Q&A: Emily Hampshire on Diamonds and Cannes

The Canadian actress talks film fest prep and winning Birks' first Canadian Diamond award

Sarah Gadon & Emily Hampshire at Cannes

Courtesy of Birks & Mayors

Sarah Gadon & Emily Hampshire at Cannes

Courtesy of Birks & Mayors

Sarah Gadon & Emily Hampshire at Cannes

Courtesy of Birks & Mayors

Emily Hampshire, Sarah Gadon, Birks, Cannes

Courtesy of Birks & Mayors

Emily Hampshire Cannes

Courtesy of Birks & Mayors

As we write this, Emily Hampshire is walking the carpet at Cannes. The actress is at the festival for the first time, promoting David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel, Cosmopolis alongside fellow Canadian Sarah Gadon, a Cronenberg veteran and long-time friend. Oh, and Robert Pattinson. No big deal.

We chatted with the native Montrealer the morning after her other big festival event, a special Telefilm Canada reception where she an Gadon received the inaugural Birks Canadian Diamond award that recognizes up-and-coming Canadian film talent. From a hotel room on the famous Croisette, Hampshire shares her thoughts on dressing with diamonds, working with an all-star cast, and what photographers are really yelling on the red carpet.

Is this your first time in Cannes?

How is it? It seems insane.
“Well I got here yesterday morning and went kind of straight into everything. So yesterday I got here, got the Diamond Award, this morning I did some gifting and press stuff, and so it’s been kind of a whirlwind. But all wonderful stuff.”

You and Sarah Gadon are the first recipients of the Birks Canadian Diamond Award. That’s got to feel nice.
“I think it’s extra special sharing it was Sarah because we’re friends, and we’ve worked together, worked together again. Last night David Cronenberg introduced each of us and then presented us with the award so it was kind of special. I think it’s really cool that they’re promoting Canadian talent internationally and I think I was more into it when I found that they’re actual Canadian diamonds–they’re not blood diamonds, they’re mined in Canada and they help the economy. I think all around it’s a really good thing for everyone, especially me because I get the diamond!

What’s the award like?
“Well its this massive award that Sarah and I could barely hold alone. it was really heavy! And probably the biggest award I’ve ever held, or will hold, but yeah, it’s quite beautiful.”

Can you tell me about the dress you wore to the Telefilm ceremony? It was very dramatic.
“Yes, I wore Stella McCartney–and I’m being dressed by Stella for the entirety of the festival as well, so everything’s going to be Stella and Birks! That dress actually, I kind of fell in love with. They sent me a picture and it’s kind of a unique piece, they just made it for a magazine spread that never happened, so it’s nice to wear something that’s so special.”

So you were wearing some diamonds too? I’m looking at some earrings that you had on.
“Sarah and I were both wearing Birks and we both had a bodyguard for our jewellery because it’s pretty fantastic and expensive stuff.”

There’s actually a big Canadian contingent in Cannes this year. Are you guys all sticking together?
“It feels like Canada’s Cannes this year. Which is great, because everybody’s really promoting each other’s films. Telefilm has been getting behind this, and Birks. It’s huge.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience working on Cosmopolis? It’s quite an eclectic cast in the film.

“Yeah, it’s a super international cast and it was incredible. First of all working with David, I can check that box off the bucket list! And then you add to that bunch Robert Pattison, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton. That was my thing, Samantha Morton, when I found out she was in it. I’m a huge fan of hers so that was fantastic. But none of us really worked together! Except for with Rob, because the story only allows for that.”

You say working with David Cronenberg was on your bucket list. I barely have to ask but what drew you to working with him?
“Well I mean he’s just kind of a Canadian, international filmmaking legend. He’s so unique, and I don’t think there’s anybody that makes movies like him. You see that trailer and it’s kind of like, this is Cronenberg movie. And I like working with filmmakers like that who are auteurs in that sense.”

You’ve got the Cosmopolis premiere at the Croisette tomorrow. How do prepare for walking a huge red carpet like that?
“I feel like I really need to mentally prepare more! The only advice I’ve gotten is from my friend Xavier Dolan, who’s here with a film of his and has been to Cannes before. He played me the music they play down the red carpet when you walk it, and I had no idea there was a soundtrack to this! My one experience with a red carpet that I’m assuming is kind of equivalent to this one is I’ve been to Berlin before, and the film I went there with [Snow Cake] opened the film festival. It was with Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman, and they really had it down. They pretty much took me under their wing down that red carpet. The fear is, for me at least is that you go down it and nobody takes your picture and you’re just standing awkwardly, but I’ve found that at least at European film festivals there’s no lack of people taking your picture.”

What’s the experience like?
“What I’m surprised with is that the a lot of the time the photographers yell at you–if they’re not yelling your name, or something close to what they think your name is they’re yelling mean things? So that you do some kind of face or some kind of reaction. So if you don’t hear your name, you hear some kind of ‘Why are you standing like that?'”

What’s next for you professionally?
“Actually Sarah (Gadon) and I are doing another movie together right after this! Just by coincidence. It’s called For All the Wrong Reasons. It’s a Canadian film that we’ll be shooting in Canada.”

Sarah Gadon has worked with David Cronenberg before. Did she give you any advice or tips about working on him?
“Yeah, that he doesn’t direct–he casts people who make his job easier. That was really good advice because as an actor you look to the director for advice and direction of sorts but to know going into that I wasn’t going to get that was good. And also what I was very surprised by was that he’s not at all what you would think he would be from watching his movies. He’s the most calm and lovely, generous person, he runs a set that is like this well-oiled machine. He’s not crazy at all, which is weird if you see, I don’t know, Crash?”

See Emily Hampshire, Sarah Gadon and Robert Pattison on the red carpet for the Cosmopolis photocall at Cannes