Imogen Poots: Meet the actress whose talent and verve will make her a megastar

At just 22, actress Imogen Poots – who has already starred opposite the likes of David Tennant, Colin Farrell and Michael Douglas – has the looks, talent and presence to take her far. Here she tells Benji Wilson why, despite the high-gloss movie glam, she’s still a backcombed-hair girl at heart

Imogen Poots sits in a Soho hotel room looking perfectly petite among all the plump sofa cushions and towering flower arrangements. She is surrounded by promotional material for Chloé’s signature scent, for which she is one of the new ‘faces’.

‘A fresh and feminine fragrance suited to a free spirit with an utterly innate sense of chic’, reads the description. Actually, that’s not a bad summary of Imogen herself. Just 22, she doesn’t conform to the normal formula for a Young British Actress. Beautiful, yes, but not in an Identikit way. Costume drama? Tick, but always from an oblique angle, such as Miss Austen Regrets (the 2008 BBC drama based on Austen’s letters, in which she played Jane’s niece) or this year’s Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (Imogen was Blanche Ingram, Jane’s rival for Mr Rochester’s affections). Consider also that her big break was in a horror flick, 28 Weeks Later; that her most famous scene to date was being seduced by Michael Douglas in 2009’s Solitary Man, and that her latest trick is this year’s classic horror reboot Fright Night with David Tennant and Colin Farrell…and ‘free spirit’ seems to cover it. Dressed head to toe in black except for a crisp pair of brown boyfriend brogues, ‘innate chic’ isn’t far wrong either.

I started working when I was 14. I’d done drama at school and enjoyed it, but it was limited – I was at an all-girls’ school where everyone was from a similar background – so I joined London’s Young Blood Theatre Company for a different kind of education. Attached to that was a small acting agency and I started going for roles through them, doing small parts in TV shows such as Casualty. I’m sure Mum and Dad had concerns, but acting existed parallel to school. School had right answers and wrong answers, whereas acting lets you offer your own interpretation of the world. That was very exciting when I was 14, and it still is. I’ve had the best time of my life because of it.

I didn’t go to university, although I had a place at London’s Courtauld Institute to study history of art. I wanted to continue acting but that doesn’t mean you stop picking up books or learning as much as you can. I’ve been lucky to meet some fascinating people, including Timothy Spall [who plays Imogen’s boss in the romantic thriller Comes a Bright Day, to be released next year] and Trevor Eve [her father in ITV’s remake of Bouquet of Barbed Wire], who’ve introduced me to other aspects of life. Education is important to me, but it doesn’t have to be with desks and teachers.

28 Weeks Later had a real sense of a surrogate family. It was my first film [2007], when I was 18. It was the most substantial role I’d had, with actors who are doing amazing things now: Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner and Robert Carlyle [Imogen played his daughter Tammy]. I love that feeling of collaboration, and look for it in everything I do. I don’t really have a home at the moment. I was in New Mexico last year for six months filming Fright Night, and before that in New York for another film. I’m addicted to travelling – I feel I’ve got to keep moving, otherwise I’m scared I’ll miss something – so I’m grateful for what my job allows me to do. In a new city the first thing I do is head out to explore. I start with art galleries and then I take lots of photos and make weird little films of trees!

Fright Night meant filming with David Tennant in Albuquerque. We had the best time – New Mexico is stunning and Santa Fe is extraordinary. Looking at that sunset and sunrise, I’ve never felt so small and insignificant. And it was so hot. They had this guy who used to drive me around; we’d get loads of coffee and listen to a radio station that played readings of Allen Ginsberg’s poems. Best of all, I had the opportunity to play an all-American girl. My American accent isn’t so bad – I’ve played more Americans than Brits, which is kind of bonkers.

Is this my big year? Well, I have a lot of films coming out! But the idea of a big year is intimidating because it means the next year won’t be a big year. The saddest thing in this business is when somebody burns bright and then fades out. You see it all the time. Everything’s so disposable now.

