Earlier this year, actress Camila Morrone ascended the stairs at Cannes for the premiere of one of the festival's most-anticipated films. Those photos were splashed everywhere stateside -- she was walking the red carpet in support of boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -- but in the festival's ACID sidebar, her own film, indie drama Mickey and the Bear, was selling out screenings and earning rave reviews for its leading lady. Since then, she's traveled with Mickey to the Hamptons International Film Festival, where Morrone was one of their Breakthrough Artists alongside actor Aldis Hodge and The Farewell director Lulu Wang, and the San Diego International Film Festival, where she received the Rising Star Award.
Morrone booked her first role at 19, playing Bruce Willis' daughter in the Death Wish remake, and followed that with the well-liked stoner comedy, Never Goin' Back. Now 22, Mickey and the Bear is her breakout. The directorial debut of actress Annabelle Attanasio, the film centers on Mickey (Morrone) as she comes of age living in small-town Montana with her opioid-addicted veteran father. (ET has the exclusive first clip from the film above.)
ET caught up with Morrone to discuss filming Mickey and the Bear, her trip to Cannes, and being on the receiving end of comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar-nominated performance in Winter's Bone.
ET: Your family is from Argentina. You were raised here in L.A. What was your entry point into Mickey? How did you find your way into this young, small-town woman and her struggles?
Camila Morrone: Shooting and living in Anaconda for weeks helped place me in Mickey's world. As for understanding Mickey, I just replaced scenes I couldn't connect with with scenarios in my life that I felt overworked, taken advantage of, confused, scared and betrayed. When you dive into a character, you often realize, like I did with Mickey, that you may not have had the exact same reality, but that you often have similar experiences and emotions.
This film requires a lot of vulnerability from you. What was your process, both in terms of working with Annabelle and [co-star] James Badge Dale, to get to the points you needed to be in the more demanding scenes?
There was a lot of discussion in rehearsals about how vulnerable we wanted to portray Mickey. I think there is strength in Mickey's vulnerability, and I didn't want her to be one thing or the other. Working with someone like Annabelle, who is also an actor, was my safety net. She understands those moments when you are out of it and struggling to connect to your character. She was massively supportive and nurturing throughout the process, but also pushed me to go deeper when she felt it was needed.
The opioid epidemic has been the focus of a number of films in recent years -- Ben Is Back and Beautiful Boy last year and before that, the documentary Heroin(e). It's a topic that resonates with so many people out there. Why was it important for Mickey and the Bear to add to that conversation?
Yes, I've seen all those films. It's interesting because taking this film around the world and watching people walk out of theaters has been so telling. Almost everyone that I have spoken to after the film tells me they related to it in some way, whether it was knowing an addict, living with abuse or knowing someone who knows someone that is a veteran. The story is much more universal than we like to think, and films are historically the best way of sharing stories, so my wish is for this film to add to the conversation and shine a light on the crisis, no matter how big or small.
What was it like filming in Anaconda, Montana? Indie films can be so go-go-go, but did you have time to explore the town? What would you do during your downtime when you weren't filming?
The first thing I did when we started rehearsals was explore the town, restaurants and houses. You can see all of Anaconda in an hour; it’s a really small town. It was hard to do anything other than go to set and shoot during the weekdays. But when I had time off on the weekends, I would explore other nearby parts of Montana; I totally fell in love with Montana. I went horseback riding, clay shooting and hiking on the weekends. I went glamping twice, one time north of Montana in Greenough near the river, and the other time in Philipsburg; both were stunning and totally different.
When you look back on filming now, do you have one moment that encapsulates your Mickey and the Bear experience?
There wasn't one specific moment. We shared a small, out-of-order trailer with a big film crew and got to share every experience. You become sort of like "family" when you are working that hard and intimately with people. My memories of the film are an accumulation of laughs, tears, stress, discoveries, good moments and frustrating moments.
Your performance is being likened to Jennifer Lawrence, that this is your Winter's Bone moment. What do you make of that? Is that someone whose career path you'd like to emulate?
She is someone whose talent and career choices I really admire. It is, of course, very flattering to hear this comparison; now it is important for me to follow this up, continue working on my skill set as an actor, and choose meaningful stories to tell.
You had your premiere at SXSW. Then you got the full Cannes experience: You screened Mickey and the Bear there and got an incredible reception. You walked the iconic Cannes stairs. I know that you'd been in the past, but what was the experience like for you this time?
Having my film premiere in Cannes has always been the ultimate dream for me. It is a combination of the elegance of the festival, the setting and the quality of films that premiere there. Going there with this film always felt so out of reach, but that just goes to show that there are no limits or rules when it comes to this industry. A tiny film that you make for almost no money, in five weeks and in a small town most people never heard of, can make it across the world, to a foreign country, and do its job.
You've spoken about the difficulties of making the transition from model to actor. With Never Goin' Back and now Mickey and the Bear and having received such wonderful reviews for both, do you feel like you've completed that transition, that you've shed whatever baggage may have come with that?
I personally felt like I made that transition a while ago, but it definitely took and is still taking some time for others to see me solely as "actor." This is what I have dedicated my time to every day for over three years now. It is my priority and I'm very invested in doing the best job I possibly can do. I think with more work and time, eventually that will become clearer.
This really does feel like you're having a moment. What's next for Camila Morrone?
In a dream world, it is to be able to continue picking and choosing projects that stand out to me and challenge me. Working with directors I look up to and alongside talented actors that push me to be better. If I can have a career based on playing roles that are a challenge and tell an important story, and for no alternative reason, then I have succeeded.