After acquiring a degree in psychology, Lee-Anne Summers left her home in Cape Town to study acting at the New York Film Academy. While in The Big Apple, she was closer to Hollywood than she ever was, but irony was that it was only after returning to Cape Town she actually got to work with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Summers recently got her first big international assignment, in a supporting role in the film Momentum, shot in The Mother City and starring Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and James Purefoy.
Summers plays the wife of a bank robber on the run who relies heavily on Kurylenko’s character to stay alive. Her real education was on the sets of the film.
“The biggest lesson I learned from working with such big stars was to trust my instinct as an actor,” she says.
“I think sometimes as South African actors, we [are] so grateful that we got the job, we [are] so scared to hike up and go, ‘hang on a second, this doesn’t work for my character, my character wouldn’t say that specific line’. As an actor, you know that character better than anyone before you step in front of the camera; and before, I would force myself to just make it work, but now, I know I can speak up,” she says.
While she may be just entering the international film arena, Summers is not a newbie to acting. She has appeared in many much-loved local TV productions such as Binnelanders, Rhythm City and the seven-part mini-series Stellenbosch. She has also made appearances on the stage, and recently styled for and starred in a short film, The Choice, which won the Mercedes-Benz award for Best Fashion Film at the 2015 Bokeh International Fashion Film Festival.
With a decent career in acting behind her, Summers admits the South African film industry is still in its infancy.
“Our industry is not yet at the point where we can demand higher salaries, we are still trying to grow. We are essentially in our infancy when you compare it to Hollywood and Bollywood. There is a big gap between salaries for local hires and salaries for international hires, but that’s understandable, they are more bankable, they put bums on seats. We are still trying to get to that point,” she avers.
Summers currently has three films releasing this year: The Little Kings, Safari and Momentum, which is expected to hit theatres soon.
“I would love my country to look at me and say ‘I’m so proud of her, she went to Hollywood and she made it’.”
And what does she think about her country’s most famous export to Hollywood, Charlize Theron?
“In a perfect world I would love to be the next Charlize Theron, but I don’t think she is giving up her crown soon as she is still doing phenomenal work.”
For now, the Queen Bee reigns.