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The Riddle of Riley Keough

“Zola,” based on a notorious Twitter thread, is about people who use social media as an advertisement, but Keough prefers using it to puncture her own celebrity: Though she has starred in a few films for the hot studio A24, Keough hopped on her Instagram last year to breezily rattle off all the A24 movies she failed to book, including “Uncut Gems,” “Spring Breakers” and “The Spectacular Now.”

Directors of those films messaged Keough to offer apologies, but the rejections hadn’t bothered her much to begin with. “I don’t care if I fail,” she said. “I have this attitude of, ‘Well, then I’ll just do better.’” And besides, there were bigger quandaries to spend that energy on.

“I’ve lived my whole life in a sort of existential crisis,” she told me matter-of-factly, tucking strands of auburn hair behind her ear. “The minute I got to Earth, I was like, ‘What am I doing here? Why is everyone just acting like this is normal?’”

Of course, Keough’s childhood was far from ordinary: When she was about 5, her mother Lisa Marie Presley split from her musician father, Danny Keough, and married Michael Jackson. One parent provided access to moneyed fortresses like Graceland and Neverland, while the other lived more modestly, in trailer parks with mattresses on the floor.

Keough had no qualms about visiting her father; once, she even told him, “When I grow up, I want to be poor like you.” She hadn’t known then how offensive her remark was, but that bifurcated childhood with her brother, Benjamin, would come in handy in her 20s, when Keough pursued work as an actress: She had amassed enough authenticity to play regular people as well as enough privilege to live her life without much worry.

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