She may be playing an intergalactic special operative in her upcoming film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but even off-screen, Delevingne is checking the “otherworldly stunner” box. Her buzz cut has grown out a little, and is now almost the same silvery shade as her Mugler minidress; thigh-high suede boots and clusters of sparkling earrings complete the look. Perched on a couch at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, she could be extremely intimidating, but the actress and model has none of the usual celebrity reserve.
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“Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a stunt person, or a daredevil,” she blurts excitedly when I ask about training for Luc Besson’s movie, based on a French comic book, which tells the tale of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Delevingne)—futuristic special operatives tasked with saving the universe from an evil force. “Thank you, darling,” she says sincerely when I compliment her dress. Nothing about her seems rehearsed or premeditated. She says admiringly of her old friend Rihanna (who plays a shape-shifting entertainer called Bubble in the film—seriously), “She’s always herself.” That’s something the two share: When I talked with Delevingne about everything from gender to friendship and fashion, it seemed that what you see is what you get.
She confirmed that Rihanna truly DGAF.
“We’ve been friends for five or six years. The first time we met, I was a model doing the Victoria’s Secret show and she was performing. Five years later, we’re both doing a Luc Besson film. It’s such a great thing to be able to do this with a friend.
The thing is, about her and her performing, is she is so authentically like that. She is just that way. The way that she plays Bubble is kind of perfect, because she can really be anything that someone desires. Watching her work with Luc [Besson] was amazing. There was a moment when he said, ‘Okay, so how do I make her vulnerable? Pretend your album doesn’t do well.’ And she was like, ‘You clearly don’t know how to make me upset, because I wouldn’t give a shit.'”
Delevingne’s character, Laureline, may be from the future, but like present-day women, she’s had to work twice as hard to get where she is.
“Laureline is an incredible role to play. Like most of [Luc Besson’s] female characters, she’s extremely strong and punchy—you know, she is not any less than any man. And that’s the point. But she’s had to work twice as hard, to be stronger and more fearless. Valerian kind of lives off this luck and fearlessness, but because he’s a guy, he hasn’t had to do all the work. It’s funny because this is set in hundreds of years’ time, but it’s definitely mirroring what’s going on in the world at the moment.”
Given her strong beliefs about the fluidity of gender and sexuality, Delevingne hopes everyone can be free to be who they are.
“Whether it’s gender or anything else, everything is fluid. Why do you even have to label it? They’re people at the end of the day. That’s what’s most important…. I just think we’re really moving in such a positive direction, where I don’t think that people need to explain themselves all the time, or be pigeon-holed, or be put in a box. If someone wants to decide they’re something, that’s totally fine, but if people don’t, they shouldn’t have to. I just think people should be free to be who they are and not have to explain themselves…. Just because someone is into guys one minute, it doesn’t mean they won’t be into girls the next.”
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While trying to focus completely on playing Laureline, she unintentionally went sober.
“To do such an intense role, I just felt that I needed to focus. It wasn’t that there was a decision where I was like, ‘I’m going to be sober.’ I was just spending so much of my energy on finding this character and the physical aspect and the discipline. It was really nice to have that, because the character is so clear-headed and focused, and it was then easier to be able to mirror that.”
Developing Laureline’s strength and combat skills made Delevingne want to wrestle.
“I’m already very naturally skinny, but I felt stronger. Even with people stronger than me, there were definitely moments where I’d be like, ‘Let’s wrestle.’ Because I did a lot of fight training, I could very easily outmaneuver someone, and that felt really amazing to be able to do…. It’s nice to feel strong, even if it’s just being flexible, in terms of doing yoga or being in control of your body. Sometimes when I’m traveling all the time and I stop working out or stop moving I can really tell the difference. I feel stiff and old.”
Her pick for favorite costume is pretty surprising.
“I was very ’80s Madonna [wearing a ripped white lace dress in the movie], but my personal style is always going to be the same—I’m so into comfort, considering how much I travel and run around. But working with someone like Luc, who has such an incredible eye for style, definitely opened my eyes up a lot to these different style choices. One of the funnest outfits was probably the wedding dress, because I’ve never worn a wedding dress, and it’s actually one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever worn.”
“Even with people stronger than me, there were definitely moments where I’d be like, ‘Let’s wrestle.'”
But she won’t be giving up her typical black jeans and sneakers any time soon.
“I always wear my Saint Laurent black jeans every day and I can’t ever put down my Puma creepers [designed by Rihanna for the Fenty/Puma collaboration]. I have my Japanese reversible vintage jacket. I also love vintage shopping more than anything, and spend so much time shopping for vintage stuff. What else? All my gold rings.”
Her favorite way to use makeup? Enhancing what’s already there.
“I think makeup is an incredible tool. It has been around for a really long time, and I think it’s an art form. I work with Rimmel a lot and I’ve been trying to send a strong message of using makeup to enhance. You don’t always have to wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes, of course, I love to go bold—but other times, just a little bit of cover-up to hide those bags! But not as something to hide behind.”
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will be in theaters from July 21.