Red Carpet News TV interviews Ella on the red carpet at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival…
Are you staying in L.A.?
I’ve got some really good friends who live in Malibu, so I just extended my trip for a couple of days. So that’s where I am at the moment. The house is literally right next to the beach. My agent keeps being like, “Ella, stop tanning.” I’m like, “No! You will never stop me tanning.” I love a little bit of sun. I mean, I’m from England. What do you expect?
Did you watch Tim Burton movies when you were growing up?
Absolutely. I didn’t watch Beetlejuice when I was a kid, because my mum said it was too scary—I watched it when I was 11. But I grew up on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, which are quite different from Beetlejuice. It’s not as gothic-y, but he’s still doing his fantastical, otherworldly, colorful imagery. People used to ask me, “Who is your dream director?” and every time, no hesitation, I was like, “Tim Burton. Straight up.” When you find out you’ve been cast in a Tim Burton movie, every actor is going to freak out a little bit, because it’s such a big deal. His movies are just so stylized and fantastical, so it wasn’t naturalistic acting. That was something I had to learn on this job that I’d never really had to do before. I had to be sort of freakish and underlying-ly creepy as possible.
How do you think the fans of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children will react to Emma being an air controller as opposed to the fire controller that she is in the book?
That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked it because it’s something I’ve had to deal with a lot over the past months as the trailers have come out. I even put out a statement just to try and chill everyone out a little bit. When I first read the script, I had read the books, and my brothers had read the books. I was attracted to playing a fiery character. Every female actor’s dream is to play a fierce character [like Emma in the book]. But, first of all, you have to trust Tim Burton. He’s such a genius, and he’s got so much experience that you need to say, “Screw it. I’m just going to put all my faith in Tim.” But more than that, the love story between Jake and Emma is so sweet—it’s a first love—and it romantically makes more sense for her to be so light and so floaty. And, it gave me a bigger opportunity to create this character arc, because if she’s so fierce and she’s so strong at the start, she has nowhere really to go, but if you make her timid and gentle at the start, she can discover her own strength. Listen, the film is based on the book; it’s not the book. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the Harry Potter series. And I sat on the sofa when I was a kid, going through the first book, trying to match it to the film, and 10 minutes in I was so confused and upset. My dad was like, “Ella, what’s wrong?” I said, “This stupid film is nothing like the book.” And so I understand why diehard fans of the book are going to be upset. Especially when you’ve made that connection to a character or a book. She’s very relatable, Emma, so of course people are going to be very protective over her. It’s still going to be a fantastic movie, and I actually think that people will be pleasantly surprised by the changes.
Since you can float, did you have to do anything that was high up?
Yeah, I did. I actually had experience in a harness attached to wires—floating in the air—when I did Maleficent [who could fly], so by the time I did Miss Peregrine, the stunts guy was like, “Oh, are you going to be OK in the air?” I was like, “Are you kidding me? Put me in there.”
I noticed that you have skydived before.
Yes! How did you know that?
I lurked your Instagram.
You did lurk. No one’s ever really spoken to me about that. I went traveling at the beginning of this year to Australia and New Zealand. I’m a strong believer that you need to live your life in order to be a good actor. My friends were going skydiving, and I was so scared. Part of my brain clicked, and I was like, “Fuck it, I’m just going to go.” It’s a sensory overload. Your whole body is having a panic attack, and your [mind is] calm. You’re just like, “I’m just going to jump out of a plane. No biggie.” Go and do it if you haven’t already. Everybody should go skydiving. It’s does great things for your self-esteem. I left school last year—I’m nearly 20—and it’s that awkward phase between being a teenager and being an adult, where you’re just trying to figure everything out. When you’re skydiving, and you’re up at 5,000 feet, it doesn’t matter—it gives you a lot of perspective.
I wanted to ask you about WildLike, which just came out on Netflix, about a girl who is molested by her uncle.
WildLike will always have such a special place in my heart. I read four or five scripts a week, minimum, and you develop this very good radar for what’s for you or not. This movie, I couldn’t put the script down. I was totally obsessed. The filming was three months in Alaska. All the cast and crew were really good friends. I was 15 when I filmed this movie. To take on that type of material when I was 15, I was scared. I didn’t know if I could do it. Frank Hall Green—the director—just brought out this incredibly emotional performance from me. That scene that I did when she’s on the phone to her uncle, I had a complete meltdown, and all these years of my own personal issues just came out. I’d say that was the job where I learned how to act. I came back from that, and I was a totally different person. I chopped all my hair off really short. I came back speaking with an American accent. All my friends were like, “Who are you? What have you done with Ella?”
