” she shares, bright eyed despite staying out all night with friends in West London. “I just read The Goldfinch and had to stagger the last few chapters because I never wanted it to end.”
Emily’s been spending a lot of time in the UK recently; starting out in Glasgow for Stuart Murdoch’s sweet-like-candy film project, God Help The Girl. Having grown up listening to Belle & Sebastian, Emily fangirled her way through the entire process. “I remember my dad playing their albums in the car throughout my teens,” she recalls. “So when I got an email saying that Stuart was making a film, I was like, ‘I HAVE to do this!’” It’s a musical, but not your average shiny-happy affair. With the concept sprung from a character in a song that the frontman dreamt up many years ago; Emily is Eve, a depressed anorexic struggling to cope. Forming a band and dream team with Hannah Murray (Cassie from Skins) and Olly Alexander (from the band Years & Years), the trio have their ups, downs and (mis)adventures. Surely all of that singing and dancing to camera must have been a bit different? “Actually, when I was a kid I would be like, ‘Dad, we’re doing a music video!’ and I’d get him to film me as I performed the whole of CrazySexyCool by TLC – raps and everything,” she laughs, clearly embarrassed when as far as we’re concerned she just got even more awesome. With a tiny crowd-sourced budget, the God Help The Girl team was close-knit, filming guerilla style across the city by day and sharing bottles of wine by night. “That’s my favourite kind of film to make,” Emily says. “I like doing the big things as well, but when you feel like you’re a little community that’s working really hard together to get things done, it’s really rad.”
“Living in LA you’ve gotta have your vitamix, your yoga instructor and your therapist… all the essentials.”
Currently filming the highly-anticipated Kray twins biopic, Legend, Emily plays Frances, the wife of one of the city’s most notorious criminals, played by Tom Hardy, twit-twoo! Married young before her murderous husband was incarcerated; she eventually died aged just 24 of suspected suicide. Of all the roles she has undertaken, this might just be Emily’s favourite. “I think I feel the most love for Frances because she was a real person. Ryan, the director, got me some of her letters and diary entries in an auction. I read them and really wanted to do her justice.” It is very likely that she will do just that, and equally likely that this will be recognised globally as Emily shoots from stardom to superstardom overnight.
“It’s tough. I mean, what a horrible job!” she jokes of playing Tom Hardy’s love interest. “It’s tricky because we have so many serious scenes to film and it’s very difficult not to laugh. You know when you meet someone with the same sense of humour as you and you look at each other and burst out laughing? That’s not really the best thing when the scene you’re doing is about how you’re getting a divorce and you’re really depressed and you’re gonna kill youself.“ Laughter aside, the brunette admits how excited she was on the first day of filming, as well as the fact that she finds Tom intimidatingly talented. “It’s so annoying! At first I was like ‘oh shit, I should probably just go home…” Despite apparently switching to a “rad” Essex accent between takes to entertain the cast and crew, Emily has actually picked up a very impressive cockney twang for the role. Starting out, according to her dialect coach, sounding like a rude boi, she learnt by watching an obscene amount of Barbara Windsor videos.
Emily’s real life love life is a little calmer than on screen. She first saw her boyfriend Xavier Samuels, also an actor, five years ago at a party. “I met him for like a second and thought, ‘I’m gonna date that boy one day.’” She didn’t see him for three years and then they did a film together and fell in love. Talk about fate! “When I was a teenager, I thought that love was drama and fireworks and the fact that you’d bleed for each other,” she shares. “But now I feel like love is when the person you’re with really wants you to be the best version of yourself and you want the same for them and you can sit at home watching True Detective together for like five hours and be completely disgusting.”
“When I was a kid I used to make my dad film me performing the whole of CrazySexyCool by TLC - raps and everything.”
Despite having a flat in Shoreditch for a few months, Emily spends an awful lot of time West. “Everyone I know lives in Notting Hill so I’m always the person that’s on the tube for an hour like a dickhead!” Does she plan sticking around once all wrapped up? “English people are just quick in a way that American people aren’t. I love living in LA but there’s something about the English sense of humour…” As for plans, Emily doesn’t make them. Not seriously at least. She’d quite like to get a crown put back on her tooth, learn how to keep a plant alive and generally move towards becoming a grown-up. “I think plans are dangerous because they don’t often work out, do they?” We like Emily. She’s just like us. She just happens to be completely stunning and getting paid to snog Tom Hardy. As we get up to leave, she invites us to her friend’s gig the following night and promises to text details. “I don’t like talking to people on phones… but when I write a text message, I’m a fucking genius.”