Prior to filming our interview, I joke with Elizabeth Debicki about how our frocks – blue and green – should never be seen. “We have to wear primary colours for children’s movies,” she tells me blending into the sky-blue background, myself in Georgia Alice matching the green fields of Mr McGregor’s garden patch below. All of six-foot-one, Debicki is a vision in real life; warm, funny and she speaks with the eloquence that only a NIDA student could – or Cate Blanchett, an actress this actress is continually likened to. Today, Debicki’s on the promotional trail for her newest film Peter Rabbit, in Australian cinemas March 22.
Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) tells the classic and enchanting tale of a mischievous and impish rabbit as he battles his neighbour, Mr McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), for control of a vegetable garden and the affections of animal lover Bea (Rose Byrne). He is joined by his three sisters Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Debicki) and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley). What results is the most beautiful story complete with sharp and modern humour and very realistic animation as the rabbits run amok in Sydney’s Centennial Park (dressed up as the English countryside).
“Somewhere there is real footage of [the cast] stuffing food into our mouths, running on the spot, sweating – you could just do so much blackmail damage with that!” Debicki jokes referring to how the cast were filmed while recording their voices to ensure the animation was accurate. “I can see myself in Mopsy. My family haven’t seen the film yet but I have a feeling that when my siblings see this, they are going to feel there is some connection there!”
It’s an interesting script-choice for Debicki. While we’ve seen her in the addictive television drama The Night Manager, sci-fi franchise Guardians Of The Galaxy, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby and soon as Virginia Woolf in Vita and Virginia, voicing a rabbit named Mopsy seemed left-of-field. But it’s not the varied roles that Debicki looks out for when choosing a script so much as it is the good script-writing. One thing’s for certain though, moving forward she will look for an inclusion rider. (Oscar winner Frances McDormand recently made headlines when she instructed a rattled film industry to ensure this clause was part of their film contracts. According to The Washington Post, the clause stipulates that “the minor roles of a film reflect the demography of where the film takes place, including a proportionate number of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities.)
“I think Frances coined something that we had been feeling for a very long time,” Debicki says. “There’s a huge ripple-on effect of Times Up and everything that is happening in our industry. I can feel it in myself in terms of me being able to vocalise things I’ve been thinking for a long time or sort of have the courage to speak up…It’s very empowering and it’s the new frontier of people speaking their minds I think.”