Madonnas rising star "Andrea Riseborough"

THE Mayfair Hotel, with its Art Deco splendour, is the perfect venue for Andrea Riseborough to discuss her new film. The project in question is W.E., Madonna's controversial take on the love story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and as Andrea sweeps down the marble staircase, all perfect posture and porcelain skin, it's easy to imagine her as the aloof American who stole the king's heart.

In conversation, there's a self-contained stillness about Andrea at first, but when she tells how tough it was to recreate Wallis' voice – a grinding Baltimore screech – she dissolves into a deep, throaty chuckle.

"It was incredibly shrill," says the 30 year old, giving a quick demo before slipping back into her own gentle Geordie accent as she recalls working with the Queen of Pop.

"When I went to meet Madonna, we had a cup of tea together and her passion for the story was infectious," says Andrea, who has nothing but praise for her director. "She's read every publication about Wallis and I think she understands her in a very specific way – in relation to her own life. Wallis was an American divorcee, twice-over, and the British public were up in arms. Madonna needed to tell this story." 

Andrea's own is worth telling, too. Born to a working-class family in Whitley Bay, she grew up an incorrigible people watcher. Her secretary mother and used car salesman father were always telling her off for staring ("I'd have to be told to stop catching flies!").

A star pupil, Andrea was destined for Oxford but the bohemian in her won over. She dropped out of doing A levels and, among other things, ran a restaurant before applying to RADA.

Since graduating in 2005, she's leap-frogged from successes on the small screen to respected films, playing a young Margaret Thatcher in the 2008 TV drama The Long Walk to Finchley and mouthy Brenda in Made in Dagenham. She has since starred as timid, gawky Rose, in the remake of Brighton Rock, and taken a leading role in the recent movie Resistance.

All that people watching has clearly paid off – and she's yet to shake her favourite habit, taking the bus whenever she can to snoop on her fellow passengers – even in downtown LA, where it's almost unheard of.

Andrea says that relocating to the States wasn't a deliberate career move. Visiting Hollywood for a film premiere in 2009, she met and fell madly in love with Joe Appel, a US graffiti artist. The attraction was mutual but, when she lost her phone the next day, the actress had no way of contacting him. Distraught, she joined Facebook, punching in key words she thought would help: "Joe", "snowboarding" and "Ohio" (he was actually from Idaho). But then – hurrah! – her phone resurfaced and the pair have been together ever since, living an arty, non-conformist life, mostly in LA, but also in Idaho and occasionally the UK.

With swathes of chestnut hair and china-blue eyes, Andrea, a statuesque 5ft 7in, is a stylist's dream.
"I had the great fortune to wear the most extraordinary costumes in W.E. – Dior, Vionnet, Cartier," she smiles. "I also got to wear replicas of the Cartier jewels Edward gave Wallis."

Although they were copies, the jewels were worth thousands and, when the clasp on one of them came undone during filming on the beach in Cannes, it was swept away.

"Whoever finds them will see the inscription – Wallis and Edward – and probably try to sell them on eBay and trigger a news story," giggles Andrea. "The repercussions of what might happen are funny but I felt awful, really bad at the time."


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