Welcome to Hayley Atwell Central, your online source dedicated to British Actress Hayley Atwell. Hayley is best known for her role as Peggy Carter in the Marvel Movies "Captain America: The First Avenger", "Captain America: Super Soldier" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" but you may also recognise her from the TV show "Agent Carter". We aim to be your most up-to-date and comprehensive source for Hayley. Check back daily for all the latest news, photos and info. Thank you for visiting the site and supporting Hayley and her career!
admin | Jul 03, 2015
Hayley Atwell: ‘I’ve always felt quite genderless. Which is odd, because I have big boobs’

Hayley Atwell talks female empowerment, getting body advice from Emma Thompson and why British actors are all the rage in Hollywood

At the bar at Somerset House, the waiter has absolutely no idea who he’s dealing with. He serves the bill both prematurely and unceremoniously to Hayley Atwell just as she is declaring: ‘I’ve kicked six stuntmen in the bollocks, hit someone over the back with a lead pipe and launched an iron chair at an assistant director.’ His eyes widen before she adds: ‘All completely by accident. When it comes to stunts I have a lot of confidence and little skill.’

Still, since Atwell took on the role of Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger five years ago, she has learned to throw a mean left hook — one of the myriad reasons why Carter’s character, as brilliantly inhabited by Atwell, was given her own TV series, the first ever Marvel spin-off to be fronted by a woman. The first season garnered 8m viewers when it premiered on ABC in the US earlier this year.

Atwell, 33, is indisputably alpha: the kind of woman who did a three-month Open University course in art history, haiku poetry and Burma while she was filming the first Captain America in 2010. ‘That’s when I was taking myself a lot more seriously. I’ve lightened up since then.’ She scores as highly on talent and wit as she does on intellect, but she downplays all her attributes with charming self-deprecation. ‘I go to places and think: “Why can’t I be more mysterious and enigmatic and cold?” ’ she laughs when I point out how amenable she is. ‘Why can’t I be more intimidating, like some actresses are? But it’s just not who I am.’

Within eight months of graduating from Guildhall drama school in 2005, she was on set with Woody Allen in Cassandra’s Dream and on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was nominated at the British Independent Film Awards for her role in The Duchess in 2008, and at the 2010 Oliviers for her West End debut in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. She is often cast in period pieces, such as Channel 4’s adaptation of William Boyd’s Any Human Heart and the TV film of his novel Restless in 2012. She has the look of a 1940s heroine but is equally versatile in other eras, most recently as Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham in Jimi: All Is By My Side in 2013. In short, Atwell has always played three-dimensional, complicated women without leaning on her beauty or sexuality as an acting crutch.

And this is what she has brought to Peggy Carter. It is to Atwell’s credit that she has taken Captain America’s wartime girlfriend beyond the confines of the macho Marvel Cinematic Universe films — Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the soon-to-be-released Ant-Man — to a second season of Agent Carter, due to air early next year. Atwell’s casting in the franchise five years ago came as a crop of British actors were chosen for lucrative, big-budget comic-book film series over their US counterparts: Henry Cavill in Man of Steel and Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man among them. ‘I think it has something to do with the British work ethic, and especially actors that do theatre. It talks to the power of the ensemble. There isn’t so much of a hierarchy,’ Atwell suggests. ‘We’re hard workers because we strive to learn a craft [in a classical acting training]. And maybe we are less high-maintenance.’ If this interview is anything to go by, I get a sense of what a breath of fresh air Atwell must be to work with.

Atwell is far more than an actor who can kick ass and look good in a pencil skirt. Agent Carter has attracted a global fanbase, not only in the West but in male-dominated cultures such as the Middle East, where she has offered the kind of female empowerment fantasy that DC Comics’ Wonder Woman gave to women in 1970s America. ‘It’s nice to play a role that has a positive influence. I was in Dubai a month ago at Comic Con and I met so many women who said, “Because of Peggy Carter, I know my value and that women can be heroes, too.” ’

Atwell’s own life has also been changed by Peggy Carter, who has become ‘a bit of an alter ego. She’s given me a new fearlessness. I was always a people-pleaser — less so now — and I think it became detrimental to me.’ The Marvel experience has also been an antidote to her introspective tendencies. ‘At Guildhall, they used to say, “You’re overthinking it.” Peggy is very in the moment.’

As a young girl, Atwell read Descartes and Jung and ruminated over her own identity. ‘I used to write letters to my future self. One that I wrote at eight for my 18-year-old self said: “Have you written your first novel yet? Won an Oscar?” The last one was written when I was 13 and it’s to open on my 40th birthday.’ At the age of nine, she walked over hot coals for a personal empowerment ceremony. This was the ‘natural response’ of a sensitive, only child, growing up in a bohemian environment.

Her father Grant, from Missouri and of part Native American descent, is a massage therapist, photographer and occasional shaman. ‘I had that Sacred Spirit album [Native American chants and dances]. When everyone else was listening to garage, I was listening to that and Enya,’ says Atwell. Her mother Allison is a motivational speaker influenced by the likes of Deepak Chopra and Dale Carnegie; the couple met at a Carnegie ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ workshop in London.

