Actress Pom Klementieff's a Tough Marvel Star Who Can Laugh at Herself
In the middle of a story about her least favorite animal, Pom Klementieff is laughing so hard that her voice starts to pitch upward, as she describes a traumatic event from her childhood that involves… insects. Her voice turns into a small stream of musical laughs and she’s cracking herself up in a way that is itself completely hilarious.
While Pom has had other successes, her turn as the lovably naïve and deeply empathic antennaed alien Mantis in the Marvel superhero movie Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is another animal, propelling her suddenly into the stratosphere of recognition. The series has been unstoppably successful, pulling in an astonishing $856 million in box office receipts from fans across the globe eager to see the rag-tag team of galactic bounty hunters save the universe in typically dysfunctional fashion. Pom seems both circumspect and inspired by the creators that brought her along for the ride. Her turn as Mantis became much more than a simple ‘born sexy yesterday’ alien.
“James Gunn, the writer and director, wrote this amazing character and told me to bring all of my weirdness and to have fun with it," Pom says. "I didn’t have to just be beautiful or sexy, the way women are usually asked to be.” When offered the chance to do a stunt where Mantis gets knocked unconscious by a boulder, Pom relates the story with breathless excitement: “In the scene where I get hit by the rock, I was like, ‘I wanna do it myself!’ James would give me a vocal cue and I would throw myself as hard as I could at the mats!”
A student of martial arts who studied for months for her role as an assassin in Spike Lee’s 2013 Oldboy remake, she’s accomplished in many areas of physical training (“I took eight months of pole dancing lessons, I’d totally be down to play a stripper,” she offers). Pom’s childhood took her from Quebec to Kyoto to West Africa. She later attended drama school in Paris, working in the same curriculum that had helped train Audrey Tautou and Eva Green.
Finding her way to Los Angeles years later, she fell in love with Southern California’s plant life. “My favorite season is when the jacaranda trees are flowering,” she says. Her list of future ambitions is long – “There are so many things I wanna do: goofy comedies, French movies, movies with Korean directors” – but for now she’s looking forward to putting on the antennae for the next installment of Guardians. When we spoke, she was just back from Disneyland, where she visited the new ride that featured, among others, her own character. She also appears on a special bag of Doritos, as Mantis. So it’s genuinely surprising to learn that the animals she’s most afraid of are bugs. Specifically, worms.
“It’s a childhood trauma," she recalls. "When I was a kid, my family lived in Africa and I was playing in the sand. When I went home, I told my parents my calf was itchy. And they pressed my calf and two larvae came out of my calf! Caterpillars are okay. A worm, though, a larvae, it just makes me jump. Just talking about it makes me…” she pauses to scoff in disgust. “The animal was making a home – in my calf! They move really slow, they have no eyes, it’s like hmm, what’s this fucker doing? That’s the animal that I hate!” she says, cracking herself up again.
With complete seriousness, she continues: “I love horses, of course. I would love to have a horse someday. I also love elephants, because they are really smart, and they have such incredible memory. I don’t think the elephant would fit in my place, though.” Here she pauses, as though looking into the future, past more Marvel movies, comedies, and thrillers. “I need another place for an elephant, a bigger place. Maybe in a few movies, we can finish this conversation,” she says, ending her thought with a laugh that sounds like butterflies bursting forth.
Written by Sean U’Ren
Photographer: Justin Campbell for Tack Artist Group at EDGE Studios
Stylist: Monty Jackson for the wall group.
Hair: Mark Townsend using Dove Hair Care at Starworks Artists.
Makeup: Kate Lee using Chanel Les Beiges at Starworks Artists.
Manicure: Camille Black