The Stunning Transformation Of Margaret Qualley

Some might say that fame is in Margaret Qualley's blood. As the youngest daughter of '90s legend and Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell and former model Paul Qualley, she grew up in a household where her love for the arts was nourished. As a child, she gravitated toward dance. She pursued careers as a ballerina and model before coming into her own as an actress.

Entering the acting world was the right move for Qualley. As a star of the screen, she's had the chance to work with some of the industry's most visionary directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, Claire Denis, and Yorgos Lanthimos. She's starred on a Netflix series and scored several Emmy nominations. And given that she currently has multiple projects in the works, there's no doubt that she'll only continue to rack up acclaim and accolades.

Ready to learn more about this legend in the making? Without further ado, let's look back at Qualley's transformation from a tiny tot with a passion for performance into a bona fide A-lister.

Margaret Qualley grew up on a ranch in Montana

Today, Margaret Qualley's a big city girl — but she wasn't always that way. Although her mother's an A-list actress, she and her siblings Justin Qualley and Rainey Qualley spent their early years away from the spotlight, living on a 3,000-acre ranch in Missoula, Montana. According to a 2017 interview with The Standard, the Qualley children were totally isolated from the Hollywood machine — they didn't even have a TV. Believe it or not, they were hardly aware that their mother was a successful actress. "We didn't grow up watching her movies. She made an effort just to be a mom, which I'm grateful for," Qualley said.

After a few years, Qualley's family left Montana in favor of Asheville, North Carolina. When she was 5, her parents separated. She was generally content bouncing back and forth between their houses, although she did have some "Parent Trap" dreams: "I made a point of telling my mom how much I loved the movie — talked about it a lot. And then she started dating Dennis Quaid [who stars in the film]. And I was like, 'Noooo! You got it all wrong! This is not what I meant at all!'"

She trained as a ballerina

In the aforementioned Standard interview, Margaret Qualley discovered her passion for dance as a toddler, when her parents first signed her up for dance lessons. As she grew older, she continued training as a ballerina — partially because she wanted to leave Asheville and knew that getting into a ballet school might be the way to do so. At 14, she got her wish: She was accepted into Winston-Salem's prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. Her experience was more grueling than she expected. "I love the school ... but it's a normal part of the culture of ballet to go to a nutritionist in your first few weeks," she said. "They write down everything you eat and use a little roller that pinches you to measure the fat all over your body. They calculate all your measurements, and then every semester, you get a letter saying either you're too thin or you're okay or you're overweight. You have to adjust accordingly, and if you don't, you're not asked back the next year."

When Qualley was 16, she received an offer for an apprenticeship at the American Ballet Theatre. Eventually, she realized that the program wasn't mentally healthy for her and quit. Immediately after, she had a stint in modeling.

Although dance no longer dominates Qualley's life the way it once did, she still dabbles in it — every now and then, she takes a contemporary class just for fun.

Margaret Qualley made her screen debut in Palo Alto

Margaret Qualley didn't have to audition for her first film role. She scored a part in "Palo Alto," the 2013 debut feature by Gia Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola's granddaughter), just by showing up to set. She was asked to act in the film when she came to set to visit her boyfriend at the time, Nat Wolff. She ended up being a natural.

"Palo Alto" is an indie coming-of-age flick that stars Emma Roberts as a high school soccer player who begins an emotionally fraught affair with her coach, played by James Franco. Qualley played Raquel, another student on Roberts' character's soccer team. Qualley only had a few scenes, but her performance was quietly memorable.

Qualley and her castmates garnered praise for their heartfelt portrayals of teenage drama. W magazine was particularly enamored with the young actors, dubbing Qualley and co-stars Roberts, Wolff, Jack Kilmer, Nathalie Love, and Zoe Levin "the Hollywood class of 2014."

She briefly attended New York University

After giving modeling a fair shake — and appearing in first feature "Palo Alto" — Margaret Qualley decided that she wanted to stick around in New York while figuring out her career plans. Applying to New York University was the perfect solution. The prestigious college, which only let in 8% of its applicants last year, proved a great next step for her. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, the school gave her access to the excitement of the big city as well as the hustle and bustle of the entertainment industry.

In 2014 — after just one semester in undergrad — Qualley booked her first major TV role on HBO's drama series "The Leftovers." She took time off from class to shoot the series, which ended up getting renewed for two more seasons. She never resumed her coursework, committing herself to pursuing a path in acting full time.

Margaret Qualley took on TV with The Leftovers

While "Palo Alto" introduced Margaret Qualley to the indie sphere, it was really "The Leftovers" that turned her into a familiar face. The HBO drama allowed her to show off her acting chops in playing Justin Theroux's daughter, a troubled teen named Jill Garvey. This part didn't come as easily to her — she had to fight to secure the role.

