Resolutely enigmatic and striking British actress Natalie Press grew up under the guardianship of her parents in North London, but moved away from home at age 15 to pursue creative ambitions. Press attended art school, then set her sights on acting and waited tables in restaurants for several years prior to scoring her first major career coup. That came in the form of director Pawel Pawlikowski’s coming-of-age romance My Summer of Love (2004), the tale of the steamy and impassioned affair that blossoms between two young women from opposite sides of the tracks. (It was also here that Press began drawing frequent physical comparisons to a young Tilda Swinton.)
That project — which emerged as a massive festival hit — set a precedent that Press would follow time and again throughout her career: a proclivity for edgy, provocative, and intelligent roles. Hence, she appeared in the 2005 Song of Songs as an Orthodox Jewish girl caught up in a torrid incestuous affair with her brother; in the lurid 2006 thriller Red Road, about a young man relentlessly stalked by a female security company expert; and in a supporting role in iconoclastic cause célèbre Peter Greenaway’s Rembrandt biopic Nightwatching (2007).
In many ways and on many levels, 2008 witnessed Press’ career breakthrough. That year, she starred in director Kari Skogland’s IRA-themed thriller Fifty Dead Men Walking (opposite Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess) and director Jon S. Baird’s fact-based crime drama biopic Cass.