PRESTIGE – Lily James is having a moment right now. Even if you’ve somehow missed the phenomenon that is Downton Abbey, you would have to have been living under a rock this past year to miss the buzz surrounding this young actress. From the controversy over her tiny waist in Cinderella, to her beautiful portrayal of Natasha Rostov in the critically acclaimed BBC adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s literary classic War and Peace, to her budding romance with fellow Brit actor Matt Smith, aka Doctor Who, it seems hardly a week goes by when she isn’t making headlines.
When we meet, she’s in the middle of a four-month stint on stage in London’s West End, taking on yet another iconic role: the female lead in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Richard Madden – best known as Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark – plays Romeo to her Juliet, and Kenneth Branagh steps out as director. Having worked with both men on Cinderella, it’s a familiar crowd for James, which one can’t help but hope takes the pressure off somewhat, as she seems to be one of the busiest people in showbiz. Several projects are either in process or about to be released, War & Peace has just finished airing, she’s on stage eight times a week for four months, and she’s just been announced as the new face of Burberry’s fragrances. It’s a wonder she finds time for a personal life, but then again dating a Time Lord must have its benefits.
Not that she’s complaining. Despite being on voice rest (she sings in Romeo & Juliet, as with many of her other roles), any fears of a quiet interview and quick answers are allayed within a few minutes of meeting her. Warm and chatty, she makes it easy to forget she’s a serious rising star. Her speech is peppered with laughter, a chuckle that verges on the dirty, but with an undercurrent of nervousness that makes it truly endearing. She has a habit of wistfully repeating questions after they’re asked, as if she’s really invested in giving the best possible answer.
As the new face of Burberry fragrances – and the spokesperson for the newly launched My Burberry Black – she’s following in the footsteps of British style icons Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss. Though James differs in a lot of ways from her predecessors, she also represents many of the same things that Moss and Delevingne do, in particular an authenticity that resonates with women. “They’re both genuine people and they’re very real,” says James, “and I’d hope that would be true of myself.” Added to this is a sense of humour, which James sees as inherently British. “I feel there’s a sensibility of getting on with stuff and taking the piss out of stuff,” she says of fellow Brits. “It makes me happy.”
As chief creative officer of Burberry, Christopher Bailey has been on a mission to seek out the best emerging talent from the UK, and has proved time and again that he has the eye for it, as James is quick to point out. “I really respect [Christopher] … He has an eye for talent and I felt really honoured considering the people who have been a part of the brand, you know: Felicity Jones, Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne … the list is endless.
PEOPLE – Lily James loves all things beauty and fashion.
The Downton Abbey actress, 27, became a total red carpet darling when she went on her global press tour for Cinderella last year, and has kept up an interest in fashion and beauty ever since. This month, she was even named the face of Burberry’s new My Burberry Black fragrance (for which she posed topless in the campaign).
So when we caught up with her to chat before the Burberry launch, we had to wonder, what has she totally fallen hard for now that she’s, well, in it?
Scroll down to see her top five obsessions.
1. Carrying lipstick everywhere.
“In my bag right now, I have my lip gloss and about four Chapsticks,” she tells us. “In my normal handbags, I usually have quite a few lipsticks. They sort of mound up. My Chapsticks are regular, and my go-to lipsticks are the Burberry Kisses lipsticks, which I truly love. I’m really into that nude tone that’s quite mellow and effortless.”
2. A good contour stick.
“Because I have quite a round face, I love to accentuate my cheekbones as much as possible,” she explains. “So I use a lot of contour sticks. I also like to look quite natural, so I like foundation and a little shading and some blush to make you feel like you just crawled out of bed but not too heavy.”
3. Keira Knightley’s look.
“She has such a strong structure for her face,” says James, “I can’t stop looking at her face!”
4. Her Berlin Film Festival Dior gown.
“I loved one of my first red carpets, when I did the Berlin Film Festival,” says the star. “I wore this pink Dior dress, and that was my first fashion moment. From never wearing certain clothes to be able to transform in that way was really exciting.”
