In an hour, Juno Temple will fly home to Los Feliz, Los Angeles, where she lives alone, un-starlike, in a modest apartment. But first, the 22-year-old Brit, who’s perched on a bench in the lobby of Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel, needs two things: a cigarette and a Bloody Mary. “This is real good,” she says of the cocktail in her favorite deep Southern drawl. “It could use a few more olives, but I’m enjoying it a lot.”
Amusement tops Temple’s current list of priorities—especially when it comes to her film roles, each of which she chooses based on how fun it will be, not how likely it is to garner awards attention. This summer, she inched closer to ubiquity with parts as Anne Hathaway’s feisty protégé in Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises, and as Dottie, a redneck who’s targeted for death by Matthew McConaughey’s bloodthirsty cop-turned-hitman in Killer Joe. Next she’ll appear opposite Amanda Seyfried’s Linda Boreman in Lovelace, a biopic about the tortured porn star, and she just wrapped Maleficent, Disney’s fairy tale shake-up that tells Sleeping Beauty’s story through the eyes of the evil queen (Angelina Jolie). Even more her style is this November’s Jack and Diane, a lesbian werewolf movie where Temple ties tender, twitchy, and wicked into a messy but mesmerizing knot.
You might expect success from the offspring of legendary rock documentarian Julien Temple, but you don’t expect her to be so unfazed by it. “I started working at like 15, 16,” she says, “and my parents said, ‘Okay, but if you’re going to go for this, you’ll have to fight for it.’ And then some freak shit happened.” What Temple means by “freak shit” is that she got the first major part for which she auditioned, that of Cate Blanchett’s daughter in the explosive 2006 film, Notes on a Scandal. Since then, she’s played a host of troubled and troublesome girls, like Lily in Little Birds, a coming-of-age Sundance hit that landed in theaters in August. “A lot of the roles that get sent my way, and that I fall in love with, tend to be about these types of young women, and let’s be honest—what teen had an easy time?” she says. “I don’t know anyone who had completely breezy teen years, whether it was just by your heart being broken or whether it was darker shit.”
If Temple has her own demons, she’s wisely leaving them in the dark. She knows, perhaps, that the secret to being a credible actress is having secrets of her own. The heart tattoo on her wrist? “Just for someone I love,” she says, making no mention of Michael Angarano, her rumored boyfriend and costar in the upcoming fantasy thriller, The Brass Teapot. Best advice she’s been given? “Live in the moment, but I can’t say who told me that.” Real-life lesbian moment? “I kissed a girl once,” she says, dropping her lashes for a beat. “In a game of spin-the-bottle.”
By way of explaining her tight-lipped restraint, Temple, whose bedroom walls are covered with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, says, “Back in the day, you had a persona. I don’t want people to see the real me. I want people to see me as a chameleon, someone who’s inspired by each new, different, big thing I do. You know?” Temple says “you know” as much as she says “fuck,” which is a lot. “I want to be a little bit of a mystery, I guess.”
She’s no doubt a paradox, dressed on a warm July afternoon in boy jeans over pinup-girlie Agent Provocateur lingerie, her Chanel No. 5 mingling with the musk of 30 Marlboros a day, and her chipped nails tapping on her Union Jack–bedazzled iPhone. Her vibe is half street-smart, half Hollywood glamour, and it’s all crammed into a 5’2″ grenade of a vintage frame. “If I have a bad day,” she says, “I just want to smoke cigarettes and wear a tiara.” But as the totally unprincessy Temple hauls her own suitcases into a waiting cab, sun-squinting and smiling and hugging goodbye like an old friend, it seems like her days are only getting better.
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Photography by Luis Sanchis