Kate Bosworth Knows What She Wants

by Michelle Ruiz
Kate Bosworth poses in the Oscar de la Renta dark blue gown and a matching headpiece.

This is how Kate Bosworth styles herself: First, the front-row fixture rifles through her internal catalogue of runway looks. For example, “I’d mentally earmarked an amazing Prabal [Gurung] dress—turquoise, Dolly Parton, mermaid glam,” Bosworth says on a late summer afternoon in New York. “Keep that one in the back of your head if something arises.” Her brain is like Cher’s computerized closet in Clueless; as a teen, Bosworth was accepted to Princeton but deferred admission. According to her husband, director Michael Polish, she reads “40 or 50” books a year.

Sometimes he’s my muse, sometimes I’m his muse. We always say it’s an interchangeable title.

The moment for the Prabal dress soon came in the form of an invite to present at this summer’s CMT Awards, but Bosworth isn’t one to have her people call Gurung’s people. Instead — step two — she texts or emails the designer, a fashion fantasy that trumps even Net-a-Porter same-day delivery. (“It’s always such a dream to collaborate with Kate,” Gurung says of the experience.) In addition to copious “crazy cat photos” of her rescues, Teak & Neko, Bosworth’s phone is filled with exchanges with Erdem Moralioglu; Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez; Kym Ellery, whose “weird, drippy silhouettes” she is coveting; and her close friend Jason Wu, with whom she vacations at Tulum’s Hotel Esencia.

Brandon Maxwell ball gown, Étincelle de Cartier ring, BVLGARI ring.

Earlier this year, “She saw a Resort pink jumpsuit, and she texted: ‘Jason, can I have this for this event?’ It was in a box within 30 minutes,” Wu tells TZR. “With Kate, there is always just one option. She knows exactly what she wants.” Because Bosworth lives in Los Angeles and Wu in New York, fittings are done via FaceTime, with the designer giving notes to Bosworth’s tailor.

Bosworth explains through bright magenta lips, after we bond over our shared astrological sign, “You can see it, being a Capricorn too, the need to be the person putting the pieces together.”

For a while, in my late twenties, I felt apologetic… like, ‘Can I be an actress and be serious about it and also love fashion?'

The literal pieces that Bosworth is reaching for this fall are sleek, tailored, take-charge suits (earlier this year Gabriela Hearst lent her a sharp, berry-colored suit straight from her own closet). “I've always loved Katharine Hepburn in that iconic visual,” Bosworth says. “There's something about it that feels like a relaxed confidence. Like, ‘I can be a boss, but be chill about it.’”

The fashion-obsessed actress is dressing for the newly “boss, but chill about it” phase of her career. Seventeen years after emerging bikini-clad from the surf in Blue Crush and 13 years after diving into the role of Lois Lane in Superman Returns, 36-year-old Bosworth is leveling up: both starring and making her television executive producing debut in Netflix’s new sci-fi series, The I-Land, which has been branded a hybrid of Lost and, ahem, Fyre Festival; and starring and co-producing Tate, the forthcoming Sharon Tate biopic she’s been shooting with Polish.

Erdem neck tie, David Webb earrings.

Bosworth says she was growing tired of the built-in limits on an actor’s contributions. “You show up, you have your lines learned, you might have some creative collaboration in terms of the character, or you might not,” she says. “And then you go home, and that’s it.” Like many other actresses of her generation, Bosworth found herself ready —finally — to call the creative shots. “I like to have a seat at the table. If I see something that’s happening and I can’t help, it drives me crazy,” she says. “It was a natural progression for me to officially become a producer.”

I've never associated with snobbiness or ‘You can't sit with us’ energy. I don't believe in that. It's not like I sit there and I judge it, I just don't want to participate, you know?

Bosworth says “officially” because, in fact, she’d been a producer before in all but name, consulting on scripts, giving casting notes, and poring over edits. The I-Land just marks one of the first times she’s getting credit for that work.

“It was Mike who said, ‘You should own the title. You are producing this. Ask for a producing title,’” Bosworth — in frayed white cut-off shorts and a yellow cropped Levi’s logo tee, her hair still in a tight topknot from the TZR shoot — tells me.

Oscar de la Renta gown, David Webb rings.

The exchange is a little glimpse into the intensely loving artist/muse relationship between Bosworth and Polish, who she met when he directed her in the 2013 Jack Kerouac adaptation Big Sur. Polish says he knew within seconds that there was a spark: “I said, ‘Uh-oh. If I'm not with this person, I'm going to have to leave the country.’”

Bosworth was equally enchanted. “Sometimes he’s my muse, sometimes I’m his muse. We always say it’s an interchangeable title.” She smiles as she talks about her husband, who just wrapped directing her in Force of Nature, an action movie set in the midst of a hurricane that had Bosworth dodging bullets and dangling from wires on the Puerto Rico set with co-stars Mel Gibson and Emile Hirsch. She likens the couple’s artistic shorthand to that of “Leo and Scorcese” or Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar: “Honestly, sometimes, it’s hard to have faith in things… and to have someone who you feel like gives you faith in the process, gives you faith in humanity, gives you faith in yourself… it just helps.”

