Courtesy: Jenna Berman
Natasha Bassett is calling from a treehouse. “It’s my happy place where I go take a break,” she explains. “It’s in Malibu, and so beautiful—literally, there’s a tree coming through the balcony. You can’t be any more immersed in nature than I am right now!”
It’s quite a change of scene from Bassett’s last few months, when the Australian actress has been on red carpets in Cannes, London, and Los Angeles to promote Baz Luhrmann’s new film, Elvis. The 27-year-old plays Presley’s first girlfriend, Dixie Locke, and shares most of her screen time with Austin Butler and Tom Hanks—“but instead of Tennessee, we filmed the whole thing on the Gold Coast of Australia, which left a lot more time for the beach. I’d be in Graceland in the morning, and then spend the afternoon by the ocean with a coffee.”
Here's how Natasha uses nature to keep her calm, make her laugh, and get through a blockbuster movie promotional season.
You talk a lot on social media about your love of nature. When did it start?
I think it was probably when I started doing survival trips in Australia with a group of girls from my school. We would take our own equipment, first aid kits, and our own food for seven days. We got lost once and had no access to water, which was petrifying, but we did always find our way back. And the one thing that I will never forget from those trips is the sense of endurance it taught me. It's drilled into me at a young age. It made me realize that resilience is key, because there's no choice of giving up. Nature doesn’t give up! So you just have to keep on walking. And I've applied that to every aspect of my life. We can endure so much more than we're aware of, and nature taught me that.
In American high schools, we have a course called “outward bound” that takes us into forests…
Yeah, it’s like that, but in Australia! By the time we were in high school, it was like 7 or 8 of us girls. We wouldn't have a guide, and we'd be out there in the Australian bush fending for ourselves. It was the best feeling. I'll never forget it!
This is giving major Picnic at Hanging Rock vibes!
Oh, I went to Hanging Rock! I went with my mom when I was a teenager, just to see it, because national treasure, I suppose?
Did you disappear?
I did not, but weirdly, some things vanished from my bag in a very unexplained way. Like, they were completely gone. They’re in the Bermuda Triangle somewhere now, I guess. That stuff is real.
You’re an actress and also a writer. How does nature inform your creative process?
When I'm writing, and I get stuck on a plotline or a piece of dialogue, I go out into nature and then just let everything go. I try to forget what I've been focusing on, and often, that's when ideas will turn on. That's when the good stuff happens… You know, one common experience of being out in nature is that we usually feel smaller and more insignificant, which I find totally freeing. It takes that pressure off the minutiae of everyday life. And for me, it makes me calm, so when I go back to my writing or my acting, I can be more creative because if I'm stressed or coming from a place of chaos, it's the greatest block… You know, I actually spent a month last year hiking through Arizona.
Honestly, it was a thing for my mental health. I realized that the mountains are my medicine. I went around Phoenix, and then the Grand Canyon, and finally Sedona. I'd wake up at four in the morning before the sun was rising, and I'd be hiking alone before the sun came up so that once I reached the peak, I could see it rise. And it felt like a scene from The Lion King. I felt like the queen of Pride Rock! By the way, Lion King is the greatest movie of all time.
Original or live action?
I think they’re both pretty perfect, but I’ve probably seen the original over 300 times. My mom and I used to go to the video store when I was a kid, every single Friday afternoon. I would spend probably two hours looking at every single video cover—but then I’d get Lion King every time. We must have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars renting the same movie. I don't know why we never bought it?! But I think the experience of picking out The Lion King was so much fun to me.
Slightly awkward segue into… What's your favorite animal fact?
I did some research, and found out that besides humans, dolphins are one of the most prolific sexual pleasure seekers! Most wild animals do not partake in sex when it's not determined by the urge to procreate. But they spend 80% of their time, purportedly, in the pursuit of sexual pleasure! And they also have some of the best memories in the animal kingdom. Also, dolphins cannot dream. Their brains will not allow it… But I think their lives are kind of a dream anyway.
Do you have any favorite vegan swaps that you like to make?
Yeah, when I was filming Elvis, I got really hooked on vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. I prefer them to regular cheese. When I was on set, I went to a vegan buffet every day—I called it the vuffet!—and got vegan cheese with vegetables. I also found that when you're eating vegan, it's necessary to make vegetables even tastier, because they make up such a huge part of your diet. And the fried broccoli at this vegan buffet made my heart skip a beat.
What about vegan desserts?
I often prefer vegan desserts to regular desserts anyway, because they don't have a lot of processed sugar, so they don't give me that sugar spike that would turn me into a crazy person.
At Wild Elements, our motto is, “Let good grow wild.” What does that mean to you?
Finding hope! Letting hope kind of trickle through our lives like an endless source of inspiration. And let that hope connect us all in one human goal. Nowadays, we are so caught up in our phones and our online lives, so it's harder to see what's really around us, which leads to despair… I think modern life has really enabled us to become these kind of depressing sloths. Letting good grow wild is about being active, and planting change for good. And I think getting out into nature can provide that optimism that we seek at our core.