December, 2015 / Written by Jenny Bergquist
The road from soap-star to big budget movies with Tom Cruise has been long, but she’s learned everything from working in a daycare to doing English accents, stunts and red carpet-poses. Elle’s photoshoot with Sweden’s newest movie star was Mission easy – Rebecca Ferguson gives it her all.
Rebecca Ferguson had promised herself she would never have a personal assistant. She likes to do things on her own, work hard and be responsible. But things doesn’t always turn out the way you think, and in the room next to the one where Rebecca’s trying on the first outfit of the day, is her assistant Dani. She’s there to read scripts on her iPad, one of the many things she’s been helping Rebecca with for the last couple of months.
– I always thought “if I can’t even take care of my own stuff, there must be something wrong,” Rebecca says, while lifting her hair for Jenny [the stylist] to zip the back of her white Ralph Lauren dress she just got in.
– Then I met Dani through a mutual friend and we clicked instantly. The work she’s doing for me menss that I don’t have to work around the clock anymore. I can take a phone call from my family for more than ten minutes without having to start the conversation with “I’m driving from A to B, let’s talk now.” That’s the way it’s been for me over the past three years.
The fact that she finally had to hire an assistant is, despite all, a minimal change compared to the other things that’s happened to Rebecca Ferguson in the last couple of years. Four years ago she had to fight to get any role, even in smaller Swedish productions. Today she has the whole World as her job scene, and can actually say no to parts. Good, well-paid parts. She was handpicked by Tom Cruise for the lead in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and the Meryl she was working with recently, was Meryl Streep. You get the point.
Above all, Rebecca’s quick success from practically unknown to walking the Hollywood red carpet is an inspiring story that can give hope to anyone fighting for their dream to become reality. It’s also a fairytale that confirms that you don’t have to be a selfish backstabber to becoming successful.
– I have never been the girl to cut in line to get ahead, but suddenly all these things are happening to me. Fast. I got the part in En Enkel till Antibes, which led to The White Queen, that got me The Red Tent, which I was filming when I landed the role in Mission. Bang. Bang. Bang. I have been diving head first and given it my all. Afterwards came the chock, like “wow, what the hell happened?”
The short answer to that question is that hard work, combined with timing and luck, finally paid off. The success came sudden and the change has been drastic. But moving to Los Angeles, New York or London, like other Swedish actors, isn’t happening for Rebecca. For almost ten years she’s been living in Simrishamn, a small town in Southern Sweden where everybody knows everyone, and she can walk in sweat pants without anyone looking her way. It’s also home to her eight year-old son Isac and her ex Ludvig.
– My son is attending school in Sweden, and I don’t want to uproot him from his home. I’m working all over the world, so there’s really no point in moving, she says while drinking her coffee. His father and I aren’t living together anymore but we’re best friends and still very close, thank God. We live about five minutes from each other and we’ve got it all figured out.
Rebecca grew up in Stockholm with her Swedish father, British mother and three sisters. One of them, Maria, came with Rebecca to today’s photoshoot in the villa outside of Stockholm. She says it’s the only way for her and Rebecca to get to see each other.
The teenage Rebecca was “pretty beige.” She wanted to hang with the popular girls but didn’t quite fit in.
– I didn’t grow up thinking “I want to be an actor!” she says, sitting in the giant sofa where we talk whilst the rest of the team eats lunch and checks Instagram.
While she’s leaning back in the sofa, putting her legs underneath her, I allow myself to stare at her perfect porcelain skin with tiny freckles and a fascinating glow. All the vitamins from the broccoli and sweet potatoes she ate during the Mission training seem to have a positive effect on her skin as well.
At fifteen years old, Rebecca got the part in the soap Nya Tider [New Times], and afterwards she had no doubt that acting was her future. Unfortunately the Swedish casting agents weren’t as convinced, and for many years she took jobs at coffee shops and daycare centers to survive economically.
– I really wanted to work as an actor, but I just didn’t get any parts. I was Anna from Nya Tider and it takes a while to be seen in a different light as an actor, especially if youve acted in a soap.
Can you see any advantages in being a bit older when you got your breakthrough?
– I don’t know what would’ve happened if my breakthrough came at fifteen-sixteen, but you can see how many younger stars end up, and I’m not unique. I think it’s easy to get involved in various habits in the movie business, and you get used to cars that pick you up where ever you’re going, or taking private jets with Tom. Sometimes I take my little sister with me while traveling and her reaction to it all alerts me, and Tom as well. And we’re all sitting there like “oh, God, what a life we’re living.” I feel enormous gratitude towards it all, and never take anything for granted.
While talking about Tom Cruise… Is he so excited and “on” the whole time, or is it a part he plays when meeting fans and the press?
– No, that’s not a part, he IS like that. It’s his life and he really takes his time when meeting people and loves his job. That’s something I’ve really learned from him. Us Scandinavians always get the sense that things are dark and tough, but for Tom nothing is a problem. Then again, he can be like a butterfly on ecstasy somethings, but that’s just fun!
What’s it like to meet famous co-stars for the first time? You’ve also worked with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant recently.
– You can’t think “I’m going to meet a legend!”. I demand very much of myself, to give a smart impression, show my self-worth and to be myself, so my head instantly starts building up all these expectations. But I’ve had the good fortune of meeting people who are just like “Hey, what’s up? Come sit down!”, which makes all the fear just disappear.