I don’t necessarily go starry-eyed around actors. Musicians, that’s another story. If I met Bob Dylan I’d freeze, and I think if I met Leonard Cohen I’d faint, but when you see actors in person they’re just so normal. It’s only because they’re playing parts the whole time that people see them as special.

I’m obsessed with Alex James from Blur. I met him recently at a gig – at least, I asked him where the loos were or something. People say he looks a little crabby these days but I say he’s even better.

I’m 22 now, but the people I admire are much older. Maybe I’m prematurely middle aged. When I was in Albuquerque I started listening to a lot of blues music because some of the guys in the cast were talking about Blind Blake and Robert Johnson – and a lot of things from the 1950s. I’m going through a doo-wop phase at the moment. I want to start a band (although if I were to sing the world would end). There’s this innocence to doo-wop that’s charming. The most poignant thing I’ve seen recently is some footage of these doo-wop bands when they were 13-year-old boys, and now as old men they’re singing the same songs and their voices haven’t changed, but everything else is so different.

I’m a Gemini so I have a split personality. On the one hand I can be quite serious, but I’m also girlie in the sense that I’m completely melodramatic and illogical. I was known as Poodle at school because I used to backcomb my hair and wear more than five colours at once. I wasn’t going to be head girl, so whatever. Now I wear black and listen to Leonard Cohen: it’s all gone a bit peculiar. But the backcombed-hair girl is still in there somewhere. These days I rub butter into my hair. Well, not butter butter, but shea butter. It’s amazing – you can use it on your skin too.

I haven’t done lad mags or nudity. I don’t have anything to give them! It’s a way of getting your face in the media but it’s not the image I want to put out there.

I think the women in Woody Allen’s films got the look just right. I love Annie Hall and Manhattan and all the women in those films. They just understand that moment when you put on your boyfriend’s clothes or try on his shoes – and they’re better than yours. Paul Smith designed the clothes for Comes a Bright Day, and he has a range that makes me feel extraordinarily cool – it’s men’s-style clothes but made to fit a female form.

I love bags so big you could lug a sink around in them. I have so many ridiculous tote bags. And I have a gorgeous blue Marc Jacobs bag with tiny arm straps that my mum bought me a couple of years ago.

I find it difficult to talk to people about beauty regimes because I don’t have one! I’m honoured to be part of the Chloé campaign. The only times I’ve modelled is when I’ve been promoting a film or TV project, so it was interesting to do something purely visual. I thought, this could be a persona, a part I will play – and smell great while I play it!

The type of actor I want to be is…curious.  Curiosity is a gift if you keep wanting to learn and evolve. I really admire Mia Wasikowska, I love Michael Shannon and I loved River Phoenix. They
all have this ability to make you feel and care about them, and forget that they’re actors. And in interviews they seem very gentle people.

I won’t talk about my love life. Not even a yea or a nay. I’m not giving anything away.

Imogen Poots: Scream Queen

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Magazines > Foam (October/November 2011)
Photoshoots > Shoot 33 (Hilary Walsh for Foam)

Fright Night’s up-and-coming ingenue goes goth and then quotes Southern Gothic literature.

Imogen Poots does a mean Charles Bukowski. She’ll also do a pretty convincing Allen Ginsberg. “They’re on my iTunes,” she says, “you’ll be listening to Depeche Mode, or something, and then it’ll be like, ‘I saw the best minds of my generation…’ It’s awesome.”

So begins a surprising interview with the incredibly surprising star of this August’s Fright Night. We certainly weren’t anticipating sitting across from someone we’d last seen on-screen in intense hair extensions and supplementary boobs swapping Faulkner and Leonard Cohen quotes or discussing various means of remembrance.

