Daniela Lavender Interview Oct28

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Daniela Lavender Interview

Born in Bahia, Brazil, the daughter of a professor of English, Daniela studied journalism at PUC University and Drama at Dirceu de Mattos College in Rio and started acting when she was just 8. She went on to train at London International School of Acting and studied Flamenco under Roberto Amaral and Yolanda Arroyo in Los Angeles. She knew no English at the point of her arriving in UK and is now married to an Oscar-winning British actor. She herself has become a critically acclaimed actress.

Of late there has been huge interest in Daniela from international filmmakers. Daniela is also starring in Sir Ben Kingsley’s production (under his SBK Productions banner), based on the story of Taj Mahal.

Daniela last year completed her European tour with the British Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has also starred in film projects alongside actors such as Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon.

You moved to London to train at the London International School of Acting, what was it that made you move to the UK?

My acting career. Working as a journalist while simultaneously training to be an actor in Rio, I was then inspired to come to London to study English. Although my mother was a Professor of English, I had never spoken a word of the language, so upon arrival here I studied English at every opportunity outside of my waitressing job. A modest opportunity arose through a drama school which, although being possibly the worst drama school in London, I loved it and it presented me with the challenge of getting to grips with Shakespeare’s Richard III.

How has London changed whilst you have been living here?

I moved here when I was 20. London has become full of road works. That affects the look of the town, the flow of energy and the atmosphere which has become increasingly tense. Apart from that London remains its beautiful, magical self.

4) What is it about London that you love?

London remains the most civilized city in the world. The architecture, grandeur and history that you find here are unparalleled. The combination of London’s status as the most cosmopolitan city in the world and the beauty of the English language are enchanting. I love the politeness of the English, the order, and the fact that people give you your space in a city that is so vastly populated. London is huge without making you feel out of your depth and you can still feel at home here. I also adore fine cuisine and I find that you are able to eat in London better than anywhere else in the world.

In London, where is your favourite…

Restaurant?

The Wolseley

Hotel?

The Dorchester

Bar?

Claridge’s Bar

Shopping Area?

Sloane Avenue in Knightsbridge and Portobello for the atmosphere.

Museum?

The V&A

Tourist hotspot?

The classical concerts at St Martin in the Fields.

Area off the tourist trail?

Walthamstow Village

Hidden Gem?

A wonderful tea room we discovered at the back of an antiques shop on Columbia Road. You step down into a wonderful, 70’s styled retro cafe space that sells the most delicious selection of scones and cakes, amid kitsch furniture and furnishings. It was somewhere we stumbled across.

You grew up in Bahia, Brazil and now live in Oxfordshire and London. Did you grow up in the city, countryside or a mixture of the two?

I grew up in the city, and used to spend summer holidays at my grandfather’s farm. I used to wake up with my great grandmother at 5am to milk the cows (she was 86 at the time and still run after us children if we crossed her). So the smell and sound of the country is something familiar and essential to me. I prefer to live in the city. The bigger and more cosmopolitan the city the better for me. I love to be surrounded by beauty and Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds, is exactly that; beautiful, peaceful and so very English. The place in the country where I grew up in Brazil had a different beauty; it was more raw, less sophisticated, very colourful as the sun always shined. At the moment I like to shift between London, Oxfordshire and the States; the three energies are different and complementary.

How does city life in the UK differ to city life in Brazil?

City life in Brazil is characteristic of life in a city that’s part of the developing world, with great beauty. The services and transport system leave much to be desired whilst in London, for instance, they work well. Consequently life is more comfortable in the UK. The public services are more efficient here. In a city in Brazil however you have a lot of colour, music and dance, the atmosphere is more laid back and happy. City life in most big cities in Brazil is dangerous whilst I find city life in the UK comparatively safe.

One of the most obvious contrasts is that of the weather. The sun is always shining in Brazil and instantly picks up your mood wherever you go. Every corner you turn there are people sitting around in bars, outside their houses, in the parks with their guitars, singing and clapping.

London is cold but the seasons are defined and the energy of the city changes with each season, which is beautiful. London in the summer is the most beautiful and atmospheric city in the world.

Your home in Oxfordshire must be like your rural retreat, how do you relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city?

Our home in Oxfordshire is a great place to go to recharge our batteries. It has a very positive and healing energy there and I love taking long walks in the evenings to take in the beautiful surroundings. I stroll around the garden with my husband, which is magic on a late summer evening. It relaxes and recharges me, in preparation for another working week in London.

Do you have an interest in any country pursuits?

I love attending local village fairs. All the stalls, local produce, local beers, live stock horses are amazing. The atmosphere is so friendly, familiar and down to earth. I exercise and nothing beats the long country hikes with all that fresh air and nature. I also love Pub food in England, the portions are generous and tasty. We go to the ones in Burford.

What other areas of the UK do you love?

My mother is visiting from Brazil (I haven’t seen her for two years) and we are planning a trip to York, I can’t wait.

Where are your favourite holiday locations?

Prague – for me one of the most pleasant and sophisticated cities in the world.

My mother and I have just come back from Paris, my husband is filming there, and this time I loved it. I love the Right Bank, the Vendome Square, the Rodin Museum… It’s so very elegant. I love that every time I go to Paris there is something new to see or visit.

You are starring in a film produced by your husband Sir Ben Kingsley called ‘Taj’ that is based around the story of the Taj Mahal. Can you tell us a little more about your role?

The film will tell the story of the circumstances leading up to the greatest monument to love; the Taj Mahal and the extraordinary love shared between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Ben will portray Shah Jahan and I will play his first wife who was ignored by him, Kindhary Begum. Mumtaz Mahal has not been cast yet.

How long did you spend in India filming?

We had a trip to India in January to explore and research the area and history for the movie. I thought it was magnificent and it has made me incredibly excited about starting filming. We are still in the pre production stages.

Did you have chance to explore the country?

In addition to Agra, our visit only further permitted trips to Goa and Mumbai, so sadly not. We didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg as I get the impression India is such an expanse of beauty, history and a treasure chest of narratives that tell their own, unique stories. It seems to be such a diverse land and not any one region could possibly be reflective of the country as a whole.

What is it about the Taj Mahal that you think draws so many visitors per year?

Its energy and profound beauty. The Taj Mahal has the most disarming energy that is hard to understand if one has not visited it first-hand. Not only is it architecturally striking but the tale behind the Taj Mahal is so powerful that this is reflected in the overall atmosphere surrounding it. When I stood in front of the Taj Mahal I had the feeling of being facing perfection.

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