Nicola Peltz Beckham | With Every Passing Day, A Sharp New Set of Instincts

Featuring Balenciaga Fall 2024, Via Issue 191, The Fresh Cuts Issue!

Photographed by

The Morelli Brothers

Styled by

Luca Falcioni

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All clothing and accessories by BALENCIAGA.

When life abruptly changes, and in turn changes us, it’s hard to know exactly who did the undoing. Was it our own small decisions made throughout each day? Or predetermined timelines within which we find ourselves inconsequential? Maybe it’s not so much the answers to these questions that are important, but the ability to react and adapt accordingly, to know that after Winter comes Spring, and to believe that we are deserving of that Spring. Such philosophic inquiry whispers throughout Nicola Peltz Beckham’s directorial and writing debut film Lola.

Shot in faded colors and pastels, Lola, which stars Peltz Beckham in the title role, takes place in the aughts of Los Angeles. Mostly filmed in Silver Lake, the story follows 19-year-old Lola between her evangelist, alcoholic, abusive family home, the pharmacy she works at with her best friend Babina, the strip club she works nights in, and Babina’s house. Her world revolves around her home-schooled younger brother, Arlo, who adorns himself in painted nails, makeup, long hair, and handmade beaded necklaces. She works two jobs to make a better life for Arlo, with a goal for the two to move out of the home in which their addict mother—played by Virginia Madsen—habitually denies and disdains the interests of her son in the name of the Lord.

Written over the course of a three-day creative bender, Peltz Beckham dreams up new beginnings in Lola. She reveals the line between chance and choice, a boundary oft blurred, depending on which side of it you find yourself on. Her character is sprouted from a seed that’s rooted in resentment and despair, yet blooms towards a sky of unconditional love and possibility.

Movie theatre-goers know Peltz Beckham from Transformers: Age of Extinction, or as Katara in the live adaption of The Last Airbender. She also starred in the cult-favorite Bates Motel series, but Transformers was the breakthrough moment that pushed her towards notoriety. In 2022, she married Brooklyn Beckham, the eldest son of footballer David Beckham and Spice Girls’ Victoria Beckham, which thrust her further into the spotlight.

In our conversation, I observe that Peltz Beckham lives off her intuition, that she finds confidence in listening to her gut. When talking about decision-making, it all comes down to the feeling for her. Recalling her acting and directing process, she says, “People say, ‘How’d you know you wanted to marry someone?’ Or ‘How did you know that you’re in love?’ It’s hard to really put it in words, but it’s just that gut feeling. Whether that’s making decisions in life or whether that’s acting. You can feel as an actor in a scene if you’re being fake or you can feel if you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I gave that my everything.’”

It was an acting exercise that led Peltz Beckham to Lola, born out of a character study, a journaling exercise in which she would imagine a character and build their world and their life experience as if they were a real person. “Even if I had a small part,” the actor says, “I would journal and think, ‘What was the first time she’s ever been kissed? What was the first time she’s ever been embarrassed?’ I would journal pages and pages and pages about my character. I never really knew how therapeutic it was for me.”

The completion of the script, however, happened within a triad of sleepless nights, a possession we both associate with Spiritus Mundi, the idea popularized by the late Irish poet Yeats’ idea of an intangible, singular spirit that inspires an individual’s artistic creation. Peltz Beckham explains: “I had these characters that were floating in my head. It’s almost like when I would read scripts, I would want to find them.” And further, “I am really bad [on] the computer—I left school in eighth grade. I opened up my computer and I started writing on the Notes app. It was just pouring out of me... I wrote in chronological order. I never came up with the ending. I just was writing, writing, writing. I never felt stuck because I never put pressure on myself to write a script.”

But of course, after writing comes the courage to share the story that’s been written, and while there were imperfections in the process of getting the film over the line, such as sending her acting coach the script via email in one, long, vertical line, Peltz Beckham recites the procedure as if it were seamless magic. Perhaps it was all kismet to begin with. “I will tell you a story that I’ve never told anyone,” she says, and holds up an image on her phone. “It gives me the chills every time I find this photo... Lola James is the character name, and that’s what I would call my dog that passed away, I called her Lola James. Someone gifted [this candle] to me, not knowing that I had a dog called Lola, or that I was writing a script. I lit the candle. I looked over almost done with the script...” the iPhone time stamp reads June 20th, 2018, 4:50 AM. It’s a photo of a burning candle named “Lola James Harper,” wax melting down to its last bits, with a roaring, perfect, heart-shaped flame.

I wonder if Peltz Beckham knew when she saw that flame that the making of her film would span over six years, or that her persistence would push her through a pandemic and industry-halting strike. She did, however, make the choices that steamrolled her circumstance, and below, tells me exactly how she did so.

Can you tell me about the journey that you’ve had with making the film, from the conception of the idea to its release? What have those years looked like for you?

It has been such a labor of love. When I first wrote Lola, I had no idea the journey I was going to go on and I never planned on directing it. Honestly, writing to me was such a private thing that I love to do. When I sat down to finally write a script, I didn’t show anyone for a little bit, and then I finally sent it to my acting coach. I never knew the journey [it] was going to take me on. It’s been six years, which is so wild to say because I’ve never done any one singular thing that’s taken so long.

