Not long before he began filming “Sunset Song,” an adaptation of the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the director Terence Davies was told that his leading lady had been a model in a former life.
“I didn’t care,” Mr. Davies recalled recently, his shrug a tacit acknowledgment that models turned actors didn’t generally fare well in the movie trade.
Moments after recounting that conversation to a postscreening crowd at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, he welcomed his ingénue, the former model Agyness Deyn.
Ms. Deyn, who stars as a spunky Scottish farm girl in Mr. Davies’s elegiac period film, bounded to greet him looking raffishly undone, and resolutely modern, in an outsize gray sweatshirt and jeans, her honey-tone hair hanging loosely to her shoulders, no discernible makeup brightening her face.
At 33, she is a very different creature from the coltish, artfully tarted-up young woman who, less than a decade ago, had parlayed her peroxided blond thatch, Dr. Martens, suspenders and neon accessories into a kind of demi-celebrity.
Now with several film roles to her credit (she played Aphrodite in “Clash of the Titans” in 2010 and snared a small part this year in “Hail Caesar!”), she has shed her punkster trappings and, with them, the sedulously cultivated aura of cool that may have stunted her career.
These days, she’s not hiding her ardor. “I feel like I have to bring myself to the fullest to the table,” she said last week, a few days after the screening. She was perched on a park bench outside the Van Leeuwen ice cream shop on East Seventh Street, a neighborhood haunt.
She was sharing the bench with her sister, Emily, a partner in Title A, their fashion line; Etta-Mae, Emily’s cherubic 5-month-old cradled in her lap; and Sweet Pea, her dog, frisking at her feet.
She wasn’t distracted. Ms. Deyn, after all, has been long accustomed to performing, on camera and off. “Even as a model you’re playing a role,” she said. Not that it came naturally.
“When I started, I thought: ‘Who knows what a model is? I don’t,’” she said. “I was pretending to be what I thought a model should be.”
She proved a quick study. “I learned that you’re a blank canvas,” she said. “Everyone projects onto you. They’re trying to create perfection. So you have the pressure of feeling like you have to be perfect. Then it comes out that you don’t want to be perfect.”
The steady pounding of a nearby jackhammer and the low din of passing strangers, some of them shamelessly gawking, didn’t faze her or derail her thoughts. By the time she was 10, said Ms. Deyn, who grew up in Manchester, England, she was used to the gaze of random passers-by. “I was very aware of being a cute little girl,” she said. “I felt it was a lot of responsibility.”
The attention chafed. So one day, she asked to have her long hair sheared into a boyish crop — not unlike the one that would later propel her to cover-girl status. Newly shorn, “I could relax,” she said. “I was relieved at not having to be that cute little girl anymore.”
With that, she leapt to her feet, stopping at a nearby cafe table to greet a cluster of friends before dropping into Trash and Vaudeville, the venerable punk clothing emporium, which had recently migrated from its grittier home on St. Marks Place.
“My sister and I used to shop here,” Ms. Deyn said wistfully as she darted past a wall festooned with leather and chains, making her way familiarly toward a rack of concert T-shirts. She contemplated several, including one that was garishly emblazoned with an image of Mickey Mouse about to spear himself with a syringe.
“I can’t wear that,” she said with a hoot. “They’ll think I’m on the needle.” After pawing idly through the racks, she finally settled on a Sex Pistols shirt stamped with the group’s trademark popcorn box logo.
Back on the street, the late-afternoon sun caught a glint of the Cartier solitaire on Ms. Deyn’s left hand. Turns out that in August she will marry her boyfriend, Joel, a pianist turned hedge fund manager. The wedding will be a low-key local affair.
“I’ve never been one for the fairy-tale, storybook wedding,” Ms. Deyn said.
Still, there will be trimmings, not least a food truck lavishly stocked with Van Leeuwen’s vegan desserts, Ms. Deyn said, exchanging a conspiratorial glance with her sister, who stood at her side.
Her sister flashed a wicked grin. In preparation for the great event, “We’ll be working our way through everything on the menu,” she said.