Daisy Bevan interview: The new face of a fabled dynasty

That bone structure announces Daisy Bevan as the latest Redgrave to join the family business

Kaleem Aftab
Thursday 15 May 2014 16:15 BST
Generations: Daisy Bevan
Generations: Daisy Bevan (Corbis)

If you see Daisy Bevan on the tube and she suddenly shrieks, it’s likely that she’s listening to Desert Island Discs. “I recently discovered the show and have been downloading the podcasts and listening to them on the way back home from the theatre and when someone says something funny, I just burst out laughing,” she tells me in a diner in Notting Hill, the London neighbourhood that famously lent its name to a film produced by her dad, Working Title head Tim Bevan. Although it’s usually the women in her family that she’s aligned with: her mum is Joely Richardson and her grandmother is Vanessa Redgrave. Grandad Tony Richardson or Uncle Liam Neeson are pushed into a rather illustrious shade.

Now it’s the 22-year-old’s turn in the limelight, making her screen debut in The Two Faces of January and on stage in the production of The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Riverside Studios, London. In trying to illustrate a point she’s making about the differences between the two experiences she cites a Colin Firth’s appearance on Desert Island Discs. “Firth was saying that in film you could be performing with someone who is not in costume and not even saying all of the lines and you have to make it real,” she says. “On stage there are nights when you feel you are so shattered. Hence last night.”

Bevan had made a huge gulp when I mentioned that I had gone to see her perform in the play the night before. She plays Sybil Vane, the actress with whom Dorian Gray falls head over heels in love with. Then in one of the many excesses and twists on the text that the play seems obsessed with, she later returns as a boy who reminds Gray of the woman he loved and lost. In all honesty, she was one of the few highlights of the play. I try to be tactful as I bring up the derisory notices that the play received. Did she read the reviews?

“Initially I thought, ‘I don’t want to read the reviews’, but then when I came to work the next day it was impossible to avoid the doom and gloom,” she responds.

“You know people are going to think what they think and there is an accomplishment in doing the play itself, it’s my first theatre play and you can’t hold on to what people think.”

Such a forthright response and her broad shoulders have me thinking that this girl is going to have no problem being a star in the internet age. Sitting atop those shoulders are the famous Redgrave cheekbones. Many of the reviewers put down their poison pens to mention her beauty. What sets her apart from her female kin is her frizzy mane of black hair.

Of course, given her lineage, there is a feeling that it was inevitable that she would join the family business. The one-time classmate of Cara Delevingne at Bedales says: “No, I never felt a pressure to act at all. It’s something I always wanted to do. I can’t ever remember there being a time when I didn’t want to do it. So there was never a ‘eureka’ moment. When I finished school I went to New York and did acting classes at the Lee Strasberg School.”

The lessons she picked up are put into effect with her notable debut in The Two Faces of January. Set in the 1960s, she plays an American tourist in Greece who catches the eye of a crafty tour guide played by Oscar Isaac. She says that her co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Isaac gave her plenty of support during filming.

“I was terrified because it was my first acting gig and we were on location and everything was so amazing and I was thinking, ‘what if I get on and am awful and they’re all thinking, “what is she doing here?”’ If they thought that, they kept it to themselves.”

There must have been some who though that she got the part because her dad was a producer on the film. I’ve heard some of my peers ironically ask, “I wonder how she got the part”. I put this to the film’s first-time director Hossein Amini, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Wings of the Dove and who helped make Ryan Gosling ubiquitous when he penned Drive. He responded, “I didn’t know they were related”.

Given how Bevan is making such an impression while we sip coffee, there is no reason to doubt his words. Comparing Patricia Highsmith’s book to the new film, she says: “Lauren isn’t in the book, but the characters in the book are a lot meaner. What Hossein did with the script was that he made these characters human. They were three-dimensional and they had these different layers, they have a dark side and then they are so endearing in different ways. You feel for all of them.” I ask her if playing a boy for parts of Dorian Gray was her most difficult acting challenge.

“I just thought it was kind of exciting and difficult. A challenge to do because your whole body language and the whole way you move is different. It’s quite exciting.

“I find the whole androgynous thing fascinating. I’m a huge Patti Smith fan and she was a huge person on the androgynous thing, she would often dress up as a boy because she didn’t think it mattered”

Music continually crops up in conversation. Devan is wearing a white T-shirt with a vinyl record printed on it. The label says “Rhythm and The Sound of Change”. So I ask if she herself is a closet rock star, to which she quips, “I am a closet rock star that is really musically inept. Therein lies the problem.”

As for the music she would take onto a desert island, inevitably there is a Patti Smith record. Although she is not sure which one: “I would choose between “We Three” or “The Jackson Song”, I would also take Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No 2” and there is a piece of banjo music that me and my mum are obsessed with, I would take that too.”

She’s been living with her mum since she returned from New York. Her parents divorced when she was five.

As for her boyfriend, she doesn’t give much away. The only information I can glean includes the fact that her boyfriend has her notionally supporting Fulham, taking her to a game against Arsenal, which they inevitably lost. They have been dating for about a year.

She’s already wrapped shooting on another project, Amit Gupta’s romance Nothing Like This, in which Bevan dates a man who has been at the centre of a sex-tape scandal.

Then, after the play, she says, “There’s nothing lined up, hopefully something will come along soon.” It’s said, as with the rest of her conversation, with the surety of someone who is confident rather than hopeful.

‘The Two Faces of January’ is on general release

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