Her parents split when she was two: her father returned to the US and Atwell grew up with her mother, like ‘two best friends’, in Ladbroke Grove. ‘I don’t remember them being together. If I’d been going through puberty, it would have shaken my whole foundation.’ Her father is a sensitive, empathetic man with Tom Selleck looks, whom she idolised. She has fond memories of Kansas City, where she’d stay with him in school holidays: ‘The smell of the air, the hummingbirds, lightning bugs, eating hot dogs, fancying Todd, the local totty.’ When Grant came to visit his daughter in London, he sometimes left his best suit hanging in her wardrobe as a promise of his return. ‘So I would see the outline of a man watching over me.’ Her home life was loving, if unconventional. Her mother has ticked her off in the past for presenting her as too ‘patchouli and hemp’. ‘Because I’ve said she used to be a bit, “F*** off, I’m meditating.” She’s like, “I didn’t say that!” And I’m like, “Well…” ’

School life was trickier. Atwell paints herself as a rotund, introverted child, who was nicknamed Hayley Fatwell by her peers and bullied. ‘I still have [this one girl’s] face in my mind. Sometimes I play in my head what I’d like to say to her. She tried to Facebook me a year ago. I ignored her. “Are you kidding me? You made my life hell.” Atwell could have done with Agent Carter around. ‘It’s like psychological warfare, the playground. She’d say: “Your trainers are shit.” And I’d be empathetic and say, “I’m sensing hostilities. Is everything OK at home?” ’

Her life changed when she moved to the mixed London Oratory School for A levels. ‘I started to get attention from boys. I got boobs, basically. They’re a great gift.’ She also dis-covered rugby, channelling some unresolved physical aggression that she’d had since primary school. ‘They called me Hulk Hayley back then. I used to wrestle with the boys.’ She recently tweeted about her adult tree-climbing antics with the hashtag #tomboyproblems. ‘I’ve always felt quite genderless. Which is odd, because I have big boobs.’ It is perhaps this state of mind that has helped steer Atwell away from relying on her sexuality as an actress, a career she decided to pursue after seeing Ralph Fiennes play Hamlet at The Hackney Empire in 1995. ‘My parents would never say, “You’re so pretty.” They’d say I was smart and strong, and had something to say. They said I should speak up and out.’

And speak out she has. After working with Woody Allen she talked openly, and amusingly, about his laconic direction. And she is candid about the time Miramax suggested she lose weight for Brideshead Revisited. (Atwell is tall, with the kind of natural bum and boobs that women undergo surgery to obtain.) ‘I thought, “OK, I suppose I should.” Then Emma Thompson [who co-starred] said to me, “You’re not a model. You’re an actor.” In the end, they accepted me for who I was. If I’ve ever had an insecurity about myself in this industry, Emma always has an amazing ability to say something to put it all into perspective, so that you don’t hate yourself.’

Atwell is also capable of her own sisterly deeds. She recently tweeted to her 319,000 followers about being digitally altered on the cover of a German magazine: it inexplicably turned her into Jessica Alba. ‘Why are you so beautiful?’ an admirer asked on Twitter. ‘Why I am so Photoshopped?’ she retorted. ‘It’s important that young girls understand what Photoshop is. I do feel a certain amount of responsibility now that I’m playing Peggy.’ Atwell has also called publicly for more physical and racial diversity for women in season two of Agent Carter, in which the plot moves the team from New York to LA, and Peggy, having finally grieved the loss of Captain America, finds new love, potentially in the form of disabled agent Daniel Sousa, or even her best friend Angie, a waitress. ‘There are a lot of people on Twitter who want them to be lovers.’ Could that happen? ‘Why not?’ she says.

Like her alter ego, Atwell is about to move to LA, where the show is based. But she is eschewing a home in the Hollywood Hills. ‘I like Los Feliz; Beachwood Canyon.’ She has a huge group of translocated British actor friends including James D’Arcy, who plays Carter’s sidekick Edwin Jarvis, and Dominic Cooper. ‘I know how to avoid scenes or groups of people that I feel don’t really appeal to me.’ She will also be closer to her father, who now lives in Los Gatos in northern California. Does she like the healthy living culture there? ‘Not really. I’m an English pub girl. I like my beer,’ she says glumly. She is about to start two months of five-days-a-week intensive training to prepare for when filming starts in September. ‘I hate it. It makes me feel sick. I have a 6ft 9in personal trainer called Serbo — “Turbo” Serbo.’

If you believe everything you read, Atwell likes tall men: it has been rather bizarrely and erroneously reported that she is dating beanpole comedian Stephen Merchant. ‘I don’t know why!’ she says, flummoxed but amused. ‘We were photographed coming out of the Groucho together. The next thing I know, I’m eating cereal in my pyjamas and I get a tweet saying, “Hayley Atwell in car accident with Stephen Merchant,” so I texted him and said, “Apparently we are in a car accident together. Are we OK?” ’

Merchant aside, Atwell admits: ‘I’ve always been in relationships. They tend to be back-to- back and last around two years.’ For the past 18 months she was with 23-year-old model Evan Jones, who was introduced to her by the photographer Rankin. ‘We’re not together any more,’ she says now. ‘It was a mutual thing. He’s younger but really mature. There was no drama. So I’m single and dating until the next two-year relationship comes along.’

This will no doubt happen in a heartbeat, but either way, Atwell is feeling very settled. ‘Peggy gives me the variety I crave but also the grounding to live a relatively normal, stable life.’ She shoots the series for five months a year. ‘The rest of the time, I can do plays, or lie on a beach in India and make carpets or have babies if I want to.’

Meanwhile, she has some extracurricular prep before filming: not an Open University course this time, but thinking up practical jokes to play on her co-stars, not least Dominic Cooper, who will reprise his role as inventor Howard Stark. ‘Dominic and I have become like naughty children. I’m surprised we get any work done.’ Her penchant for pranks was piqued two years ago during the run of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride at Trafalgar Studios, when she filled her co-star Matt Horne’s dressing room with 4,000 coloured balls that she bought on eBay. ‘For Halloween, I put cling film over James D’Arcy’s toilet. I’m going to have to up my game in season two.’

Marvel’s Agent Carter premieres on Fox on 12 July at 9pm [Source]

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