Elizabeth Debicki on championing women’s rights and Zoom fatigue

Elizabeth Debicki wears top Calle Del Mar, trousers Bite Studios, sandals Aeyde and earrings Laura Lombardi. Photographed by Olivia Malonefor PORTER, NET-A-PORTER.COM. All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via net-a-porter.com.
(Credit: Olivia Malonefor/Porter/NET-A-PORTER.com)

Actor Elizabeth Debicki talks to NET-A-PORTER’s digital title, PORTER, about carving her own path, creating space for women’s viewpoints on screen, and the lessons she learned working with Christopher Nolan on her next movie, Tenet:“working with someone like Chris, it’s a golden ticket. You know it’s going to be super challenging and you know there are going to be lessons for you. Sometimes you uncover them gently and sometimes they come and bite you on the ass – for me, it was a combination of both.”

Debicki’s breakout role came from playing gamine Jordan Baker in Baz Luhrmann’s high-octane adaptation of The Great Gatsby, in 2013, however, Debicki’s back catalogue is a testament not only to her talent but also her seemingly endless range.

In the last five years alone, she’s played an escort in Steve McQueen’s Widows (2018), an alien priestess in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017), a warlord’s mistress in The Night Manager (2016) and the femme fatale – albeit with a twist – in Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015). Although roles come at the mercy of directors, Debicki has been able to regain some agency in the process: “As an actor, your career is more defined by the things you say no to rather than the things you accept – you can carve your own path.”

The one role Debicki has never assumed, for better or worse, is the ingénue: “Even in drama school, I was playing people’s mothers, but I think their complexity is a result of that maturity.” It’s a fitting attitude for the 29-year-old, who relishes the prospect of turning 30 next month: “It suits me to be moving out of my 20s. I think we need to release ourselves from the school of thought that says one day we’ll reach a point and feel like we’ve ‘made it’. Or even just know what we’re doing.”

The story of the fateful casting of Debicki in The Great Gatsby is as much a tale of the American dream as the movie itself. She was fresh out of drama school when she auditioned for the movie. Having already secured Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton, Luhrmann wanted an unknown name to complete the line-up. After watching Debicki’s tape, he flew her to LA and the rest, as they say, is history: “I look back and I still wonder, What were the odds? I put it down to a little bit of magic.” 

Women’s rights to “authentic representation” on-screen is something that Debicki is both passionate and vocal about. Can she feel a sense of momentum and positive change within the industry? “I think people are still working out how to do [it] honestly and organically. We have a lot of work to do before it’s not considered a deviation from the norm.”

Elizabeth Debicki wears dress The Row and earrings Laura Lombardi. Photographed by Olivia Malonefor PORTER,, NET-A-PORTER.COM. All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via net-a-porter.com.
(Credit: Olivia Malonefor/Porter/NET-A-PORTER.com)

She’s heartened, however, by the critical reception that female-led dramas have garnered over the past few years, even if they’re still being heralded as the anomaly: “Have you been watching I May Destroy You? It’s simultaneously radical and yet, watching it as a woman, it’s also a relief. We are still in a place where it, and the glorious genius of Killing Eve and Fleabag, feels transgressive – so we need to keep creating space for these different viewpoints.”

As an ambassador for Women for Women International, a charity that works with women in war zones, Debicki is passionate about championing women’s rights. It was traveling to Kosovo with the organization and seeing, first-hand, the difference they were making to people’s lives that really struck her: “The focus on sustainable change, and how they achieve it, is so intelligent and efficient. There is a very deep understanding of the fact that, in order to create change in society, you need to empower women.”

The Australian actor has been quarantining in Los Angeles since March and, after the initial “shock to the system”, she has “surrendered” to life in lockdown: “I haven’t baked any bread or read Tolstoy… I watched Normal People and Googled ‘How to make a spicy margarita’.”

Despite suffering from a self-diagnosed case of ‘Zoom fatigue’, Debicki is still dismayed that she turned down social invitations before daily life became unrecognizable: “I can’t be the only one thinking, Why the f*** didn’t I go to that dinner two weeks ago?”

She’s reluctant to use the word “gratitude”, fearful that it could ring hollow, but acknowledges that, so far, this year has been all about “taking stock” and, ultimately, her outlook is positive: “I wake up every day and think, My needs are being met and my family is safe – how incredibly lucky, am I?’”

For PORTER’s shoot, Debicki was photographed by Olivia Malone and styled by Annabelle Harron, wearing Jil Sander, Ninety Percent, The Row, Dion Lee, Gauchère and more. All items can be purchased straight from the shoot via the NET-A-PORTER app, available on Android as well as iPhone and iPad, and through net-a-porter.com.

Elizabeth Debicki wears dress Dion Lee and earrings Laura Lombardi. Photographed by Olivia Malonefor PORTER,, NET-A-PORTER.COM. All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via net-a-porter.com.
(Credit: Olivia Malonefor/Porter/NET-A-PORTER.com)

Interview highlights

Elizabeth Debicki on deifying her own path:“As an actor, your career is more defined by the things you say no to rather than the things you accept – you can carve your own path.”

Elizabeth Debicki on always playing mature roles:“Even in drama school, I was playing people’s mothers, but I think their complexity is a result of that maturity.”

Elizabeth Debicki on turning 30 next month:“It suits me to be moving out of my 20s. I think we need to release ourselves from the school of thought that says one day we’ll reach a point and feel like we’ve ‘made it’. Or even just know what we’re doing.”

Elizabeth Debicki on the projects that have passed her by over the years:“I can’t tell you how many times I have thought I was supposed to do something and been distraught if it didn’t work out. But I look back and go, I was just never supposed to, there was just too much ‘push’.”

Elizabeth Debicki on creating space for female-led viewpoints on screen: “Have you been watching I May Destroy You? It’s simultaneously radical and yet, watching it as a woman, it’s also a relief. We are still in a place where it, and the glorious genius of Killing Eve and Fleabag, feels transgressive – so we need to keep creating space for these different viewpoints.”

Elizabeth Debicki on her work as an ambassador for Women for Women International, a charity that works with women in war zones:“The focus on sustainable change, and how they achieve it, is so intelligent and efficient. There is a very deep understanding of the fact that, in order to create change in society, you need to empower women.”

Elizabeth Debickion her positive outlook:“I wake up every day and think, My needs are being met and my family is safe – how incredibly lucky, am I?’”

To see the full interview, head to PORTER or download the NET-A-PORTER app for iPhone, iPad and Android.

See also: King Princess on supporting Black Lives Matter and using her identity for good

In this Story: #culture / entertainment