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In Imogen Poots, we have our second guest and second Brit to abandon early veterinary dreams for acting—but this time due to a tendency to faint at the sight of blood. Which is lucky because if you’ve seen 28 Weeks Later, you’ll remember Poots’ character splashing around in gleeful amounts of the fake stuff. She’s especially lucky because that’s the film that earned her a British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. The Guardian seconded that nod, calling Poots’ “considerable potential” underused in its review of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller.
Poots was 17 at the time, and has been a “rising star” or “star in the making” for the ensuing decade, according to a lot of what you’ll read about her. Which begs the question, at what point is one proved an actual star? It doesn’t much matter, if you’ve proved yourself an actress. And despite having no formal training, Poots has—many times over. Granted, she had a startling number of opportunities to do so immediately following her 28 Weeks breakout. There were period films (Jane Eyre, Miss Austen Regrets); action (Need for Speed); more thrillers (Fright Night, Green Room); comedy (Solitary Man, A Long Way Down); biopics (The Look Of Love, Jimi: All Is By My Side); and indies (A Country Called Home and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups).
That very fractional listing is a fine display of range, but an even better one of whatever mysterious, elusive chemical makes someone a “natural.” It’s a quality that’s saved her from getting perma-cast against (English rose) type. Director Peter Bogdanovich told New Zealand Herald that hiring a British actress to play a Brooklyn prostitute in 2014’s She’s Funny That Way never entered his mind until he met Poots. “I was given a list of up-and-coming girls but within five minutes of meeting Imogen I knew she was the one…She was quirky, but not trying to be quirky. She was just being herself. She’s very, very, very good, and she’s very original. She’s beautiful, but not in a classic way and she’s so interesting to watch.”
What’s really interesting to watch is how she’s turned a slate of mostly secondary characters into very believable catalysts. Poots exhibits a sharp and repeated instinct for supporting, challenging, interpreting and sometimes toppling male leads, often swiping a few scenes from them in the process.
As a label, “seasoned up and comer” is both oxymoronic and ridiculous, unless it implies that a very able and intriguing artist is only just revving up. Back when she was an up and comer at 17, Poots said, “As an actor you never really know what is going to happen and there is something I quite like about that—that feeling of letting fate decide.” Fate will have plenty to work with. Projects on deck for this year include Andy Samberg’s music comedy Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sundance buzz-and bid-generating Frank & Lola, and Cameron Crowe’s new Showtime series Roadies. Each represents an interesting new opportunity to show how well she can do what she loves doing. Whatever Fate decides, it seems she’s already smiling where Poots is concerned.