Why Cara Delevingne is the Industry’s Favourite Rebel

Cara Delevingne has a signature move that I like to call “the death stare.” It’s a master side-eye, which has been displayed in its full glory in her campaigns for Chanel and Saint Laurent, in the music video for Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” where she transforms a handbag into a pair of nunchucks with one savage blow, and in the infamous TV interview where a morning show host called her by the wrong name and then proceeded to ask her belittling questions about her acting career.

It’s on display, too, to a lesser extent, on the eighth floor of the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo, N.Y., where she arrives dressed in a Brunello Cucinelli striped blazer and white Redemption pants with gold jangly buttons. Her eyebrows are slicked into perfect curvilinear arches. Her chopped hair is dyed a shade of platinum so cool it borders on grey. The look is finished off with a swipe of metallic bronze lipstick.

Delevingne openly shares her life on social media, documenting everything from her trips to MMA fights to her humanitarian work in Uganda, but she tends to be a little reticent in front of reporters. It’s easy to imagine that she’d rather be somewhere else—perhaps partying with her supermodel squad or meeting Michael Caine (as a recent Instagram shot depicts)—either that or I’ve just been successfully intimidated by the death stare.

She’s here to discuss her role in the upcoming action sci-fi film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, alongside her co-star Dane DeHaan, who seems prepared to run out of the room at any moment since his wife is about to have a baby. It’s Delevingne’s ninth feature film, which means she defies the stereotype of the model who dabbles in acting. She says she’s never been one for boundaries, adding that she doesn’t live by the philosophy that “rules are meant to be broken.” Instead, it’s about pushing the limits. “You’re meant to be able to see how far you can take something, and I’ve definitely felt that ever since I was very young,” she explains.

It’s the perfect mindset for the role she plays in the film, which is part Mad Max and part Blade Runner. Her character, Laureline, is a space-travelling agent tasked with saving the universe in less than 10 hours. Laureline is just as much an action hero as her male counterpart Valerian (played by DeHaan) is. When he crashes through a ceiling and lands on his feet in a scene from the trailer, she says the line “I taught him how to do that.” For the role, Delevingne took inspiration from Ellen Ripley, the OG badass woman played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise.

It’s not the first time that Delevingne has been cast as the rebel. In Paper Towns, she played Margo, an impish high school senior who is hell-bent on exacting revenge on the people who have wronged her. Then in Suicide Squad she played the Enchantress, a soot-stained super-villain with dark, stringy hair who is a cross between Samara from The Ring and Xena of Xena: Warrior Princess. “I’m lucky to get these kinds of roles,” she says. “They need to be played, and it’s such an honour to be able to play them.”

Aside from her film work, Delevingne is set to release a novel this fall. “I’ve loved writing ever since I was a kid. But when I was in school, I found it very difficult to concentrate,” she explains. “Growing up, I kept a diary, but that stopped when I started working.” She mentions that the book is inspired by Go Ask Alice, the classic ’70s tale of a teenage runaway who ends up addicted to drugs. “There are definitely some experiences that I put in there, yeah. It’s not based on my personal life, but of course you get inspired by [that],” she says, the death stare quickly evaporating into a cheeky head tilt.