Qualley's audition for "The Leftovers" was her first after getting an agent. She was living in LA at the time. The casting team wasn't quite ready to offer her a part after their preliminary meeting with her: "[M]y initial feedback was that I was too green and that I hadn't worked enough," she told Vs Magazine. Yet there was something about her performance that kept execs interested in her. "They invited me to do chemistry reads in New York, but they had girls who were way more experienced than me," she said. "So they said I could come if I wanted, but I had to fly myself and put myself up, and I was like, 'F*** yeah, I have to do this.' I knew that I could do the part, and I was so connected with the material and so connected with the script. I didn't have a choice."

Qualley left the audition room crying — but ultimately, things worked out in her favor. Shortly afterward, she found out that she had scored the role. Soon, she was back in the Big Apple.

She left an impression with The Nice Guys

After making her TV debut with "The Leftovers," Margaret Qualley returned to movies with a part in the Warner Brothers action comedy "The Nice Guys." The 2016 film, directed by Shane Black, featured Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a private detective and racketeer who must traverse 1970s Los Angeles to find a missing actress. Qualley played Amelia Kuttner, a young activist with a striking resemblance to a porn star.

In an interview with ScreenSlam, Qualley said that she initially tried out for the role via self-tape. When she moved on to in-person auditions, she was surprised to learn that Gosling would be in the room with her. "I was obviously really nervous," she said. Thankfully, he immediately made her feel welcome: "Then, he like, opens the door and is giving me a macaroon."

Qualley was thrilled to share the screen with Gosling and Crowe. Talking to InStyle, she praised both their character and their talent. "I don't know that this will come as a surprise to many people, but Ryan and Russell are both just really giving and kind actors. Plus, they have great comedic chemistry together," she said. "I'm such a big fan of them both that I would stick around to watch the monitor while they were filming, even after I was finished with my work. They were real damn funny."

Margaret Qualley made her first video game appearance in Death Stranding

In 2019, Margaret Qualley expanded her horizons by diving into another medium altogether — video games. The actress lent both her voice and her likeness to the character Mama in the open-world action game "Death Stranding," created by famed developer Hideo Kojima. Qualley wasn't the only big name in the cast — the ensemble featured a number of stars including Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, and Norman Reedus. Directors Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn also made appearances.

"Death Stranding" takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of America where the fabric between the world of the living and the world of the dead has been ruptured. Creatures from the beyond are unleashed into the mortal realm, wreaking societal havoc. Against this backdrop of chaos, the player must attempt to bring the survivors of the tragedy together. The game was a big hit — as of 2022, it had reached an audience of over 10 million.

She went back to her dance roots with Fosse/Verdon

In 2019, Margaret Qualley struck gold again with a role that allowed her to put on her dancing shoes once more. As a cast member on FX's "Fosse/Verdon," she had the opportunity to show off her years of dance training on the small screen. As its title suggests, the show followed the personal and professional lives of famed dancers Bob Fosse and Anne Verdon, as portrayed by Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams. Qualley played Anne Reinking, a choreographer who was involved with Fosse romantically as well as creatively.

In an interview with IndieWire, Qualley said she had idolized Reinking long before she was in consideration to play her. "I really did watch her [on video] in the back of a minivan on my way to dance countless times," she said. Naturally, she felt a lot of pressure in taking on the role: "I was really nervous because I wanted to do right by her. I looked up to her for so long."

Thankfully, Reinking herself was able to allay some of Qualley's nerves by speaking to her on the phone. After answering some character-related questions, she offered Qualley some advice. "She was so sweet," Qualley said. "[S]he was like, 'You've got this, all you have to do is be honest. And call me anytime that you have any questions ... or if you just want a pep talk." Qualley did her proud, earning her first Emmy nomination for the role.

Margaret Qualley played a Manson girl in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

In 2019, Margaret Qualley worked with one of cinema's biggest contemporary auteurs — Quentin Tarantino. She played a member of Charles Manson's cult in Tarantino's epic "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," which takes the viewer on a wild ride through 1969 Los Angeles.

Qualley was determined to portray the mentality of a Manson girl accurately. Tarantino was more than ready to help her out. According to IndieWire, he recommended her a bevy of documentaries about the Manson family, some of them so obscure they were only available on DVD. Immersed in her research, she was able to gain a new understanding of Manson's young female victims. "I guess I was just kind of hugely surprised by the way in which these child-like, loving people were so corrupted and brainwashed," she said.

Tarantino was massively helpful in guiding Qualley toward the best performance possible. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Qualley praised his supportive, understanding nature. "Quentin came up to me after a take and was like, 'Did you mean to make a noise? Maybe I'm wrong, but I had this impulse that you wanted to do something, but you didn't quite do it.' And I did mean to, but I was kind of scared to take up space ... He was like, 'Well, do it on the next take if you want ... If you have the impulse to do something, then just listen to yourself."

