Icons / October 2018

Rake-in-Progress: Hermione Corfield

The British actress Hermione Corfield tells The Rake why she looks up to Reese Witherspoon and Margot Robbie, and how city life has got under her skin…

Grey wool mélange stripe jacket and trouser, both Ralph Lauren Collection.

When she was 19, Hermione Corfield appeared on the cover of Tatler, not necessarily as herself but as the physical manifestation of the ‘New Sloane’, a younger generation of that well-heeled Chelsea archetype who are “leaner, meaner” and are shunning traditional dress codes. But despite fitting the bill in terms of appearances, the actress seems to be actively shaking that stereotype. So far, Corfield has played a buttoned-up hotel manager, a fighter pilot, a princess, a record shop clerk, and a marine biologist: a veritable feast of roles for someone in the early stages of her career.

Hermione grew up in Gloucestershire, the heart of the British countryside, interspersed with trips to London, where her mother, the shirtmaker Emma Willis, and father work. Her entry into the acting world was swift: she joined the National Youth Theatre when she was 15, landed an agent at 17, and studied method acting at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York before she reached her twenties.

After studying English literature at University College London, Corfield is now immersed in acting: she has three films coming out this year, including her latest role, starring alongside Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Slaughterhouse Rulez, a horror-comedy that looks as diabolically funny as the comedy pair’s previous films.

What are you working on at the moment?
The film is a sci-fi thriller called Sea Fever. It’s set on a fishing trawling ship off the coast of Ireland and it’s about a marine biologist, which is my character, going on this boat in an alien environment, and then something happens on board that turns everything on its head. It’s quite a long shoot, about seven weeks, so I’ve got some work to do — the director has sent me some books to read to prepare for the character.

How have you carved out a name for yourself so far?
I think you have to make smart choices. I think it was Rosamund Pike who said, “It’s not the things you say yes to, it’s the things you say no to”, and I think I’ve tried to do a variety of different genres and time periods and just tried to work with directors I look up to. I think it’s just finding material that you genuinely connect with and directors you genuinely think are really brilliant. And it doesn’t really matter what happens to the film or show afterwards, because it’s about the experience.

Who do you look up to in the industry?
Elisabeth Moss is really cool, and I think what Reese Witherspoon is doing in terms of production, and the material she’s creating with Big Little Lies, is awesome. She’s in a position of power but she’s using that as a positive thing, to set an example of someone who’s creating material which is for women as well as men, but it’s not just male-led. I look up to people who are able to act and direct and produce as well, which is a long-term goal of mine. Like Margot Robbie: she’s got her own production company now, and I remember her saying that if she’s going to be committing X amount of time to a film, she wants to have some creative input outside of acting, and I completely agree with that. I’d like to have a different form of creative input.

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Jessica Beresford

Jessica is The Rake's Managing Editor.