ELLE SOUTH AFRICA – Based on the novel by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace is a story of three young people set against the epic backdrop of Russia’s wars with Napoleon. Ahead of its premier in South Africa this Sunday, 26 June on BBC First (DStv channel 119), we catch up with the Hollywood heroine on playing the beloved literary character Natasha Rostov.
What was it like to be asked to be in War and Peace which is such an iconic masterpiece? Was it an extra weight on your shoulders or a job just like any other?
It’s been a unique job; very special. But when I was asked to audition for it I had never read the book. I knew it was a big deal but I wasn’t too aware of it. I didn’t know the plot and I hadn’t seen any adaptations of it. But when I began reading the book I fell in love with Natasha. And I read the scripts too and realised then what a responsibility it was in playing her and I did feel a huge weight, a sort of pressure, then. But the director, Tom Harper, was really good. He was directing this epic story and he directed out of sequence, so one minute I was 14 and then I was 13, and we were filming in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia and yet he was so relaxed. I never saw him shout. He kept a sense of joy and humour about it all, which I think is really important even when you are doing very heavy, sad stuff. And the great actors in the cast helped. Everyone was so brilliant. Paul Dano is just so incredible as Pierre.
Andrew Davies describes Natasha as the most romantic character in literature. Do you agree and what makes her so romantic?
I would completely agree. I think she is a crazy romantic! As a young girl she is in love with love and she doesn’t know what it is yet but she’s fascinated by it. In episode one she sees her brother Nikolai kiss Sonya and it’s like she can feel it but she doesn’t understand it. She loves to sing and I think she has learnt romance through music and dance. She is so passionate and she feels things really intensely and I love how she goes from such extremes, not only in her story and her journey, but from every moment. She goes from laughter to tears in an instance because she is so romantic. And I think her idea of what love is and what it should be is why she gets so lost along the way.
Was it daunting for you that Audrey Hepburn played the part of Natasha in a 1956 movie adaptation?
I love Audrey Hepburn. When I was at drama school I was so obsessed with her that I got the box set of her films. But I hadn’t seen her do War and Peace and I’m really glad because I don’t know how you can then try to do it yourself.
Did you manage to finish the lengthy book?
Yes. I loved it. I was cast early so I had a long time to read it. I was amazed at how easy it was to read. Whenever I got to the passages about Natasha, my heart soared. I just think she is so incredible. I wanted to capture all the different sides of her, even the things that aren’t very likeable on the page, such as her vanity. When we were filming, if there was a mirror in the room I would try to look at it because I love how Tolstoy said that when she looks in the mirror she thinks she is the most beautiful girl in the world.
To celebrate the opening night of “Romeo and Juliet”, Lily attended the press night after party alongside co-star and friend Richard Madden on May 25, 2016 in London.
Public Appearances > 2016 > “Romeo and Juliet” Press Night – After Party
Here’s your first look at Lily as Juliet in Kenneth Branagh’s play “Romeo and Juliet”. The play runs at the Garrick Theatre from 25 May to 13 August.
On Tuesday (April 21), Lily visited The Graham Norton Show with her Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet co-star Richard Madden. Joan Collins, Paul Hollywood, and DNCE also appeared on the show. The interview aired yesterday night (Friday, April 22) on BBC One. You can check out high quality photos from the talk show in the gallery and watch clips from the interview below.
Public Appearances > 2016 > Visits ‘The Graham Norton Show’
The first rehearsal pictures for Lily and Richard Madden’s new play Romeo & Juliet have just been released, you can check them in our gallery! They look so great! Enjoy :)
Theatre Productions > Romeo and Juliet (2016) > Rehearsal Pictures
— Burberry (@Burberry) April 18, 2016
FASHIONISTA – Lily James may have only just turned 27, but she’s already achieved many of the unofficial requirements for mega-stardom. She starred in a critically acclaimed TV show (“Downton Abbey”), carried a behemoth of a fantasy blockbuster (2015’s live-action “Cinderella” reboot) and posed on the cover of a leading U.S. fashion magazine (Marie Claire’s January 2016 issue). Next? A global ad campaign.
On Monday, Burberry announced that James is the newest face of its My Burberry fragrances, succeeding the likes of Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne, and marking the actress’s first-ever advertising campaign. We’ll have to wait for the goods, though: The images and accompanying film — shot by Mario Testino — won’t be revealed until August, in tandem with the launch of My Burberry Black, which the brand describes as “an intense and sensual new fragrance for women.”
“I am thrilled to be officially joining the Burberry family. I am so proud to be British, so it really means a lot,” said James in a statement. “Shooting my first campaign was so special – I don’t want to give away too much but I had a lot of fun showing a different side of myself…”
Lily will be guest on “The Graham Norton Show” with Richard Madden to talk about Kenneth Branagh’s new production of “Romeo and Juliet” on April 22, 2016 on BBC One.
THE TELEGRAPH – Lily James is best known for playing the rebellious society beauty Lady Rose Aldridge in Downton Abbey and Natasha Rostova in the BBC adaptation of War and Peace. Last year, she played the lead in Disney’s Cinderella, directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, who directs her again this May in Romeo and Juliet at the Garrick Theatre. The 26-year-old was born into stage life: both her father and grandmother were actors, and her partner is the actor Matt Smith. When not abroad, her home is in Hackney, east London.
How often do you travel?
A lot for work; this month I have flown every week between London and the United States, though I try to fit in holidays when I’m not working. Over New Year, I went to Goa in India and stayed in a little beach hut that was cheap and basic, but had all I needed. About 20 friends were there at the same time, so it was insane. We set off fireworks on the beach.
Had you been to India before?
Yes, for a month in a break from drama school. I travelled all over, to Kerala, Mumbai, the Himalayas, on trains. I love Indian trains – and the chai was so good I brought some back, with about 30 rugs, to sell at Columbia Road Market .
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
I like to go somewhere remote, with sunshine. I don’t mind if it’s cold, as long as it’s sunny. Plus, I need lovely people and a good book; I’m reading Young Woman and the Sea about the first woman, Trudy Ederle, to swim the Channel.
Earliest memory of travelling abroad?
Sitting with my two brothers on a brick wall overlooking the beach in Sitges, just outside Barcelona, eating ice cream.
Your most adventurous travel experience?
I recently went with a friend to south-east Asia for a month, which included Luang Prabang in Laos. We did a fantastic trip into the jungle, and cycled along the Mekong river , staying in local villages. In one village they had just one radio, and one night we went to a hut with some young people, and sat in a circle, drinking rice wine and listening to the radio. Although it was at the other end of the world, it reminded me of parties with my friends, sitting around, listening to music, and passing round the booze!
The trailer for the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company‘s production of Romeo and Juliet, broadcast live to cinemas across the UK and around the world on Thursday 7 July. Book your tickets now at BranaghTheatreLive.com.