Agyness Deyn on Retiring From Modeling and Playing a Stripper
English model Agyness Deyn burst onto the fashion scene in the mid-aughts, and her peroxide pixie crop and punky swagger promptly captured the hearts of the entire industry. Throughout the late 2000s, she fronted campaigns for the likes of Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Anna Sui and Jean Paul Gaultier, walked countless runways and was a regular on both the NYC and London party scenes. And although The Independent recently reported that the British beauty had retired from modeling entirely, Agyness has a new career on her plate: acting. In Pusher, Luis Prieto's amped-up reboot of Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 thriller, Aggy plays fiery stripper Flo, a woman struggling to help her drug dealer boyfriend escape the clutches of a terrifying crime boss. We hopped on the phone with the catwalker-turned-actress to discuss.
First things first: everyone's been buzzing about how you've officially "retired" from modeling. Is this true?
Ha! Someone asked me that recently—they were like, "So are you retired now?" And I was like, "Well, I have not modeled in a long time..." So I suppose, yeah, I guess I am. I do want to focus on acting right now for sure. I feel like if you're doing something like that, you can't be doing something else that's totally different at the same time. And you know, I modeled for 12 years...so I think I did OK!
That's no small feat. Is there a particular job you did as a model—a shoot, a campaign, etc.—that you're especially proud of?
When I first started, I worked very, very hard for the first few years. I'd go to Fashion Weeks and not get work, go to castings and not get booked for anything. And when I finally got to shoot the cover of Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel—that was maybe four or five years into my career—it was like seeing all my hard work manifest. Just working with someone of that creative level was incredible.
What drew you to Pusher as a project—and to the role of Flo in particular?
When I first read the script, I thought it was really English, really London—which I loved. And I'd actually seen one of the director Luis' short films, and thought that was great. I really like the way he tells his stories—it's very vibrant, very detailed and alive. And he's a Spanish director—I think it's very cool that this is an English film based on a Danish film that's shot through the eyes of someone Spanish. And I fell in love with Flo straight away—she's a very delicate flower, and goes through so much over the course of the movie.
In dating a drug dealer, she runs with a pretty rough crowd. Did you draw on any real-life experiences for the role? I know the fashion crowd has a definite dark side...
I suppose I did! I mean, your reality, whatever you're doing at a certain moment, comes from your own real-life experiences. You can only really show what you've experienced. Researching the role made me realize, more and more, that everyone's the same—everyone feels the same emotions.
Your signature close-cropped hair has been a huge part of your look ever since you started modeling—and you kept it for this part, more or less. Was that your decision or the director's?
It was both. Obviously I had short hair at the time I was cast, and Luis liked it for Flo. One thing I really like about it is that you can see the difference between Flo when she's at work, wearing this long red wig, and when she's at home and you see her real hair. The short blond is so angelic and pure in a way, and I think Flo herself is very childlike, very pure.
What would you say is the biggest difference between modeling and acting?
The biggest difference for me is how much time the job takes. It's going from one country to another, one studio to another, one set to another—versus going to work at the same place and knowing exactly who you're going to work with each day. On Pusher, every day was about getting together, doing something creative and forming real relationships. As a model, I loved traveling, going to all these different places, experiencing different cultures with every job. But you know, I really enjoy going away for awhile and working on one project and then finally coming home.
Looking forward, which actors and directors in Hollywood would you most love to work with?
Meryl [Streep] would be amazing—or Michelle Williams, who I love. For directors, Terrence Malick is one of my favorites. And the director who did Blue Valentine [Derek Cianfrance]. I also love Nicolas [Winding Refn], of course.
Finally, have you picked your Halloween costume yet?
Well, in England, Halloween's not quite as full-on as it is here. So I haven't got anything yet. I should probably think about that.
Pusher opens in limited release as well as on demand on October 26.
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