Emily Browning - Triple Threat
The pretty young girl, who many of us witnessed for the first time in 2004, in the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, held her own while starring in the dark book adaptation opposite the exuberant Jim Carrey and the inimitable Meryl Streep. But it was her role in the 2011 film, Sucker Punch, which really opened our eyes to the incredible talent of Australian actress, Emily Browning. Her mesmerizing portrayal, of a young girl institutionalized by her stepfather, wreaked bold sex appeal as she soared in the character’s alternate reality, away from the disturbing truth of living in a mental facility. Later that same year, she took a step deeper into the shadows, performing nude in her haunting role of Lucy in Sleeping Beauty. She played a young University student who gets more than she bargained for in a twisted world of hidden and unspoken desires as a sex worker. Then once again it was full frontal nudity in 2014’s Summer in February.
The 2013 film, Plush, opened our eyes and ears to another of Browning’s talents—this time as a singer. Most audiences didn’t realize she had actually sung on a couple of the songs in the soundtrack of Sucker Punch—but it was burned in our memories when she sang live in the quaint 2014 musical, God Help the Girl. She admitted that was by far more terrifying than nudity.
Born in Melbourne, the petite 27-year-old Browning stands only 5’ 1” tall—yet her charisma is truly commanding on screen. Her bold sex appeal is exactly what the strong-willed actress has tried to fight against—continually searching for roles of substance. Yet, we look forward to that very asset once again, as she takes on the real-life role of the striking Frances Shea, when she plays opposite the outstanding talent of Tom Hardy in this month’s release of Legend. The film relates the story of
Reggie and Ron Kray, London’s notorious criminal twin brothers. Browning’s beauty may help to lighten up the dark backdrop of the organized crime of these harshly twisted twins. Browning has definitely found another role of substance in Brian Helgeland’s Legend, and as she sat with us, she explained that she is patient while waiting to find her next great adventure in acting.
STRIPLV: Were the Krays kind of on your radar, or did you know a lot about them?
BROWN: No, I didn’t really know very much about them at all. I had heard of them kind of vaguely, but they’re obviously a huge deal in the U.K. and everyone kind of knows about them there, but in Australia, where I grew up, the myth wasn’t quite as prevalent.
STRIPLV: Did you start to do a lot of research on them, when you found out you were going to be playing Frances?
BROWN: Yeah, I did, but I was also kind of careful about it, because I think there were so many stories out there about them—and I’m sure some of them are true, and I’m sure some of them are absolute rubbish—and I didn’t want to sort of get bogged down with all of that different kind of conflicting information. So it was more about talking to Brian about it really, and he picked the parts of the story that he wanted to use, and I trusted him enough to go along with his version of the story.
STRIPLV: What do you think it was that made her so attracted to the bad boy—knowing that he was a bad boy?
BROWN: Yeah, I think… You know, she says at the beginning of the film, when she’s on her first date with Reggie, she says: “I’ll do anything to get out of the East End. I don’t just want to push a pram (stroller)—and be haggling with the butcher.” She doesn’t want to be a housewife essentially, and I think when she first meets him, she sees something sort of glamorous and exciting about him, and she feels like maybe he’ll be her escape from that world. And then obviously, I think she kind of turns a blind eye to the darker side of his personality at first, and then obviously she can’t ignore it forever, at that’s what tears them apart in the end.
STRIPLV: Very tragic, for sure. Let’s just talk about Tom Hardy. My goodness—I mean, how did this man pull this off?
BROWN: I have no idea.
BROWN: I think he did an excellent job, but I just don’t think I could even begin to do something like what he did in this film. It was really impressive.
STRIPLV: Well let’s talk about, first off—you acting opposite Tom as Reggie. Tell me a little bit about that.
BROWN: That clicked into place a lot quicker for me. I knew what the formula was with our relationship a bit more. That was easy and kind of natural for me, and it made sense to me. I kind of knew exactly how to approach that relationship. Frances’ relationship with Ron was a different story completely. I actually think that they’re more… I mean, they’re very, very different personalities, but they actually have a little more in common than Frances does with Reggie, because they’re both operating on another kind of level of consciousness. They’re both like a little bit spacey, and a little bit out there. And acting opposite Tom as Ron was a little more difficult to figure out. You know, I kind of had to be on my toes a little bit more. He would adlib a lot, and it was fun actually. It was probably even more fun acting with him as Ron, just because I never knew what was going to happen.
STRIPLV: See, that’s really interesting that you say that, because as I’m watching the film, my first question to Tom Hardy is going to be: “Who is more fun or more challenging, Ron or Reggie?” And as an audience, you’re watching and you think: ‘I think Reggie is probably so easy.’ But I think that Ron was probably very difficult for him. To me, it’s like working with two different actors completely. Tell me about that process for you—‘cause I’m sure you’ve never done that before. Have you ever worked with an actor who’s playing two roles…?