What can you tell me about Access All Areas? The filming of that was done in the midst of a music festival, Bestival, which was probably really fun.
It was mental. I’ve never filmed at a music festival, and I’ll never do it again. Especially at a music festival in the U.K., where everyone wants to be funny and jump out in front of the camera, and be like, “Hey guys, wanna film me?” But surprisingly the footage actually came out really good. It’s a movie about four young people who run away to a music festival, and their parents chase after them. It’s a musical film, so there are three or four songs, and I get to sing a couple. I wanted to be a singer when I was a little girl. I think the actual story itself is a really lovely coming-of-age film. It’s British comedy, which is a very particular sense of humor, but I think most people get it. It’s very dry humor. It’ll probably be out late this year or early next year.
How did you get involved in Educate2Eradicate—your nonprofit that focuses on female genital mutilation and forced marriages?
Long story short, about two years ago, I met this incredible young lady [Arifa Nasim] who is an activist and philanthropist. She was the U.K. youth delegate to the U.N. I was like, “How have you done these incredible things at such a young age?” And she was like, “How have you?” It was an instant “bromance.” She was doing work for FGM and child and early forced marriage, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what those things were. I watched her do a talk at a school, and I couldn’t sleep that night. I read this book the next day about FGM. The reason why I’m so passionate about FGM and forced marriage is because it’s such an underexposed issue. Nobody fights for it. Hardly any celebrities will outwardly speak for these issues, and it’s because it’s considered culturally sensitive. I don’t think cultural sensitivity is a reason to brush these issues under the carpet.
And you were the host of TEDxTEEN. Do you feel like you’ve been more of an activist lately?
I can tell you how it started. I did a movie called The Journey Is the Destination. I filmed it in South Africa last year for six weeks, and it’s this incredible true story about a young photojournalist called Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death in Somalia in 1993. But the movie doesn’t focus on his death. It talks about all the incredible, wonderful, philanthropic things that he did when he was alive. For example, when he was 14, he raised $5,000 for his sister’s best friend to have heart surgery. So I met the most fantastic people that wanted to continue Dan’s work in the form of creative activism, and I spent a lot of time with Dan Eldon’s mom, Kathy Eldon, who had set up this foundation called Creative Visions. That’s what inspired me to start doing active things rather than just talking. That’s why I wanted to get involved with TEDxTEEN. I think that work that young people do is incredible, and I will never, ever stop supporting that.
Ella Purnell adds a little pop to her black jacket with silver streamers in this shot from the new issue of Schon magazine.
The 20-year-old Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children actress chats about the new movie, Asa Butterfield and more. Check it:
On the moral of the story: “I think what this movie is trying to say is that it’s tough to be a teenager. Is this normal, why does this happen, am I supposed to have this growing here, is this OK?”
On her character, Emma: “Although Emma might look normal on the outside, she is fighting her own demons from within, which if you think about, we all have to do. Emma is actually very sweet, but like most girls she is very fierce: when you push her, that’s it! I wanted to show that she has a loving personality, and a great strength in controlling her peculiarity.”
On her chemistry with Asa: “At the final stages of audition, the chemistry test was at Tim Burton’s house. Tim didn’t know that Asa and I already knew each other, so I thought, this chemistry test is going to be a breeze. It definitely helped!”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out in theaters NOW.
We have added screencaps of Ella from both an on set interview and a featurette promo to the gallery…
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Is Tim Burton’s Best Film in Years!
With the right strange, spooky material, a beloved director finds his way again.
By my count, it’s been nine years since I liked a Tim Burton movie (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), and a whopping 20 since I loved one (Mars Attacks!). I had begun to think that I’d lost all affection for this talented, wayward director, who conjured such bountiful, weird visions earlier in his career, and then seemed to get blinded by the empty gleam of studio C.G.I. What a nice surprise, then, to watch Burton’s new film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and feel a stirring of that old Burton love—to find his dark whimsy (which had begun to seem a bit faux-dark of late) fresh and vibrant again. There’s the old Tim Burton we all used to root for, amiably wandering out of the woods like he hasn’t been lost for a long time.
