When you’re juggling as many jobs as 35-year-old Emerald Fennell is (she’s an actor, an author, a director and a screenwriter), sometimes the important things get neglected. “My perfect day off is just 12 solid hours of TV,” the Brit says with a wistful laugh. “I still haven’t seen the Love Is Blind finale—that’s how bad my schedule is. I haven’t found the time to see how this masterpiece ends.” You may know Fennell from her appearances as Camilla Parker Bowles, the future Duchess of Cornwall, in The Crown, or as the pal Phoebe Waller-Bridge hand-picked to take over as showrunner for season two of Killing Eve. But it’s her feature-film directorial debut—the Carey Mulligan-led revenge thriller Promising Young Woman (now available to rent on demand) —that will make Fennell’s name one you commit to memory.
“I wrote [Promising Young Woman] with directing it in mind. It’s such a dark story, and the way I wanted to make it was so different [from what other] people were imagining. Having someone else direct it would have made it a different movie.”
“I love revenge movies, but I haven’t seen one that has somebody at the centre whom I identify with. It’s a particularly feminine thing to hide in plain sight and use the way you look and dress to make people trust you quicker or to seem more vulnerable than you are. It was fun delivering on expectations and [defying] them.”
“I name-checked a few songs in the script, like ‘Toxic’ [by Britney Spears] and ‘Stars Are Blind’ [by Paris Hilton]. This is the kind of music I love—the music I take really seriously. We have this thing in our culture where we undermine female pop music and it’s used ironically. But my feeling is that these songs are incredibly potent and powerful, so I wanted to use them in [the movie] the way I see them, which is that they’re masterpieces.”
ON THE FLY
“One of the main things I learned [on Killing Eve] is that you have to be adaptable and as nimble as can be. Things can go wrong— whether you’re showrunning, directing or acting. It’s about being prepared, thinking on your feet and using every cock-up as an opportunity to do something better.”
“For me, it’s about making a place where people can have fun and take risks. Nobody is going to laugh at them if they mess up—nobody is going to pass judgment. I think all of us have been in workplaces that run on adrenalin and fear; there are many people who work well under pressure, but I never give my best work like that.”
“I just [finished] Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. It’s about children who catch on fire. I loved it.”
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