Zoë Kravitz is one of three cover stars for GQ’s year-end issue, named as the magazine’s Superhero of the Year. As Zoë herself concedes, playing Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in The Batman earlier this year confirmed her status on Hollywood’s A-List. “Batman was the first time that I felt like I was in something undeniable.”
One of the reasons that’s noteworthy is because she’s pretty open about her insecurities. Sarah just wrote in the previous post about the inscrutability of Margot Robbie even though that quality of being unknowable isn’t what I think most would associate with Margot’s brand. She has been described many times throughout her career as a “girl next door” type, including in that appalling Vanity Fair 2016 cover story that Sarah referenced in her piece.
Zoë Kravitz on the other hand – well the word that most people would use to describe her is “cool”. Cool comes up a lot in this GQ article, because that’s how she is publicly perceived. She is cool AF, an enigma, at least that’s the image that’s taken hold in the culture. That’s not the energy in this profile though; where Margot in impenetrable beyond her ostensibly accessible reputation, Zoë is the opposite. Here is someone who is quite open about her anxieties, her feelings of unworthiness. She talks about being a nepo-baby, the child of two very famous, VERY cool people, who hasn’t always believed that she belongs where she is, in the entertainment industry. She also talks about directing her first movie, Pussy Island, and how even though the cast and crew have spoken about how effective and confident she was as a leader, Zoë remembers the experience quite differently:
“I was just a crazy person. I still am. It was always frantic. A glass of whiskey at the end of the night or something would calm me down a little bit. But there was no getting out of it.”
Who wouldn’t be a little crazy and frantic directing a movie? Here’s how it’s described, in brief, in the article:
“[Zoë was managing a huge cast and crew, […] having to make a million decisions a day […] filming in a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language, against the backdrop of a possibly haunted Colonial mansion. Now, immersed in the edit, she has a new set of worries. Are audiences going to hate it?”
It’s perfectly normal for someone with that job, and for the first time at that, to be f-cked up with stress. As a woman in business though, THIS business in particular, these are not things you talk about, at least not openly. Whatever freakouts you’re having, you do them in private, where no one can see you.
Back in 2015, when reflecting back on directing Twilight, a movie that went on to become a blockbuster, Catherine Hardwicke told Variety that:
“When I had some tears on “Twilight,” during a storm and we couldn’t film, I went behind a tree in the forest, I cried for like 30 seconds and I came back and finished the day. I had a $150,000-a-day pressure. Most directors scream. We’ve seen videos of it. They yell. They fire people. They don’t come out of their trailer. Some people drink. Some people bring hookers. Everyone reacts to the extra pressure in different ways. Well, I just thought, “I’ll go over there and cry for a second and come back.” Someone saw, and reported it. I’m suddenly labeled “emotional.” And yet, now I’ve learned of two instances of male directors who cried on set and they got a standing ovation, because they were so sensitive. Of course it’s a double standard. Of course it’s gender bias. I’ve never gone over budget, and my movies have made a ton of money. Still, I get labeled whatever code word they want to label me.”
So when Zoë is talking about feeling crazy and frantic while directing, this is not someone who’s playing at being cool, this is someone is actually is cool because she’s honest, being honest about a job that’s really, really difficult, even though that honesty, because she’s a first-time director who’s also a woman, could hurt her.
But if we’re talking about code words, as Catherine Hardwicke says above, is it possible that for some people, “cool” becomes a code word that hurts more than it helps? Because that’s the word that will inevitably come up when we think of Zoë Kravitz, right? COOL.
“Even without opening her mouth, she’s found people pinning words to her. Cool, for instance. That’s the one that’s stuck, and one that she’s always felt she has to live up to. “The older I get, the more I realize that the person that they’re talking about isn’t me. It’s an idea, and I’m a separate being.”
As an actor, that might be limiting because not all roles and characters are “cool”. In fact, some of the most compelling characters are deeply UNcool by conventional standards. Kendall Roy is not cool. Eve Polastri is definitely not cool. Misty is, um, frighteningly not cool in Yellowjackets. Janine Teagues is hilariously not cool on Abbott Elementary. Is there a casting director out there who might think Zoë Kravitz is TOO cool for those kinds of parts? Can you be cool in real life but not too cool for the screen?
Because what’s complicated here is that even though Zoë calls her perceived coolness an idea that she’s not trying to live up to, one of the takeaways from this profile is that she is really f-cking cool. I loved the way Alia Shawkat described her:
“She’s the best curator of vibe I think there is.”
First of all, that’s just a great expression, “curator of vibe”. And this is a gift, to be a “curator of vibe” because it’s not about being the life of the party, it’s about the ability to set the right mood at all times. I know some amazing “curators of vibe” and they’re not necessarily the centers of attention. Rather, their talent is to make everyone feel welcome, feel safe, safe and comfortable enough to tap into whatever vibe that opens up a connection to someone else’s vibe. It’s magic, an enchantment. I don’t have it, but when I’m around the people who do have it, it’s exhilarating. And this, apparently, is the superpower that makes Zoë so cool.