Having spent an hour in the company of Abbie Cornish, it seems fair to say that she’s an actress on the brink of the big time. Not only does the easy-going 28-year-old have the much lauded likeability factor, she also has a CV that would impress most Hollywood stalwarts – with four major films set for release this year.
Today, dressed in black Prada pants, a Helmut Lang jacket, Balenciaga top and Melissa shoes – which she loves “because they’re animal friendly” – and curled up on a sofa at the Trump Soho Hotel in New York, she doesn’t seem remotely fazed about what’s to come – in fact, she looks like it’s exactly where her life is supposed to be going.
Abbie, the former girlfriend of Cruel Intentions star Ryan Phillippe (the pair split up in February 2010 after three years) first caught our attention after her amazing performance as John Keats’ lover Fanny Brawne in the 2009 biopic Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion. Since then she’s been hailed as Hollywood’s next go-to actress with her fingers in various pies.
Most pressingly Limitless, a thriller co-starring Hollywood IT boy Bradley Cooper and the legendary Robert De Niro who, incidentally, she can’t stop gushing about. “When you meet him it’s like you see this fog for a moment. You know when people talk about near-death experiences, their life flashing before their eyes? Robert De Niro’s face, all his characters and his performances to date, flashed before me [laughs]. Bradley and I both had to pinch ourselves. It was this very sudden moment of realisation – all we could say was, “Make sure his seat’s ready!”
The film, released 23 March, is based around the idea that a super-drug can enhance human potential, making us the best possible versions of ourselves (only in Hollywood). So, how does she think she could be improved by a pill? “I feel like so many of us have these lists of infinite things to do: I want to learn a language, play the piano, I want to evolve as a painter. The idea of taking a drug where within half an hour you can read a novel or read classical music within two hours is fascinating.”
At midnight I’d get up when my brothers and sisters were in bed and I’d watch European films, short films, music videos, anything. That’s where it all began for me.
Her life right now is literally thousands of miles away from her childhood, growing up on her parents’ farm in the Hunter Valley, Australia. “Where I grew up, it was 170 acres all around – a really small town. It was five kilometres to the corner shop and next to that was a fish and chip shop and a post office. There was a primary school right next door, and a high school up the road, a pub, and that was it. If you wanted gasoline you had to drive to the next town. But it was amazing, I loved it.” It even provided her with the building blocks for her future career. “Back then we only had five TV channels but one of them was SBS, which showed a lot of foreign language films. At midnight I’d get up when my brothers and sisters were in bed and I’d watch European films, short films, music videos, anything. That’s where it all began for me.”
The acting bug might have been sparked back in Australia but it’s this year that the world really gets to see her talent. In addition to Limitless, Abbie stars in female action movie Sucker Punch alongside Jena Malone and Emily Browning, out next week. And if that wasn’t enough to get Miss Cornish noticed, she also appearing in the much anticipated W.E, a two-tiered drama directed by Madonna about King Edward VIII’s affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Unsurprisingly, working with the material girl was quite an experience. “We had so much fun making it. We also worked really, really hard. There was so much in the script that I’m amazed we shot it all. Madonna is going to have to work hard in the editing room, because it could be a four-hour film. But working with her was great – she’s a natural director. Throughout her life she’s dealt with choreography and that was definitely a forte for her in the process of filmmaking.”
Directed by Madonna, carrying a film with a £100 million budget and holding her own next to De Niro, Abbie Cornish has finally arrived.
Limitless is in cinemas 23 March, followed by Sucker Punch on 1 April ; W.E, and The Girl are both due for release later in the year
Picture Credit: Rex Features