Welcome to Jessica-BrownFindlay.Com your #1 fansite for the beautiful and talented British actress. Best known for playing Lady Sybil Crawley in the ITV series Downton Abbey but you may also know her from Albatross, The Riot Club and Lullaby. Jessica is set to star alongside Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy as Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein (2015). Please browse the site and visit our image gallery featuring over 20,000 photos. The site is still growing and we will continue to bring you daily Jessica updates! If you have any questions comments or donations please contact us xoxo
Archive for the ‘England Is Mine’ Category
By Jess • September 17, 2017 • 0 Comments

A DREADED sunny day so I meet Jessica Brown Findlay in a hotel near the cemetery gates. This morning she’s in the Caledonian in Edinburgh, opposite St Cuthbert’s (where Thomas de Quincy is buried, if you’re interested). It’s the morning after the night of the world premiere of her new film England is Mine at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. That’s the new Morrissey film, if you didn’t know.

She does enjoy a good cemetery, does Brown Findlay. “I love cemeteries. I find them comforting. There are so many in London, really beautiful ones. There’s a great one in Stoke Newington. I go when I have a day. I like to go to the Good Egg in Stoke Newington for brunch and then walk through the cemetery with my partner.”
She doesn’t have a day just now, though. There is a film to promote. Jessica, let’s get down to it. Morrissey. Tortured genius or knob? “Oh God … Well, it’s the music that has always got me. Certain things can be said of the artist …”

Brown Findlay is a massive Smiths fan. All-the-albums-on-vinyl-sized. And maybe the fan in her hesitated before committing to England is Mine in case it all went Smiths up. “But the script was so beautiful,” she says.
Plus, it wasn’t about the flowers and the band and the theatrics. The film, she explains, is about “the world and soul and mind of someone before that”.

England is Mine sees our very own Jack Lowden (the Scottish RAF pilot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk) play the singer. But it’s set in the days before he was thrashing gladioli, making a beautiful noise and giving hope to the clumsy and shy, the bookish, the boys (and girls) who were scared of life. Brown Findlay, who came to prominence in ITV heritage-fest Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil Crawley, plays the famed Linder Sterling, artist and Buzzcocks cover sleeve illustrator in the film. Back in the day, Linder was Morrissey’s friend; “the friend” who had “Keats and Yeats” on her side in the song Cemetery Gates (from The Queen is Dead, which is the best Smiths album. Or is that Hatful of Hollow? Me, I’m partial to Strangeways Here We Come).

The character of Linder is the first time Brown Findlay has played a real person. She tells me she only realised this on the train to Edinburgh. “However, all the characters I’ve played feel for me absolute real people. It’s just that, technically, this time someone can go: ‘Hey, I didn’t do that.’”

She shouldn’t worry. Brown Findlay’s Linder gives the film – which, it should be said, is much, much better than the fan in me feared – a real energy boost when she turns up; a choppy-haired, confident, beautiful woman who gives the becalmed Morrissey a kick up the backside.

That, Brown Findlay says, is the role of all the women in the film. “They aren’t afraid of what he’s afraid of, which is himself. And they’re able to go: ‘F****** stop it. You can do it.’ We all know that feeling of knowing that someone will never be happy unless they go and fly.”

The thing is, Brown Findlay could be describing herself there. She knows what it feels like to know that where you are when you’re young isn’t where you are going to end up.

“I remember I was about nine and I looked around where I was and I knew that anything I wanted to do wasn’t going to happen there. I just knew it. I knew I was going to leave and I never put those roots down because I knew I wasn’t going to stay. Even at nine.”

The last time I spoke to the actor was six years ago when she was 21, and had come to Edinburgh – her grandmother’s home city – to promote Albatross, which was both her first film and her first acting job.

Back then she came across as young, eager, excited, full of beans. The 2017 version is more serious, more reserved in person, at first glance more brittle. But speak to her and you discover someone with a much clearer sense of who she is and ready to speak up for herself more.

“She’s changed a lot in a year,” suggests Mark Gill, the director of England is Mine. “She seems a lot more confident because I think she was very, very nervous about doing it. I think she had fallen out of love with filmmaking. She told me last night it was one of the best experiences she’s had and it re-instilled her faith of what it can be to make films.”

England is Mine is a film about friendship, yes, but it’s also a film about looking for a job and finding a job and being miserable as a result, a film about depression, about mental illness. It’s a film about, as Brown Findlay says herself, feeling “other”. Turns out she knows all about those things too.

Jessica Brown Findlay grew up in Cookham, Berkshire. The daughter of a financial advisor and a teaching assistant, she trained as a ballet dancer until heel spurs ruined that dream. After art school, acting became her fall-back.
It hasn’t turned out too badly. Her second job was a part in Downton. Films with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe (Winter’s Tale) and James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein) followed.

Last year she was on screen in the ITV drama Harlots, alongside Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville, and when we speak she is appearing onstage every night as Ophelia, opposite Andrew Scott at the Almeida Theatre in London (on until September 2 if you hurry).

In a way Albatross, in which she plays a headstrong teenager having an affair with her bezzie mate’s dad, and England is Mine, where she plays an artistic enabler, are bookends on a series of what you might call corset roles. But they also chart the development of her voice.

