The Untold Truth Of Emily Browning

Australian actor Emily Browning has been on quite the journey since winning her first acting role at the tender age of eight. "My parents were a bit freaked out," she revealed during an interview with The Guardian, adding that her mom and dad are "as far from stage parents as you could possibly get." After making her debut in the TV movie "The Echo of Thunder," the Melbourne native went on to land parts in films like "The Man Who Sued God," "Ghost Ship," and "Ned Kelly," establishing herself as an exciting new prospect. Before long, she'd secured a job on a big Hollywood project.

Browning announced herself on the global stage with her turn as Violet Baudelaire in 2004's "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." The sheer scale of the production was like nothing she had experienced before, she told Interview magazine. "I was 14 years old and there was a massive tent with every possible snack I could ever want, every soft drink, every flavor of crisps," the actor recalled. "We had trailers with TVs and Nintendos in them. It was kind of a dream for a kid." The dream would later fizzle out, however: Browning was involved in a few controversial films in the years that followed, and is known to have a rather complicated relationship with Hollywood today.

She's a private person by nature, but she's definitely no shrinking violet. This is the untold truth of Emily Browning.

Emily Browning was bullied at school

School bullies indirectly put Emily Browning on the path to stardom. The actor has revealed that she was forced to move schools twice after being targeted by fellow pupils, which made her parents opt for a different kind of education. Recognizing that she needed a creative environment if she was to thrive, her mother and father "moved her to a parent-run co-operative, where the pupils spent their time painting, going on nature camps and putting on plays," The Guardian reported in 2011. "It was here that another parent, an actor, spotted her on stage and suggested she audition for an upcoming TV drama."

It seems she was fated to end up on the screen, but that doesn't erase the pain of being cruelly taunted by classmates. Browning hasn't discussed what happened to her at length, though she did broach the topic briefly while speaking with Vogue Australia in 2019, calling it a "typical actor story." After she "was bullied really badly in primary school," a series of events, including enrolling in a "much more flexible" school, led to her landing an acting gig. With that, the wheels were set in motion. However, she didn't always have her sights set on Tinseltown: She went on to tell the fashion mag that she had her heart set on becoming a designer before she moved schools. "I used to do little drawings and my grandmother would make them for me," she revealed. "She was a dressmaker."

Los Angeles wasn't a right fit for Emily Browning at first

When she found out that she'd won the role of Violet Baudelaire in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," Emily Browning knew that she would have to move to the States for a while. She was still just a high school student, however, and now that she had found a school she actually liked, the prospect of relocating to Tinseltown wasn't all that attractive to her. "I hated it," she said when The Guardian asked her about her nine months in Los Angeles. "I was 15 and thought I was punk and that Hollywood was crap. I wanted to be back at school — I actually missed homework, which was weird — and be with my friends and do normal things."

As soon as her contractual obligations were met, Browning and her family returned to Australia, where she was able to rejoin her friends at school. Speaking to Interview magazine, the actor revealed that she has no regrets over her decision. In fact, she worries about how she might have turned out had she hung around and became one of the, as she put it, "people in Los Angeles whose lives were the film industry" who lack "a proper understanding how the world worked outside of the film industry." She wanted a more relatable, conventional life. So, that's what she made happen for a while.

Emily Browning could have played Bella Swan in the Twilight films

Fans of the "Twilight" films will have no doubt heard the story about Emily Browning turning down the role of Bella Swan before it got offered to Kristen Stewart, but is this really true? Well, kind of. In reality, Browning was never technically offered the part, but she did get offered the chance to try out after Stephenie Meyer, creator of the "Twilight" book series, dropped her name in a blog post about her ideal cast lineup. "The author at one point stated that I would be her ideal Bella, but I chose not to audition because I was at a point in my career where I wasn't sure I wanted to work," she told IndieWire in 2011. "I definitely didn't want to sign onto a trilogy, so I didn't audition."

When she sat down for an interview with Vogue Australia over a decade after the first installment in the series hit theaters, Browning revealed that discussing her near-brush with "Twilight" has become rather tiresome. The way she sees it, she dodged a bullet when she decided not to audition for "Twilight," citing the media circus that followed its young stars around for years as proof. "Where would I be now if I had had that role? Kristen Stewart in particular and Robert Pattinson to a lesser degree just got so much attention," she noted, adding that the spotlight generated by the "Twilight" saga would turn her into "a Howard Hughes hermit-like character." Based on how much attention she's gotten for not being in the movie, who can blame her for being so wary? 

