B ella Heathcote got her acting start by appearing as Amanda Fowler on the popular Australian soap opera Neighbours. After a year of having fans approach her on the street and shame her for her character being rude to Margot Robbie on the long-standing series, the Down Under Beauty decided it was time to set her sights on something bigger. The up-and-coming actresses applied for the Heath Ledger scholarship, which she was awarded in 2010. She then relocated to Los Angeles where it quickly became apparent that stardom was in her cards.
“I love it here,” Heathcote says of her current U.S. residence. “The coffee in LA was pretty bad but I’ve since found some pretty good spots,” she says with a grin. “The food portions are huge and there is a different sense of humor.” Other than that, she feels right at home. The stunning actress has found her calling under the bright lights of Hollywood. Since her 2009 professional acting debut, Heathcote has already portrayed the love interest of Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows, a journalism student who takes her relationship a bit too far with her professor (Hugh Grant) in the romantic comedy The Rewrite, and the muse of a rock ‘n roll singer in David Chase’s Not Fade Away. Next, she’ll team up with her sisters to take on an English countryside full of zombies in the Jane Austen/apocalyptic mashup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
To prepare for the project, Heathcote had to not only sport a corset 24/7 on set but also learn how to run, jump, and sword fight while wearing one. “I liked it because it reminded me to stand up straight and not slouch over and act like a slob,” she says, proving that regardless of the feat, she’s up for accomplishing it. The Aussie star relished the chance to take on the long-awaited action-horror project, as it gave her the chance to show off her feistier side. “I got to kick some ass!” she says, excitedly. “To be able to beat the crap out of someone was fun.” Her PP & Z costar, Suki Waterhouse, affectionately refers to Heathcote’s on set antics as those of a “sword-wielding ballerina.” “Bella is naturally poised and elegant, a devastating beauty who laughs hard. She always makes sure she knows exactly what she's doing,” the English model/actress explains.
When Heathcote isn’t in front of a camera, she’s busy reading, cooking anything but spaghetti squash, and falling into the celebrity cliché of hiking Runyon Canyon. “It’s so LA” she says with a laugh. But jokes aside, the Melbourne-born beauty is far from stereotypical. Her style icon is her mom, she admits to falling victim to the Australian syndrome of downplaying her professional achievements – “I remember coming to meetings in the US and being like, ‘Yeah. I’m in this film. It’s alright. I’m barely even in it,” she playfully admits -- and even reveals that her pre-red carpet ritual involves a quick shot of tequila to calm her nerves.Just Jared: You were born Isabella Heathcote. When did you start going by Bella?
Bella Heathcote: It was in school. In Australia, everyone gets a nickname and people started calling me “Izzy” and I hated it so I just adopted Bella. I was about 10-years-old when I adopted Bella as my nickname.JJ: Tell us about growing up in Australia. How did you first get into acting?
BH: I first got into acting when I was about 12. I started doing speech and drama lessons. All my friends were doing it at the time and my dad encouraged it. He encouraged any extracurricular activity. I was always into performing and dancing as a kid and acting was a safe place to have all my feelings, which is good as a child.JJ: What do you love most about what you do for a living?
BH: The variety. I’ve had a few 9-to-5 jobs before I got into acting full time and it’s a punisher. Acting is different all the time. When you’re on set, different films, or just even in between, it’s never the same. I think that’s one of the things I love about it.
BH: A friend of mine, Brendan, and I did this film together in Australia and he was coming up for pilot season and basically had a spare room. I thought I would check it out and then my Australian agent encouraged me to sign up for the Heath Ledger Scholarship. I had never heard of it and I’m really glad she did because I was like, “Ooh I gotta write an essay.” It was really not that much work. And then I got a call that they wanted to see more material and then I came over it and that was it.JJ: Tell us about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It sounds like a crazy film concept!
BH: Somehow it works! I love the relationships between Liz and Darcy, between Bingley and Jane, and between the sisters and I think those are the things that are still so present in this film. And then zombies are just a bonus! I got involved in the project through Burr [Steers]. I knew him kind of socially and he just suggested Jane to me so I was pretty lucky actually.JJ: What did you learn about a surviving a zombie apocalypse while making the film?
BH: Safety in numbers! It helps to have a team of armed sisters who are very skilled in martial arts.JJ: If Los Angeles fell victim to zombies, where would you retreat to?
BH: I’d want a lot of weapons. I’d probably find the most famous person’s house that has the highest security and just kick them out and hole up there.JJ: There seems to be a huge cult following to the film already. What was your experience like at Comic-Con?
BH: It was my first Comic-Con and it was wild! It was great to see everyone’s excitement, people dressed up as zombies and people getting really into it. That kind of excitement is contagious.JJ: You were part of a Spring/Summer 2014 campaign for Miu Miu alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Elle Fanning, and Elizabeth Olsen. Did you learn anything from posing alongside those beauties?
BH: I only met Elle that day so I learned that she’s a sweetheart and it helps to be a sweetheart. It was incredible company to be with but sadly I didn’t get to shoot with them on the same day. It was more learning in hindsight thinking, “Oh that’s something I’ll do next time, just looking gorgeous effortlessly.”
BH: You can just have fun with it! It’s the same thing that I love about acting - there’s variety and you can play different characters. My style icon has always been my mom. I feel like she was always sophisticated and effortless and looked really well put together without trying too hard.JJ: When you first arrived in America, what things did you find drastically different here versus Australia?
