As the brave hero at the center of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Disney’s tentpole holiday release, Mackenzie Foy’s star is at an all-time high. At just 18, she’s already a blockbuster veteran, having appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and both installments of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Given that out-of-this-world trajectory, one’s attention to day-to-day responsibilities might soften—but not Foy’s. “Government and economics, blech,” she says when I ask her what she’s up to today. “School. Basic stuff.” What’s more, she’s just snagged her second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, which she’s studied for 10 years. “It calms me down, and makes me feel good, mentally and physically,” she says.
Her modeling and acting career long predates her martial arts practice, but Foy says that she was just as single-minded at age three, when she started appearing in Guess Kids and Ralph Lauren campaigns. “My mom made a deal with me when I was little: ‘As long as you’re nice, and you clean your room and do your homework, you can [work].’ And I was like, ‘Deal.’”
By 2016, Foy’s focus was on Disney’s adaptation of The Nutcracker, in which she’d been cast as the protagonist Clara. In preparation, she saw the ballet performed at London’s Royal Opera House. “The grace and strength that [the dancers] achieve was mind blowing,” she says. The next day, she was on set alongside the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mother Ginger (played by Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren, respectively). While it stays faithful to aspects of the original, the film also winks to modern culture; American dancer Misty Copeland plays the Ballerina. “That’s the beauty of it,” says Foy. “It’s a story that’s always changing, always evolving, while still keeping its classic heart.”