Studio Photoshoots > Outtakes & Sessions > Session 040

NEW YORK POST – When Lily James arrived to audition for Disney’s new live-action movie “Cinderella,” she intended only to try out for the role of ugly stepsister.

“I thought it would be interesting to play an off-center character who doesn’t have to be pretty,” James, 25, recalls. But a casting director took one look at her heaps of blond locks and urged her to read for the starring role.

James glanced at the character synopsis on the spot and suddenly found herself desperate to slip on the glass slipper. After six grueling auditions, she won the part — and a chance to dance with Hollywood’s A-list.
“I am completely aware of how lucky I am,” says the charming starlet, who’s best known for stealing scenes as rebellious Lady Rose MacClare on “Downton Abbey.”

Indeed, James’ life of late reads like a true Cinderella tale — complete with audacious changes of fortune (and fashion: She’s a natural brunette who fortuitously lightened her mane for “Downton”), tragic losses and a real-life Prince Charming.

Just a year after graduating from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2010, she snagged rave reviews for her portrayal of Desdemona in “Othello” at England’s Crucible theater. A risqué turn on “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” soon followed and, in 2012, she made a splash with her taboo-breaking “Downton” debut (the show currently airs Sunday evenings on PBS’s “Masterpiece”).

Despite her easy laugh, effervescent eyes and dancing smile, the London-based actress admits to being drawn to shadowy, enigmatic narratives.

“It’s weird when you get roles that coincide with your life,” says James, whose father — the British actor and musician James Thomson — died in 2008 after a battle with cancer. (James, who was born Lily Thomson, took her stage name in his honor.)

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COMINGSOON – Starring in one of the most anticipated releases of 2015, Lily James has a lot to be thankful for. The 25-year-old actress from the United Kingdom is on an upward trajectory the likes of which only a few will ever experience.

Aside from Cinderella, James appears in a recurring role as Lady Rose MacClare on the BBC smash, Downton Abbey, as well as television’s “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” as the loveable roommate of Billie Piper’s Belle. In addition to notable television credits and appearances, Lily James recently appeared in feature films such as Fast Girls, Broken, and Wrath of the Titans. ?

The lead actress will continue to work with additional starring roles in the zombie-themed reboot of “Pride and Prejudice” – aptly titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – as well as taking on the lead role of Natasha Rostova in the BBC’s new period peace mini-series “War and Peace.”

The Cinderella role is indeed the largest of her career to date, and the weight of the iconic figure isn’t lost on James. According to the newest Cinderella, “It’s terrifying, because it’s such a big act to follow. There are so many iconic moments in the film that we have to do justice to.”

While initial artwork, as well as the trailer for the film, shows Lily looking ravishing as the leading lady, the role was initially earmarked for Emma Watson, who turned it down. That said, James certainly looked the part in the movie posters released as promotional items for the film, as well as initial artwork, and a few press photos featuring her wearing a period gown while riding a horse. While James is fitting for the character, we’re left to wonder about what could have been with Emma Watson as the lead. Watson will now instead play Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

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Lily is one of the 15 Faces of 2015 of Interview magazine and here is her interview with new outtakes from this photoshoot.

In the place of end-of-year lists and resolutions, we’ve rounded up 15 acts worth getting to know for 2015. We’ll be posting a new interview a day between now and January, starting with 2015’s leading lady Lily James.

Lily James’ upcoming filmography is more than impressive; it’s career-defining. In March, the 25-year-old British actress will star in Disney’s color-saturated, live action revamp of Cinderella opposite Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, and Stellan Skarsgård. Then there’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s unconventional take on Jane Austen’s classic novel, in which she’ll play Elizabeth Bennet, with Douglas Booth as Bingley, Jack Huston as Wickham, Matt Smith as Collins, Bella Heathcote as Jane, and Sam Riley as Darcy. She’s also completed a still-untitled-film written by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Peaky Blinders), directed by John Wells (August: Osage County), and co-starring Jamie Dornan and Bradley Cooper. Finally, there is a rather potent rumor that she’ll be playing Natasha Rostova in a BBC and Weinstein Company-produced miniseries of War and Peace. Paul Dano, whom James describes as “completely unbelievable,” is rumored to have the part of Pierre Bezukhov.

Born Lily Thompson in Esher, Surrey, James has been acting professionally since she graduated from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2010. She started in television and theater, playing Nina in The Seagull at Southwark Playhouse, Desdemona in Othello at the Crucible in Sheffield, and, perhaps most famously, Lady Rose, the resident jazz musician-dating bad-girl in the period drama-turned-soap Downton Abbey. She has two brothers: one older, one younger. Her grandmother, who James remembers as “a beautiful, glamorous, wonderful woman,” was the American actress Helen Horton.

AGE: 25

INTRODUCTION TO ACTING: It was really the fact that my dad, he did every single accent under the sun and he would read bedtime stories. He read all the Harry Potters up to the last couple of ones—I read them myself. Me and my brother would share the book at the same time, both reading on different pages. [laughs] My dad’s creativity and storytelling—he could sing and play guitar—was kind of my inspiration. We were always playing. I used to go to musicals every birthday—that was my birthday present. We’d go to London, me and my two brothers and mum and dad. I think I saw Mamma Mia about five times. [laughs] I definitely got obsessed at a young age with the theater.
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Lily is InStyle’s cover girl for January 2015 and you can read below an excerpt from her interview. You will also find a new photoshoot, now in our gallery! On newsstands on November 4.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James seems to be taking over the world. Not only has she scored the lead role as Cinderella in Disney’s live action film alongside Cate Blanchett, she’s also nabbed the role of Elizabeth Bennet in the long-awaited Pride And Prejudice And Zombies plus she’s been cast as Anastacia by Harvey Weinstein in his adapation of War and Peace. That’s in-between working the red carpet, hanging out on the front row at fashion week and date nights with Matt Smith.

On filming Cinderella…
‘At one point, it all became too much and then Helena Bonham Carter said to me, “have one breakdown a week; it makes people know you’re not a robot and remember that you’re human.”‘

On dating Matt Smith…
‘ …in regards to your love life, you’re just entering into a whole of pain if you talk about it. If you’ve never said anything, there are no sound bites to haunt you when you’re crying into a box of Kleenex after it all goes wrong.’

On watching Downton Abbey with her family at Christmas time…
‘Downton’s taken over; suddenly rather than playing charades and getting more drunk, we sit and watch me, which is quite bizarre.’