Full look by CHANEL.
Before we even start our interview, Lucy Boynton is apologizing. Not only is she sorry for delaying our chat by one day, but also for taking an urgent (and very short) personal call midway through. Both interruptions are so minor that they don’t even make a blip in the day-to-day rescheduling customary to modern life, but the kindness and genuine consideration emanating from across the pond stops me in my tracks. The fact that Boynton is so lovely in real life makes her frequent portrayals of ice queens all the more dazzling. They couldn’t be further from Boynton’s real-life character.
Full look by Miu Miu.
The 29-year-old actress is calling from her home in London, where she’s cozied up reading through scripts for potential future roles. “It’s always quite a terrifying but exciting time to re-centre yourself to what you want,” she says. It’s a rare moment of calm in a career that’s delivered several stellar performances in the past two years alone. In 2022, Boynton starred in a remake of the Cold War spy drama The Ipcress File, and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, an adaptation of an Agatha Christie mystery. Earlier this year, she starred in the gothic thriller The Cold Blue Eye, alongside Christian Bale and Gillian Anderson. “Post COVID, I hit the ground running and didn’t stop,” she says. She’s grateful for the pause.
Boynton is, however, excited to be promoting Chevalier, the upcoming film that tells the little-known story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a virtuoso violinist and composerwho was a conductor in the French royal court. Reduced to “Black Mozart” in the annals of history, Bologne (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was in fact an extraordinary figure who rose to the heights of French society despite the racism of the ancien regime, and was later nearly destroyed by it. In the film, Boynton portrays famed queen Marie Antoinette, who fawns over Bologne before ultimately betraying him over the objections of others.
Full look by Valentino.
Boynton is no stranger to playing unlikable characters—take mean girl Astrid Sloan in Netflix’s The Politician for example—but Marie Antoinette’s role in history and in Bologne’s story posed a special challenge. “It was really interesting because I did have a strong preconceived idea of her and I felt a bit sheepish when I was diving into research, realizing that I hadn’t really challenged that,” she says. “So, I really did start to put down all that I thought I knew about her and start from scratch.” She researched by reading copious biographies on the queen, but taking each with a grain of salt —every author has their own bias, she says. “[My] experience with the film —and I hope the audience is impacted in this way as well— acts as a reminder to really challenge history as it’s been presented, because it has always had an author and a very singular one at that.”
By the time Boynton was ready to shoot, gone were the “Let them eat cake” stereotypes. What she was left with was a complex historical figure with flaws, but who took blame far more than her husband, Louis XVI, who held the power in their marriage and their reign. “I [felt] frustrated with that historical misogyny, and yet in our film, she is the villain. Her behaviour is deplorable. I didn’t want to try to portray it in a way that elicited empathy,” she says. “You see her side of things, but I really wanted to show the vulgarity of her actions and [her] convenient allyship. In the context of our film, she’s remorseless because she will do anything to save herself.”
Shirt by Loewe.
As with most period pieces, costumes played a big part in preparing Boynton for her role. “For Marie Antoinette, the contrast between the colours and scale of those costumes with the corsetry, which is so limiting — it’s this contradiction between wanting to take up space and have attention drawn to you while actually being incredibly restrained.” Elsewhere, Boynton has used period costumes to mine for her characters’ perspectives. The 1960s era costumes in The Ipcress File, for instance, gave her an insight into how youth was used as currency at the time.“ There was such a rumble from young people and young women wanting things to be different and then demanding it,” she says. Her character, Jean Courtney, takes a page out of Audrey Hepburn’s book in chic, brightly hued suits that were game-changing at the time.
Offscreen, fashion plays a big part of Boynton’s life too. “I think it’s such a form of self-expression, and I really love using it as such,” she says. She describes a closet as full of Victorian nightdresses as it is with leather jackets. “I love the acceptance that you’re everything and you can be anything, whether that’s reflecting how you actually feel or aspirational to how you want to feel.” On the red carpet, she is often in eclectic looks—from the glittering Prada gown she paired with a teal bob at the 2019 Met Gala to the sheer, feathered, mint green Valentino gown she wore to the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of Chevalier this past September. When we chat, Boynton is wearing jeans and a vintage jumper. “Whatever that says about me,” she says with a laugh. The actress’s innate sense of style no doubt led to her being named as a CHANEL ambassador in 2020, a job she relishes. “I think I had a very different idea of fashion before I’d ever attended those shows. And then you understand it as walking art, knowing the intricacy and hours that go into creating each piece. It’s just fascinating,” she says.
Full look by Max Mara; rings by Sophie Bille Brahe.
Next up for Boynton is The Greatest Hits, a film that explores the connection between music and memory. Boynton plays Harriet, a woman grieving the loss of a loved one who can travel back in time through impactful songs in her life. “It’s something that I suddenly realized I really identify with. When we started prepping for this film, I started looking at the playlists that I have and they’re all nostalgic and sentimentally orientated. All my music taste is based on where I heard it, who I was listening to it with, what time of my life that I first heard it or became obsessed with it,” she says. Boynton cites Bob Dylan and The Beatles amongst her nostalgic favourites. “The first memory I have is the sound of The Beatles and my dad being there. He played [them] all the time when we were kids,” she says. It tracks, given that music has been such a strong under-current in Boynton’s career, both in her breakout role in 2016’s Sing Street, when she played muse to an aspiring rock musician, and in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, in which she played Freddie Mercury’s onetime love, Mary Austin, alongside her real-life partner, Rami Malek.
Dress and necklace by Simone Rocha; ring by David Morris; shoes by Gina.
Boynton and Malek met on the Bohemian Rhapsody set in 2017 and have been spending their time together between homes in London and Los Angeles ever since. “Kind of because of this job all of my relationships are long distance. You’re never really in the same place for a few weeks, but I’ve never really struggled with that because both of my parents are journalists and so they’ve travelled a lot all my life,” she says. “It became normal, that you miss someone and they come back,” she says. “Because I love the job so much, it makes the travel feel purposeful and I’m excited to go on the next journey.”
As Boynton’s career continues to accelerate, it’s anyone’s guess where the journey will take her next.
Photography by Lea Winkler
Styling by Leith Clark (The Wall Group)
Makeup by Lisa Houghton (Caren Agency)
Hair by Halley Brisker (The Wall Group)
Manicure by Sabrina Gayle (Arch the Agency)
Production by Anastasia Marshall
Photo Assistants: Guy Parsonage, Tom Frimley
Stylist Assistant: Delaney William
Shot on location at Spring Studios.