PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHANE McCAULEY
Where You’ve Seen Her: Sydney, Australia, native Eliza Scanlen gave a (rollerskating) breakout performance in 2018’s HBO miniseries adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Her character, Amma Crellin, was—spoiler alert!—being slowly poisoned by her mother (Patricia Clarkson), marking the first in a string of ailing characters the 20-year-old actress has played. This year alone, she has taken on terminal cancer (in the Venice International Film Festival hit Babyteeth) and scarlet fever (keep reading). “I think it’s time for me to play someone that’s perfectly healthy,”
Scanlen says with a laugh.
Star Turn: This Christmas, Scanlen plays the fever-stricken Beth March in Greta Gerwig’s take on Little Women, opposite Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Saoirse Ronan. “The main thing I wanted the audience to see in this version of Beth is that she’s just as distinct as the other sisters, but she expresses her individuality in a different way,” Scanlen says. “It was important for me to show that Beth was never a silent commentator or a sounding board but the moral compass of the film.”
Page to Stage: Following a turn in the Sydney Theatre Company’s gender-blind stage production of Lord of the Flies, Scanlen recently joined the cast of Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird, in which she portrays Mayella Ewell. “It feels great to be working on theater and to know that I’m going to have a piece that I can explore for seven months,” she says.
Girl Power: Scanlen says that her run of female-oriented projects is exciting, as she’s entering the industry “at a time when women are being given opportunities that really showcase what creatives can do, regardless of gender.” Working with Gerwig inspired her to write and direct her own short film, Mukbang, about the South Korean trend of livestreaming yourself eating huge amounts of food. “I think in some subconscious way, being surrounded by so many women so early in my career is what has led me to make leaps and take risks.”
Up Next: Scanlen’s first big project for 2020, the Netflix psychological thriller The Devil All the Time, is—you guessed it—an adaptation of a critically acclaimed novel. “I just want to continue working with people who have interesting stories to tell,” she says.