'Dumplin' star Odeya Rush opens up about the movie and what's next
The Israeli actress on her new Netflix movie, her dream co-stars and the one person's career she wants to emulate most.
Odeya Rush is a study in contrasts.
There are 10,500 miles between Haifa in northern Israel and Birmingham, Alabama – the two childhood homes of the Israel-born actress. She's only 21, but she has already racked up an impressive resume – working with cinematic legends like Meryl Streep, Michael Caine and Jeff Bridges. Her 2017 film with Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird," was nominated for five Academy Awards. She began her career as a model, but is already making a name for herself as a producer and director in addition to acting.
"I look up to people who build their own path," Rush told us when we reached her by phone this week. She revealed that she'd like to model her career on that of someone like Donald Glover, an actor-comedian-producer-musician. "He completely dives into everything and he does everything so well and he commits and does it his own way and it's always really, really great," she said. "People who have their own voice and are not afraid to go into other avenues – even though you're supposed to stay in one lane. So anyone who's doing something like that – that's not a typical path – I look up to."
Rush can add one more multi-talented person to take career advice from: Dolly Parton. The singer-turned-actress-turned-theme-park-mogul plays an outsize role in Rush's new Netflix film "Dumplin'." The sweet coming-of-age movie is about a group of Parton-loving high school outcasts who enter the town beauty pageant. The entire soundtrack features songs from Parton's vast catalog – including six completely new tunes commissioned for the movie.
The producers put the young cast through "Dolly Bootcamp," handing out binders of info and a Spotify playlist of Parton's music. "I learned that she's such an amazing songwriter, and I understood why people look up to her so much, and why she's such a legend," Rush said, adding that her favorite Dolly song is "Jolene."
Rush's Alabama roots came in handy for the movie, which was filmed in Georgia and is set in a small Texas town. When we tell her she has one of the best Southern accents in the film, she humbly replies, "Oh, thank you. Out of all the accents, that one is not as hard for me for some reason. It also helped because a lot of the crew was from the South. So I felt like we were always around it."
The movie's defining message – that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – was especially important to Rush. "Not everybody is a size 2 and has a trainer and gets facials, and whatever all these people in L.A. do. Because that's not the real world," she said. "It is totally about the hardships of not being the ideal beauty standard."
After exploring her Alabama side in this film, Rush said she'd next like to work with fellow Israelis Natalie Portman and Gal Gadot. And after that, we ask? Rush is at the ready, rattling off award-winning actors left and right. "There's so many people: Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Tiffany Haddish. The list goes on. I just want to work with people who also seem like they carry a really amazing energy, and I hope that rubs off on me."
Meanwhile, until those actors come knocking, she's paving her own path. Earlier this year, she directed her first music video, which stars her boyfriend, actor Ryan Lee, and her best friend, musician Harry Nathan. Oh yeah, and she stars in the video as well. You can see the end result here:
Rush told us that another music video collaboration is already in the works. And since she's always one who looks for a challenge, this new one will be animated.
We assume this is it for now, but we ask anyway: Anything else you're working on? "I love podcasts," she told us as we wrapped up the phone call. "Sometimes I think, oh, maybe I should do one."
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