Rushing into the diner at the Standard in West Hollywood, the London-based actress immediately dives in, extolling her well-considered philosophies with a combination of confident intensity and early-20s squirminess. The scenery makes her uneasy; the stark white of the restaurant reminds her of a somewhat nightmarish experience she had while staying at the Mondrian in New York. The two days spent in her lavishly bare hotel room with nothing to do was a sort of a worst-case scenario for her: “I called up my brother and said ‘I’m feeling really weird,’ and he said ‘Well, you have to do something. Find a catharsis.’ I went to an art shop on Canal Street and I bought these stencils and started doing huge stencils [on the floor of] my room. [I thought,] I’ve got my stencils; I’m going to be fine.”

Later in our conversation, it becomes clearer why a few extra days with an empty schedule in a stimulus-free room would create such panic. “It’s that terrifying feeling of being numb,” she says, “That’s the fear. You end up seeing so many cool places and finding out interesting things or meeting people that blow your mind, or leave you cold, or whatever. But when you feel numb, that’s such a terrifying prospect.” It’s this trepidation that keeps her feverishly running in and out of art shops and bookstores wherever she goes. While filming Fright Night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she bought so many used books that she had to have a friend ship them back to her in the U.K. “I find a lot of things uninteresting, so when [I] can find something that holds [my] attention, or curiosity, I suppose, that’s a good thing…I think it’s important to have other things that you’re interested in to feed your mind.”

It’s with a similar passion for eluding boredom with which Imogen seems to trip along most aspects of her life. In fact, looking at her body of work, it would seem as if her entire professional career was structured around amusing herself. In the course of a year, she’s gone from period lady (Jane Eyre) to predator (A Solitary Man) to prey (Fright Night). “There’s a pressure that can be put on an actor that you must be [versatile],” she says, “I think it’s easy to say, ‘I’m not going to do that or I’m not going to go down that road.’ You try to not be afraid of how you’ll be perceived.”

And yet, as contradictory as it is given the contents of her resumé, her opinion of versatility is surprisingly low. “You can only play a character the way that you feel them to be true,” she says, “and if that means they laugh the same as the girl you played in the 18th or 19th century, well it’s fine.” Rather than seeing each of her characters as varied and different, she looks for links between them; the thought being that what ultimately compels her about each character must make all of them somewhat similar, genre or story notwithstanding. “Sometimes you read a part. You feel like you know them. Sometimes I’ll read a part and think I don’t know them at all. I don’t really know [how] to access them. When a role speaks to you it’s like ‘WHAT?’ and it becomes something you really want to explore.”

Those roles that “speak” aren’t necessarily highbrow, either. At times, her characteristic meanderings can land Imogen in seriously un-heady territory. In Fright Night, she plays vulnerable and frustratingly under-sexed Amy Peterson—the requisite babe foil to Colin Farrell’s overtly predatory vampire villain. “The director, Craig [Gillespie of Lars and the Real Girl] approached this commercial beast with a very character-based background,” she says, “it was fun playing her. You can’t even intellectualize it too much, it was just fun.”

At this point in her career, finally having the ability to be pickier about projects, the self-proclaimed aging child actor (“a child actor with a pension plan”) is cutting her teeth by working opposite—and learning from—some of Hollywood’s most superlative stars. As if a steamy make-out with Michael Douglas or acting as neck feast for Colin Farrell weren’t enough, her next film, A Late Quartet, is heavily star-studded, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken, from whom she gained the nickname Stinker. “I just loved him,” she says, “He would say ‘Hey Stinker, you stinkin?’ I was just happy to be around him.” With each role, she learns from her lauded co-stars, collecting and growing with each new challenge. For A Late Quartet she learned to play violin, an experience that left her in near hysterics: “Some people go into tears or fits of laughter and I’m definitely the laughter,” she says, “You’re doing these quite phallic hand motions, so there I am alone in a room going like this [gesticulating]. But, I picked it up and I loved it.”

