Love is in the air for English actress Gabriella Wilde, who reprises the role made famous by Brooke Shields in Endless Love. Before Valentine’s Day, she tells Ainslie Chandler why her preparation didn’t include watching the original.
Stepping into a role once played by Hollywood darling Brooke Shields could be a nerve-wracking experience for some actors. But British actress Gabriella Wilde says it never occurred to her to be intimidated by the role of Jade Butterfield in the remake of Shields’ Endless Love.
“I didn’t really think about it like that,” Wilde tells Unwind. “I don’t think I ever thought about it until I did these interviews.”
In preparing for her turn as the stunning yet sombre teen-gone-wild in the remake of the 1981 teen flick, Wilde says she steered clear of the original film, preferring to take her inspiration from the Scott Spencer novel of the same name. “I watched the beginning of it but never finished it,” she admits.
Wilde could be forgiven for avoiding the film, which was a relative flop, overshadowed by the success of its theme song, the duet of the same name by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, which topped the Billboard 100 for nine weeks and secured Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations. Wilde says the remake, by Shana Feste, who directed 2010’s Country Strong, takes a fresh approach to the story of teen love gone awry.
Lovey-dovey: Gabriella Wilde shows her modelling roots in Burberry.
Lovey-dovey: Gabriella Wilde shows her modelling roots in Burberry. “Once I had the role I read the book, sort of out of interest,” she says. “I knew at that point it was a very different movie to the one we were making. There are similarities but in general it’s very different.”
The movie focuses on Jade and boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks David Axelrod (Magic Mike’s Alex Pettyfer). Jade has retreated into herself following the death of her brother, but is drawn out by bad boy David, much to the concern of her parents, played by veteran actors Joely Richardson and Bruce Greenwood.
Though her Hollywood career is just taking off, the 24-year-old has much in common with former child star Shields, having been in the limelight in Britain from a young age, where her looks, sprawling family tree and aristocratic lineage have made her a long-time favourite of the London tabloids and society pages. The former model was discovered at a dinner party by Naomi Campbell, when she was 14.
In person, she is softly spoken and affable, though reluctant to give away much about her personal life (she is reportedly engaged to musician Alan Pownall and expecting a baby).
“The attention in the UK is not something I’ve paid attention to or ever experienced directly,” she says. “I’m someone who has been in the press but I’ve never done interviews or been around it immediately, like I am now. I think the one thing it taught me was probably not to believe a lot of what the press write, and also just to laugh it off and not take it too seriously.
“It is something I think I don’t even notice. It’s not a world that I actually exist in, in my real life. I don’t pay any attention to it.”
A quick look at her family (she has six full and half siblings) and background explains the tabloid fuss. Though hardly typical for Hollywood, it reads like a movie script or perhaps an exceptionally glamorous modern-day Brady Bunch. Her father is businessman and property magnate John Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, the grandson of a baronet (Wilde’s full name is Gabriella Zanna Vanessa Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe). Her mother, Vanessa, is a former model and the descendant of an earl.
But the connection that has thrust her into the public gaze is her friendship with her “unofficial stepsister” Cressida Bonas (the pair share half-siblings), Prince Harry’s main squeeze.
Wilde is close to her family and says they have helped her as her acting career has taken off. “It’s definitely grounding to have people around who I am close to, who have nothing to do with the film industry or the entertainment world,” she says.
“Half of them probably think it’s totally silly, which is a good thing to have.” Despite the apparent glamour of her life, Wilde says she is a homebody who would rather spend time with her sisters in London, spending a lazy day in Notting Hill, than partying in Los Angeles.
Last year, Wilde had her biggest year of work yet. She starred as high-school student Sue Snell in another high-profile remake, Carrie, alongside Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Despite her workload, London-based Wilde says any permanent shift to LA is unlikely any time soon.
“I don’t think I’ll ever live in LA; I think I might go mad. I like to have other things around me other than the movie world,” Wilde says, admitting she tries to stay as far out of the Hollywood bubble as possible.
“I think maybe because I don’t live in LA … other than when I am auditioning for, or am in, a film, I don’t pay attention to the movie news, gossip or speculation about who is getting cast in what.
“So, for me it’s just about my audition. I don’t really listen to the rest of it.”