It’s safe to say that Australian actress Emily Browning is no stranger to nudity in film, bearing all in the likes of Summer in February, to a brave, somewhat audacious performance in Julia Leigh’s uninhibited drama Sleeping Beauty. Yet for the 25-year-old, she admits that having to sing live in the quaint musical God Help the Girl was by far the more terrifying experience.

We had the great pleasure of sitting down with the talented actress to discuss her latest project – featuring songs from indie pop outfit Belle & Sebastian, having been written and directed by the band’s lead singer Stuart Murdoch, and when asked which she found more nerve-wracking, with little hesitation she replied, “ God Help the Girl for sure, absolutely. I guess you’re protected by your character, so when I did those scenes for Sleeping Beauty, it wasn’t me, especially because that character is so far from me and so different. Whereas there is a lot of myself in Eve and that performance and because I’m not used to singing it’s hard to hide behind the character. It wasn’t the character’s voice, it’s my voice.”

Browning plays Eve, a troubled youngster who finds solace in creativity, offering her a way out of a mostly painful existence. As the lead role in the feature, it goes without saying that she had a fair amount of songs to perform. “It was terrifying,” she claimed. “I got more and more confident over the course of the film, but I was terrified at first. Because the director of the film is an incredible singer, it was like, fuck, I need to impress you.”

“He didn’t want me to take singing lessons or anything which I think is bonkers, but he liked the way my voice was, and he always made me feel comfortable. But I was definitely shitting myself about it. There are good actors and bad actors, but it’s more blurry than that. Somebody can love a certain performance, and somebody else can hate it. It’s all quite subjective. But if you’re a shit singer, you’re a shit singer. So I feel like there’s a higher bar. There are actual notes that need to be hit and you’re not hitting them.”

Being such a huge fan of the band, and having a pre-established affinity with Murdoch’s music undoubtedly led to more nerves – but it was what attracted Browning to this project, and she felt that the natural appreciation for the songs, not only from herself, but from co-stars Hannah Murray and Olly Alexander too, helped benefit the finished product. “I was a huge fan and there were a few specific songs I was really attached to, and I remember reading the script for the first time, and they sent links to each song. I clicked on the song that plays over the credits without looking at what it was, and it was Dress Up In You, which is my favourite Belle & Sebastian song of all time, so I burst into tears. I called my agent and said, ‘Yes. I have to do it!'”

“I think having a vague understanding of the Belle & Sebastian world, and of the Belle & Sebastian ‘girl’ as well really helped. But it maybe a hinderance sometimes because I thought I knew what Stuart would want, and then he wanted something different. Maybe I should have listened to him rather than assume I knew everything about a world that he created. But it did help. We spoke about the fact that it would have been so different if one of us wasn’t familiar with the music.”

Working with Murdoch was a dream come true for Browning, and it seems she wasn’t the only one to be overwhelmed by his presence. “I was like, oh my god, I’m meeting Stuart Murdoch and I’m making a film with him, and his band, and it’s insane. I remember going to his house early on, this is so embarrassing, but it was to play boardgames, and I remember Hannah and I texting under the table to be like, ‘we’re playing board games with Stuart Murdoch!’ It was so lame, but we were so excited.”

Browning moves effortlessly between smaller independent flicks, and bigger, Hollywood blockbusters, like Pompeii, for instance, and she believes that they help to inform the other, and she takes a lot out of both, very different experiences. “I like a combination of both,” she said. “Also, I do so many independent films that I don’t have any money, so it’s necessary to pay the rent sometimes! But God Help the Girl was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had because it was like guerilla style filmmaking, we didn’t have trailers or money. But then Sucker Punch was also one of the best experiences I’ve had, because we had these incredible sets and costumes, so I like a balance of both.”

“There have been roles I’ve turned down because they’re too similar to roles I have done before. But I don’t have a strategy, or a ten year plan, I just go with the flow and always try to make sure I’m doing something I love and that I care about, and that will push me in some way. I hate being bored and I get bored easily, so I like being challenged.”

Despite the diverse range of roles and projects that Browning undertakes, the one place she rarely makes a movie is her hometown of Australia, but she admits that it’s not for the want of trying. “I still have an agent in Australia who is always looking out for Australian projects for me,” she said, “Hopefully at some point I can get to a stage where I can make films there myself, because I care about the Australian film industry, and it’s my home. But in the last couple of years I haven’t found much, particularly for women there haven’t been many interesting roles I have found. But it’s super important to me and I would jump at the chance to do an Australian film if the right one came along.”

For now, it seems that Browning feels most at home making pictures here in Britain, as she admits that despite living in LA, London is where she most enjoys spending her time. “I just love it here and I have a real affinity for British culture. I lived here for a few years and fell in love and I feel like London is my home, really. I will definitely live here again at some point. I mean, I love living in LA, but it’s so different. It’s the people in London, and the wit and sense of humour, and a darkness and something I feel like you don’t get so much of in America.”

Talking of London, it’s the very setting for her next project, Legend, a biopic of the Kray twins, starring Tom Hardy in the leading role(s). It’s a film that has Browning evidently excited and enthusiastic for, as she tells us how high her hopes are for the production. “It’s the film I am most excited about seeing as a film,” she said. “It’s been perfect, and I’m super depressed it’s coming to an end. I’ve been here for three months working on it, so sad about that. But it’s been that perfect storm of an incredible script, a wonderful director, incredible actors, a character I love, plus it’s really fun, which happens so rarely. I’m really excited, it’s another level for me.”

The one aspect to the picture Browning is not so fervently anticipating, is hearing her attempt at a cockney accent. “I am terrified of hearing my cockney accent, I refuse to watch any playback or anything,” she laughed. “I’m narrating the whole film so that will be interesting. But I have an incredible dialect coach who has been my rock throughout the whole thing, so I would do sessions with her every week. She has a lot of recordings of people from East London talking, and that’s helpful. I also watched a lot of Barbara Windsor videos.”

God Help the Girl is in cinemas across the UK on August 22nd.