Relentlessly self-aware, she notices the fleetingness of each of her projects, which are booked solid these days. “It’s a bad thing, I think, if you just go the next job, the next job,” she says, “You can forget why you were doing it.” Which brings us back to the all-white room at the Mondrian, Imogen stenciling like her life depends on it. “I find that if I’m traveling there’s an innate fear that I’m going to forget everything because the experiences are transient,” she says, “so [I] want to solidify moments with something permanent.” She recounts a particularly stirring passage from Faulkner’s Absalum, Absalum! that stuck with her. “You pass a note from your hand to someone else’s hand and the presence of that piece of paper is defining the moment in a really complicated way,” she explains, “That really rang true. It’s such a shame if you never leave a mark on something—whether it’s your life or someone else’s.”


Chat with Sexy Vamp Imogen Poots on the New ‘Fright Night’ Set Even if Imogen Poots didn’t have the sexiest English accent this side of Kate Beckinsale, she’d still be able to level men with one flash of her enormous blue eyes. Maybe it’s for the best then that in the new Fright Night Poots sports an American accent as she takes on the role of Amy, the wholesome girl next door who gets seduced by evil vampire Jerry Dandrige, thus inviting her boyfriend Charlie (Anton Yelchin) to do battle for her soul… I chatted with Poots on the Fright Night set last year at the Hard Rock Hotel and Café in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the jump, find out what she had to tell me and a few other journos about finding her inner vamp.

Can you talk your Amy in this and how it’s different from the original Amy?

I suppose it’s a modern take.  The premise is pretty much the same regarding the vampire and the main plot.  In terms of their relationship, it’s universal.  Charlie and Amy are still going through the same adventure.  But I’ve made it different in the sense that I’ve made it my own.  I think that’s what is important when you’re embarking on a remake, to find something new and original.  To sum up the characterization, I think my Amy is quite strong.  I’m not saying that the other one is weaker in any way, but she’s definitely got a strength.  Which means that she’s able to be on par with Charlie in dealing with Jerry and the vampire situation.

Is there a similar sexual tension between Charlie and Amy?

There’s a sexual tension.  Probably mainly from Amy’s point of view.  I think there’s a running gag where she’s constantly trying to get him to deliver “the goods” and he doesn’t because he’s always a vampire.  So that’s kind of funny.  I guess maybe they’re unusual because they’re always dealing with running away from vampires and very suspicious situations.  So there’s not much time to mess around.

Can you talk about working with your two leading men?  How is like working with Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin?

Anton Yelchin is absolutely amazing and brilliant.  He’s a very inspiring person and actor.  He’s so intelligent and very funny, and Colin Farrell as well.  It’s a real pleasure to be able to work with both of them.  Colin is playing Jerry in very kind of sensitive and gentle way, which is unnerving and very unsuspecting.  Anton is very much full of energy and full of life.  It’s wonderful to play with his character.

Do you get a kick out of doing genre movies?

I suppose I find the characters intriguing for girls.  I think a lot of the time a lot of the roles are stupid for girls.  I knew that Craig Gillespie was very genius from Lars and the Real Girl.  And I really respect Toni Collette to an extremely high level.  Anton and Colin also, and David Tennant too.  So I really wanted to be part of this so much.  I know that I’ve done some genre films before, but often those are the parts where the journey is the most compact and the storyline is a real arch for the character to go on and that’s always important.

Can you talk about the comedic aspect of the film and what challenge that presents to you coming from genre films and darker stuff?

The comedy aspect is really thrilling.  There’s a lot of room for improvisation.  Craig is really liberal with the script.  That’s important because Anton and Toni are very free with their language and it’s important to find the naturalism through that.  People are funny.  You don’t’ need to create humor.  I think people are awkward enough to be hysterical.  I think it’s a matter of finding that.

We’ve heard that the film kind of pokes fun at the current notion of romantic vampires.  Is your character at all a commentary on today’s typical Twilight-loving girl?

