LOS ANGELES — Few may recognize Jacinda Barrett, the other tall Australian actress currently starring in “The Human Stain,” from her 1995 stint on MTV’s “Real World London.” But in the coming months, she will be found in even more sophisticated big-screen fare.
Barrett is one of the few who made the leap from “Real World” pseudo-celeb to legit actress, though her career has been eight years in the making. For two years after appearing on the reality series, where she was known as “that Australian model with the dog,” Barrett, 26, studied drama at Oxford, German at the University of Hamburg and got her pilot’s license in London, before deciding to go to Hollywood and get an agent. “I’m glad I took the time to explore other things, but I always knew I’d go back to acting,” she says, calling from London, where she’s filming “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” due out early next year. Barrett plays a barrister-in-training with whom Bridget suspects her beau is having an affair. “There is a little twist to my character, but I can’t spoil the fun.”
But “Bridget” is only the first film on Barrett’s roster. She’ll appear opposite Barry Pepper in “White on White,” an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith Tom Ripley novel, then in “Ladder 49,” playing a firefighter’s wife opposite Joaquin Phoenix.
In fact, Barrett has worked nonstop for 18 months, and she might not catch a break any time soon. “It’s amazing to get to work with such talented people,” she says, “so you almost don’t want to stop.”
Despite her experience with a set of heavy-duty costars, from Nicole Kidman to Renée Zellweger to John Travolta, Barrett says it’s a myth that seasoned actors pass on any words of wisdom on set. “They’re all open and friendly, and there’s not a lot of ego, but no one would ever presume to tell you how to do things,” she says.
Director Robert Benton, however, did impart a valuable lesson on the set of “Human Stain.” “He taught me about letting go once you finish a movie,” says Barrett. It’s advice that she put to good use playing vastly different characters in back-to-back films and leading the gypsy-like life of a working actor who is rarely at home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her fiancé, actor Gabriel Macht.
Still, filming in London, Austria and the French countryside does have its advantages. Barrett has amassed a killer wardrobe of vintage and costume pieces. “When I started traveling, I picked up a love for vintage I never had,” she says. “I just bought a metallic dress and a Twenties flapper dress on Portobello Road.” She mixes these finds with new ones from Marc Jacobs, Alberta Ferretti and Lanvin, and lately has been doing the red carpet circuit dressed in Gucci, Stella McCartney, Giorgio Armani and Chanel.
While her new-found love of vintage and interest in Elizabethan and Victorian literature has led to dreams of doing a period drama one day, Barrett says she’d hardly limit herself to corset-bound roles. “Being able to step into another time and place is fun,” she says. “But in a perfect world, I’d always get to do something different.”