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For Phoebe Dynevor, playing financier Emily in the psychological thriller Fair Play was “personal.” She told ELLE in our October cover story that she took the part to “have a say at moving the needle—a very tiny, tiny say” on inequality and gender violence women endure at work and in relationships. She too has faced it being in the entertainment industry.
“This film was personal to me for a lot of reasons,” Dynevor said. “Every woman I know, it’s their experience in this world. And with any film with a message, you just really want it to start a conversation.”
In Fair Play, Dynevor’s Emily is secretly engaged to her co-worker Luke (played by Alden Ehrenreich) at a competitive hedge fund. Her surprise promotion creates issues in their relationship outside of work—and illustrates the challenges women can face when they are more successful than the men they’re dating.
To prepare to play Emily, Dynevor read Hedge Funds for Dummies and spoke to men working in the finance industry. She also tapped into her own experience navigating Hollywood: “I felt like I knew enough about working in a very male-dominated environment,” she said. “There is an extra pressure being a woman in this industry, but I also think that it motivates me to work on stuff like Fair Play and to feel like, Oh, I can have a say at moving the needle—a very tiny, tiny say, but we use those things to our advantage if we can.”
Dynevor didn’t holding back sharing her opinion on where we stand societally at eradicating sexism: “We have this idea that the world is so progressive, and there’s been so much change in terms of women and the #MeToo movement, but there’s still so much progress to be made and so many things that haven’t been done or are still taboo,” she said.
She continued, “The thing that was really interesting to me is how modern feminism is clashing with traditional masculinity. I think we’re progressing, but in a lot of ways that’s counteracted by the people holding on to traditional masculinity. We’re at this weird time when there’s a lot of polarizing opinions and feelings, and it made it even more exciting to tell this story.”
Dynevor chose not to discuss any one specific experience that happened to her. But she assured ELLE that “look, there are millions of examples [in my life]. I don’t know if I really want to share any of them. Just being a woman in the industry, working from a very young age, relationships, you name it—every woman, I think, will relate.”
Mostly, Dynevor connected to the lengths Emily went to protect Luke’s feelings. “Emily is really trying to make herself small to make him feel masculine,” Dynevor said. “And I saw so much of myself in her for that reason—really going above and beyond to protect his fragile ego.”
She has minimized herself in that way too, she confessed, “but I’m getting toward 30 now and the opposite is happening, where I’m trying not to do that anymore, and it’s a very nice feeling. As you age, you get a wider perspective on things. You start to understand your purpose more.”
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.