I always knew I wanted to play Lola and I always knew I wanted a female director, but I never thought that Lola was going to be my first project directing. And then my producer was like, ‘You should really do it because you wrote these characters and you know them so well.’ I was like, ‘Oh no, I don’t think I should be writing for the first time, producing for the first time, and then starring in it—I really wanna find someone.’ [Eventually] he gave me the confidence to do it. And when I decided I was going to [direct], I just jumped in and committed.

It’s so easy to let a creative idea like that feather out, it’s so easy to not carry it through. Especially through the strike and the pandemic...

We filmed during COVID, and a lot of our budget had to go to COVID testing. As an independent film we had to be super, super careful and respectful about that whole process. I would not go near anyone unless they were tested because the whole film could be shut down.

You’ve also been acting for most of your life. How did your experience as an actor inform how you went about directing Lola?

I’ve been acting since I was 12. I wanted to be super sensitive. Acting is all about emotion and I wanted my set to be super safe and open. If someone didn’t like a line, I didn’t want them to feel like they had to say it. I wanted [the cast] to come to me and say, ‘I think it should be worded this way, and this would feel more natural.’ It was super important to me that everyone felt safe on set... I hope I accomplished that. I mean, my actors tell me I did, and that means so much to me.

Especially in a story like Lola, in which the contents are pretty heavy. What was the cast bonding like, how did you all get comfortable with one another?

I think the relationship between Lola and Arlo carries the film. I hung out with Arlo—or, well, the actor, Luke—a lot before filming. We painted each other’s nails, we did beading, we did a lot of rehearsal time and it made us feel super close and bonded us together. I never wanted him to feel like he was in a scene with his director. I always wanted him to feel like I was his big sister. If he had any questions or any ideas in a scene, if he felt like getting up and doing something, I wanted him to be able to do that and follow his instincts. I think when actors follow their instincts, that’s when the beautiful moments come out. I wanted everyone to feel safe so they could do that.

And how were you able to balance and maintain your real-life friendships, relationships, time with family during production and other jobs?

My friends are family to me, and I would be nothing without them. I’m just the happiest when I’m with the people I love and I’m with my animals. That’s when I’m my truest self. My mom lives in Florida and when I filmed this I begged her, I was like, ‘Please, I need you by my side.’ And she came to LA. I’ve acted on sets since I’ve been 12 and I never even let my mom watch me act, which is such a weird thing. But when I was directing for the first time, I was like, ‘I need you.’ Her and Brooklyn were with me every single day on set. It meant the absolute world to me to have that support system, and I literally couldn’t have done it without them. And my mom did crafts, she had snacks for everyone. She’d go around and be like, “Does anyone want coffee or anything?” It felt like a family on set. It was so much fun.

Have you ever given any thought as to why you didn’t like your mom watching you act?

I remember when I did Transformers, she would always hang out in my trailer. I would always want my mom by me, but just never by the monitors. I always felt like I didn’t want to be in anyone’s way. My mom loves to support me behind the scenes. She never wants to be by the monitors either. Transformers was like a six-month-long shoot, and my mom came to set with me every single day. She decorated my trailer. I had stuffed animals. She had snacks and everyone would come hang out at my trailer because they always knew my mom was there.

When we did big explosions, [the crew] was like, ‘You should bring your mom to set.’ And I was like, I don’t even know if she wants to come. She’s so happy hanging out. She’d always go to the makeup trailer and ask if anyone needed any help, and she would hang out at base camp. She was like, ‘Listen, this is what you want to do. You go to set, you do your thing. And I’m just here.’ You know, I’m twenty-nine years old, and I never want to be on a set without my mom.

Lola’s relationship with her mom is very... Well, “difficult” doesn’t begin to describe it. How was acting out and dreaming out that relationship—especially with one that sounds to be the complete opposite with your real mother?

My mom is my best friend. I’ve, of course, made things up for Lola and I have people around me in my life who’ve had experiences with their family. I just think generational trauma is such an interesting topic where people have so many different relationships with it. Do you let that keep going? Do you stop that? How do you heal from it? Do you push it down and then one day you wake up and you feel it? Do you talk about your childhood trauma? Lola, for instance, was raised a certain way and did not want that for Arlo and does not want that for her future. I thought that was like a sad, beautiful poem.

What do you hope for people to take away from this film?

I went to the premiere and at first, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’m going to sit through this because I’ve seen it so many times.’ And then my mom was like, ‘You should be able to sit through it with an audience.’ So I sat through it and I was kind of peeking around to see everyone else’s reactions. When people got so emotional and were really touched by the story, I was so grateful and so excited in those moments. I felt like people really connected to this, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do—make a piece of art that people feel connected to.

Photographed by The Morelli Brothers

Styled by Luca Falcioni at Opus Beauty 

Written by Franchesca Baratta

Hair: Rena Calhoun at A-Frame Agency 

Makeup: Kate Lee at The Wall Group

Flaunt Film: Cheersdude

Lighting Designer: Max Wilbur 

Movements: Liam Lunniss

Production: CreativeP Studio

Retouch: CreativeP Studio and Matheus Freitas

Digital Assistant: Drew Schwartz

Stylist Assistants: Frankie Benkovic and Vance Medeiros

Production Assistants: Maria Kyriakos and Cassey Ayala 

Location: Hubble Studio

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 191, Fresh Cuts, Nicola Peltz Beckham, Balenciaga, Franchesca Baratta, The Morelli Brothers, Luca Falcioni, Lola, People, Hubble Studio