Little-known Aussie Abbey Lee on the rise at Cannes

'Horizon: An American Saga' trailer

Source: Warner Bros

An Australian-born model-turned-actor is the latest up-and-coming local to feature on the Cannes red carpet.

On Sunday, 36-year-old Abbey Lee attended the annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals for the premiere of her new movie, Horizon: An American Saga.

In it she stars alongside Kevin Costner, who wrote, produced and directed the film. 

The Civil War-era Western also features Sienna Miller and fellow Australian Sam Worthington.

As the credits rolled after the three-hour film finished at Cannes, it received an 11-minute standing ovation.

Previously, Lee had a supporting role in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road as “The Dag” and it was during filming she came to the realisation she wanted to pursue acting more than modelling.

“As soon as I started shooting Mad Max, I realised it was kind of where I wanted to be my whole life and I didn’t realise it,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2015.

In the same interview, the then-28-year-old joked that “they shoot models” after they hit 29, but she also quickly learned the acting industry was all about looks.

“I was a little bit upset to find that it’s just as bad, if not worse – or it can be. That it’s still a lot about your image,” she admitted.

“I guess it’s obvious because you’re on screen but I didn’t think it was going to be quite like it is.”

Rise to prominence

Lee followed up Mad Max: Fury Road with Ruben Guthrie and then starred alongside Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Chadwick Boseman and Gerard Butler in Gods of Egypt.

In 2018, Lee was nominated for an AACTA for her lead role in the Australian biker flick, 1%.

Before she turned to acting, Lee won the coveted Girlfriend Model Search in 2004 and following that, her face was everywhere.

According to her biography on, her big break came just weeks after the Melbourne local relocated to New York, where she met photographer Mario Testino.

She was promptly booked for a D&G campaign and then went on to walk for the likes of Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Balmain, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Chanel.

) Alejandro Edda, Hayes Costner, Jena Malone, Georgia MacPhail, Sienna Miller, Kevin Costner, Ella Hunt, Wasé Chief, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Isabelle Fuhrman, guest and Luke Wilson attend the "Horizon: An American Saga" Red Carpet

Abbey Lee, third from right, is part of the huge ensemble cast of Horizon: An American Saga. Photo: Getty

In an interview with Vogue Australia, Lee also opened up about her 15-year struggle with endometriosis and how she sought help, remedies and solutions everywhere while dealing with chronic pain.

Costner’s offer

She also talked about how she is still not over the fact Costner knew who she was and how he offered her a role in the film over a Zoom meeting.

Horizon: An American Saga has been a passion project for Costner and he went directly to Lee to offer her the role of Marigold, a sex worker who ends up on the run.

The Civil War-era film resulted in Lee learning how to ride a horse, something she fell in love with.

“How the f–k does Kevin Costner know who I am?” Lee said, speaking of her first meeting with the actor.

“I didn’t understand that at all. And I still don’t really understand.” 

Horizon: An American Saga will come out in Australia on June 28 with a second instalment to premiere on August 16.

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