Aberdeenshire-raised, Hackney-based actor Sophie Kennedy Clark has never shied from daring roles. She played B, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s precocious childhood friend, in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vols. 1 & 2; in Stephen Frears’ Philomena, as the teen-aged title character, she gave birth in a remote convent before nuns forcibly removed her child. She followed that with a part in Stonehearst Asylum, a film about a mental institution based on an Edgar Allen Poe short story. She may be blonde and beautiful, but she won’t be typecast. This June, perhaps her most unusual project arrives: a starring role in a four-part drama directed by Jake Chapman.
In the frankly terrifying promotional image for the series, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, Kennedy Clark writhes in ecstasy beneath co-star Rhys Ifans, whose prosthetic head looks like a giant, bulbous egg. But then, disgust and fascination have been Chapman’s forte since long before he and his brother Dinos’ disturbing mannequins were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003. “You just feel so caught up in this slightly dark, slightly twisted tale,” explains Kennedy Clark. “It’s one of those things where you don’t try analysing it. You’ve just got to go, ‘Right. I’m here. I’m just going to do it.’”
This year she is also appearing as Dorothy Boyer in The Phenom, directed by Noah Buschel and starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Giamatti. “It’s my first American film, which I am so excited to be a part of because I think we all grow up watching American TV,” she explains. “I remember when I got on to set, a couple of people were like, ‘Hold on, can she do an American accent?’ Because not everyone had heard it. And I was like, ‘This is embarrassing. I grew up on a strict diet of Saved by the Bell. Excuse me, yes I can.’”
Though her Aberdeenshire home is a long way from Hollywood, Kennedy Clark grew up accustomed to show business. Her grandparents and mother were Scottish Gaelic singers. “People who have a knack for telling stories or entertaining people, I think that’s hereditary,” she says. “There’s something about acting and wanting to do it where it’s not even a choice. You just have it in you. And you’ll do anything to try to make that happen. Some people say that fortune favours the brave; I think with that arrogance of youth, I just battle-axed my way in.” After winning her first role, she called the agency she had set her sights on and convinced them to sign her. She now chooses her projects by emulating the career of one of her favourite actors, with the mantra: “What would Tilda Swinton do?” §
Text: Naomi Bikis / Hair: Maarit Niemela at D+V Management using Shu Uemura / Make-up: Ciara O’Shea at LGA Management using M.A.C Cosmetics / Nails: Michelle Humphrey at LMC Worldwide using Maybelline New York / Production: Faye Young / Videography: Martin Senyszak / Retouching: Peanut Factory / Photography assistant: Matt Lain / Styling assistants: Celia Walsh and Alice Mills