Were they the way you expected them to be, Meryl and Hugh?
– No, Meryl weren’t anythig like I’d imagined. I had heard rumors that she’d be… Not difficult, but someone who’s aware of their status and image. But she was just the nicest. She came up and hugged me the first time we met. After that we sat down over a lunch and laughed and talked. It could’ve been extremely awkward, but she kind of gave me permission to find myself in the situation. And Hugh is very shy and mischievous, a bit bitter and grumpy in that lovely and charming British way.
Do you learn from the people you work with?
– All the time! In the movie I did with Meryl, I didn’t have any scenes with her, but I made sure to stick around to watch her act. It’s like school to me. Both Meryl and Tom are incredibly talented in keeping up the high spirit for everyone on set. Extras can sometimes sit around and wait for hours, yet they’re expected to be alert and ready when the time comes. So sometimes Meryl went out to them, gave them a dance and a show – which isn’t her responsibility at all, but she’s so comfortable in who she is and got nothing to prove.
Another new and a bit unexpected challenge in Rebecca’s life is the red carpet culture of Hollywood. But just like with everything else that comes with the job, you take a deep breath and learn if you want to be in the business. Rebecca shivers when telling me about her first try.
– I was so nervous that I was shaking. I thought “how do I know where to stop?”, but everything is very organized. You get a so-called “walker”, someone who’s walking ahead to show you where to stop. Then it’s my job to do some gorgeous, gracious turn towards the cameras. When I got there, hundreds of photographers started screaming at me and their flashes went off. I remember thinking “God, this is pretty wow. For me!” Then I turned around and saw Cate Blanchett right behind, haha! So the walked asked me “Rebecca, do you want to go before or after Cate?”, and I turned to Cate and said: “Cate, darling, you do this!”. After that I watched her work the red carpet, simply getting out there in a statuesque pose, completely unaffected by everyone screaming. I thought “just you watch, I’m going to copy this,” but instead did this whole Bridget Jones-thing and slipped on my dress and all the flashes went of so I couldn’t see a thing. So I started shouting “hey, guys, can’t we do one camera at a time?”, trying to direct the photographers and making weird faces. My publicist wasn’t too happy when the photos showed up the next day…
She may feel like Bambi on ice sometimes, but when reading interviews from her massive promotion tour for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation this past summer, many American and British journalists reflect over the sense of calmness that Rebecca possesses. I got the same impression the day we spent together. Despite not really enjoying to be photographed, she works hard for the pictures to turn out well, hour after hour. She laughs and chats with the whole team, pulls out her cellphone and shows pictures of a motorcycle she’s itching to buy. Rebecca’s telling weird stories from Hollywood, only to jokingly strict telling me to “NOT include that in the article.”
Rebecca’s used the friendly pondus she possesses in several roles. She also thinks of herself as very blessed to be working in the movie industry right now, as a “mini-revolution” is starting to produce more well-written roles for women.
– I’ve had the good fortune of portraying really strong characters. It’s almost to the extent that I feel like I have to stop in order to not be put in a certain box. I need to work on my ability to be vulnerable. On a personal level I’m really good at managing the things I take on, so I’m very inclined to find the opposite in coming roles. I’ve been offered lots of parts where I could play a kickass broad, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I also don’t want the money to determine which job I’ll take. I’ve had a low income all my life and been pretty well off anyway, so the paychecks in the industry feel pretty absurd sometimes.
Have you splurged on anything since making more money?
– I have treated myself with things like traveling to Croatia to snorkle for a week. But I don’t stay at luxury resorts, but find something a bit less extravagant instead. And money disappears quickly. I try to be smart about it, but financing is hard so I’m glad I have good advisers. Although I don’t want to give away all the reponsibility to other people. Just like with everything else, I want to know what’s happening and be in charge. It’s my life.
Do you ever worry that it all will disappear someday?
– Yes, but not in a way that gives me panic or anxiety. Jobs are coming my way, but it’s always in the back of my mind. I’m not naive when it comes to the turns your life can take. But I also know that I’m a survivor, that’s my strength. Even after this, I’m not afraid to take a whole different job that doesn’t interest me, if that’s what it takes to provide for myself.
She doesn’t have to worry. When this article is published, Rebecca is already filming her next project, the film version of The Girl on the Train. She has a smaller role, but does get to act next to another one of her A-list favorites, British Emily Blunt, famous for The Devil Wears Prada among other films.
– I’m so excited to be working with her. But super nervous!
It’s hard to grasp that someone who did most of her own stunts in the latest Mission: Impossible film could be nervous about anything. To work with Emily Blunt just can’t be as scary as repelling down a roof.
– But you know, it’s a whole ‘nother thing, Rebecca says so convincingly that I almost believe her. It’s such a physical thing and sure, I challenge myself, but if I can’t do something. I just can’t do it. To submerge myself in a role and learn to speak with an American accent, and really create a character, that’s much more vulnerable.
If my impression of Rebecca Ferguson proves to be correct, she’ll do it with ease. And the next time we see her on the red carpet, she’ll manage all the screaming photographers and make it seem as if she was born in haute couture.
She does, after all, tend to succeed in whatever she tries to do. Sooner or later.
© 2015 Elle