Sophie Wilde was five years old when she started doing classes at NIDA – the result of some very enthusiastic grandparents when it came to the arts, and a box set of Audrey Hepburn films that she would repeatedly watch. One of them was Funny Face, and as we speak the morning after the Chanel show and the day Wilde shot this digital cover with RUSSH in Paris, she notes that she felt like Hepburn in the 1957 film as she was making these images with photographer Holly Gibson.
It’s one of those full-circle moments that can be chalked up to coincidence, manifestation, hard work, or all three. In Wilde’s case, though, it would be apt to credit her dedication to her craft as the reason why she is in Paris with Chanel for the brand's Fall Winter 23 Ready-to-Wear show.
Left: CHANEL jacket, shoes, earrings and bracelet. Right: CHANEL jacket, hair accessory and earrings.
“This is my first Fashion Week and my first show ever. It feels like every time it’s on in Sydney, I'm away for Fashion Week, so it's kind of nice to start here,” Wilde tells me from her hotel room in Paris. “It's just been a dream. I love fashion, I've always watched fashion shows and kept up to date, and so there’s something that feels slightly surreal about being in Paris and being amongst it with a brand like Chanel. It’s been such a dream.”
For Wilde, learning about the House has been instrumental to the way she connects with the brand. Understanding who Gabrielle Chanel was, what her values were, and how the symbols of Chanel, like the Camellia flower – which was woven throughout the entire FW23 show – inform Virginie Viard’s practice today.
“It was so amazing to go to the show and see how that was infused into the details of everything. There’s something special about having this kind of pre-existing knowledge of the brand and history, and then watching the show. It’s pretty extraordinary, it reminds you that there is such a history to fashion, that it's really rich and complex and powerful and prevalent today,” she reflects.
Left: CHANEL jumpsuit and earrings. Right: CHANEL dress, shoes, hair accessory, earrings and bracelet.
Wilde started her acting journey not long after most children become capable of stringing a coherent sentence together. It’s a practice that, as anyone would tell you, requires a lot from someone. For Wilde, though, acting has always felt like an opportunity to lean into a character that is not so much part of herself; when she is posing for stills, the experience is not entirely the same. “It can be kind of confronting at times. Because as an actor, you're playing a character. You have a script to base yourself off, so in some ways, it's less vulnerable,” she says. “With stills, it’s just you, so sometimes it feels like I don't know what to do and I feel kind of uncomfortable. But if you look at it through an actor's mindset, then that can make you feel more comfortable.”
In this sense, Wilde gives off the feeling that she is truly built for this life, one where her body is used in different capacities and her mind must adapt to new narratives. She is a breakout star, after all, and I wanted to understand what it’s like to go from studying something your entire life, to concentrating all of that knowledge down into a working practice away from the safety of schooling. Was it an adjustment?
“It's tough. It is a totally different ballpark working in a professional context where you're actually doing the work, and your work can be received publicly," she reflects. “I guess in a classroom format, it's kind of a safer space. If you fail, you have people there to catch you. At the start that was quite daunting. Like finishing NIDA, going into my first job, and thereafter. I think I definitely experienced a lot of imposter syndrome at the start, but I suppose through just continually working and watching other actors, or meeting some incredible other actors that I've had the privilege of working with, really grounds you. I think you start to feel more grounded in yourself and in your work. It's been this interesting process of growing as a person and growing in a career sense, and the way that those parallel each other.”
For Wilde, it’s a constant journey of growth, each job teaching her something new about herself and the way she chooses to show up for herself both professionally and personally. “I remember after my first job, Eden in Aus, coming back and hanging out with my friends and they turned to me and they were like, 'wow, like you are taking up so much space right now. I've never seen that from you.' And I was like, 'oh my god, I am.' So, it's kind of beautiful, the symmetries and things that happen,” she says.
CHANEL jacket, pants, shoes, belt and earrings.