“I love a pair of Spanx,” admits James. “I don’t go too extreme. I know there are some crazy contraptions that people wear now but a good ol’ fashion pair of Spanx never goes amiss, but it’s not for everyday wear.”
VOGUE – Lily James first became a household name as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, before going on to star in Disney’s Cinderella in 2015 and Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet this summer. As Burberry reveals a new side of the actress in her first ever campaign – for My Burberry Black – we sat down with James to talk about everything from fashion to food to fragrance.
I have also always been really drawn to fragrances. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had signature scents that I’ve worn or been bought, and for every character that I play when I’m acting I have a scent which helps immerse me into the character. Especially when I’ve been doing series – like for Downton Abbey, every year when I went back I’d spray my Lady Rose perfume and was like: “Ah, here I am”. With My Burberry Black I like that it has this floral feel but then the darker sensual note of the amber, which feels stormy and a bit seductive. I really overspray perfume, I use a lot! But I like when people are like: “Ooh I can smell you”. I spritz it in the air and walk through it, spritz it on my wrists, on my neck… The other smell I really love is lavender – my granny loves it and so I always get her lavender gifts.
I’m a big cleanse, tone and moisturise every night and morning kind of person. I take really good care of my skin actually and I love products, I love Kate Somerville, Liz Earle – stuff that feels really natural and light on your skin. I never sleep with my make-up on. Even when I’m really drunk I wake up with a washed face. It’s a miracle sometimes, I don’t know how it happens. I like feeling like my skin can breathe.
I know it should be like “beauty comes from within” and all that, but the best beauty advice I’ve ever been given was when I was once told to grow out my eyebrows. It wasn’t even from a beauty angle, it was from a director I was working with where I was playing a 13-year-old. So he was like: “Your eyebrows are too thin, you shouldn’t pluck them!” So I grew them, and it kind of revolutionised my face. I used to pluck my eyebrows so they were about one hair thick – it was a bad phase.
I wear quite a lot of make-up in Romeo and Juliet because it’s on stage – though I cry most of it off – but in normal life I tend to just wear tinted moisturiser and mascara. I like with the Burberry make-up that you can use your hands, it’s tactile. The Fresh Glow Highlighting Luminous Pen and Face Contour are really easy to use. I love a red lip but I don’t think I do it very well because I’m always drinking or something and then it ends up all over my face. It feels a bit restrictive. I like going for a nudey, smudgy, smoky vibe. Very Burberry. When I did the London premiere for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I really liked my hair and make-up because it was a bit more sexy.Continue Reading
COUNTRY & TOWN HOUSE – Lily James has had a pretty big year. We will all remember her as Natasha Rostova in the BBC adaption of War & Peace earlier this year. But most recently she’s been in London playing Juliet in the Kenneth Branagh production of Romeo & Juliet. And now she returns as the new face of the burberry fragrance, My Burberry.
As the new face of My Burberry, Lily James replaces the likes of Kate Moss and Cara Delevinge. “I’m so delighted to have worked with the very lovely and clever Lily James on our new My Burberry campaign,” said Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer, Christopher Bailey. “I have admired her work for quite some time and was bowled over by her wonderful charm and her warmth when we met so it was a treat to have had the opportunity to collaborate on this shoot together,” reports British Vogue.
I religiously cleanse, tone and moisturise every night without fail! I really take time to remove all traces of make-up.
Chloé, which I’ve worn forever as it was the first scent my dad bought me because I was christened Chloe.
Indulge in a facemask. Nubo does this amazing ice glow one. Your skin feels so alive after!
I used to be awful and just cut my hair myself with the kitchen scissors. Now I guess I must have grown up a bit because I go to Daniel Hersheson, who is great.
Favourite beauty brand
I just went to the BAFTAs(2013) with Lancôme and I love their make-up. I also love M.A.C matt lipsticks.
Beauty travel essential?
I love my Aspinal brush roll kit as it has all the make-up brushes you need and fits neatly into any travel bag.
Make up bag essentials
Chanel foundation Vitalumiere, Lancôme mascara and Sisley powder.
What can’t you live without?
My Sisley lip balm to hydrate and my Liz Earle Cream Blush in Peony.
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.Continue Reading
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 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!Continue Reading