On a recent trip to London I had the pleasure of interviewing promising young French-Australian actress Ellie Poussot who has spent the past 11 years living in Sydney.
I spoke with the blonde, slender and exquisitely elegant Ellie, or El as she prefers to be called, at the delightful surroundings of the Strawberry Hill House stately home near Twickenham.
She told me of her early life in the Champagne country in North East France, about two hours’ drive from Strasbourg on the French-German border.
Her first love was not drama but haute couture fashion. After a successful stint at the high art end of clothes design, which involved very, very long hours, she felt that she needed a break.
Moving to Sydney, Australia in 2006 on a working holiday visa, El spent a good six months learning English. She also studied acting, particularly the Meisner technique – the focus of which is for the actor to ‘get out of their head’, such that the actor is behaving instinctively to the surrounding environment.
I started by asking her if she was ever interested in drama as a child or teenager.
“No. Actually I studied fashion at the age of sixteen until eighteen,” El replied.
“At age nineteen I studied some more to be a fashion designer in Paris. It was only when I moved to Sydney that I started to do some acting.
So, what made her go to Australia?
“Well, back in 2006 I had been working quite a bit in fashion with very long working days and I kind of needed a break,” she explained.
“So I went there on a working holiday visa and to learn English as well because at the time my English was, I can’t say terrible but non-existent would be the right word. So I went there and it took me six months before I started to be able to have some sort of dialogue with people.”
It wasn’t until about 2011 that she actually started to study acting and the Meisner technique.
“Everything started through a friend I had made in Australia who was taking acting lessons. I said to her: ‘Look, I’d love to take some lessons with you, and some classes because I always wanted to do this’, but I never had the courage.
“So at that time I was like, ‘OK maybe I’ll do it just to see how it feels’, and I kind of loved it. Since then I’ve been, yeah, on the go!”
So, what exactly is the Meisner technique? El was happy to explain.
“With the Meisner technique, every time you’re doing your take something different is happening because it’s regarding whatever your partner gives you. Then you respond to it but every time it’s a different response. It’s very natural and very organic at every take because of that. The beauty of the moment, the ‘right now’ is captured; it’s all about reacting and focusing on the other actor right now.”
Ellie went on to tell me of her friendship with veteran Australian actor Tony Bonner who has had a 50-year career in Australian film and television. Tony was in `Skippy` in the 1960s playing helicopter pilot Jerry King and appeared in films like `Money Movers` (1978), `The Man from Snowy River` (1982) and `Anzacs` (1985). He also did much work on the London stage. Ellie said Tony’s help and advice were invaluable.
`The Hemingway Shot` is Ellie’s latest film. Shot in Australia, it is a mystery directed by Italian Alessio De Nicola and written by Queensland’s Sonny Clarke. El is starring in and producing it herself.
As for life and working Down Under, El said that the pace of life was gentler and friendlier in Australia than in Hollywood or Europe: “It’s not as much go, go, go. The approach is more relaxed.”
She said it was difficult to leave Australia after 11 years of living there but she felt that Europe and Britain offered more acting opportunities. She is leaving the door open though for a return to Oz some day and she currently holds both Australian and French passports.
In the course of having literally become Australian, El naturally has developed something of an affinity with Aussie film.
“The richness of the country and its landscape has so much to bring to a set,” she says.
“It’s a perfect location to shoot in, has been and always will be.”
She compares the likes of classics ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock` to more recent successes like ‘The Dressmaker’.
“It shows Australia has come a long way,” she says.
“Australia has always followed and wanted what Hollywood has, which makes it very different from our European cinema.
“A lot of horror was filmed during the New Wave age and that hasn’t changed. Inspired by some of the deadliest animals on earth and the emptiness of the country – all of that makes a perfect location for a filmmaker.”
Coming back to her roots, I asked if she found any influence in some of the French film stars of yesteryear, like Simone Signoret for example.
“Yeah, definitely. I mean any sort of classic like I think influences people in general. Brigitte Bardot was a beautiful example as well; beautiful charisma, and Catherine Deneuve – a big actress as well.”
Acting is such a notoriously difficult profession to get in to, so what advice does El have for anyone considering taking the acting plunge as she did?
“It’s hard, yeah it’s very hard,” she admits.
“I’d say it’s like any artistic field – it’s not easy and I think that’s why we want to do it. But as long as you love what you’re doing I think you’ve got to pursue it, and every morning you feel like you want to get up; that’s definitely why you should do it. You have to like the way of life.”
And so far, she is glad she took that plunge.
“You meet so many beautiful people. And the way to be able to be in the shoes of someone else just for a short moment, I think it’s worth anything in the world. Yeah, I love it!”
TOP IMAGE: El Poussot (By Chris Fennell, make-up by Vanesthetique)