Elizabeth Debicki Dives Deep Into Her Career, Playing Princess Diana + Ti West’s ‘MaXXXine’

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Photo Source: Courtesy Netflix

In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

Elizabeth Debicki has carved out an acting career worthy of royalty. In the past few months, she’s earned Emmy and SAG Award nominations—plus a Golden Globe win—for her uncanny portrayal of Princess Diana on Peter Morgan’s “The Crown.” The Australian actor has also worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster craftsmen; she made her American film debut in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” (2013), going on to co-star in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (2020) and the second and third installments of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy.

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Debicki discusses her unique career trajectory, from studying at Melbourne University’s Victorian College of the Arts to channeling the People’s Princess to testing her limits in Ti West’s latest horror film, “MaXXXine.” 

A year after wrapping on “The Crown,” Debicki believes that she gave her all to playing Diana. 

“I don’t feel like I left the part and pennies dropped and I went, Oh, my God, that’s what I [was doing]. Because I’ve had that many times, funnily enough…much more in theater than anything. I think it’s something to do with theater being such an immediate experience; you’re constantly acting on impulse. There’s also so much adrenaline with theater, so maybe that’s slightly blocking our access to things. 

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a play and then a week later been sitting on the train and suddenly thought, Oh, my God. That’s what that line means; I can’t believe I didn’t figure that out. I must have sounded like I knew what I was talking about, because the audience would laugh. I didn’t have that happen with Diana. By the time I finished, I remember thinking, I feel like I have mined everything I was supposed to, and I’m ready to stop experiencing character epiphanies.” 

The Crown

As a performer who came up in the theater, Debicki says she still hasn’t found the formula to nail on-camera acting. 

“I don’t think it’s really a state that I’ve reached. I think it’s a constant negotiation and learning process for me. I feel like, in many ways, I’m only just starting to learn how to do my job properly. I think one of the reasons I really love my job is that I never feel like I’ve worked it out. It’s always scary to me, in a good way, and every character I play seems to ask me to do something different…. I’ve heard so many stories about famous actors saying, ‘Oh, well, you know, the camera’s coming in,’ and really they’re just wondering what’s for lunch. But I don’t really have a rule for that.”

Debicki ventured outside her comfort zone for her role in “MaXXXine,” the final film in West’s “X” trilogy.   

“I was wrapping up on ‘The Crown,’ and [West] sent me the script. I had seen ‘Pearl’, but I hadn’t seen ‘X.’ I don’t usually watch horror-related stuff because I’m more of a low-risk kind of viewer—low-threat, as someone once said to me, which I adore. One of my costume fitters on ‘The Crown’ used to say to me, ‘Oh, no, I can’t watch that; it’s too high-threat.’ That’s a good way of thinking about things.  

So I was fascinated by that, thinking, Why is this extremely cool director wanting me to do this thing? I read the script—and this is, to me, always the testament to a really excellent script: when you actually don’t get up to make a cup of tea or something. You just read it the whole way through and have a great time. I just loved it. I loved working with [West] and I loved working with [Mia] Goth, and I had so much fun. It couldn’t be more different in tone than what I had been doing for a year on ‘The Crown.’ It was a balm to me as an actor, like a tonic, to go into something completely different.”

Listen and subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Debicki.

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