Which, yes, is probably a pretty condescending way to start a review. But Burton’s artistry has been so misplaced for so long that it’s just really nice to thoroughly enjoy a movie of his again.
Miss Peregrine is based on the popular novel by Ransom Riggs. It proves to be ample, sturdy source material—full of visual wonder and intriguing narrative loops—for Burton to build one of his big, multifaceted curios atop. The film is essentially the story of a teenage boy, Jake (Asa Butterfield, monotone but effective), who travels to an island off the coast of Wales to investigate his beloved late grandfather’s (Terence Stamp, playing sweetly against type) past at the titular home for children. But hidden within that traditional-enough narrative is an arresting, Burton-y brand of spiky melancholy, a wistfulness laced with menace that is equal parts shivery and poignant.
Miss Peregrine is plenty silly, for sure. As the film goes, it builds toward yet another over-the-top climax full of goofy villains and unpleasant C.G.I. That sequence works, only barely, because Burton’s witty choreography manages to keep it aloft. But much of what comes before that bulbous (but still fun!) final stretch is grim and clever and, quite simply, vastly entertaining—just what one hopes for from a Tim Burton movie. As Jake gets to know the peculiar children of this peculiar house, led by the peculiar Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, masterfully doing her usual Eva Green thing, only flecked with a little more warmth and sadness), the film explores its terrain inventively. Burton’s hand is delicate here—each oddity and ability possessed by the children is presented with restraint. Miss Peregrine is big and busy, but it only rarely feels over embellished. The film mostly stays focused on its interesting story, with occasional digressions or pauses to appreciate some canny little flourish.
Aside from the supernatural elements, Miss Peregrine serves as a decent, if rudimentary, coming-of-age story: Jack comes into himself in Wales, after living a muted, lonely life in Florida with his parents. The film is also a quietly perceptive look at a prickly father-son dynamic, with Jack joined on his trip by his uninterested father, played with a curious accent but a good deal of insight by Chris O’Dowd. There’s a nice little budding romance when Jack falls for one of Peregrine’s wards, Emma (the promising newcomer Ella Purnell)—who also, at one point, was the sweetheart of Jack’s grandfather. Yup!
You see, Miss Peregrine is, most strikingly, a story about time and memory and the bittersweet process of growing up. Which are all big, broad, bleary themes that tend to work very well on me. With its crafty, if a bit confusing, use of time travel, Miss Peregrine meditates on an idea of arrested adolescence that is both appealing and tragic, a nifty notion of perpetual youth that begins to seem more grotesque the more the film forces you think about it. There’s a maturity, and a respect for the audience’s maturity, in the way Burton handles this double-edged topic. We’ve not seen that from him in some time—not even in his last film, the for-adults drama Big Eyes. Miss Peregrine has a genuine emotional intelligence to it. Burton casts his gaze largely on people and pathos while employing his usual elaborate, special-effects-laden kookiness to embolden the humanity at the film’s core. Which is kind of the opposite of what he’s mostly been doing for the last 20 years.
I don’t want to oversell Miss Peregrine as some sort of ruminative mood piece about the human experience. It’s not. It’s a kid’s film, co-starring Samuel L. Jackson as an eyeball-eating mad scientist. But it’s the rare kid’s film that has a sense of risk and stakes and tension to it, that admirably dares to be violent and unsettling and sad. Those qualities have long been Burton’s bailiwick—but here, he finally synthesizes them together in a way that’s coherent and thoughtful. Miss Peregrine is a testament to finding the perfect material to match a director’s tastes, rather than trying for some hideous compromise, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland. As Tim Burton’s best film in almost a decade, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has an exciting air of rejuvenation about it. It’s confident and judicious with its peculiarities, while letting its heart and intellect—not Johnny Depp in a bad wig—be its stars.
Source: Vanity Fair
When I was little there were loads of things I wanted to be. At one point it was an astronaut and then I think I wanted to be an orange – just because I thought I could be actually anything!” says 19-year-old actress Ella Purnell. Thankfully her ambitions changed somewhat over the ensuing years, in large part due to acting workshops that a shy Ella went to as a child to make friends. “When you’re a kid it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like a job. Acting was always just something I did because I enjoyed it.”