Potentially.  In no disregard to Twilight, those books are very special.  But I think that in terms of how one as a girl would put a man on pedestal, a vampire is a very appropriate form.  It’s something that is completely sexual and completely forbidden.  A vampire is a real kind of wonderful allegory for that I suppose. That’s why the success of the vampire films has been so immense recently.  I think girls can relate to that in many ways.

Are you doing an American accent or are you talking with your accent?

I’m doing an American accent.  Which is great because you’re dismissing my British identity with something stuck up my bum and being American.  I’m trying to be an all American girl, which is really fun.

Is it a challenge for you with the accent?  Are you careful because improvising if you don’t have the accent down could be…

It’s such an international cast and everyone’s accent is so fantastic.  Toni’s obviously Australian and Colin is Irish.  I think that an accent is a really integral part of the character and Amy is an all American girl. So I knew that and dedicated myself to that.  The accent is something I worked on a lot and hopefully that isn’t too much of a hold up for the character.

Without giving too much away, those that have seen the original know that Amy undergoes a little bit of change in the third act.  Do you get a little bit of makeup experience in?

Oh yeah.  It’s a big makeup experience.  I’ll just say “chin” That all I’ll say. I’ve never experienced so much experience on my chin before.

You turn into Jay Leno?

[Laughs.] No, but that’s another fun thing.  There’s that little transition and that’s a really wonderful thing as an actor to then play a part within a part.

Just how evil does Evil Ed get?

Ed gets pretty evil.  But I think his outrage with Charlie comes from their friendship that has been broken.  So it’s not a pure evil.  It’s hurt and it’s something human.  Which I think is quite wonderful, that these vampires have something flawed in them that can be related to something flawed in human beings.

Were you yourself a vampire fan or a horror fan in general?

I get real scared really easily.  So, not particularly.  I guess my family is a pretty good sport.  They’ve had to put up with a lot of blood and guts, so I’ve gotten used to it too.  I’m not a big fan, but I was really excited about the people involved with the project and that’s what inspired me to do it.

Can you talk a little bit about working in 3D?

It’s amazing.  I haven’t noticed too much of a difference apart from that the camera is much bigger and that you get to wear cool glasses in between takes.  It’s so interesting from an intellectual technological point of view of filmmaking.  It’s really interesting and quite daunting how fast the transformation has taken place.  Javier, the DP, is a genius and things just look so crisp and beautiful.  I’m really excited about being part of this new 3D.

Can you talk about David Tennant’s performance?

David Tennant is hilarious.  He’s so funny.  I have seen him as Dr. Who, and I don’t know what it’s like in America, but it’s a big thing in England.  He’s completely dismissed that character to play Peter Vincent, who is hysterical, and based on a lot of people that you may recognize in the public eye, and he’s incorporated that into his characterization.  We’ve done a little bit together and he’s very funny, and it’s nice to have fellow Brit around.

Meet the new face of Chloe perfume! Imogen Poots is unveiled as the new Chloe girl and we’ve got an exclusive interview!

With a host of exciting films coming up, Fright Night starlet Imogen Poots is having a bit of a moment. And, with the announcement that she’s the new face of Chloe perfume following in the footsteps of Chloe Sevigny and Clemence Poesy, her career’s about to go stratospheric. Read on to find out more about the clever girl from Chiswick who’s about to become your latest style icon…

What’s it like to follow in the footsteps of Chloe Sevigny and Clemence Poesy who have previously fronted the Chloe ad campaigns?

I really admire Chloe Sevigny big time because she’s an actress and Boys Don’t Cry is one of my favourite films ever. I think it’s really great when people in the public eye have endeavoured down other paths. Her life is very multi-faceted and creatively she’s got a lot going on so I think it’s wonderful that Chloe the brand has embraced someone who I believe to be very intelligent and a strong figure. I feel very, very flattered.

How was the shoot for the ad campaign?

The shoot was amazing, it was in New York, my favourite city in the whole world and the photographers were extraordinary. You’re having to perform constantly on a photoshoot – there was a real energy there, trying to portray this girl, whoever she might be.

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