“I’d be screwed, it’s everything to me.”
Mia Gypsy Mello Da Silva Goth is pretty upfront about the importance of her acting career. I meet the 23-year-old model and actor at a small coffee shop in London’s Mayfair, just off Bond Street. It’s December and London is Christmassy and quaint. Flicking her thin roll-up to the curb, she walks in bang-on time, fresh faced, hair tied up in a bun, with almost no makeup—just a dash of mascara.
She has a unique and loveable voice, light, full of soul—the type you can’t help but fondly remember. And she’s well spoken; reassuring splashes of South London twang crop up now and then—mostly when she gets excited about something—but her conversation is the type you can write verbatim, with grace of pause, speaking with commas and full stops exactly where they should be. I decide that I really like her in about 120 seconds.
We’re speaking off the back of shooting her latest film, A Cure For Wellness, a thriller set at a health retreat in the Swiss Alps, directed by Gore Verbinski [of Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) and The Ring (2002) fame] and starring Dane DeHaan, who, like Goth, is also one of the faces of the Prada’s La Femme and L’Homme fragrance campaign.
Goth plays the role of Hannah, one of the ‘patients’ at the retreat—an anonymous and intensely curious young woman managing to exist amongst evangelized CEOs basking in a ‘cure’ from success and the prison of modern life.
During the course of the film, Hannah is forced to confront her coming of age. “I really connected to that,” says Goth, who adds that she is personally “dealing with owning my own womanhood. I’m quite intimidated by the power and responsibility that being a woman comes with. I find myself having to confront it. I think every woman deals with that and no one ever really feels like they have everything completely sorted out. It’s a process, a journey.”
Goth can still enjoy being anonymous, but only to a certain extent. Her relationship with long-term partner, Shia LaBeouf, has thrust her—at times aggressively—into the spotlight, namely in October 2015 when the Las Vegas chapel they tied the knot in ‘accidentally’ livestreamed their big day to the whole world.
I wonder what it’s been like confronting her womanhood while simultaneously being publicly scrutinized and “papped,” in Mia’s own words, at “nine in the morning when you’re buying milk.”
“It’s difficult, [mostly because] it wasn’t for my own achievements. I’d just finished filming Nymphomaniac Vol. II (2013). I came from Catford, in South East London, then I was exposed to this world and I really didn’t know what to do with it. I don’t wear makeup much; I tend to just put my hair up. So then to read comments that are quite horrible… You have to be a thick-skinned person to deal with that. When you’re around it long enough you begin to see that it’s not reality. They don’t really know anything about you.”
We talk about some of her favorite actors. She’d give her hand to work with the likes of Viola Davis, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Natalie Portman. One of her favorite films is The Shining (1980) featuring Shelley Duvall, who she adores. Her face turns while mentioning the actress’ controversial interview with Dr. Phil, criticized for exploiting Duvall’s mental illness. “It was heartbreaking to see glimpses of that, to see one of the greatest actresses of all time being diminished for TV ratings. I didn’t watch it all out of respect for her.”
While Goth is completely open in person, she understands the value of keeping some things hidden. “I’m very private about my private life.” She says, “I don’t like to go into too much depth about it. It’s important to keep some things for yourself.” Apart from a private Facebook account, you won’t find her on social media, which could be interpreted as a refusal to constantly seek approval from the outside world. “If you expose everything you have, there’s nothing that’s just yours anymore, and that’s a dangerous place to be in.”
It was Nymphomaniac that gave Goth her first big acting break, playing the role of ‘P,’ protégé of Charlotte Gainsbourg, a philosophical sex addict. The film is written and directed by art house filmmaker Lars von Trier, notorious for his uncomfortable anxiety-riddled films about the end of the world, pretending to have sex as a disabled person, dark family secrets and the horrors of sexuality. He’s been dubbed “the punisher” for his wine-fuelled direction to the outer emotional limits. Björk once said that he tried to eat her soul.
For Goth, her audition with von Trier at just 18, “was the best experience I’d ever had.” Fresh from her A Levels at college in London, she says, “If I’d have really known what I was walking into, I’d have been overwhelmed. My naïvety served me well.”
Half Brazillian, and half Canadian, Goth was born in London and moved to Rio with her mother for a few years as a child. Her upbringing wasn’t lavish. She talks about growing up in Rio and South East London fondly and proudly, though admits that it was a struggle for her mom who was at the time in her early twenties, without a partner to share the burden. Goth is clearly heir to a fierce work ethic.
Goth now spends most of her time in Los Angeles, which she loves. Speaking on the issue theme, and the interconnectedness between the elements and creativity, she says, “I’m focused there. I love being around nature, I love it being sunny everyday—it promotes a healthy lifestyle.” The warm, sun-soaked climes of L.A. and Rio calms her. “If I’m having a stressful day I can look at the sky and feel centered again and realize I’m just a tiny little dot in this whole universe and that, actually, everything’s going to be just fine.”
Goth is serious about understanding herself and not being molded by the tides that the outside world throws at her: “Being an actor requires a lot of self-analysis and reflection. The better you know who you are, the better you are at becoming another person.”
So who would she like to become? “The beauty of acting is you get to live a thousand lives in one. I’m drawn to real people, interesting characters. People who are going through something. Or trying to hide something.”
The lightness of Goth’s disposition isn’t indicative of the whole, and it’s a deep dive into the darkness where her creativity thrives. It’s a place she’s actively seeking, but ultimately, she knows that plans have their limits. “Life, and the world, sometimes just kinda click and things just happen,” she acknowledges with a sigh. “You’re chasing it, but it finds you at the same time.”
Written by Jenny Cusack
Photographer: Jesse John Jenkins for Patricia McMahon.
Stylist: Francesca Turner.
Hair: Hiroshi Matsushita.
Makeup: Jessica Taylor.
Producer: Samantha Jourdan.
Photography Assistant: Dylan Massara.
Styling Assistant: Olga Dritsopoulou.