Photography by Sami Drasin
Styling by Jardine Hammond
Sylvia Hoeks found a childhood best friend in cinema. The self-described introvert took refuge in film from a young age. In a family surrounded by doctors and lawyers—more “practical” types—Hoeks felt at home while watching TV and movies. “When I was young, cinema was my best friend,” she says. “It was the one thing that gave me comfort.”
The Dutch actress first started out as a model, signing with Elite Models at the age of 14. However, the impression that acting left on her soon led Hoeks to study drama at the Maastricht Theatre Academy. With several roles starring in Dutch TV shows including Gooische vrouwen, the talent scored her first big film role in the 2007 Dutch film Duska, for which she earned the Golden Calf—Holland’s equivalent to an Oscar. As if overnight, Hoeks went from being one of the Netherlands' most in-demand actresses to a Hollywood up-and-comer, appearing in several international blockbusters including Blade Runner 2049 and The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Currently, Hoeks is at work on the Apple TV+ series See, which has her starring opposite Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. Add to that her forthcoming role as Florence Nightingale in the Mary Seacole biopic Seacole, appearing opposite the likes of Sam Worthington and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. If that sounds like a lot, it is. But Hoeks seems undeterred, even finding the challenges inspiring, and one need only look to her icons to get a sense of this.
When asked who she looks up to in the industry, Hoeks is quick to name Isabelle Huppert. “She is my favorite actress of all time,” Hoeks points out. “She lives every part she plays and brings something different to the screen each time that you just can’t deny.”
In Huppert’s career, Hoeks sees the diversity in roles she hopes to have. “I look up to strong women,” the actress underscores. “Women who take on the roles of the lives that women have always lived, but we’re just now getting the chance to tell.” But where does Hoeks find such strength in her own work? “To me, strength is to be vulnerable, to show weakness. It’s not taking yourself too seriously,” she says. “You need to be able to laugh at your mistakes—acknowledge them, learn from them, and then grow from them.”
Reflecting upon her career to date, Hoeks is grateful. “I’m really lucky,” she acknowledges and shares a little practice she has for when times get difficult or reality seems untethered from Hollywood. “It’s a little trick that helps,” Hoeks confesses, referring to her habit of mentally listing five things for which she is grateful. “To me, happiness comes from these simple moments.” She concludes, “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the fear we create within ourselves is our biggest enemy—we should stop listening to that fear and live our lives through love, not fear."