Not since Lolita has there been a more outrageous screen nymphet than Lynda, the blond, sexually precocious, out-to-shock teen heroine of the British film Wish You Were Here. Lynda hikes up her skirt provocatively, dances about her backyard shouting, "Up yer bum!" to the stuffy neighbors and has an affair with her father's licentious 52-year-old friend. The critics—and the public—love it. And they especially love 16-year-old Emily Lloyd, who plays the part. When the movie, set in a dowdy English seaside resort in 1951, played at Cannes last May, planes (hired by the studio, of course) flew along the Croisette pulling banners that proclaimed, "We love you, Emily!" Siskel and Ebert, praising Lloyd to the skies, hailed her for giving "one of the great debut performances of recent years."
Although Lloyd can't be accused of Lynda-like behavior, she does share an engaging sassiness with her movie character. Her bright blue eyes, tousled wheat-blond hair and curled upper lip give Lloyd the appearance of a mischievous cherub. "I'm not mature," she says. "I like being slightly crazy. Like I walked into a train and pretended to have an epileptic fit just to see the reaction."
Lloyd opens the door of her Hollywood hotel suite (she's on a four-week promotional tour) wearing an oversize Whitney Houston T-shirt and white tights. As the reporter enters, the film's publicist asks: "Should I stay?" "Oh, god, no!" replies Lloyd. "Let us have some laughs." As the PR man heads out he glances into Lloyd's bedroom. When he's safely gone, she exclaims, "What a nosy little bugger!" She then launches into an impression of his exit, poking her nose into her bedroom and saying, in her best American accent, "Hmmm. What's she been doing in here?"
Refreshing candor? You bet. But then, this is Lloyd's first trip to Hollywood. Already, at least a dozen agents have tried to sign her. Even Steven Spielberg summoned Lloyd to his office. "He just wanted to meet me," she says. Lloyd's already been cast in her second film, Loser Takes All—as the girlfriend of a gambler, played by Robert (Me and My Girl) Lindsay.
Emily is having heated discussions with her mother about returning home—she's already dropped out of school. "I'm threatening not to go back," she says, adding, "I was thinking about having my arm broken so I wouldn't have to. Aren't there places you can get that done around here?"
Lloyd says she always wanted to act. She comes from a theatrical family. Her grandfather, Charles Lloyd Pack, was an actor. Her father, Roger Lloyd Pack, is a leading member of London's National Theatre Company. Her mother, Sheila, is a theatrical agent. Although Dad tried to dissuade Emily from treading the boards, she talked him into sending her to acting school in London two years ago. "I can't believe what they got us to do!" she says. "Like pretend to be a chocolate in a chocolate box. One day I got annoyed with the teacher and said, 'Look, I'm stale,' and I walked out of class."
Later, Lloyd auditioned for but lost a role in Mona Lisa, which David Leland, the director of Wish You Were Here, co-wrote. Lloyd recalls running into Mona Lisa director Neil Jordan at Cannes last spring. "He said, 'Why didn't I cast you?' I laughed and said, 'Well, it's too late now, isn't it, mate?' "
Lloyd got the part of Lynda over more than 200 hopefuls. She says she did no preparing for the role. "I just went into it. There's no way I could go to bed with a 52-year-old. I couldn't even imagine myself going for a 23-year-old." Says Leland, "The film worked because of the quality of innocence that Emily has. In three years time she won't have that."
It's a week later, and Lloyd is having brunch at a café in the hotel. She is tired. First she had dinner with Dweezil Zappa and some pals after her movie's premiere. Then she stayed out to 4 a.m. disco-dancing with Dweezil's sister, Moon. "These clubs, they're so posey," she says. "Everyone tries to look important. It's ridiculous, isn't it? Unless you're incredibly good-looking you don't get in. It's not fair. Brooke Shields
was there dancing, with six bodyguards. I couldn't believe it. She's put on a lot of weight, hasn't she?"
Lloyd has been called the British Molly Ringwald. "I don't think I look a bit like her," she protests. "I don't think I act like her either. I hope not." She lists some young men she'd most like to do a love scene with: "Tom Cruise
, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Ralph Macchio." Then she qualifies: "Mind you, all these boys are good-looking. But whether they can act or not is another question, isn't it?"
Maybe it's the lack of sleep, but Lloyd seems less enthusiastic than she was when she first got to town. "I've been on a high, but now it's completely the opposite," she admits. "I'm much more insecure than when I came here."
It didn't take her long to wise up to Hollywood. She arrived feeling like a star, but now feels like "a product of society's institutionalized packaging." The attention has worn thin. "Most of the people who say they appreciate me are not genuine," she says. "I'm new and young and everyone wants a piece."
She worries about what fame will do to her. "I don't want to become big-headed." she says. "I don't want to come to Hollywood to be one of the pack. I want to enjoy myself, not to keep up with this trendy nightclub life. If that happens, I'll cut my wrists." Lloyd takes a breath before unveiling her survival plan. "I'll just go skating and be a kid." And if Hollywood doesn't like it, well—as Lynda would put it—"Up yer bum."