Agyness Deyn Gets Serious in Career-Changing Dramatic Role

Agyness Deyn Gets Serious in Career-Changing Dramatic Role

Following her long tenure as fashion's alt-muse, Deyn has grown into a full-blown film actress, carrying Terence Davies's latest period piece

Following her long tenure as fashion's alt-muse, Deyn has grown into a full-blown film actress, carrying Terence Davies's latest period piece

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

If anyone can turn heads with the well-worn model-turned-actress moniker, it’s Agyness Deyn, who achieved bona fide supermodel-dom in the post-Mizrahi, pre-KenGi aughts with her peroxided dome, doll-like features, and Olympian-length limbs. Now she’s reaching new heights as the star of Sunset Song, British auteur Terence Davies’s adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic Scottish novel, opening this Friday.

When the pastoral melodrama was released in the UK last December, Deyn earned rave reviews for her role as Chris Guthrie, a young woman whose power and intelligence flickers under the social constraints of turn-of-the-century Scottish folk life, in which she bears little resemblance to her erstwhile Amazonian pixie persona.

“Terence tapped into something that I didn’t know I had,” Deyn told us. “I don’t find it easy to go to shouting and arguing; I’m not really one of those people that’s like, ‘Fuck you’ in an argument,” Deyn added, referring to her character’s emotional intensity.

Deyn may be soft-spoken by nature, but when she learned Davies was in town casting his next project during her run in The Leisure Society on London’s West End back in 2012, she threw caution to the wind.

“I was meeting with some casting directors, and they said, ‘Oh, we’re working on Terence Davies’s next film.’ And I was like [gasps] ‘Please, can I read it?’ not thinking that I would ever be able to audition for it. They kindly gave me the script, and I called my agent and was like, ‘Please, please, please, do whatever it takes. Just get me in, in any role. I would love to be a part of this.’”

In the end, Davies handpicked Deyn to play Chris, and join the ranks of leading ladies that define his oeuvre; Davies’s films include House of Mirth (2000), with Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart, and, most recently A Quiet Passion (2016), with Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson. The role of would have been a touchstone for any actor’s career, let alone one that had begun a few years prior with a cameo in the 2010 remake Clash of the Titans, even without the added pressures of nailing a Highlander accent and of adapting one of Scotland’s most cherished literary figures. “A lot of my Scottish friends were like, ‘Don’t fuck this up!’” Deyn said.

In Sunset Song, Chris takes control of her family’s homestead in the wake of tragedy, despite the patriarchal structure of Highlands society. Not unlike her character, Deyn has endured by following her own instincts, despite how others may judge her on the surface. “When I read the script, I cried from start to finish, because I was so deeply impacted by the quiet strength that is inherent within every woman. The story relates so much to your own journey as a young woman.”

Beneath the surface, Deyn is a cinephile (she especially loves sci-fi, and just wrapped the futuristic drama The Titan with Sam Worthington and Ruth Wilson), whose interest in film has influenced her career from the start: “I remember seeing Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless when I was really young and thinking, Huh, other people with short hair. Like, women!”

When asked if she would ever reprise that trendsetting blonde crop, Deyn (whose hair now sits at shoulder length following a freak dreadlock incident) demurred: “Yeah, if it was for a role.”

Sunset Song is in theaters nationwide Friday, May 13.

Credits: PHOTOS COURTESY MAGNOLIA PICTURES

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