It was a call from James Cameron that first inspired young Mia McKenna-Bruce to act. Well, almost.
After seeing Titanic at her home in London when she was around six years old, she said she was “deeply hurt” by the film, endowed with As for her inability not to sleep. A few weeks later, her mother had an idea and asked the film director to call her so he could explain to the terrified children over the phone that all she had seen was a movie with people in costumes. “I was like, wait a minute, this is a real job you can do, you can make people cry,” she recalls. As an energetic, overly dramatic young man, McKenna-Bruce knew what she wanted to do with her life.
This will be years away – found her first when she was making Billy Elliot the Musical at the West End 8 professional jobs, from where she landed an agent and started booking TV jobs – McKenna Bruce admits to “doing a lot of work” and believes she knows the people who made Titanic , found the truth. It wasn’t Cameron on the phone. It’s her grandfather.
While bogus, the director’s call did help spark a trajectory — nearly two decades — that sees McKenna-Bruce, now , making her first trip to the Cannes Film Festival for her directorial debut with the hit “Un Certain Regard” How to Have Sex Molly Manning Walker. In an impressive lead turn, she plays Tara, one of three teenage girls on a wild holiday in Greece with the goal of clubbing, squandering and hooking up. While what should be the best summer of their lives, it takes a dark turn for Tara, raising uncomfortable questions about peer pressure, expectations of teens, and more importantly, sexual consent.
“You start so high, it’s funny, you’re like, I want to be with them,” McKenna-Bruce recalls how she felt when she recently watched the finished film for the first time. “And then you get to the end and you’re like, oh my god, when did it go straight down? It doesn’t have a crazy peak, it’s a bit of an ebb and flow, and you don’t realize you’re going downhill.”
Making How to Have Sex – this was filmed by them at Malia, the notorious party resort in Crete (although they are outdated, so Mostly the cast and crew on propping up the bar)—was a “very big learning curve” for McKenna-Bruce. “It was the first time I had to play a character that I had to live with,” she said. “So it gave me a new sense of self-confidence.”
With the film being picked up by MUBI and scheduled for release in the US and UK, not to mention its Cannes premiere Alright, How to Have Sex marks a major film addition to McKenna-Bruce’s resume, which has made some impressive strides on the small screen.
Having amassed a solid role in British soap operas and children’s TV series, she appeared in an episode of The Witcher and in Peacock’s short film Play as the main character – living fantasy horror Vampire Academy. Last year, she starred in Netflix’s modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, alongside Dakota Johnson, Henry Golding and Richard Grant. Disappointingly, while she plays Grant’s daughter in the film, she admits to not seeing the actor’s breakout film Withnail & I , which would have provided Some useful tips on how to be successful in acting drunk, she can transfer to How to Have Sex (not that she needs it).
Despite the accumulating credits, McKenna-Bruce said persuading was the first job that gave her a more solid foundation for her career. “Before then, I had ups and downs at work and didn’t know when my next job would come, but since then it’s been much more stable,” she said. “And I’m more sure of what I want to do.”
McKenna-Bruce’s next role is her most important yet. In September, she will have her first child with her fiancé, British actor Tom Leach. “So, for my first Cannes trip, I’m going to have a lot to gain,” she said, acknowledging that consumption of roses will be significantly lower than she usually expects. She also points to a potential job as a break from the stress of motherhood, especially for someone who seems so young. “I might finally start buying older parts than !”