Taking up space is, regrettably, not generally a term that you hear in many young actors' vocabularies, especially for women. But in Wilde’s case, she has made a conscious effort to buck against the ways that actors – especially female actors – are expected to behave. “I think finding my voice and being able to back myself creatively or speak up in a situation has been a process and such a valuable skill. I think sometimes you do have to be like, 'I disagree with this' or 'I need this for me' honestly. That's been a challenge, but a valuable lesson," she reflects.
The stereotype of the female actor as a “diva” is likely a fear that haunts most in the business, which is why it’s so important for emerging actors like Wilde to create space and conversations that reframe these stereotypes, fostering an environment that encourages female actors to advocate for themselves while working. “I think there’s such a thing when you're starting out where you don’t want to seem like a diva,” she notes. “Or like, I don't want to step on anyone's toes. But also, it’s your craft. There's actually nothing wrong with being like, 'I need five minutes to be alone and to do this.' And everyone will always respect that because they're there to support you. But I think it can be really scary at the start to say those things.”
Left: CHANEL dress, belt and earrings. Right: CHANEL jumpsuit, shoes, bag, belt, earrings and bracelets.
These tools were some that she had to utilise when recently shooting her first feature film, The Stan Original Film The Portable Door (which premieres 7 April on Stan, and in select cinemas 23 March), when her imposter syndrome crept back in. “This was the job with the biggest impostor syndrome because it was my first film and the most insane cast,” she tells me. “I was by far the youngest and most inexperienced, so I remember being so anxious at the start to the point where I literally went into a sensory deprivation tank the day before shooting, because I was so stressed. But my beautiful co-star Patrick, who is a little bit older and has more experience, he sent me a list of videos to watch on YouTube of other really famous actors talking about their experience with impostor syndrome and it was such a sweet gesture because I was like, 'oh my god, if Viola Davis has imposter syndrome, you're okay'."
From there, it was just teething issues. Replacing the anxiety and the feeling of not-quite-belonging with wonder when stepping onto the set for the first time, which was widely fantastical, and feeling her childlike love for what she does suffocate any feelings of doubt.
These moments were also soothed by Wilde’s connection to her character, Sophie, who she notes reminds her a lot of herself back in high school. “Probably still to this day, too. She's such a perfectionist, a bit of a workaholic, a bit prim and proper. My friends tease me and say that I was a teacher's pet at school, and I was obsessive about getting good grades,” she says. “In some ways, I think I resonate with Sophie. We are quite similar. But I think what's beautiful about Sophie's journey is seeing those walls that she's built up, start to unravel throughout the process. You really see the heart of her. I think she really cares deeply about people, which resonates with me as well.”
For Wilde at the moment, something she cares deeply about is the Australian film and television landscape and how under-represented it can be. She tells me this as I ask her about breaking into the industry, and what it’s been like off the back of our conversation of self-advocacy. “I remember coming out of drama school and saying that the first work I wanted to make would be in Australia. I'd rather do Australian films than an American film, or a British film. That was really important to me,” she recalls. “I think fundamentally, I love Australian film, television, and theatre. I love Australia, I am Australian, it’s an intrinsic part of who I am. Championing the industry is really important to me, and to be able to be a part of it is really important to me.”
There are so many moments across this industry where people talk at length about getting out of Australia because they feel as though it can’t offer them enough. But for Wilde, making work in Australia has always been the dream, and something that she seems to be accomplishing at length in her relatively young career. “We have so many amazing artists in this country, and we have so many beautiful stories that deserve to be told on an international level,” she says.
This passion, coupled with her desire to see her home country thrive and be a part of that success, is part of what makes Wilde feel so real and so tangible as someone who is coming up. While her head is up there dreaming, her feet remain on the ground.
Cover Image: Left: CHANEL top, gloves, earrings and necklace. Right: CHANEL jacket, shoes, earrings and bracelets.
PHOTOGRAPHY Holly Gibson
FASHION & PRODUCTION Stefania Gertis
TALENT Sophie Wilde
MAKEUP Jasmine Abdallaoui using CHANEL Spring-Summer 2023 Makeup Collection
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT Oliver Mol