Vogue (2016)

Siren Song

May 2, 2016 / Written by John Powers

Rebecca Ferguson takes a turn as the other woman in Stephen Frears’s period romp Florence Foster Jenkins.

From Greta Garbo to the freshly Oscared Alicia Vikander, Swedish actresses seem to possess an effortless blend of glamour and gravitas. The latest to captivate Hollywood is Rebecca Ferguson, who first broke out as the title character in the Starz miniseries The White Queen. She then went against type, going mano a mano with Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. Now she swerves again, in Stephen Frears’s Florence Foster Jenkins. “She got to me in a rather round-about way,” says the director. “As she walked into the room, I thought, She’s exactly what we need.”

Set in forties New York, the film follows the true story of a likable heiress, Florence (Meryl Streep), who, enabled by her husband (Hugh Grant, never better), deludes herself that she’s a concert-worthy singer. Ferguson plays Grant’s mistress with a sexy worldliness that jumps right off the screen.

“Hugh is this mixture of wit and brilliance and grumpiness,” Ferguson tells me fondly from Norway, where she’s been shooting a Jo Nesbo adapation, The Snowman, opposite Michael Fassbender. “When he’d get grumpy, I’d hit him on the arm, he’d come back at me, and then we’d laugh and go to work.” For his part, Grant appreciated their rapport. “She’s not deadly on the seriousness,” he says.

The daughter of a Swedish lawyer father and an English mother who acted in some films, Ferguson fell into her career almost by accident at age fifteen, when her face was plucked out of a modeling catalog and she was offered the lead in a Swedish tv series. “They were searching for a look and hoped I could act,” she says. They hit the jackpot. This fall will find her costarring with Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train (“It’s an emotional thriller that looks into women’s lives. I said ‘If Em’s in it, I’m in it, and I don’t even need to read the script'”). She will also be shooting Life, a sci-fi adventure in which she discovers signs of life on Mars with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.

Whenever she can, she retreats to the southern-Sweden fishing village where she lives with her eight-year-old son, Isac. “I love coming home to a place where the news is not that I made a film,” she says, “but that Fisherman John caught a big ed.”

© 2016 Vogue