She had been raised an only child in Los Angeles, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and taught to “always bring your A game”. “For my parents it was, ‘The grades we expect are A-level. We don’t expect you to slack in any area.’” (A 14-year-old Bosworth won her first acting job, in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer, because she was a competitive showjumper.) “My father said to me, ‘Look in the mirror every day and say: did I do my best today? Did I put forth my best effort? And if you can truly say yes I did, regardless of the perceptions of other people, well, you have succeeded.’ I have tried to live my life with that in mind.”
The movie industry is “brutal”, says Bosworth. “You’re rejected hundreds of thousands of times more than you’re accepted.” But from the time she was 18, facing six or seven auditions a day in LA, she decided to “put space there” between herself and the knockbacks, “to treat rejection like it has nothing to do with you. It was a sense of personal and artistic survival”.
Still, it was only when she met Michael Polish, who directed her in the 2013 Jack Kerouac biopic Big Sur, that she reawakened her leadership ambitions. “This is not me saying I have to have a man validate who I am,” she says of her now-husband, who’s 13 years her senior. “That’s not the case at all. But it was actually someone saying, ‘I see your vision. Let me share it with you.’ It was like an electrical force and it just sort of lit me up again.”
Polish directed and co-produced Nona, and the pair, who wed in Montana in 2013, launched a not-for-profit film school there last year: the Montana Institute for the Arts. Some press have characterised the couple’s dynamic as one of artist/muse, and Bosworth agrees, although she describes the roles as “titles we pass back and forth” between them.
Bosworth says she has learned patience through producing and, through her relationship with Polish, a willingness to suspend her tendencies to overthink and anticipate every problem in her rational, “relentlessly determined” way, and dream a little. “It’s a tough industry. I started out very young and you can become a bit hard. But creating my own project has allowed me to feel a sense of control over my creativity and not at the mercy of everyone else.” She said she funded Nona herself because it was too important a subject matter not to.
In her mid-30s, she’s also been considering the power of people sharing their failures and challenges. “I feel it’s important to articulate that part of the process that not many people see. We see the perceived success—someone standing on a stage, talking about their company or career. But very rarely do we say, ‘Man, this has been a struggle! I’ve only gotten here because I have done X, Y and Z a million times.’ And I think if we can be vulnerable enough to share that, and have some kind of community, that will have a nice impact on people trying to achieve things.”