My secret life: Margot Stilley, actress, 25


The home I grew up in... was built in the Twenties by my great-grandfather. It had an amazing hanging garden made up of Spanish moss. My family was really into plywood, timber and bricks, and inside all the features had intricate detail. I still miss the smell of the place.

When I was a child I wanted to be... I was always dirty, scraped-up, and refused to wear shoes – even in the winter. I loved hunting and being in the woods, but also insisted that I wore at least one piece of lace at all times.

The moment that changed me for ever... was when a boy called Chris Albert stole my dollar lunch money in fourth grade [aged nine] and lied about it to my face. That was the first time I realised that not everyone is a nice person.

My greatest inspiration... comes with music and a good bottle of whisky.

My real-life villain... The unknown.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd be more organised.

At night I dream of... I have recurring dreams about houses and animals. The animals represent the people in my life, and there's often a house by a lake on stilts, with no stairs.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Everything that is wrong with the world. And blue eyes, which I know I'll stop seeing one day.

My style icon... My great-grandmother. She was voted "The Prettiest" in Tatler, in 1925.

My favourite items of clothing... are my furs, all of my furs. I hate the idea of an animal dying in vain, so I make sure to love them all in an extra special way.

I wish I'd never worn... anything that shows my arse. I've realised that you can't trust the public to have a sense of humour.

It's not fashionable but I like... Vladimir Putin. I can't explain it, but my blood runs hot for him. I think it might be love.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... playing the oboe. And subsequently, I'm quite good at playing the flute too, as the fingering is nearly the same.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... talking dirty in bed.

All my money goes on... Fifty per cent is savings, 10 per cent goes to charity and the rest I spend on travelling. Next trip: North Korea.

If I have time to myself... I put my phone on silent and sleep and read.

I drive... as fast as possible. Everyone else on the road is the enemy.

My flat is... in Soho and between the singer who lives upstairs, the Chinese guy beating up his girlfriend next door, and the trannie prostitute who lives downstairs. It's very loud, and I love it.

My favourite building... The H R Giger Museum Bar in Gruyères, Switzerland.

Movie heaven... Anything watched in a home cinema. I love a big screen and surround sound, but I can't sit still in a cinema.

A book that changed me... When I was eight years old, my father gave me Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and told me that I should read it once every 10 years to see how the same words change with maturity and experience. These instructions changed my perception of reality as much as the book did.

The last albums I bought... James Brown, the soundtrack to the film Friday and the death-metal band Cannibal Corpse.

The person who really makes me laugh... My friend Christiane, from South Carolina. All we do is laugh and laugh and laugh. I sometimes wonder if she's spiked my drink with magic mushrooms.

The shops I can't walk past... the confectioners Ladurée and Godiva. I pray every night that size fat will be the new size zero when my metabolism finally slows down.

The best invention ever... The printing press.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be... a mother.

My greatest regret... I am a realist, not a defeatist. I don't have regrets. Yet.

My life in seven words... "There is nothing more insulting than banality." (Chekhov)

A life in brief

Margot Stilley was born in South Carolina in 1982. Now a London-based actress, she starred in Michael Winterbottom's 2004 film, Nine Songs, in which the sex scenes between Stilley and her co-star Kieren O'Brien were real. She converted to Judaism in 2006. This year, Stilley's film credits include the forthcoming Hippie Shake, with Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy, and she plays opposite Simon Pegg and Gillian Anderson in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which is now on general release. She lives alone in Soho, London

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