BROWN: No, I haven’t, and I think you completely hit the nail on the head. A few people have asked me if it was really challenging for me, and if it was confusing. But honestly, he did such a good job of clearly defining each of these characters that, you know, we shot in a weird way. Obviously we would shoot with him as Reggie, and then shoot with him as Ron, so technically it was a bit strange. But other than that, it was like working with two different actors, so it wasn’t too complicated for me.
STRIPLV: Tell me a little bit about, even you standing by as an actor, watching that fight scene. What was that like?
BROWN: That was very intense—I mean it was Tom fighting with Jacob, who’s his stunt double, but who also would play whatever role Tom wasn’t playing at the time. And Jacob was so much a part of the film, that watching the film for the first time, it was actually like: “Oh, where’s Jacob? Why isn’t he in it?” You know, which was kind of bizarre, because he was such an important part on set. So really it was just them fighting. And Tom was Reggie first, and then he switched into Ron, and Jacob would play whoever he wasn’t playing. But really, it was a brutal fight, like they were really going for it.
STRIPLV: You obviously get a tons of scripts—you’ve done so much great stuff—but when you got this one, what was it about it that you thought: ‘Wow, I’ve just gotta do this!’?
BROWN: It’s really difficult for me to sort of express verbally—because it’s so much about gut instinct. I just thought it was an incredibly cool script and a really interesting script, but I think that Frances was a really beautifully written character. And it was just that gut feeling of: ‘I want to bring this person to life. I don’t know what it is—but I just want to be a part of this.’ And obviously, Tom was attached at that point, and that was a big draw for me, because I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time.
STRIPLV: Yes! Every movie he does he just continues to step it up with each role. I don’t know how he’s going to top this! What are some films of his that are your favorites, and why do you think he’s such a great actor?
BROWN: Well, I stupidly, actually watched Locke the night before we started shooting. I went to see it at the cinema with a friend, and I was like: “Oh, no! I don’t know how I’m going to be able to sort of keep up with this person,” because he’s just so engaging. Bronson, as well, is one of my favorite films. I don’t know what makes him so good—I think part of it is just—you know, a lot of it is just his God-given talent—but I think that part of it is the fact that he really, really cares about what he’s doing. And he never phones it in. And just wants the work to be really good. It’s so nice being around that energy when you’re making a film, because it makes you up your game.
STRIPLV: Is that a daunting experience, or even more pressure when you play somebody who really lived?
BROWN: Yeah, I think it is, definitely. I think maybe there was slightly less pressure on me, just because Frances is an even more mysterious figure than the Krays. You know, there’s a lot less information out there about her. So I didn’t have this strong idea of her in my head. I was able to kind of find bits and pieces and figure it out with Brian and then kind of create my own version of her. Brian said that this is his fairytale version of the story, and we can’t really know what actually transpired and what was true. And I don’t know what she was like in real life, but I do hope that I was able to do her justice and sort of capture her spirit to some degree.
STRIPLV: Oh, you did! I mean, my heart went out to you. And I have to say—you got to wear some really great costumes. Tell us a little about the clothing. You know, not a lot of girls can pull that off. You were just like in that mode!
BROWN: Thank you. Yeah, the sixties is one of my favorite eras and that was kind of a dream for me. That was really lovely. Also, Caroline, our costume designer, was incredible. She had such an amazing eye. She had really great tailors, so everything was just perfectly fitted. It was great. That was a really enjoyable, sort of light, fun part of making the film. It was a nice balance to sort of the dark subject matter of the story.
STRIPLV: When you’re on set like that, and you’ve got such an intense actor playing against you, is there time for levity off the set?
BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. I was really glad to find out that Tom’s not a method actor. I mean he was sort of joking around as Ron in between takes, but it’s very different when someone’s entirely in character all the time. That’s not me at all. I can’t. I think I’d lose my mind if I tried to stay in character. So it’s nice to be able to have jokes in between takes. And it was a really easy cast and crew, and it was really fun to make the film. Even when we were working on these really dark scenes, we had a really good time.
STRIPLV: So why was Brian the right guy to direct this film?
BROWN: I mean, he’s just an angel, for starters. But I think he wrote such an incredible script, and I always feel more comfortable being directed by someone who’s written the script that I love, because I know that it’s his vision on the page that attracted me to the story. So to know that it’s not going to change too much from that is very comforting. You know, I trusted him with the story because he wrote the story.
STRIPLV: So what’s next?
BROWN: I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of trying to be patient, I guess. I loved making this film so much, and I want to make sure that the next thing I do is something that I care about this much.