Emily Browning's Sucker Punch failed to land

The prospect of pining after a vampire didn't at all appeal to Emily Browning, who had fallen out of love with Hollywood by the time the "Twilight" opportunity arose. It wasn't until Zack Snyder came along with a far more demanding role that Browning's passion for blockbuster filmmaking was reignited. "At one point I was very hesitant about acting," she told IndieWire in 2011. "['Sucker Punch'] is the one that's brought me back and made me realize, 'This is absolutely what I want to do!'" She said taking on the role of Babydoll in "Sucker Punch" was so "positive" and "fun" that it gave her "faith in this industry." Unfortunately, audiences didn't have quite as much fun.

"Sucker Punch" was torn apart by the critics, with many accusing it of fan service and sexism. As news of the backlash began to make headlines at home in Australia, Browning — who stars as an institutionalized girl who enters fantasy worlds to beat up bad guys while wearing next to nothing — came out in defense of the film. "I find the idea that it's sexist really bizarre," she told the BBC, adding that it was about "girls breaking free." She later conceded that "Sucker Punch" was far from a feminist triumph, pointing the finger of blame at the producers. "Maybe because of interference from the studios, the female empowerment message that I was hoping to send got muddled up," she said in The Guardian.

Emily Browning's Sleeping Beauty was the talk of Cannes for all the wrong reasons

Emily Browning announced that she was back and no longer a little kid with "Sucker Punch," but her comeback film apparently didn't go far enough in terms of image-shedding. The Aussie actor was in the middle of filming the Zack Snyder movie when, as she recounted to HeyUGuys, she received a script for a film called "Sleeping Beauty," an erotic drama about a college student who gets paid to sleep naked in front of rich clients. "I knew it was tough and would be more intense than anything I've ever done before," Browning told IndieWire. "I had to muster up some courage, definitely."

Some critics praised Browning's committed performance, but most had nothing but bad things to say about writer-director Julia Leigh's debut film. "Sleeping Beauty" caused quite the stir at Cannes, where it was met with "a smattering of claps and an answering burst of boos," wrote The Sydney Morning Herald. According to IndieWire, one viewer was overheard saying that they were "ashamed to be Australian" as they left the premiere screening. None of this bothered Browning, however, who was fully expecting some controversy. "I prefer to make a film that people have a really intense reaction to than have a film that people feel ambivalent about," she explained to IndieWire. "I knew from the word go that there would be people who didn't feel comfortable with it or didn't like it. And that's fine." Sounds like the mission was accomplished.

Emily Browning's family had their own reactions to Sleeping Beauty

Emily Browning doesn't have much memory of the nude scenes she shot for "Sleeping Beauty," because she trained her mind to "shut off" when the cameras started rolling. "The director suggested I learn to meditate, which became second nature after a while," she told HuffPost. Browning's family didn't have that luxury, however. Her father was told in no uncertain terms to stay away ("My dad genuinely likes movies and likes seeing me in movies, but I said to him, 'Don't see it,'" Browning shared with IndieWire), but the female members of her family insisted on seeing the film — and their reactions to it are nothing short of amusing.

As The Guardian noted, Browning's mother, grandmother, and her aunts were all in attendance when "Sleeping Beauty" was screened in Australia for the first time, and they apparently didn't hold back when asked for their honest opinions on the erotic drama. Browning said her mom praised the feature, but had one big note: "I really don't want to see your t**s again for a few years." Her grandmother also enjoyed the picture — and her review was even more colorful. "My nana said to me, 'I loved every bit of it, except the part where you offered the man a b*** ***,'" Browning revealed during an interview with Hey U Guys. "I said, 'Ah, thanks nan. That's great.'"

Emily Browning is 'plagued by constant anxiety'

While Emily Browning has always stood behind "Sleeping Beauty," she has admitted that preparing for the role took a toll on her mentally. She literally had a panic attack the first time she read the script, and when the shoot commenced, she spent a lot of time by herself. "Filming was actually the first time I'd lived alone," she shared with HuffPost. "And I wasn't allowed any sun to keep my skin pale for the role, so I'd go for a swim in the ocean before dark, so it all got me into a dark, solitary place." The experience was ultimately a rewarding one, but it didn't cure her anxiousness.

The Australian star revealed to The Guardian that she's always been "plagued by constant anxiety," and this actually impacts the decisions she makes, from the lengthy breaks she sometimes takes to the "fragile" characters that she plays. This is also why you won't see her on Instagram. "I'm anxious enough as it is," she told Vogue Australia. "I would be a mess if I was a teen today with all the social media stuff. Do I engage with the internet? I do not."

