Lucy Boynton has been acting since she was 12 years old, but she knew she wanted to be an actress even before then. Spotted by a casting director in her drama class, she was cast as Renée Zellweger's younger self in 2006's Miss Potter. Her mom published a story in The Telegraph titled, "My Lucy, the film star," in which she quotes her daughter as saying, "I want to act every second of every day."
Boynton would go on to have memorable turns in Sing Street (2016), Murder on the Orient Express (2017), and the four-time Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, playing Mary Austin to Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury.
"I always have a very instinctive reaction to scripts, but I am always informed by what I've just done," Boynton says. "Whether there's an opportunity to go deeper and further with a genre or a character. Usually the most exciting thing is, if I've played a certain thing, I want to do the polar opposite."
Which is precisely how she went from shooting the Agatha Christie limited series Why Didn't They Ask Evans? ("Time of my life! Just really beautiful, happy, lovely.") to Chevalier, a biopic about 18th-century French maestro Joseph Bologne in which she plays the antagonistic Marie Antoinette.
After that, "I went straight into filming The Pale Blue Eye, which is gothic horror, and I play a Satanist. So, tone change, but it was a smooth cruise into that decline," she chuckles. For the actress, when each project is so vastly different from the one before it, "You really go to the extremes. You really squeeze all the juice out of it, knowing that you're going onto something completely different and there's an opportunity for a completely different experience of research, and existence, and emotional exploration."
Below, Boynton shares with A.frame five films that had a profound effect on her and helped inform the actor she is today. "Thank you for your patience as I rinse my mental history of everything I've ever seen."
Directed by: Howard Zieff | Written by: Laurice Elehwany
I saw My Girl for the first time when I was 12, and I watched it every day for a summer. The film itself is devastating and beautiful, but I was so taken by the idea that that actress, Anna Chlumsky, was a young girl when she filmed it and was capable of conveying this rollercoaster of emotions. And the idea that that was her job as well, that she got to be an actress, planted the idea that you could do it as a kid. You didn't have to wait till you were an adult. And I definitely was then like, 'I don't have to wait forever. I'll do it now!'
I was growing up in the U.K. with no actors in the family, so I had no idea how to enter this industry. But it's that thing of if you see it on-screen, you can see yourself in it. So, I half watched it just to love it, just to enjoy the film, and half to study the full tapestry of those actors in that movie. That was definitely a catalyst in me being like, 'I would love to do that.'
Directed by: Drake Doremus | Written by: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
I also watched that one to death. Just the relationship between Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin and knowing that so much of that was improvised. Just from the perspective of trying to learn more about films, I thought the construction of it was so interesting. But I think Felicity Jones' performance is so exquisite, and nuanced, and sensitive. And Anton Yelchin was just magnetic. It's such a beautiful moment that captures them both at a specific time in their lives, and then, that translates to the characters. That's what Drake does so exquisitely, is this really brutally honest but hopeful portrayal of love. I don't think anyone does it like him.
Directed by: Hal Ashby | Written by: Colin Higgins
I love Harold and Maude so much. I saw it in my early 20s, when I was trying to learn and educate myself on film. I worked with a director, Oz Perkins, on this film The Blackcoat's Daughter. And his sense of humor is very much that. After we'd had a few meetings, he was like, 'I think I have a film recommendation that you'd like.' And it was a nice break, 'cause otherwise I was just studying horror films for that role. It was a breather from all the blood.
I think that tone is so specific and so hard to achieve, and so hard to find in contemporary scripts. So, that was very impactful. It's such a perfect mélange of macabre and comedy, and I think Ruth Gordon is just everything. The dialogue in that is exquisite. The fact that you're telling such a moving story, but it's not too sentimental, which makes the delivery of it just brutal and beautiful. And obviously the Cat Stevens soundtrack is killer.
Written and Directed by: Mike Mills
Oh, devastating! And Mélanie Laurent's performance in that. And again, similar to Hal Ashby's films and Like Crazy, they pack such a punch, because that message is delivered in a way that is so unsentimental, and pointed, and pragmatic. That movie really stayed with me.
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock | Written by: Joseph Stefano
Another one of the films I watched for Blackcoat's Daughter was Psycho. That's an example of horror just really artistically done. It relies so much on generating fear, this slow-burning fear and sense of dread in the audience. And those are the kind of films that I love to be a part of.
And Tony Perkins' performance in that, I think, ought to be studied. It's like he's in a movie of his own. In so much of that film, there's still the mannered way of acting in that time, and he is acting in an incredibly contemporary way and contemporary style. It's just such a interesting performance and film to analyze. You start to absorb those things by osmosis. You start to absorb the things that you admire, and are impacted by, and affected by, and those will be the things that come to mind when you are generating a character. I think with actors like him, it's this sense of ownership of this space, and composure, and that you can say so much with such stillness. That's always a great, great lesson.