The couple first bonded over whiskey, but they flirted over fashion — specifically a pair of Burberry boots Bosworth was wearing on the Monterey County, California, set of Big Sur. “He looks at me, and he's like, ‘Oh those are cool boots… Who makes them?’” she recalls. Bosworth cringed at the prospect of label-dropping with the “well-respected, critically acclaimed” director. At times, she has worried that her interest in clothes somehow made her less of an artist. “For a while, in my late twenties, I felt apologetic… like, ‘Can I be an actress and be serious about it and also love fashion?’” she says. Stereotypes about the industry didn’t help, even though she didn’t identify with them. “I've never associated with [its] snobbiness or ‘You can't sit with us’ energy. I don't believe in that. It's not like I sit there and I judge it, I just don't want to participate, you know?”

Oscar de la Renta gown, David Webb rings.

Polish later revealed that Bosworth’s interest in clothes was a draw for him. “I love that you know fashion and you love fashion,” Bosworth remembers her future husband saying. “‘You’ve gotta own that. Don't apologize for that.’”

When Bosworth started out in the ‘90s, “It would be weird to say that you had a stylist. It wasn’t what it is today. And I also was... 16? And lived in a small town [outside] Boston,” she says. Now that it would be decidedly not weird, “I like doing it myself because it's really about my relationships with designers.”

I looked at Michael the other day, and I was like, ‘Sh*t, we better never get divorced.'

Those relationships have led to some of her most iconic looks, including the ethereal Oscar de la Renta gown and veil that the house’s lead designers, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, created for Bosworth for the 2018 Met Gala’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme. She recalls “a moment where we were not sure if we were going to commit to the veil or not, and ultimately we just had a gut instinct to go for it. It turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the look.”

1 Moncler Pierpaolo Piccioli skirt, Tiffany & Co. earrings.

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, who have known Bosworth since the early days of their design house, describe Bosworth as “a natural”: “Kate’s the real deal. We are cool sending her things [because] we know that she will take our work and twist it into her own vibe and make it look effortless and utterly cool.” Bosworth’s ongoing decision to manage her own look makes sense to them. “If you have a natural gift for it, why hire a stylist?”

Bosworth now has the authority to fully apply her creative gift in her film work. Last year, through Make Pictures, the production company she owns with Polish, Bosworth remotely produced and fully financed Nona, a staggering look at human trafficking, while Polish shot in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the so-called murder capital of the world. Up next for the duo is Tate, which Polish says he has been shooting “under the radar… because we just didn't want all of the attention while, you know, Mr. Tarantino's thing was going on.” He and Bosworth are co-producing with Sharon’s sister Debra Tate, who initially raised concerns about her sister’s depiction in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (before later coming around).

1 Moncler Pierpaolo Piccioli jacket, skirt; Tiffany & Co. earrings.

“[Sharon Tate] is still a footnote,” Bosworth says, mentioned only in the context of the crime committed against her. “That doesn’t define the woman she is, and in fact, in many ways, that’s a horrifically offensive thing.”

By contrast, Bosworth insists that Tate “doesn’t even touch her death in any way. The killers are not mentioned. It only focuses on celebrating who she is.” (Put another way, Polish says his wife is striving to “take the megaphone from the maniac.”)

There's no looking back, there's no wallowing. I just have to keep going.

Their passion for the project is evident in the first photos of Bosworth in character, revealing a striking resemblance to Tate. “There are times where I'm photographing Kate, and it's Sharon,” Polish marvels. “I think Kate identifies with somebody being beautiful and being judged, because there are times now that Kate won't get a part in a movie because she's too pretty. I mean, that comes right down the pipeline.’” He adds “I don't truly believe there's another Sharon Tate, just like there's not another Kate Bosworth.”

But beyond their flaxen hair and elegant profiles, Bosworth cites an “innate,” almost spiritual connection with the late golden girl.

“She’s with us all the time,” Bosworth says.

Richard Quinn dress, Cartier earrings, Étincelle de Cartier ring, Jimmy Choo shoes.

With their lives and careers so closely intertwined, “I looked at Michael the other day, and I was like, ‘Sh*t, we better never get divorced,’ you know?” she laughed. “We kind of joke with each other.”

The pair is often praised as #couplegoals on Instagram—Polish is a deft Instagram Husband who posts artful black-and-white shots of Bosworth — but Bosworth insists their marriage is “real,” too. “It gets a little bit intense when it’s overtime on a film. I’m wet and cold and tired, and he’s been working longer than I have,” she says. “Exhaustion, hunger, the things that would make anyone kind of cranky, are basically on steroids.”

Paco Rabanne dress; Tiffany & Co. necklace, bracelet.

For the next step in Bosworth’s Hollywood evolution, Polish is pushing his wife to direct. The idea makes her squirm, but she’s not ruling it out. Earlier in her career, “I just remember feeling very vulnerable all the time,” she says. “I moved to L.A. when I was 18, on my own, and there's so much loneliness in that,” to say nothing of the rejection and criticism. Now, “It’s kind of like becoming a senior in high school. You go from freshman year where you feel so awkward and you're hating yourself. And then you’re a senior and you’re like, “Oh, who cares?”

These days, Bosworth is not only self-styled, but self-possessed. If she finds out, “‘Oh, they chose this person over you,’ or ‘They thought you weren't good at this,’ you just move on,” she says. “There's no looking back, there's no wallowing. I just have to keep going.”

Paco Rabanne dress, shoes; Tiffany & Co. necklace, bracelet.

Top image credit: Oscar de la Renta gown

Photographer: Jens Ingvarsson

Stylist: Ryan Young at The Wall Group

Set Designer: Stockton Hall/Atelier Management

Hair: Peter Gray using Shu Uemura Art of Hair / Home Agency

Makeup: Hung Vanngo at The Wall Group

Manicure: Deborah Lippmann using Deborah Lippmann @ SWA Agency