In the way a chameleon would do it, the British actress and model with ethereal beauty has been using her prodigious talents in impressive roles since her debut in 2010. In the series Pam & Tommy (2022), Lily James acts out an interpretation of a shocking and scandalous Pamela Anderson facing the media frenzy, and then of a sweet and delicate princess in Cinderella (2015) alongside Cate Blanchett... However, it is thanks to her secondary role as Lady Rose MacClare, a young rebellious aristocrat and feminist ahead of her time in the series Downtown Abbey (2012-2015), that Lily Thompson – her real name – opens the doors to Hollywood. Whether it is on the big or the small screens, the 33-year-old actress has proven her talent. Cinema was an obvious choice for her. Raised in a family of artists with actors as parents, she trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, following in the footsteps of Daniel Craig and Ewan McGregor. Today, Lily James plays the gothic goddess for the Italian fashion house of Versace, as the face of their new campaign photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott in Rome. “It has been so special and exciting to be welcomed into Donatella’s Versace family, whether by attending the fashion shows, wearing Atelier Versace to this year’s Oscars, the Met Gala, and now to be in my own Versace campaign! I have truly never felt more empowered since working with Versace and it has been extraordinary how wearing the clothes made me instantly feel like a Versace goddess”, she shares in a press release.
1. The scandalous Pamela Anderson in Pam & Tommy (2022)
“I believe that being provocative is the key to my success”, Pamela Anderson once told Numéro in 2016. As a true icon of the 1990s, the life of the stunning provocative blonde still arouses interest. In the show released in 2022 on the streaming platform Disney+, the public has discovered a barely recognizable Lily James with long, peroxide blonde hair. According to the testimonies of participants on set, four hours of preparation were compulsory daily in order for her to get as close as possible to the physical features of the playmate and actress. Alongside Romanian-American actor Sebastian Stan, Lily James dived into in one of the many provocations and scandals of the iconic star also known for her red one-piece swimsuit in Baywatch. Immersed in the trashy aesthetic of the LA of the 1990s, with sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll as a motto, the show directed by Robert Siegel takes us back to the media storm following the release of the sex tape of one of the most iconic and sultry couples – Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe tattooed drummer Tommy Lee.
Pam & Tommy (2022) directed by Robert Siegel, available on Disney+.
2. An iconic princess in Cinderella (2015)
First auditioned for the role of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Lily James eventually made her mark as one of the world’s most famous princesses. She shares the bill with the great Cate Blanchett, who plays the famous wicked stepmother, in this 2015 film soberly titled Cinderella and directed by Kenneth Branagh. This sixth remake of the 1950 live-action Disney Studios’ classic is a turning point in the career of the angelic-faced British actress. Used to dizzying roles, like when she slipped into the skin of an athlete in Regan Hall’s Fast Girls (2012), she has now returned to a stripped-down performance in the latest adaptation of Charles Perrault’s popular tale. Lily James excels in playing the pretty blonde with big blue eyes wearing a sparkling dress, designed by the three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, and shiny glass shoes to go to the ball and escape the clutches of her dreadful stepmother. A classic.
Cinderella (2015) directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Lily James and Cate Blanchett.
3. A star’s bestie in Yesterday (2019)
In this fascinating film that depicts a parallel world where The Beatles never existed, Lily James plays the role of a teacher named Ellie Appleton, who also happens to be the childhood best friend and manager of the main character, Jack Malik. Entitled Yesterday, this 2019 feature film in which singer Ed Sheeran has a cameo displays Lily James in a genuine second role, filled with humor and tenderness. She has thus confirmed her status as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses by starring in a film made by the Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle, who is no less the man behind the cult film Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
Yesterday (2019) directed by Danny Boyle, with Lily James and Ed Sheeran.
4. A wife haunted by the ghosts of her past in Rebecca (2020)
Lily James seems to be able to take on any role. After Cinderella, the public discovered the British actress in Rebecca, an adaptation of the famous romantic thriller of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. Directed by British director Ben Wheatley, it was released eighty years after Alfred Hitchcock’s original version. The plot takes place in England, in a heavy atmosphere with a particularly polished aesthetic, and oscillates between lies, love, joy, and despair. A young bride named Mrs. de Winter (Lily James) moves into her husband’s family estate, where she is pursued by the haunting shadow of her husband’s deceased first wife. The dream of a calm love story turns into a dark and frightening nightmare, all of which is greeted by Lily James’ touching and convincing performance.
Rebecca (2020) directed by Ben Wheatley, available on Netflix.
5. The young Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
The second opus of the sugarcoated musical that has now become an all-time favorite was released in 2018, ten years after the first Mamma Mia! directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Acting as a prequel and set to ABBA’s iconic songs, the film starring Meryl Streep and Cher follows two parallel stories. The first one focuses on Sophie, a character that only exists in the 2018 installment, while the second one focuses on Donna Sheridan’s youth and her arrival on the small Greek island of Kalokairi in 1979. Although Lily James, who plays Donna, admitted in an interview that she was terrified of playing the role of a young Meryl Streep, she naturally accepted, proving that she can rub shoulders with the bests of the bests.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) directed by Ol Parker, with Meryl Streep and Cher.