mia goth - shock of the new

Mia Goth is the beautiful and talented actress turned Miu Miu star, who shot to fame in Nymphomaniac. 2016 sees her back on our screens in BAFTA nominated, post-apocalyptic thriller The Survivalist.

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14 March 2016, 10:15am

Mia Goth has never taken a selfie. "Never!" she exclaims, "I think it's really vain. A level of vanity is healthy but there's so much more out there. I've seen people's Instagrams and I find it really bizarre that you can take a selfie. That whole phenomenon is really bizarre to me." Not that Mia, 22, needs to take her own photo when so many others have been happy to do it for her. She has been photographed plenty: first when she got her break as a model in her teens; then when subject to Lars von Trier's lens in Nymphomaniac: Vol II. More recently she's been framed by sneaky paps eager to record every coffee stop she and her actor boyfriend Shia LaBeouf frequent.

As a result of all these images - still and moving - meeting Mia Goth comes with its own set of preconceptions. In gossip columns, she's reduced to a caricature of a sulky teen. In fashion campaigns like those for Miu Miu, she's a wonder: pairing a childlike guile with a glassy, other worldly stare as if for all her innocence she were ready to pounce. It's something that Lars von Triers successfully exploited in Nymphomaniac when she asked her to take the role of P, the teen daughter of criminals who is groomed by Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to be her apprentice and lover, and whom she ultimately betrays.

Mia is so ferociously assured in a role that involved nudity and explicit sex scenes that, well, it's hard not to imagine her being intimidating to talk to. Not so. In person, Mia, 22, is chirpy and charming and a million miles away from the grumpy girl she's often portrayed as in the tabloid fabrication of her real life story. She is an old soul in a young body. Or as she puts it herself, when explaining the lack of selfies on her smartphone: "I'm a bit of a grandma. I'd much rather just talk to someone than take a photograph of them. I communicate like that."

It was Mia's grandma, a successful actress in her native Brazil, who first introduced her to the bright lights when she would take her granddaughter on set. Born in London to a Brazilian mum and Canadian dad, Mia grew up a globetrotter, a fact reflected in her full first name 'Mia Gypsy'. It was as a teenager living with her mum in Catford, on the commuter belt outside London, that she got her break into fashion. She was discovered by photographer Gemma Booth at the Underage festival in Victoria Park and signed to Storm Model Management. She is currently one of the faces of Miu Miu, but it's acting that really captivates her.

Mia calls LA home. "You wake up everyday and feel very motivated. You want to be good to yourself," she says about her US base. Whether it's LA that does it, motivation is one thing that Mia Goth has in bucket loads. She leapt at the opportunity to work with Lars von Trier, who called her up for Nymphomaniac just three weeks after her A Levels. At the time, she was considering acting school. One outrageous turn in a film of shock-and-awe sexploits and drama classes were out the window. "Charlotte [Gainsbourg] was the best teacher I could ever imagine. The most incredible dance partner I ever had. That's not something a teacher could give me," Mia notes. "I really like [American playwright and director] David Mamet and he always says stay out of school. I think there's something about that. If you want to know about people, which is what actors do, just go onto the street. You can learn so much."

That motivation is reaping dividends, acting wise. First up this year is the BAFTA nominated The Survivalist, an apocalyptic thriller set in a time of global starvation in the near future. In the film, Mia plays Milja, one half of a mother daughter duo who seek shelter from shadowy forces in a shack in the woods. The shack's sole, nervy resident - played by Martin McCann - capitulates and the three form an uneasy alliance, growing food for survival, keeping watch for intruders on their patch. Part of their pact involves a sexual bargain, a move that for Mia meant challenging scenes that put Nymphomaniac's nihilistic melodrama in the shade.

In The Survivalist Mia is a perfectly pitched wall of blankness, then extreme passion. Off screen, she did her homework. She camped out, didn't wash for the entirety of the shoot and monitored her diet to look peak apocalypse. "In The Survivalist I felt a really healthy sort of competition grew between the cast," she reveals. "We all had to be on super strict diets. So if I found out that Olwen [Fouere - who plays her on screen mother] was on 1000 calories a day then I would be like, 'oh yeah, you're on a 1000 a day, I'll take mine down to 900 then'. We were able to motivate and push each other."

A competitive streak runs through much of Mia's conversation when talk turns to her trade. She may not be self promoting on social media, but she regularly looks at Twitter to see what prime roles other actresses have snagged. "I'll see what they're doing," she says casually. "I'll be like: 'She's doing that. OK. That's interesting. She won that round. That's cool.' I'm motivated by what other people are doing."

It's an analogy that Mia takes further; talking about her acting prep like a boxer (she doesn't speak too much on set and plugs into music to get into the zone. "I listen to Mick Jenkins, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Kanye West... I like their drive and how they want to be the best they can be.") She expects her sparring partner in cinema to be equally heavyweight, citing Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Joaquin Phoenix as a few of the leading men she'd like to work with. "I'm drawn to actors who do dark material, the darker the better I always say!"

Dark materials with quality people in front of and behind the camera are on the Mia Goth 'To Do' list for 2016. She's just finished filming the supernatural horror A Cure for Wellness, co-starring Dane DeHaan and she is about to head into production on High Life, the English language debut by acclaimed French director Claire Denis which co stars Robert Pattinson and Patricia Arquette. Mia plays "a conflict astronaut in space" in that one, though she can't say too much about it at this stage except to say she's heading to the Science Museum after our chat for a spot of galactical research.

As an exercise, that sounds as whimsical as Mia Goth herself can appear. But don't be deceived. "Acting is like boxing," this fighter notes before she gathers to go. "You can study the history of boxing, who did it before you, the great commentators but it's not until you're in the ring and you get punched that you figure out what it is you need to do." Chances are, Mia Goth is going for a knock out. 

Credits


Text Colin Crummy
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Hair Mark Hampton at Julian Watson Agency using Toni&Guy Hair Products
Make-up Hiromi Ueda  at Julian Watson Agency using Sisley Skincare & Cosmetics