If an actor is fortunate, they may have a career replete with memorable ‘Hollywood’ moments. The Australian actor Samara Weaving (28) recalls her first: “I was filming The Babysitter on the Warner Bros lot. I’d flown into Los Angeles two days earlier from Australia. I was on set and looked over and realized we were shooting next to the fountain that’s in the opening credits of Friends. That was my first pinch-me moment. It was surreal.”
Weaving has enjoyed many such moments since moving to L.A. four years ago. She quickly showed herself to be much more than yet another photogenic blonde, with a scene-stealing turn in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, followed by lead roles in 2018’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and both Guns Akimbo opposite Daniel Radcliffe and Ready or Not in 2019. 2020 looks like providing plenty more pinch-me moments, especially with her new role in Hollywood, Ryan Murphy’s wildly anticipated new series charting ‘40s-era Tinseltown. She calls it “his love letter to Hollywood”.
Weaving plays the lead character, Claire Wood, an ingénue who is every inch the epitome of old Hollywood – the entitled daughter of a studio head who takes a leaf from the books of Veronica Lake and Betty Grable. Clearly the Australian lapped up the immersive history lesson. “You really felt with the costumes and the set dressing that you’d been transported into the 1940s,” she says, her accent sounding markedly different from the ‘mid-Atlantic’ one she uses in Hollywood. “Yes,” she laughs, “we all had dialect lessons to speak with that made-up accent.”
It was clearly a very big deal to land one of the series’ hotly pursued female roles. “I auditioned by reading two scenes from Some Like it Hot,” she says, explaining that there was no script or even a synopsis for her to read at the time. “So, I left the audition and completely forgot about it. Then, while I was working on Bill and Ted Face the Music [due for release in 2020], I got a call from my manager saying I had a role in Ryan Murphy’s new show. I said, ‘But I didn’t even audition, it must be a mistake,’” she laughs. “It was like a sign of what Hollywood is about, a kind of magic where you never know what’s going to happen but you take a risk and go for it. The rest is out of your control.”
The risks have certainly paid off for Weaving, in spades. Along with Bill and Ted Face the Music, she has two other films coming out this year: Last Moment of Clarity, and Snake Eyes, the G.I. Joe spin-off, opposite Henry Golding.
Born in Adelaide to a filmmaker father and art therapist mother, the family moved around a lot when she was younger, living at times in Fiji, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Her uncle is, of course, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit). Given his own consistent success in Hollywood, what advice did he have for her? “My uncle is my uncle and I love him as much as I do the rest of my family, and yes, he is an amazing, talented actor. We have a great relationship, but that is my family,” she says.
She describes herself, though, as the same awkward kid who grew up in Adelaide and was so shy her parents thought drama classes might tempt her out of her shell. “I’m still terribly awkward. I have a general anxiety disorder, so that’s never really going to go away,” she explains, “but I am very grateful that I have an outlet for that, which is my job, so I can use those emotions. Sometimes it’s a way to escape that and it’s very helpful for me. So that nervous, shy child I think is always there, but I have developed tools and methods to cope with it.”
As for her own experiences in coming to Hollywood, she is cognizant she’s one of the lucky few whose career path has been relatively struggle-free. “Yes, it was pretty amazing, the journey, and I am very grateful.”
She quickly settled into life in Angeles making friends with Margot Robbie for whom she is often mistaken. “Yes, we’re friends,” she says. “I made friends quickly because once I moved here I was working straight away.” The Babysitter not only proved to be the first major stepping stone in her career trajectory but very fortuitous for her personal life. “I met my fiancé on that set,” she smiles. Her engagement to creative producer, Jimmy Warden, was announced last year.
“I love playing dress-up, that’s what I do for a living and I’ve been doing it since I was five years old. I like the cameras flashing, being ushered into the theater, and next thing you know, you’re taking off your makeup and you’re in your pajamas again.” She laughs. “It’s a very surreal experience.”