While some elements of the process can be draining, the actual acting part is another story. "When I'm in front of the camera, that's the only time I really get a release," she said in The Guardian. "I'm just there." 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

The family of the woman Emily Browning played in Legend trashed her performance

Emily Browning followed "Sleeping Beauty" up with a leading role in the erotic thriller "Plush" and later appeared opposite Kit Harington in the period disaster epic "Pompeii." Both films came and went with little fanfare, though Browning's next movie would at least go down relatively well with the critics. 2015's "Legend" starred British powerhouse Tom Hardy in the dual role of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the notorious twins whose criminal gang held London's East End in its grasp for much of the 1960s. Browning told The Guardian that she had "never heard of the Krays" before she got the script, but she was excited to portray Reggie Kray's wife, Frances Shea.

The Australian claimed that there was "really so little information available about Frances" when InStyle magazine asked her about playing a real person, though Shea's family say they were never asked for any information about her, much to their annoyance. "I did not know how much the film was going to center on my aunt Franie until I saw it," Shea's niece told the Express. "She provided the narration throughout the film sounding common as muck and looking like a little two-bit trollope." According to the British tabloid, the disgruntled descendant of Frances Shea (also named Frances Shea) was heard saying "How dare they" as she comforted her equally distraught daughter during a special preview of "Legend."

Emily Browning always been 'skeptical of organized religion'

When Emily Browning sat down for an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald in 2019, the publication promised to discuss some "dicey topics" with the Aussie actor, and it didn't disappoint. Browning fielded questions about gender parity, politics, and religion — more specifically, did she grow up practicing any form of religion. "I didn't, actually," she confirmed. "My dad is an atheist. When I was six, I asked, 'What happens when you die?' He gave the same answer my character Laura gives in 'American Gods,' 'You go in the ground and worms eat you.'" Yikes. Sleep tight, kiddo.

That's her dad's stance accounted for, but what about her mom? Browning's mother "is not a religious person, but is very spiritual," the actor explained. "A bit of a hippie who was eating vegan food before it was trendy, who had crystals and Buddha statues around the house. But I was sort of raised to be very skeptical of organized religion." She went on to reveal that her skepticism isn't quite as staunch now as it was when she was younger ("I'd like to think there was something else, something outside of science and what we can see, which unifies us in some way," she said), but she doesn't have the answers. And, as far as she's concerned, neither do you. She added: "I'm okay with not knowing, and I get p***** off by anyone who claims to know for sure." How about that for some worms of wisdom. 

Emily Browning says Hollywood is 'slowly' fixing its sexism problem

Emily Browning was typically blunt about her experiences of sexism in the film industry when she spoke with The Guardian in 2015, telling the British newspaper that it was "so consistent, and so present [that] sometimes you don't even notice it." The problem, according to the Australian, is that "Hollywood movies are made for white men." She added: "That's something I think about and which bothers me all the time." By the time she sat down with The Sydney Morning Herald in 2019, the Me Too movement had arrived in Hollywood (kickstarted by a series of exposés about predatory movie producer Harvey Weinstein) and times were supposedly changing, but did Browning notice any difference?

"I'm thankful for how things are shifting in the industry at the moment in terms of diversity and treating women as though they're human beings," Browning said. "We're slowly getting there." She went on to reveal that she got to experience "a nice role reversal" while filming sex scenes with Ricky Whittle, who played her husband in the canceled but critically acclaimed Starz show "American Gods." After he asked about her decision to keep her underarm hair, he revealed that he happens to shave his pits. "That was kind of great," she said. "To prepare for our sex scenes, I was hairy, and he was doing push-ups and oiling his muscles."

Does Emily Browning still hate L.A. life?

Emily Browning told The Guardian she "hated" living in Los Angeles as a teen, but does she still feel that way as an adult? The Aussie returned to the States after taking a long break from Hollywood, and though she's since learned to love L.A. life, it took her a while to really settle back in. "It was only about two years ago that I found the neighborhood that I liked and found a group of friends and decided to give it a go and live here," Browning told Interview magazine in 2015. "I doubt it's going to be permanent, but right now I really enjoy the city."

And it looks like she still enjoys being part of the Hollywood world and filming around the United States. In 2021, Deadline reported she joined the cast of the drama "Monica," which, as Cincinnati Enquirer reported, filmed in Ohio. And before that, she was in Alex Ross Perry's "Golden Exits," which was shot in Brooklyn. 

The secret to her success? Part of it, she believes, was her choice to shun Hollywood the first time around. "My job is to portray real human beings and real human experiences, and if I haven't had a real human experience myself outside of the film industry, how am I going to be able to do that?" Browning asked. "So it wasn't that I disliked L.A., it just didn't feel like the place for me." We can't argue with that logic.