Changing Faces

4th August 2017

Benefit Gala 2017, New York © Doug Peters

Having landed the role of a lifetime in Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’, Cara Delevingne’s transformation from model to movie star is complete. But despite her enormous success, the sparky young Londoner admits that even she hasn’t quite come to terms with her new career. Karen Anne Overton tells us more…

When Cara Delevingne graced the red carpet at the Met Gala 2017, it was evident that she was a different woman entirely from the shy and awkward ‘It Girl’-turned-model who first rose to prominence in 2012 as a Burberry muse. Wearing a metallic space-age suit by Chanel, not only did she command the gaze of the press with her dazzling beauty and quiet confidence, but also, having successfully reinvented herself as a film star, she also provided one of the most unusual looks of the night: her newly-shaved head painted and adorned in shimmering silver.

Thankfully, Delevingne’s startling new look is not the result of some Britney Spears-esque meltdown, but of her upcoming part playing a terminally ill girl in romantic drama Life in a Year. She joins the likes of Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Charlize Theron as stars who have gone the extra mile and shorn their hair for a film role. Add this to her terrifying turn as an ancient sorceress in last year’s Suicide Squad and an imminent role in Luc Besson’s highly-anticipated space thriller Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and it seems safe to say that the 24-year-old beauty is now an actress first, model second.

“I haven’t stopped modelling for good. It’s not my focus right now, but I’m lucky I still have my foot in there. I can come back from time to time if anybody wants to work with me,” Delevingne says. “But acting is what I’m concentrating on. It’s what I’ve always loved; it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Modelling happened by accident, a very fortunate accident, but that pull for film hasn’t let go.”

With the film offers pouring in, it looks as though fashion will have to remain on the back-burner as Delevingne continues to silence her critics one performance at a time. Even revered French director Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy and Leon) has lavished high praise on his latest leading lady, saying she’s as talented as his former muse, Natalie Portman. “Wow. Oh God, awks!” she laughs. “That’s very generous. I don’t really know what to say to that.”

Based on cult French science fiction comics, Valerian is set to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, with Delevingne and Life star Dane DeHaan as 28th century, intergalactic crime busters who must protect the City of a Thousand Planets from a hostile alien race. “It’s going to be epic. I literally cannot explain,” she says. “Luc’s been working on this since he was ten years old. We’ve all seen what he can do – Fifth Element, anyone?”

In typical Besson style, the film is a futuristic visual treat with space ships, strange creatures and otherworldly vistas in abundance. For Delevingne, this has not only meant getting into top shape as she fearlessly beats up extra-terrestrials while dressed in heavy space armour, but also digging deep as a performer against a backdrop of green screen. “You really have to use your imagination, but fortunately I’m a ridiculously imaginative person,” she declares. “It was very cool wearing the battle armour suit; that was a moment where it felt very real because they were fully operational. Lit up, you could actually take off into space!”

Another delightful aspect of filming was having a close friend on set: singing sensation Rihanna, who plays shape-shifting entertainer Bubble. “She is as mesmerising on a set as she is on stage,” gushes Delevingne. “She was born to act. There’s a rare group of people that just have it, and she has it. What she does is astonishing.”

Delevingne comes across as far less confident about her own talents, saying that she finds it ‘hard to accept’ herself on onscreen. “It doesn’t sit very easy with me,” she shrugs. “I can’t connect with my own body, watching myself. I get very nervous and apprehensive. It’s probably why I want to go into directing.”

Despite her reservations, Hollywood appears to be enthralled with the actress, who this year will also star in Tulip Fever alongside Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz. But no matter the acclaim, Delevingne refuses to be complacent, taking every role as an opportunity to hone and refine her skill on the bigger path to becoming a filmmaker.

“I’m still learning; having a masterclass with Luc Besson, just being on these sets, absorbing the mechanics and technicality – I’m learning a lot,” she says, adding with a smile, “and hopefully I will put it into play some day.”

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