Ella’s first role, playing a young Keira Knightley in Never Let Me Go, marked a turning point and all thoughts of astronauts (and oranges) disappeared from her mind. Critics and casting agents alike sat up and took notice, and a then 13-year-old Ella caught the acting bug big time. “It wasn’t until around this time that I thought about acting as a real job,” she says. She clearly had a knack for it, though, because more ‘youngers’, as she calls them, followed – there was a young Angelina Jolie in Maleficent that was filmed days after Ella came out of hospital with appendicitis, and this year a young Margot Robbie in The Legend of Tarzan. So with a healthy CV of ‘youngers’, is Ella now itching to escape the label?
She’ll have to put youngers on hold for the moment though, because next up is Ella’s biggest role to date, the part of Emma Bloom in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which was – at least according to her brothers – a dream role for her to nab. “They’d read the book and they were obsessed with me getting the role. They wrote me good luck cards for the audition, even though they’ve never paid attention to my work before!” she says. “For me though the biggest pull was Tim Burton; he’s the number one director that I’ve always wanted to work with.”
And it seems that Tim Burton lived up to his reputation – according to Ella there were many peculiarities on set, including the mystery of the five-foot carrot that sat outside the director’s trailer for weeks and caused much confusion among the cast. “Just an average day in Tim Burton’s world!” Ella says, laughing.
Following the film’s release, Ella is planning to dive head first into her acting career, but after listening to her animatedly chatting – about everything from fashion to dance classes at Frame and a renewed love of playing piano – you get the feeling that this is only one of the many strings to her bow. “I’m open to everything. I want to write, I want to direct, I want to make music,” she enthuses. “And I’ve also just set up a charity with my friend, called Educate2Eradicate, so I want to dedicate time to that too. I just want to keep my head down and keep carrying on!”
One of the biggest questions from Ransom Riggs fans was why the characters of Emma Bloom and Olive Abroholos Elephanta were swapped for the film adaptation of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Olive (Lauren McCrostie) is supposed to have an air peculiarity, but on screen she has fire. “I’m really glad you asked that because it’s something I do enjoy addressing,” actress Ella Purnell, who plays Emma, said during an interview.
“Obviously, the decision did not come from me, it came from [screenwriter] Jane Goldman and [director] Tim [Burton] and the producers, and when I first read it I was kind of bummed because I wanted to be the fiery, badass character, like every girl does,” she recalled. “Every girl relates to her because you want to be Laura Croft. But when I sat down and thought about it, I was actually really glad that they gave me the opportunity to create a whole new character because if you try to exactly replicate a book as well-loved as this book, you will never please everyone. So you might as well make an adaptation of the book.”
Emma and Olive aren’t the only differences from page to screen: Purnell noted how the ending is completely different, while Samuel L. Jackson plays an amalgamation of characters from the book in the form of Mr. Barron.
“There are several reasons why I’m happy that they [made the change],” Purnell continued. “First of all, I got the opportunity to create a new [character]. Second of all, I didn’t try to go near fiery Emma. I created a whole new character. I didn’t even read the books before I felt like I actually had an idea of who movie Emma was. Third of all, I think it’s much more common to see girls playing with fire, boys playing with fire. You see it quite a lot on the big screen, but how often do you see a girl being dragged along by a rope? That’s so rare, and that’s so Tim Burton. Fire isn’t that Tim Burton, but a girl with these big gothic, lead shoes? That’s very Tim.”
She concluded, “Fourth of all, I think, from an actor’s standpoint, emotionally it gives me somewhere to go. If she’s already really, really strong at the start — I mean, I suppose that’s a whole other emotional storyline that I haven’t thought about. But for me, it made much more sense to start a little bit damaged, a little bit hurt. She’s been betrayed, she’s lost her trust, and she’s been dealing with these feelings of hurt and betrayal and sadness for 60 years, and she goes on this whole journey where she steps into herself. She becomes slightly more confident, she becomes slightly more protective of her younger siblings, and she grows into herself a little bit. She may be thousands of years old, but, at the end of the day, she’s a 16-year-old girl. She wants a boyfriend. No, I’m joking.”
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is in theaters everywhere.
We have added the Schon magazine scans and feature to the gallery … you can also find the photoshoot by Mark Rabadan here.