Poots: ‘Cups’ work adds to craft

10 Actors to Watch 2012: Imogen Poots

Imogen Poots had barely landed in Los Angeles last June when she got a call to meet Terrence Malick about the director’s next shrouded-in-secrecy film, “Knight of Cups.”

While the actress was feeling “discombobulated” from the long flight from her native London, she wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity, so she rallied.

And the frosting on the cake? It just happened to be Poots’ 23rd birthday.

“It was just him and I talking about life and this film over dinner at his house,” she marvels. “I sat there like, ‘This is the best birthday gift ever.’ It was one of those peculiar but memorable moments of life.”

She better get used to them. Acting professionally since her teens — her first film was “V for Vendetta” — Poots has a slew of pedigreed projects on tap that should finally allow her to break out in the States. There’s Malick’s film, which she doesn’t even attempt to describe: “To be completely candid, I don’t think anyone involved really has a solid idea as to what they were making. He really does discover it as he goes.”

She also appears as Linda Keith in the forthcoming Jimi Hendrix biopic “All Is By My Side,” and co-stars with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “A Late Quartet,” for which she trained “pretty hardcore” to convincingly play a violin virtuoso.

But it’s “Greetings From Tim Buckley” that the music lover, who plays Jeff Buckley’s performance-artist girlfriend, calls “one of, if not the most important films I’ve ever worked on, in terms of how close it is to me and how emotional I felt watching it back.”

The daughter of a documentary producer, Poots nearly left acting to attend art school in London. But when film roles — from “28 Weeks Later” to 2011’s “Jane Eyre” — kept pouring in, she realized she owed it to herself to see how far she could rise.

“It was a difficult decision,” admits Poots, who’s currently filming “A Long Way Down,” based on the Nick Hornby novel. “But you really have to enjoy life when it’s good, and that’s what I’ve chosen to do at the moment.”

Lucky break: “28 Weeks Later.” “I was 17, and it was a great time in my life. The director (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) took a chance on me, and people don’t do that too often.”

Favorite film: “Right now in my life “Running on Empty” is pretty special. It intertwines an important time in American history with a compelling love story. Also, like every girl in the universe, I’m an epic River Phoenix fan.”

Career I’d like to emulate: “I really admire Amy Adams, and Michelle Williams is obviously doing incredible work right now. They make incredible choices and shake it up, too.”