Rebecca Ferguson: Oh, They Have Gluten-Free Hesteropia on the Menu Now!
From the moment that Rebecca Ferguson, poised and fresh-faced, enters the plush drawing room of the boutique Soho hotel where our interview takes place, it’s clear the Swedish-English actress is a force to be reckoned with—confident, capable, razor-sharp, and wryly funny. She unceremoniously parks herself across the table from me, and proceeds to deftly remove a sensational pair of gold metallic Giuseppe Zanotti platform sandals, exclaiming sardonically that she’ll “probably be more comfortable without them.”
I learn in short order just how ridiculously with it she is. Of course she’s bilingual—“At home, I kind of mix everything in one sentence, like my parents do.” Of course she’s managing to harmoniously co-parent in an idyllic Swedish seaside town, with her ex-partner and new partner—“It’s fantastic. We sit down, we’re all kind of best friends—my new partner, my ex. It’s very Scandi. It’s a necessity to make it work, but my son is the core of all of our choices.”
Of course she enjoys picnics in the woods with her family, and collects freshly picked mushrooms—“fantastic!”—in hand-woven baskets: “A plastic bucket? Of course not! That would kill the mushrooms!” It’s easy to see why Tom Cruise cast the 34-year-old in 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and why she will reprise her role as Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible 6, which is due for release in July 2018. She’s not the type of female to balk at the idea of jumping off of a roof; she’s perfectly happy without make-up; and she fully embraced the rigorous training regime that the former Mission role entailed.
“It is incredible, if you have kind of an addictive personality, which I do. It’s all or nothing for me, basically. I love regimes, and I love schedules, and I love organization, and if you take it away from me I get a little bit flustered—I don’t know what to do,” she confesses. “So when Rogue Nation was finished and they took away my personal trainer, the chef, and all of the luxuries that surround Mission, you realize just what a goddamn luxury it is to be thrown into this world. Tom is fantastic to be around. Tom is an emotional, versatile machine. He’s phenomenal.”
With the role of Ilsa Faust, Ferguson brings a real depth and a certain elegant mystery to what is, essentially, an action hero role. She explains that she’s not a character actor as such, and does not walk on set immediately immersed completely in character. “I’m 34, but I have a lot of life experience. A lot of horrendous and destructive things have happened in my life, so that means I know where I have to go, if I have to dip into ‘the blackness,’” she tells me. “I feel I can shift very quickly. I also always try to be honest to my character, and try not to get too affected by other actors’ moods, behaviors or personalities, especially if I’m working in close proximity to them. I think you have to try to disconnect from others, but always listen, and then respond. I like to try to shock people I’m working with—sort of stare them down and throw them a curveball.”
These elements of chilly bravado and intense focus make Rebecca a more-than-worthy on-screen foil to the likes of Tom Cruise, and soon Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman and Patrick Stewart in The Kid Who Would Be King. Perhaps her maturity in some way can be put down to being raised in such a progressive country. Sweden operates under a model similar to those of other Nordic nations: capitalistic, but with a large percentage of spending allocated to public service.
Health care, as well as a college education, is free, and its people boast one of the longest life expectancies in the world. And, significantly, given the current tense political climate, Sweden has remained neutral in times of war for centuries. In 2015 it even added the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” to the dictionary. Rebecca’s father is Swedish, her mother is English, her grandmother is from Northern Ireland, and her grandfather is Scottish. Ergo, not only is she a good actress in terms of dialect adaptation, but she’s also a liberal thinker, and proud of her homeland.
“I think there’s something very exotic about Swedish and Scandi-noir. We have incredible filmmakers and actors—Noomi Rapace and Stieg Larsson, for instance—they opened the doors. We open the borders, and people come in, and it becomes such a potpourri of different cultures and religions,” she asserts with pride. “I love that! I want the world to look like this! I’d like people to be more accepting of others, and embrace differing views, although admittedly that might be a bit naive of me. I like the cultural mix of Europe, including England. Take the Snowman set (which was filmed in Norway) for example—it was such a great mix of people.”
The Snowman, in cinemas now, is a British crime thriller, directed by Tomas Alfredson, and based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. Alongside Ferguson and Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J.K. Simmons also star. Rebecca plays a brilliant recruit working alongside Fassbender’s Harry Hole, the lead detective in an elite crime squad. Ferguson’s enthusiasm for the project is clear.
“I will say that Michael Fassbender is a goddamn hero. He’s fantastic, not only because he’s brilliant—I go to see films because Michael Fassbender is in them. He laughs all the time, and he has the most incredible smile, and he sings all the time, like Irish folk music and weird songs! He’s so fun!” With her co-stars (Fassbender, for instance) now beginning to produce films, and Cruise, whose behemoth Mission: Impossible film series is a gargantuan money-spinner, does she want to move to the other side of the camera? After all, the last annual report from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film stated that in 2016, just 7% of the top 250 films were directed by women, a fall of 2% from the year before.
“This issue, it is gradually changing with female DOPs and camerawomen. It’s fantastic, and their work has a completely new feel. I’ve read scripts, I’ve been given production opportunities, but it’s a very active choice,” she answers thoughtfully. “As soon as you throw yourself into producing you are working 200% with something. At the moment I’m promoting two films, I’m shooting two films at the same time, and I’m trying to be there for my son. I don’t even know how I would do that, on top of producing. As a mother I say no. As ‘Rebecca Creative,’ I’d like to, someday. I’d really like to.”
As we wrap-up our conversation, Ferguson reflects on how her life has changed since she’s found international acclaim. “When I look back, I don’t regret any choice I’ve made, or anything I’ve pursued or not pursued. I’m really happy with the way my life has turned out. And there have been a lot of difficulties and hindrances in my life—choices that I had to make, to move on and survive. I had to grow up so fast as a 15-year- old girl,” she says, referring to her early arrival on the acting circuit as a teenager. “I had a child when I was 22. I don’t party, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs—I’m very clean. I live a healthy life, and I guess with all that comes a certain maturity.”
She sips her tea calmly and states that she has no interest in courting celebrity, and is most happy that her Swedish home offers a different territory to that of America. “We don’t have that world. My life can be goddamn reckless, and it can be devastating, and I can be self-destructive, but I’m quite secretive and I’m very good at hiding things, and I don’t get drunk and throw myself out of cars with my knickers showing,” she tells me with a laugh. “Those days have passed, and you missed the pictures! So, there’s not much of me for people to follow around. I like maintaining that and I don’t seek out fame. I’m not on any social media. I don’t like it, although I do understand the importance of technology today. But you know what? I like stationary. I write letters. And I don’t like people knowing what I’m doing all the time.”
Written by Josephine Smith.
Photographer: Crowns & Owls at Iconoclast Image.
Stylist: Candice Bailey. Hair: Perrine Rougemont at Caren.
Makeup: Liz Pugh using YSL Beauty at Premier Hair And Makeup.
Executive Producer: Virginie Picot at Iconoclast Image.
Set Designer: Thomas Bird.
Movement Director: Jamie Neale.
Retoucher: Lucy Hutchinson.
Lighting Assistants: Nathan Matthews and Angus Chinn.
Styling Assistants: Jade Hennessey and Rosie Borgerhoff Mulder.
Art Department Assistant: Josh Parker.
Runner: Theo Tenant. Location: Church Walk Studios.