Back then, she implies, she wouldn’t have said boo to a goose. “When I started out I knew what I didn’t like about being an actor, but early on I would never have said any of that out loud. I thought: ‘You can’t rock the boat like that.’”

What was it she knew she didn’t want to be? “I just didn’t want to be in a cat suit. Making a film where you say about three words and you’re there to be looked at.

“If I can get away with not doing that … Cut to this time next year I’m promoting a film in a cat suit and I don’t have any lines.” She is joking.

What has she learned about herself since the last time we met? “I’ve learned that I really, truly love acting. I’ve learned that for me to be an actor and stay an actor I need to do a play a year for the rest of my life.
“I’ve learned that I need to go on holiday. I’m yet to do that. I’m going on holiday in September. It’s the first holiday in a very long time. Maybe since the last time we met.

“I’ve learned that I’m a very private person as well. And I’ve learned not to ever type my name into the internet.”
Well, yes. In 2014 she was one of the actresses who saw private images leaked to the web. I suspect that’s in her mind when she is talking about the way the personal rubs up against the public part of her job.

“I don’t think anyone will want to know anything about you. And then people do and that’s fine when it’s a certain context. But when it’s invasive, it’s scary and you can feel truly violated.”

And yet earlier this year she revealed that since the age of 14 she has been battling an eating disorder. You can’t get much more personal than that. A few months on, though, she is certain revealing it was the right decision.

“When you are given a platform you can choose to talk about the shoes that you love and promote that or something you feel passionate about. And mental health, depression, eating disorders are a daily struggle and interaction that I will have for the rest of my life. I think it’s really important to talk about that.”

In the light of this you can see that her career choices – playing Ophelia, playing Linder opposite a young, cripplingly shy boy who turns into Morrissey – are in conversation with her own life.

“I think shame carries so much strength,” she continues. “To feel ashamed in yourself, I think, can stand in the way of people doing so much. And I felt so much shame myself. And actually over the years and a lot of therapy I was sort of able to get over that or at least say it out loud, which I had never done in my whole life.”

The more she speaks the clearer it is that this has been the central battle of her life.

“I had best friends from school who saw me almost disappear – quite literally – in front of their eyes. But I never said to them out loud that I have an eating disorder.”

Jesus, Jessica. It was that serious? “Yeah. Extremely serious. Life and death situation.”

It’s hard to square that statement with the poised woman sitting in front of me. “It’s something you live with every day and can bleed into your work,” she says.

And of course she works in an industry that is obsessed with looks, which mustn’t help. “There can be a lot of pressure. ‘The more successful you are the slimmer you become.’ There’s a lot of that. Or you get a film and they’re like: ‘Brilliant. Lose weight.’ And you think: ‘But I got it like this.’”

People have said that to you? “Yes, 100 per cent. And I flat refused. ‘No, no, I don’t want to do that.’ And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to stop eating cake. I can’t do it. That’s really dangerous for me.

“That’s why I wanted to say it out loud, to let people know there is more than one way of doing things.”

Does she feel better for speaking out about all this?

“I feel liberated. The silence and the shame and the head down on your chest, what it is to be tied into your own head; that can quite literally stop someone in their tracks and be the thing in the way of their potential for the rest of their lives.

“It’s not a Band Aid. It won’t make everything disappear. It can make things harder. But somehow saying it out loud has allowed me to step away from that.”

She smiles. “It’s funny. When I think of all the things I don’t share in my life and that’s the thing I’ve shared. Sometimes I think it’s quite an extreme decision. But it’s actually the one that now I’m most released by. And I don’t mind anyone knowing it.”

It should be remembered too, that Brown Findlay is still only 27. She has been dealing with all this while effectively growing up in public. Having left Downton in 2012, how does she look back on her time in it now?

“It feels like another life, another time. It’s very odd to do something where you’re just finding your feet while everyone is watching you do that.

“It’s quite exposing. At the time I became aware that it was exploding it made me really go into my shell and really want to run very far away from that. I felt intimidated by it.

“I’m sure it has opened more doors than I know, but there was a certain element to it that scared me because I couldn’t keep up with it.

“And I knew that for me to learn what I wanted to learn and be the actor I wanted to be and do the things I wanted to do, I knew I was going to have to step away from that.

“I was going to have to get off the train because it was going so fast and I had so much to learn and it was my second job so I was very aware that there was a chance I might not be able to do anything other than that. So that’s why I made the decision to leave.

“I am very, very grateful for it but I am also grateful to my younger self that I stuck to my guns and I went for it. I am grateful that I made that bold, quite brash decision.”

Jessica Brown Findlay tells me that she loves poetry, cooking (“or being cooked for) and mornings in bed. She’s not keen on austerity and Tories. Jessica Brown Findlay is looking forward to leaving her twenties. “They’re so overrated.”

As bad as your teens? “It’s as terrifying but you don’t get a guaranteed roof over your head. You’ve got to sort that out too. And I’m stubborn as well. There was no way I was going to settle for something-ish.”
Jessica Brown Findlay has not settled for something-ish. She is no longer a girl afraid. Morrissey might approve.

