“There was a point in my life where I literally lived through a camera.”
Cara Delevingne, a confident tangle of lanky limbs and messy hair, tattoos and ripped black jeans, arched her eyebrows and popped her eyes wide as she excitedly described her habit of filming her meteoric, globe-trotting rise. “Watching Lars Ulrich play a Metallica show from behind the drum kit! Or doing tequila shots with Whitney Houston just before she died! When I get older, I’m going to go through that footage and have the best time, because I probably won’t remember much of it.”
For her next adventure, the unfiltered Delevingne, at 22 the reigning “It” Brit supermodel, is planting her Union Jack in Hollywood with a much-coveted part in Paper Towns (due Friday), the second film based on a novel by John Green, whose The Fault in Our Stars became a $300 million hit worldwide and helped make Shailene Woodley a star.
You don’t have to be one of Delevingne’s more than 15 million Instagram followers to see why she was a good fit for the role of rebellious teenager Margo Roth Spiegelman. In Paper Towns, the character is described by her neighborhood admirer as “arguably the most gorgeous creature God had ever created,” a girl “whose life is a series of unbelievably epic adventures.” Delevingne has been a professionally gorgeous model for Burberry and other brands, an angel for Victoria’s Secret and, most recently, the windswept cover girl of the July issue of Vogue.
But Delevingne is hardly the only attractive young woman in Hollywood, and she is certainly one of the least experienced. Moreover, in Hollywood, where nearly every lead actor, male or female, is also a fashion model — often making far more money on commercial endorsements than cinema — models are regarded with unease, often for good reason. Delevingne understands. She recalls running into fellow supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley at the Met Ball shortly after she was cast in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Delevingne was raised in a privileged but hardly picture-perfect family in London. Joan Collins is her godmother. Her father, Charles, is a successful real estate developer. Her mother, Pandora, is working on a memoir about her long-term heroin addiction.
“I went through so much therapy as a kid, and I hated it, and because you get so used to saying the same thing over and over again, it just becomes a story,” she said, adding later: “I always wanted to act from when I was 4 years old. When I was younger, I hated myself, so I preferred being other people.”
Delevingne made her modeling debut in a Vogue Italia shoot with Bruce Weber at the age of 10 in 2003, signed with prestigious Storm Model Management in 2009 and took home Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2012 and 2014.
”Modeling was never a dream of mine,” Delevingne said, noting that besides acting, making music was a long-term goal. “But when I start something, I want to prove people wrong. I thought: I’m going to smash this as hard as I can.”
Her first screen role as a princess in Anna Karenina (2012) was the equivalent of playing the tree in the school play. “I didn’t speak and spent hours getting into hair and makeup for this big wide shot,” she said. “I got so nervous. Then the director comes up and says: ‘Stop modeling. And stop trying to look pretty.’”
This month, Delevingne formalized her move away from fashion by parting ways with Storm Model Management. She will continue to pose, but selectively. “I love saying no,” she said. “Before, I didn’t, and it took a huge toll on my health and happiness.”
New York Times News Service