She scored another Emmy nomination for Maid

After working with one of her favorite directors, Margaret Qualley had the opportunity to collaborate with another legend — her mom, Andie MacDowell. In the Netflix series "Maid" — based on Stephanie Land's memoir of the same name, about a young woman who cleans houses in order to take care of her daughter — MacDowell played a supporting role as the mother of Qualley's character. 

In a 2021 interview with Elle, Qualley said that it was easy to work alongside MacDowell: "I just felt so lucky to have her there 'cause she's such an incredible actor. Having the opportunity to share a scene with her was surreal and exciting, and I was honored that she said yes to doing the part."

It was harder for Qualley to build a rapport with her on-screen daughter, played by Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, who was just 4 years old at the time of shooting. "That seemed like the biggest hurdle to get over," Qualley told Elle. "When you're talking to an actor, you can map out, like, "Alright, this is what our relationship's gonna be like, and we agree upon this, so I'll hug you like this, you'll do this, everything's great, cool. But with a 4-year-old, you have to earn that, and so I had to spend a lot of time with her to make it so that she felt safe and cozy in my arms." Qualley's effort paid off — she was once again nominated for an Emmy.

Margaret Qualley married producer Jack Antonoff

As a booked and busy actress, Margaret Qualley has been able to play out all kinds of romances on-screen. She finally found her own happy ending when she met Jack Antonoff, a Grammy-winning musician and producer who has worked with legends like Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde.

Qualley and Antonoff first sparked dating rumors in 2021, when they were spotted kissing while going for a leisurely summer stroll in Brooklyn. Shortly after meeting Antonoff, Qualley knew she could see a future with him, according to a 2023 profile in Harper's Bazaar. When she had an opportunity to don a bridal gown for the Fall 2021 Chanel couture show, she texted him lots of photos of herself in the outfit, sending a not-so-subtle message. And when the two visited a friend who had just had a newborn, she was eager to scoop up the baby, showing off her nurturing side. Reminiscing about their relationship, she could barely contain her joy: "I am so happy that I found my person. And it's real. It's amazing. It's the best feeling in the world. I'm so excited and so at ease all at once."

Qualley and Antonoff wed in August 2023. The ceremony took place at a restaurant in Beach Haven, New Jersey — a sentimental childhood locale for Antonoff. Fittingly, Qualley wore a Chanel dress.

She developed a friendship with Lana Del Rey

Of all Jack Antonoff's collaborators, Margaret Qualley seems to be closest with Lana Del Rey, who began a creative partnership with Antonoff when he produced her critically acclaimed album "Norman F***ing Rockwell!" in 2019. For evidence of their friendship, look no further than Del Rey's latest (Antonoff-helmed) album, "Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard."

Track 13 on "Did You Know" is a touching tribute to Qualley, simply titled "Margaret." The lyrics tell the story of Antonoff and Qualley's relationship, concluding with a nod toward their upcoming wedding. In a conversation with Billie Eilish for Interview, Del Rey shared that it was the last song she wrote for the album. "It's ... called 'Margaret,' about Jack Antonoff's fiancée. I was like, 'You know what? I want to write a song for him.'" Qualley shared her own feelings about the ode in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I love that song so much," she said. "It makes me feel like I'm living in a dream. She's my favorite poet. I adore her."

Qualley's vocals also appear on the album — sort of. She has a brief speaking part on "Taco Truck x VB," the LP's concluding track.

Margaret Qualley executive produced and starred in Sanctuary

In 2023, Margaret Qualley starred in "Sanctuary," a captivating flick she described as an "odd take on a rom-com" in a conversation with IndieWire. The project was special for several reasons. For one, she got to step into the executive producer role for the first time. On top of that, she finally got to work with Christopher Abbott (of "Girls" fame) — something she had been hoping to do for a while. Abbott was just as thrilled about the collaboration. "There were a few jobs we had almost done together, but I'm glad this is the one that we got to do, because we had so much to do together," he said.

Given that they were portraying a convoluted relationship between a sex worker and her client, it was important that Qualley and Abbott have great chemistry. It makes sense, then, that Qualley gushed about Abbott's professionalism in their IndieWire interview. "My job was so easy, because basically all I had to do was watch him and listen to him, and I learned my lines really well and I would just say them according to how he said his last one," Qualley said. "He's just so fabulous, and it made the whole thing really enjoyable for me because I never knew what he was going to do."

What will Qualley herself do next? That's anyone's guess — but given her enthusiasm, poise, and unique combination of talents, we can bet it'll be something exciting.