Since Abbey Lee made her Hollywood debut in Mad Max two years ago, the Aussie talent has racked up an impressive spate of roles.
This article appears in the pages of V110, order the Winter Issue on newsstands now.
A familiar face to many in the fashion industry, Abbey Lee made a totally accidental foray into acting a couple of years ago. “It was a freak sort of thing—I was asked to self-tape for Mad Max: Fury Road with no experience or interest in acting, and a few months later, I was on set in Africa,” Lee recounts.
However, it’s a career path for which Lee might have always been destined: “As a child I had a wild, acute imagination and was highly sensitive,” Lee says. “I think I spent my entire childhood edging towards being an actress without fully realizing it, until [Mad Max director] George Miller invited me to take on his epic project. I remember him saying to me, ‘Abbey, are you willing to give up everything for six months and come to Africa with me?’ and it was like something in my gut shifted. My body answered for me.” For the 2015 installment of the dystopian action franchise that made its debut in 1979, she got to work with Charlize Theron. “She’s the embodiment of a woman who has pushed against the grain to find her strength and voice, and it’s inspiring,” Lee enthuses.
Since her first Hollywood film two years ago, the 30-year-old Australian has honed her acting talents along the way with each subsequent project. “I have only a few years of experience, with no formal training, so each set I manage to make it onto, I’m like a deer in headlights,” Lee says. “I find it fascinating what acting can expose about yourself, your capabilities and limits, your relationship to your surrounding environment, and your emotional instability.” In 2016, Lee starred alongside Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon, a horror flick helmed by Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn about the perilous, cutthroat modeling world. “Elle is a star: She exudes a very electric, youthful energy,” Lee describes. “I don’t think I was born that sweet.”
Another film under Lee’s belt is this summer’s sci-fi Western, The Dark Tower. “It was an easy thing to be seduced by—Matthew [McConaughey] and Idris [Elba] doing Stephen King, directed by Nikolaj Arcel. It wasn’t exactly a tough decision,” Lee says. She also starred in comparatively lighter fare with 2016’s Office Christmas Party, alongside Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller, and Jason Bateman.
Her most challenging project thus far has been the 2018 thriller Elizabeth Harvest, directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, the talent behind futuristic thrillers like Gothika, The Eye, and Snakes on a Plane. “There were four versions of a clone I had to prepare, each with a slightly different way of moving,” Lee explains. “Leading a film is a gigantic responsibility, and to do that with four characters was certainly a challenge, especially since I would often have to switch between all four in one day, since it didn’t shoot in sequence,” she recalls.
Lee’s interest in acting even influenced her pet lizard’s name, an homage to Woody Allen’s iconic Annie Hall. “I found her from very passionate breeders. The day she was arriving, I was on set shooting for Italian Vogue,” Lee explains. “The inspiration for the shoot was Annie Hall, so I was dressed in beige, cream, and vanilla shades. When I got home and [my lizard] was delivered to me, I opened the box and she was creamy colored, which is rare for blue tongues, so she became Annie.”
While Lee’s been focused on the silver screen, she’s also hoping to try out new settings. She’s interested in the theater and would also like to dabble in television: “There are so many powerful things being made for TV right now,” Lee notes. “As an actress who is passionate about the craft, I would never close my doors to the opportunity of working on quality material.”