Poppy Delevingne Talks To R29 About Cara, Her Acting Debut & Instagram Trolls

Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
Model. Chanel brand ambassador. Love magazine columnist. The star of two (!) swoon-worthy weddings back in 2014. London socialite. A regular on the MailOnline sidebar. Cara's elder sister. Poppy Delevingne is already a lot of things – and now she's adding another to her CV: actor.
The 31-year-old may be best known as a model, having been scouted by Storm Models founder Sarah Doukas at 15 and posed for the likes of Burberry, Anya Hindmarch and Louis Vuitton, but now she's scaling back the modelling and following her younger sister into the film industry. Delevingne stars in the new Guy Ritchie film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword as the young protagonist's mum, and has another film coming out later this year. We caught up with her to talk acting, famous siblings and that Tory Burch controversy.
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Hi Poppy, so how did you prepare for the role?
You know, just wandering around the house in a crown [laughs]. No, obviously, the character is Arthur’s mother – she’s very strong, brave, but above all she loves her son more than anything, so I just worked at being regal and having that maternal instinct. It was really helpful that the boy that played my son – there were two boys, identical twins – was sensational to work with. He was divine and Eric [Bana] was also such a dream to work with.
What did you learn from filming? Did you get any tips from your fellow actors?
It was my first film so I had a lot to learn. It started as really nerve-wracking but everyone was so wonderful and supportive. Guy [Ritchie] is a great director – he knows exactly what he wants and he’s really direct, but also encouraging, which was wonderful.
What I learned is to be calm – when you’re acting and the nerves are getting to you, you can feel quite uppity, but the more relaxed I was, the more I felt like I melted into it. Deep breathing is key.
What do you make of the flak David Beckham has received in the press for his acting in the film?
The great thing about Guy is that he loves cameos – he always has genius cameos in his movies. He’s even in King Arthur himself, playing a shop owner. It’s a fun movie and it’s tongue in cheek, so why not? Why not have David Beckham be in it. I thought it was kind of great. It’s meant to be a fun movie, so why not?
When did you realise you wanted to try acting in the first place?
Probably when I was at school and did Hamlet. I was Queen Gertrude. I loved it so much and completely fell in love with that play. At that point I realised it was really what I wanted to do.
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More so than modelling?
Well, at that time yeah, and then I kind of fell into the modelling thing and I guess I got carried away with it. I love modelling, it’s been wonderful and I’m really grateful for the time I had doing it, but always at the back of my mind… I moved to New York to go to Lee Strasberg, the acting school, and just kept getting distracted. I’m easily distracted.
It’s probably been five years [since I first tried to start getting roles], when I first went out to LA and I did pilot season, so it’s been a long slog. We started filming King Arthur two years ago, but yeah, it’s really tough.
You lived with Sienna Miller in New York in your early 20s, right? Has she given you any acting tips or advice about the roles you should be going for?
Sienna’s always been very supportive and nurturing on the acting front. She’s always like, “You need to be doing it”. She always thinks I need to be doing comedy, which is hilarious because I don’t really see it.
Are you the funny one in the friendship then?
No, but she’s always laughing and telling me I need to do comedy. She’s extremely supportive of it and was very sweet. I was so lucky to have seen her in Cabaret and After Miss Julie. She’s such a beautiful actor and she’s so good at it. You can learn a lot just by watching really brilliant actors.
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Which other actors do you admire? Is there anyone in particular whose skill you’d like to emulate?
Meryl Streep is just ridiculous – she can play anything and anyone and I think she’s kind of spectacular. Julianne Moore is really wonderful. I thought Alan Rickman was incredible. That voice. I always remember when I was a kid watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and thinking how mad Maid Marian was for not wanting to be with him.
Is there anyone whose career trajectory you find inspiring in terms of the roles they’ve done?
I really love Naomi Watts. Because I’ve started acting quite late her story gives me a bit of confidence. I believe she got her first role in Mulholland Drive when she was 30. I read somewhere that she lived in LA for eight or so years and nothing big happened, and I think that was her first. I always think that story’s really inspiring, that there’s still a chance for me out there yet, you know what I mean?
What would be your dream role or dream director to work with?
I love Baz Luhrmann. He’s a really bonkers director and I love what he does. I love all the singing and dancing. That kind of thing really appeals to me, but I’d really like to sort of do something quite challenging next, maybe a character role where you have to become someone completely different. Like Charlize Theron in Monster.
