The New Face of Hollywood: Angourie Rice

An interview with actor Angourie Rice

Photography by Nicole Bentley
Styling by Marina Afonina
Words by Nadia Bailey

Role by role, this 17-year-old actor is carving out a place in Hollywood as one to watch.

You can tell a lot about someone by their jewellery. Even more than the clothes we wear, jewellery feels deeply personal. A kind of litmus test of what kind of person you are – or hope to be. Sitting down in her agency’s Collingwood office, Angourie Rice points to a sculptural silver ring on the middle finger of her left hand. “This is from Tiffany & Co.’s HardWear collection,” she says, explaining with incredulous pleasure that, after her appearance last year in Sofia Coppola’s movie, The Beguiled, the company let her pick out some pieces to keep.

“This,” she says, pointing to a sparkling zigzag adorning her index finger, “I bought for myself from a jewellery shop around the corner from my house. I bought it on a Friday afternoon for only $20 because I thought I deserved a present.” On her right hand, a delicate gold ring set with a single pearl circles her index finger. It’s understated. From another era. Rice spreads her hand to better show it off: “This one was my Mum’s.”

Later today, she’ll meet up with her mother to run her lines and shoot a screen test for a role in an American film she’s hoping to land. Tomorrow, she’ll fly to Sydney to shoot the cover story for JONES. On 20 September, her new film, Ladies in Black, will premiere in cinemas. But before all that – like every other Year 12 student in Victoria – she has to sit her General Achievement Test.

As much as I enjoy working overseas and it’s a different experience, there’s nothing like working at home.

Angourie Rice was born in Sydney in 2001, the eldest daughter of Kate Rice, a playwright and actor, and Jeremy Rice, a director. She shares her name with a small surfing town in New South Wales where her grandmother once resided. More specifically, she’s named after Angourie Beach, a place that is legendary among surfers for its superb point breaks yet is relatively unknown to anyone else.

Theirs was a theatrical family. When she was a kid, her father was the artistic director of a theatre company near her primary school, so she and her sister, Kalliope, would hang out after class to watch rehearsals. At home, they’d put on elaborate self-directed performances involving singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. “I’ve always loved performing,” she says. “There are so many embarrassing home videos of me dancing or putting on a show.”

An interview with actor Angourie Rice

She began acting almost as a matter of course, starting with commercials, theatre and short films before landing her first full-length feature in These Final Hours, an Australian zombie-apocalypse flick that made it all the way to Cannes. Her early career was defined by portrayals of precocious, capable children (These Final Hours, Walking with Dinosaurs) before graduating to portrayals of precocious, capable teenagers (Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows). She never studied acting, instead finding her way through practical experience. “I’ve learned by being on set and making mistakes,” she says. “And realising I’ve made those mistakes and learning how to fix them.”

I think it’s important for me to be aware of what messages I’m sending and how I want to impact the people who follow me on Instagram.

Her approach to choosing projects has always been to look for characters with a sense of interiority. “Anything with a strong, interesting character who has a story arc, who plays an important part in the story and who isn’t just there for show,” she says. “It may seem simple but, with teenage girls, sometimes that’s really hard to come by.” She got that opportunity in 2016, when she gave a solidly enjoyable performance as the daughter of a shambolic LA private eye in The Nice Guys, an otherwise ham-fisted buddy cop movie starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. She was 13 at the time. “I was the only person under 18 on the set,” she recalls. “That made me feel different from everyone else, as did the fact that I was a foreigner and it was my first American film. So there was a lot that could have made me feel very excluded on set.”

An interview with actor Angourie Rice

Her experience was the opposite, however. “Everyone was really nice and very welcoming to me, so I didn’t feel out of place,” she says. “It was a good introduction to working in the States.”

Although The Nice Guys is defined by a complete lack of subtlety, Rice’s performance was a stand-out and went on to earn her a nomination for Best Female Newcomer at the 22nd Empire Awards. It also put her on Hollywood’s radar: after returning to Australia to appear in the film adaptation of Craig Silvey’s novel, Jasper Jones, she was cast in The Beguiled.

A simmering Civil War-era psychodrama, The Beguiled is the kind of film that makes critics pay attention. In it, Rice plays a small but luminous role that sees her hold her own against industry greats like Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. For Rice, this role was not only a professional breakthrough but also a personal highlight. “When people used to ask me who’s the one person you’d want to work with, I’d say Sofia Coppola – she’s my idol,” she explains.

An interview with actor Angourie Rice

Maybe it’s not about one big successful point – maybe it’s the little successes along the way.

In the lead-up to filming, Coppola requested that she write a journal from the perspective of her character. “It got me into the headspace before we started shooting,” says Rice. The delicate, pastel-hued dresses she wore throughout the film helped, too – as soon as she put on the period clothing, it changed her entire perspective. “The corsets make you sit up really straight,” she says. “I felt so regal all the time.”

Every day, she was painstakingly laced into her custom-made corset so that her costume would fit perfectly. “In the mornings, I could go half an inch tighter, but after lunch I needed that extra half inch, otherwise I couldn’t breathe,” she laughs. As for working with Coppola, the experience was a rewarding one. “She was very calm and very collected all the time, but you knew that she was going to get the shot she wanted. It was amazing.”

And there are more amazing things to come...

This is an excerpt. For the full story, photoshoot and more on Angourie Rice’s latest Hollywood projects and her work on pick up a copy of the JONES Spring 2018 issue, in store now.