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Studio Photoshoots > Sessions & Outtakes > Session 027

The sun is streaming through a cluster of burnt-red maple leaves, catching the light in Ellie Bamber’s pale strawberry hair, as she tosses her head back in laughter. It’s an early weekday morning in Central Park, yet a sudden surge of passersby is here, craning their necks through the branches to catch a glimpse of the curiously striking girl—clutching a bit of fall foliage, her fantastic mane set on fire.

It’s all rather fitting, given the 19-year-old English actress’s meteoric rise—from West End to the silver screen, with a plum role in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, opening today in New York City. “He’s such a visionary director, just the way he speaks about his characters with such detail is incredible,” she says. It was onstage at The Old Vic for High Society that she first heard those life-changing words—“Tom really likes you”—and in a Waterloo coffee shop that she pored over his provocative script. “I remember ordering a carbonara and sitting there, crying and welling up,” she tells me. “The waiter came over and was like, ‘Is everything okay?’ and I was like, ‘I’m great, I’m great,’ crying into this bowl of pasta.”

To play India Hastings—the Texan teen and daughter of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Tony and Isla Fisher’s Laura—Bamber spent nine weeks in the Mojave Desert summoning the spirit of Holly Sargis, memorably brought to life by iconic redhead Sissy Spacek in Badlands. “My vocal coach went away and downloaded the whole sound clip of the film, so I’d stand on set listening to that,” she says. The result is a naturalistic portrayal, enhanced by makeup artist Donald Mowat who kept the focus on Bamber’s ethereal beauty—porcelain skin, embellished with a touch of Stila Convertible Color in Peony on the cheeks and lip. “I learned a lot; I’m a massive makeup junkie,” she says, thumbing through a long list of favorites—Chanel mascara, Marc Jacobs highlighter, and creamy shadow from a Tom Ford palette, sent by the man himself.

Yet the elephant in the room is those head-turning flame-color lengths—on which point she has a confession to make. “I’m not naturally red!” she says, laughing. “I’m white, white blonde.” Yes, that jaw-dropping crimson was dyed for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which demanded bright ginger, and deepened into shimmering copper to match Fisher and Amy Adams’s signature shade. But Bamber considers it a bit of cosmetic kismet. “I think I should have been born a redhead,” she says. “It goes with my personality—I’m fiery and it’s kind of quirky, like me.” Some things are meant to be.

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