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Bella Heathcote Takes on Autumn's Most Valuable Print

by Jessica Baker
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GucciHerbarium Print Silk Gown, Lion Head Ring With Crystals ($425), and Double Wrap Ring with Tiger Heads; Dior Set Earrings; Chanel Plexiglass Bracelet and Metal Cuff.

It’s safe to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t your average Jane Austen corset drama, and it turns out the film’s star Bella Heathcote also subverts all of our assumptions, too. Despite the fact that the 28-year-old Australian actress looks like a Georgian-era lady of the manor (thanks to her flawless, milky complexion and wide, doll-like eyes), in real life Heathcote is anything but a delicate flower.

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Coach dress, moto jacket, and shoes from the S/S 16 collection; Dior Set Earrings.

After landing the part, she dove immediately into four months of martial arts training, which she claims was a welcome distraction. “I get really nervous before a film, so for me to be able to do something productive with that—as opposed to just sitting and spinning out—was fantastic,” she says. “I loved the kung fu and the sword training, but I’m rubbish at horse riding,”

Building the onscreen sister dynamic with co-stars Lily James and Suki Waterhouse proved to be a much easier task for Heathcote, who formed a fast bond with the girls off set. “We played a lot of Would You Rather,” she laughed. “I think at one point we even scandalised Sam [Riley] and the boys. It got pretty wrong. I grew up with boys, so it was really fun for me to have that kind of environment.”

In her hometown of Melbourne, acting work was hard to come by and the community was very small, but that didn’t deter a young Heathcote from pursuing her first love. “I remember meeting with the counsellor, and they told me, ‘That’s not a career. You need to come up with what you are going to study at university.’ I went to university for a year and then basically dropped out and went to drama school. I guess I always knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I finally admitted it to myself when I was 19.”

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Giambattista Valli Cap Sleeve Dress ($3,794); Rochas coat and Metallic Leather Clutch ($874); Chanel Brooch and Glass Pearl Necklace; Gucci Crossover Sandals ($685).

Heathcote would land her first role in the 2008 film Acolytes alongside Joel Edgerton, followed up with a part in the infamous  Neighbours. The series has become a rite of passage of sorts for Australian actors, launching the careers of Russell Crowe, Margot Robbie, and the Hemsworth brothers, to name a few. “It’s a machine, and they have to turn out such a huge quantity of material,” she says. “I remember being really bad the first couple of days, because I was so nervous and inhibited, but I found my feet.” After that, it was time for her to make her move to the big leagues.

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Lanvin Grommet-Embellished Moto Jacket ($4,850), Printed Fil Coupe Silk-Blend Chiffon Gown ($7010, and Lucia Rope Tassel Belt ($880); Dior Set Earrings.

But Heathcote landed in Los Angeles to find a much different business. While the bustling, health-conscious L.A. lifestyle perfectly suited the 28-year-old, the casting rooms in Hollywood weren’t so inviting. “In Australia, I always felt like it was very collaborative and like you were waking into a workshop and the director was there. My first experience auditioning in L.A. was pilot season, and it was such a shock to the system. You get half the time, there’s no camera in the room, and you don’t even know who you are reading with. It was pretty rough, initially.”

While rejection is par for the course in the entertainment industry, Heathcote has done a good job of not letting it get to her. “My boyfriend is a director and I see what goes into the casting process, and it’s so rarely just about the talent or whether you are right for it. There are so many other factors. Every now and then there’s one that you feel like is yours and you don’t get it and you are heartbroken for a little while, but you just have to get back on the horse.”

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Burberry Floral Lace and Macramé Dress ($5850); Vionnet Single Flower Stud Earring ($320) in Gold.

Looking at the year ahead, Heathcote told us she has one simple goal in mind: Take more risks. While she’s already ticking that box on the fashion front, it’s clear her career, much like this season’s floral trend, is only just beginning to bloom. So the question now isn’t whether or not Bella Heathcote will succeed, because that’s a given, but rather, how far she’ll grow.

Photographer: Olivia Malone; Stylist: Sean Knight; Hair: John D.; Makeup: Monika Blunder.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits theatres February 25.

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