By Jess • September 07, 2017 • 0 Comments

A biopic about the early days of Morrissey is a portrait of the artist as a young mope. It’s “authentic,” but where’s the fire?

“England Is Mine” is a biopic about the early days of Morrissey, the lead singer of the Smiths, that features two minutes of Morrissey singing and 97 minutes of Morrissey moping. There are Morrissey fans who would swear that makes it one of the most accurate biopics ever made. Yet even for some of us who are Smiths believers, the movie is a bit much. At certain points in the middle of it, you may think “I’m miserable now,” though not in the way that Morrissey had in mind.

In the ’80s, everyone loved to talk about how Morrissey was the most sensitive and misunderstood guy on the planet. He had quite an image: exquisitely depressed, a swooning (but celibate!) gay vegetarian wallflower, awash in the poetic romance of self-pity. I was shocked when I finally saw him onstage, because he was every inch a rock star — like a statue by Michelangelo who swayed, his dark hair tall but trim at the nape of the neck (a style as shockingly “straight,” in its way, as Bryan Ferry’s was in the early ’70s), with movements that expressed the reverent ecstasy that his lyrics kept telling you life had denied him. But then, that was the beautiful yin-and-yang of Morrissey: He fashioned terminal shyness into a rebel gesture, and made a lot of masochistically alienated too-smart-for-the-room kids feel as if they, too, had a voice.

His own voice was gorgeous, a sweetly plaintive tenor that could reach up and carry you away, to the point that it almost didn’t matter if his melodies all sounded like they were improvised around the same three notes (kind of like “Three Blind Mice” with variations). All that began to coalesce in 1982, when Morrissey, who had just turned 23, teamed up with Johnny Marr (only 19 at the time), who caressed his guitar into producing roiling sunlit waves of sound.

“England Is Mine,” however, is set mostly in the late ’70s, when Morrissey was still just Steven Morrissey, an aimless, morosely buttoned-up teenager from a working-class Irish family in Manchester, trying to fit in even though it felt like death to him. The movie’s star, Jack Lowden, is one of the actors from “Dunkirk,” and when you see him here you think: Yes, he looks like he could be one of 25 different British soldiers from “Dunkirk.” As Steven, Lowden wears longish curly hair and big glasses that make him look like a ’70s-slacker version of Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent, with a dash of Daniel Day-Lewis. The young Morrissey was, of course, quite handsome, but in a puckish-lipped, dark-eyebrowed, lantern-jawed black-Irish way. Lowden comes off more like a serenely good-looking jock who hasn’t found the right sport yet. His Steven skulks around, writing lyrics in his diary-notebook and fighting off the contempt of his father, who soon splits for good.

Steven is a shrinking violet, a bored aesthete, and a snob, though not necessarily in that order. He’s a music fan (he attends a Sex Pistols gig and writes scathing rock reviews in the form of letters to punk fanzines), but from the movie you’d never guess that this was someone who spun an entire book out of his obsession with the New York Dolls. Even in the privacy of his bedroom, where he stretches out his arms in front of an imagined audience, we don’t see rock ‘n’ roll taking Steven over. When Billy Duffy (Adam Lawrence), who will briefly become his bandmate in the Nosebleeds, is rifling through Steven’s albums and comments on the first Clash LP by saying that he likes Joe Strummer’s lyrics, Steven replies, “Don’t you find him rather schematic in his self-flagellating worldview?” Well, yes, of course, but no future lead singer should be that hard to please.

Steven performs a club gig with the Nosebleeds, and the movie, for one song, sparks to life. A record company comes into the picture, but it hires Billy and passes on Steven, an event that sends the singer into a tailspin of depression that doesn’t make for much drama. At his office job, Steven displays a boredom with everything he’s doing that doesn’t exactly endear him to his colleagues — though one, the comely Christine (Jodie Comer), looks past his shyness; she doesn’t even think twice when he refuses to come up to her flat for a late-night drink. But those in the audience may wonder, since this painful reticence is virtually the only sign of Steven’s sexuality. “England Is Mine” is fussy and prudish — about erotic longing, and about the rock ‘n’ roll that gives form to it. Even the film’s title is off. It was originally set to be called “Steven,” but that non-money title has been replaced by one that T.S. Eliot would have rejected for being too stuffy.

At this point, there’s an entire genre of movies about pop musicians before they got famous. The best of them is “Backbeat” (1994), which told the story of the Beatles in their raw Hamburg, Germany, prime with volcanic authenticity. “Greetings from Tim Buckley” (2012) squeezed a bauble of indie-rock essence out of Jeff Buckley’s journey to embrace his father’s legacy. But “England Is Mine” just feels like a stopgap movie made by people who couldn’t afford to get the rights to the Smiths’ catalogue. The poster calls it a meditation “on becoming Morrissey,” but it would be more accurate to describe it as a movie about waiting around dejectedly until there’s nothing left to do but become Morrissey. In the final scene, set in 1982, Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston) knocks on Steven’s front door, and it’s hard not to feel that the film you really want to see is just getting started.