Hello, Sophie: Bette Midler’s Daughter Is Ready for Her Close-Up

Vanity Fair
Hello, Sophie: Bette Midler’s Daughter Is Ready for Her Close-Up
MAY 18, 2017 8:00 AM




When you’re a buddng actress following in the footsteps of your Emmy, Grammy, and Golden Globe award-winning mother, there’s an added pressure to deliver. But for Sophie von Haselberg (whose mom happens to be Bette Midler), that pressure was alleviated by years of avoiding the industry all together. In an attempt to shake the acting bug, the 30-year-old New York native studied sociology and East Asian studies at Yale University. She even gave publishing a spin, and interned at Vanity Fair the summer before her senior year—but there was no escaping the irresistible pull of Hollywood.

“I tried my hardest to avoid show business,” she stresses, laughing. “I even moved to China and worked at an advertising agency.” But after running away to Shanghai, where no one knew who she was, von Haselberg finally succumbed to her destiny.

“I grew up performing,” she says, crossing her arms and smiling—the spitting image of her mother. “And then I went to college and decided I was going to be really serious about not being an actor. So I studied other things.” She pauses, eyes twinkling. “But it was just never gonna stick, now was it?”

Navigating her way through a unique set of circumstances, von Haselberg had to come to terms with the inevitable fact of her parentage. “I wanted to carve my own path!” she says loudly, dramatically feigning her own long-gone teenage angst. “I never wanted to be compared to [my mom], but I’ve since accepted it as something completely unavoidable.”

Once von Haselberg admitted she was serious about pursuing a career in film, she dove head first into training. After what she calls “a very quick adjustment period” for her parents—who thought she might become a sociologist or a philosophy professor—von Haselberg returned to Yale, where she studied acting at the School of Drama with the full support of both her father, artist Martin von Haselberg, and Midler. Upon graduating, she teamed up with director Nicole Delaney (a Columbia film grad) to produce YOYO, a post-apocalyptic short that premiered during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The pair met as production assistants on the set of Sex and the City 2 and became fast friends. (“Michael Patrick King,” von Haselberg says fondly, “just bringing people together!”)

Written and directed by Delaney and starring von Haselberg, YOYO (You’re Only Young Once) follows a young woman determined to lose her virginity despite being the only person to survive a dust storm that has wiped out all of humanity. “My character is completely alone in the world, but she refuses to stop living,” von Haselberg says. “I’m so interested in the human spirit.”

“We set out to make a comedy and it ended up being much darker than we had anticipated,” she explains. “But I think there’s still humor in her situation. There’s always room for laughter”—even in today’s political climate.

Since wrapping her short in September of 2015, von Haselberg has kept busy. On May 20, she will appear opposite Robert De Niro in HBO’s Bernie Madoff biopic, The Wizard of Lies. De Niro plays Madoff; von Haselberg plays his lawyer, Nicole De Bello, whom she describes as “the bearer of bad news.” In keeping with her unintentional “lady boss” theme, von Haselberg also transforms into the chief of staff to the governor of Ohio for the fifth season of House of Cards, premiering on Netflix this month.

“I just want to act as much as possible,” she gushes. “Coach, put me in!”

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