BH: In Australia, self-deprecation is a really big thing. And I remember coming to meetings in the US and being like, “Yeah. I’m in this film. It’s alright. I’m barely even in it. It’s fine I guess.” And my manager being like, “You’re basically telling everyone that you think you’re sh-t. And you need to talk yourself up more.” I think it’s really great how in American you can actually say, “I’m in this film and I’m really proud of it. I’m really proud to be a part of it.” If you said that in Australia, everyone would say, “Oh you’re so up yourself.” So that was definitely different. Food portions are huge here. There is a different sense of humor. The coffee in LA was pretty bad when I got here but I found some pretty good spots now. I love it here. I was ready to move here.JJ: What goes into getting you ready for a red carpet? Are there any routines or any pre-carpet rituals that you do?
BH: I usually have a drink before a carpet because I find them really nerve-racking. Usually a tequila. An upper!
BH: I was wearing this beautiful Gucci dress and I was there with them but I don’t think that anyone particularly wanted me on the carpet. All the photographers were trying to just get me off, which was hilarious. But it was very, very amusing.JJ: Where’s the strangest place that you’ve ever been recognized by a fan?
BH: I do not get recognized in the street much. In Australia, I think I’ve been recognized twice as Amanda Fowler, this Neighbours character I played but mostly people just hate me because I was really mean to Margot Robbie’s character. So I definitely don’t get recognized so I don’t have to deal with that. A friend of my boyfriend’s is this Australian actor and I remember when I met him I was like “Be cool Bella” because he was in this iconic Australian film years ago. And he was like, “Amanda Fowler, you were so mean to Donna in Neighbours" and was really mad at me for the way I treated other characters on the soap. That was wild!JJ: You got to lock lips with Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows. Was the scene awkward to film?
BH: Yeah it was pretty awkward. Those scenes are always pretty awkward because you’re kissing and there are a bunch of people standing around watching. There is always a level of awkwardness but you are both awkward so I guess that makes it better.JJ: What’s a TV show that you’d love to guest star on?
BH: The Leftovers. It’s the best show on television. I’m obsessed with it! Every time I watch it, something completely unexpected happens. The characters have incredibly unexpected twists and turns.JJ: What would it take to get you on Twitter?
BH: Force. Twitter is not for me.JJ: There are imposter Bella accounts out there. Does that bother you at all? Is that weird that people pretend to be you online?
BH: That’s so bizarre. When I first found out, someone mentioned they were tweeting with me and I was like, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” And then I looked at the account and she was saying some pretty far out things. I did get one shut down but I guess it’s out of your control. But the fact that people might think I’m saying crazy shit is weird.JJ: Do you ever Google yourself? What’s the strangest thing you’ve found about yourself online?
BH: Yeah of course! Who doesn’t? My boyfriend found a foot fetish page or some weird fetish situation. It could be so much worse I’m sure!JJ: Do you have a celebrity crush? Are you one of those couples where you and your boyfriend have one person that you are allowed a free pass with if you ever meet them?
BH: No. I think working in the industry, I’d be pretty nervous to have a celebrity crush. I’d be pretty nervous if my boyfriend did as well because inevitably you’d end up working with them and then it would feel very suspicious.
BH: Probably of my stuff for PP and Z, some of the sword work and Kung fu. It was crazy but it was pretty different. I felt pretty good about my skills when I was on set but lining me up against someone who could really do it for sure would be pretty tragic.JJ: What’s the one move that you mastered?
BH: There was a high kick thing that I got pretty good at. I remember showing someone the move and they were like, “OK. What if I do this?” and I was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.” I was like, “Stand up straight so I can high kick you in the face.”JJ: What’s a typical day off for you?
BH: I do a bit of cooking, probably exercise a bit, reading. I might do a bit of socialization. I joined a book club so I’ve been doing a lot more reading, which is really fun.JJ: What’s the last book that you read?
BH: "The White Hotel" by D.M. Thomas. It was wild. It’s unlike any book I’ve ever read and it really stayed with me. But it’s quite shocking. There are a couple of things in there where I was like “Wow! It helps to be reading this and knowing that all my girlfriends are reading it at the same time.”JJ: Are you a good cook?
BH: I enjoy it. I like cooking. I think I’m all right. I tend to do a lot of stir fries, I make a lot of Pesto, mostly veggie stuff. I don’t really cook meat. I eat a bit of seafood but I’m not really into meat and the idea of cooking it is pretty intense. But we just got the Gjelina cookbook so it’s definitely broadening my cooking horizon.JJ: Is there anything that you have attempted to make in the kitchen that you have just come to terms with the fact that you can’t pull off?
BH: Spaghetti squash pasta! It was like “Yeah…not great.” It was texturally not great. I won’t try that again. And trying to selling that to the boys being like, “Yeah it’s just like real pasta but spaghetti squash…” They’re like, “Yeah right.”JJ: What’s the last song that you listened to on repeat?
BH: I’ve been doing these Body By Simone classes so lately my taste has gone very pop. I’m always listening to music to pump myself up so I’d say the Usher song “I Don’t Mind.” I’ve been listening to a fair bit of that.JJ: What other things do you do to stay in shape and keep healthy?
BH: I do yoga, go for hikes, try not to drink or eat too much, although I often fail at that.JJ: What about the most uncomfortable scene you’ve filmed?
BH: The end of Dark Shadows, there is a thing where I’m lying in water and I’m supposed to play dead basically. And we had this massive wave come and it was like dumping waves and it was a night shoot. That was pretty rough. And I’ve got a mild fear of drowning. So that was pretty intense – being weighted down under water so your body could come up and having waves dumped on you. That was probably my least favorite scene. But it’s always worth it in the end, right?JJ: Give us a little bit of a taste of what we can expect from you in PP and Z. Why should we see it?
BH: For the ass kicking, corsetry, and cleavage. The corset wasn’t too bad. I feel like they had to be pretty generous with the corsets because there is a lot of physical activity. I like it too because it kind of reminds me to stand up straight and not slouch over and act like a slob. They weren’t as intense as the Victorian corsets. I feel like these ones are pretty relaxed.