DIVA chats to the stars of the sumptuous new period drama

WORDS: ROXY BOURDILLON, PHOTO: THUNDERBIRD RELEASING

It’s pretty clear to me that Vita Sackville-West was a player. “In love with being in love” is how Gemma Arterton more generously describes the woman she embodies in sapphic biopic Vita & Virginia. She tells me the scribe, socialite and notorious member of 1920s London’s literary clitterati “became bored or withdrawn when affairs became too intense or dependent”. “Vita loved to seduce and adored the chase” and had “countless affairs”. Sounds like classic player behaviour to me.

Vita had a thing for fellow female writers. In addition to her bohemian marriage to Sir Harold Nicolson, her catalogue of lovers included, but was by no means limited to, novelist Violet Keppel, war reporter Evelyn Irons and, one of the most celebrated authors of all time, Virginia Woolf. Vita was the muse for Virginia’s masterpiece, Orlando, and their intense love affair was documented through their extensive letters. As Gemma put it at TIFF 2018: “If they were alive now, they’d be prolific WhatsAppers. Virginia would be obsessing over the blue ticks!”

These letters form the framework for director Chanya Button’s sumptuous new film, which casts Australian actor Elizabeth Debicki as the willowy Virginia to Gemma’s sensuous Vita. When I caught it at the BFI Flare Opening Night Gala, I was completely mesmerised by the slow-build seduction between the two exquisite leads. All those longing looks, all that yearning… It made the payoff when they finally did get down to it even more gratifying.

Read the rest of this exclusive interview in the July issue of DIVA, available now via the links below.

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