Perhaps it’s time model-actor Abbey Lee had her prefixes switched.
Since starring in Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, the Australian has racked up credits playing a troubled model in Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016), a young woman who’s the victim of her power-hungry husband in Elizabeth Harvest (2017) and the female lead in an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (2017). She even made her first foray into theatre, starring in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at London’s Hampstead Theatre last summer. So is she a model-actor or an actor-model then?
“Acting is for me the richest,” says the 32-year-old. “It takes all of you. But honestly, that’s like asking someone to compare golf and football. They are part of the same family but require very different combinations of particular skills and energy.”
This year, Lee worked on Lux Æterna with the force of nature that is Argentine-French film-maker Gaspar Noé. Originally commissioned as a 15-minute short for Saint Laurent, the resulting film plays out as a 52-minute mockumentary about film-making’s collaborative nature as it chronicles a shoot gone wrong.
“Gaspar is a trip, I adore him!” she says. “He’s batshit crazy, and that’s the energy you’re working with, so it’s unpredictable and fucking fun. I am a fan, of course. I have a lot of time for freaks who are searching for something true and doing it with style.”
Lee is based in Atlanta right now, filming upcoming horror series Lovecraft Country, based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name and counting Jordan Peele – of Us and Get Out fame – as executive producer. She’s two months into shooting so it’s “too early to spill the beans”, but Lee is able to confirm that her character is a “force”.
With a talent that spins her off all over the world and a non-stop schedule, Lee doesn’t get much downtime. But she’s OK with that. “I dunno about that term ‘days off’. Maybe when you love to learn and you love your work, and your art, there isn’t such a thing as a day off.”
For Lee, staying physically and mentally fit is all about finding a happy balance. “I read. I have music always. I have loved ones I lean on. I do transcendental meditation. I draw. I find a class somewhere, pilates mostly. I just make it work. I have to. I’m always somewhere different. And sometimes I don’t stay all that together. And that’s OK. I come undone so I can be put back together differently.”
All clothing Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello
Hair SHINGO SHIBATA at The Wall Group, Makeup JEN MYLES at Streeters, Models ABBEY LEE at Next
and YVES ROHLOFF at Success Models, Photography assistance LIV BEDFORD and ALLISON BROOKS, Styling assistance ARNOLD KRACHT, Local production SJ ASHBY, Production LOUISE MERAT at Artistry London, Printed by LUKE at Touch. Thanks to ANDREW THOMAS