In the sure-to-be summer blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, girlfriend to Chris Evans’ revered comic-book hero. It won’t be the first time she’s been cast as a romantic lead—the 29-year-old actor has batted her lashes to great effect before, in the televised miniseries The Pillars of the Earth (for which she received a Golden Globe nomination earlier this year) and in her breakout role as Ewan McGregor’s conquest in Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream.
But, she insists, her stories are seldom boy-meets-girl fairy tales. “I never see myself as a typical love interest,” she says. “I see myself as embedded in complicated triangles.” To wit, she’s also embodied “a manipulative, manic-depressive lithium abuser” in the BBC’s adaptation of the Man Booker Prize–winning novel The Line of Beauty; “someone incredibly calculating and scheming” in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park; and “a suppressed, complicated woman who didn’t get much love” in 2008’s Brideshead Revisited. It’s hardly Hallmark territory.
Peggy Carter is no less complex, which is surprising, given her Marvel-sidekick origins. According to Atwell, the fictional heroine and WWII soldier has her own set of issues, which aren’t immediately obvious onscreen. “Deep down, she knows that if she were a man, she’d probably be Captain America. But because she’s a woman, that will never happen,” she says. “That’s a bone of contention for her.”
Given her fast-encroaching Hollywood stardom, the London native has entertained the idea of relocating Stateside, and admits that her biggest challenge this year will be elevating her laid-back look into Grauman’s Chinese Theatre–ready glamour. “When you walk into a room wearing Louboutin heels, with your hair and makeup perfectly done, you’re being stared at, but also completely ignored because you’re less approachable,” she says. “My everyday style is anything I can wear while jumping on a bus, climbing a tree, or running down the street. I move very quickly.”
Bra by Deborah Marquit. Slip by Boy by Band of Outsiders. Shoes by Lanvin.
Photography by Mark Squires. Styling by Rich Aybar.
Top photo: Top by Lanvin. Bra by Deborah Marquit.
Hair by Rob Talty @ The Magnet Agency.com using Sebastian Professional. Makeup by Gita Bass @ Exclusive Artists using Dior. Retouching by Dippin’ Sauce. Photo Assistant: James Stone. Stylist’s Assistant: Eva Lick. Location: The Standard Hotel, New York City.