Obviously Cara’s just shaved her head for her latest role – would you be up for doing something similarly transformative for a part?
I would totally do that [laughs], but I don’t think I’d look like Cara with a shaved head. It would be an absolute disaster. But if the role is there and the role is right… you know, Cara’s done it for all the right reasons. I think it helps you go to that place and go into that headspace, so yeah I think I would do that.
Do you ever get bored of being asked about Cara and having people comparing your careers (sorry!)?
No I don’t get bored at all, she’s my sister so I can wax lyrical about her all day. We’re six years apart, we’ve had very different careers, and we’re just very supportive of each other.
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Would you be up for working with her in a film or on another kind of project, like writing together?
Yeah definitely. There was one point we almost did and unfortunately the movie fell through. I don’t know if I can go into detail about what the film was but it was really cute; Cara called me up and was like ‘so you know I’m doing this movie’ and said they were looking for a big sister, so she put me in touch with the director, we did tapes and it was all great, and it was all her idea. One day I’d love to do that, that would be a dream come true.
At 31, you’re by no means “old”, but would you say it’s trickier to get certain kinds of roles at your age than it would be if you were younger?
I think so, unfortunately. I think it is a little bit tougher, but I also think now that there’s so much scope and that people are slightly broadening their horizons. My voice is ridiculously deep so sometimes when you’re having to play someone who’s quite young or vulnerable, that’s quite hard. People say my voice is worldly [laughs].
Would you say your voice has ever counted against you at auditions?
I’m sure it probably has. Once I was quite close to getting a role and I was meant to be playing a 21-year-old who was moving from Cornwall to London and they were like, “Your voice is very knowing, you don’t seem innocent enough”.
Are you satisfied with the range of roles out there for women? A lot of actresses say they’re sick of there being so many "pretty girl" parts and not enough meaty roles.
Yeah. I do think change is coming – there are so many more women directors and writers now. There should be more movies where women are the main characters and protagonists, but I do think change is happening, which is really exciting. There should be more diversity.
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Actors these days are expected to put themselves out there on social media, but you’ve managed to maintain some privacy and your relationship isn’t in the press all the time. How do you manage to maintain that separation between your work and private life?
Things like Instagram and Twitter I see purely as work. I also love photography, though, so I love taking pictures. It’s just a fine line between how much you want to put out there and talk about, and my husband [James Cook, 35] is a very private person. It’s very grounding.
How difficult are you finding it maintaining a long-distance relationship?
We’ve been together nine years now and when we first got together I’d just moved to New York, so we’re good at being independent at the same time, which is good because it’s a wonderful feeling to miss someone. It means you argue less because there’s nothing to argue about and it’s always exciting.
Did you get any backlash on social media for the Tory Burch controversy earlier this year? (The brand pulled an ad starring Delevingne in March after it was criticised for cultural appropriation.)
I don’t think so because I hope people understand that I was a model booked on a job and I’m not in charge of art direction or the casting. That’s not up to me, so for me it was being booked on a job and doing the job. So I didn’t actually get any backlash personally, which I’m relieved about.
I’ve had a few trolls before though, it’s pretty horrible. If anyone does comment negatively, I just get rid of it because I don’t want it to be a negative forum. It’s weird when you get people in the comments who argue with each other, I’m like, "Guys, calm down". It’s really crazy.
You once said you admired Caitlin Moran and were interested in writing one day, is that still something you’d like to do?
I love writing. I have a column with Love magazine and I’ve always loved writing. When I was growing up I used to write little books and was obsessed with it. Right now I really want to focus wholeheartedly on the acting but one day I’d love to write something, maybe a script. I’ve had a few film ideas and I jot them all down in a massive notebook. They’re a little bit fantasy-like, a little bit out there. A little bit kooky.
What’s next on the acting front?
Just working hard at trying to get the next role. I’ve got Kingsman: The Golden Circle coming out in September, which is exciting. In the meantime I’m spending quite a bit of time in LA. There are so many auditions happening now that there are so many TV shows, with Netflix and that kind of thing. It would be a dream to book something like that. I have a fantastic acting coach, so I do classes with her whenever I can, and accent training. I’m just trying to learn as much as possible and better myself as much as possible.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is in UK cinemas from 19th May.
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