Bella Thorne starts our conversation by apologizing for pushing our interview back three times. She blames it on being such a busy person, which only means there’s lots to talk about: any of the five feature films she’ll appear in over the course of 2018, or the TV movie, or the TV show, or the modeling campaign, or the relationship with bleary-eyed hip-hop hooligan Mod Sun, or the forays into directing via his gleefully profane music videos, or the fledgling career as a rapper launched with button-pushing singles like “Pussy Mine,” or her close bond with YouTuber and walking headline Tana Mongeau, or the record label she co-founded to house all of their output, or the fashion and makeup lines she designed to go with it, or that time she got kicked out of Sundance for smoking weed at the hotel, or her dog Tampon, or the Instagram posts straddling the line between social protest and daring exhibitionism.
And that doesn’t even account for the big-picture stuff: defying the whole “Disney starlet gone bad” narrative without stifling her rowdier adolescent impulses, navigating the YouTube economy and its alienating tendency to blur friendships with business partnerships, coping with the stresses of celebrity while continuing to process abuse and loss. There is so much to talk about and so little time in which to discuss it, which seems like an essential part of the perpetual motion machine that is Bella Thorne. It’s not uncommon for someone living with depression to bounce from one enterprise to the next as a method of distracting from the hole. To an Insta-follower keeping up with the daily missives from Planet Bella, it can often feel like Thorne lives in a decadent, chaotic world all her own. But in this respect, as a shark who keeps swimming in the knowledge that stopping means she will die, her popularity among the most overextended, emotionally precarious generation starts to make perfect sense. In this respect, we are all Bella Thorne.
Our interview turns out to be a painfully short span of time, allowing only for a small sampling of topics — her former residence in a haunted house, the recent performance that may never see the light of day, an incident involving a wardrobe-not-quite-malfunction, the usual. Even within this brief window, however, Thorne gives the impression of someone who’ll be interviewed for years to come. She’s always been more self-aware than the Lohanian mold the gossip media has assigned her, and her parting words here suggest an underlying maturity that separates the flashes in the tabloid pan from the knowing ringleaders of their own three-ring circus. She’ll be around.
The latest in the long line of movies you’ve appeared in this year is I Still See You, which takes place in a town full of ghosts. Do you hold any supernatural beliefs yourself?
I definitely do. I’m also just a big fan of the horror and thriller genres, so even if I didn’t have personal experiences with it, I think I’d still believe in it. I love being scared. Yeah, though, I have had some small odd, weird things that have happened to make me go, “Oh, no fuckin’ way.” I have gone over the complete scientific belief of it, and I can very much see how that could be possible. But then I think back to those moments, and it’s, Nah, nuh-uh, that shit was seriously crazy.
My family used to live on an Indian burial ground; our house was built on it. My mother and my father had so many fucking crazy experiences in that specific house. At night, she’d constantly hear noises, chains and shackles rattling around, stuff that couldn’t be the wind. All the time, every night. Eventually, we had to lit-er-ally move out of the house. I was really young at the time, but it got so bad that my parents could not be there anymore. There were a few weird times when my mom kept going up to our rooms because she heard loud-ass stomping. She thought it was my brother, marching around, but he told us it wasn’t. He kept saying, “It’s not me!” until she made us all sleep in her room. We kept hearing it, too. It was really fucking creepy. Stomping, up and down the stairs, all night long. So of course there’s gotta be some kind of presence out there. I don’t know, but it’s something. It’s true that if you want to see what you want to see, if you’ve got an open-minded attitude, you’ll see something. But everyone heard this! We weren’t all delusional.
Last month, I saw Xavier Dolan’s new film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which I had heard you shot a role for. I was disappointed to see that your performance hadn’t made the final cut, so I was curious about your role and time working on the movie.
So, originally, it was me and Jessica Chastain; all my scenes were with her character. The story has changed quite a bit, as far as I know and — is Jessica in the final edit?
She’s fully out.
Oh, wow. Wow. Damn. I haven’t seen it yet. It’s taken a few different turns, and if it’s still anything like the script I read, it’ll be amazing. It’s focused on our day and age in a way I like, with a concentration on fame and what that does to you, and how deeply that can turn the people around you into monsters.
On that note — I follow you on Instagram, and you’re a pretty open person. We see you working, with your family, in bed with your boyfriend. Is there any piece of your life that you want to keep for yourself?
Yeah. Definitely. As I’m getting older, I’ve become more open and somehow more private at the same time, and I know how that sounds. My body, uh, how do I put this? I used to be so comfortable, you know; my sister and I used to change on the beach in Florida in front of everybody like it was nothing. I kinda never had a sacred feeling about my body. Things have changed as I’ve gotten older and made mistakes. There was this one time I was wearing a see-through shirt to go out, and I thought, It’s no big deal; it’s only a little bit see-through. You might see a little bit of the nipple piercing, but my extensions are long enough that they cover my boobs. So, like, it’s totally fine. I can’t wear a top under it because then that’d fuck with the ruffles on the top. All this shit, buzzing around in my head.
All night, I’m feeling good. Nobody’s seen a single boob; my hair’s been doing the job. What I did not think about is going outside, where the wind blows back your hair and the flashbulbs hit, making your see-through-ish shirt look like it’s not even there. You might as well be naked, bitch. Like, “Hello there, cameras, here’s everything!” I remember waking up and seeing the pictures in my tagged photos the next morning, and everyone’s like, [sniveling voice] “Oh my god, Bella Thorne; oh my good, look at her boobs.” It’s just [long, exhausted exhalation.] I’ve always been pretty whatever about it, no big deal. I’ve been starting to lose that. You give so much of yourself away — because you want to! — but you realize that you have to keep something for yourself. You have to. I guess my body might be one of those things. I think I’m starting to feel that way.