The latest movie by Christopher Nolan features stars like Tom
Hardy, Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy — but when
you leave the theater after watching “Dunkirk” (opens July 21),
one of the performances you’ll likely remember most will be the
acting debut of pop star Harry Styles.
Formerly part of One Direction, Styles has branched off into
being one of the biggest solo performers in the world, and now
he’s showing he has acting chops as well.
“Dunkirk” is an intimately told look at the Allied evacuation of
the beaches of Dunkirk, France during World War II. Told in three
parts — soldiers on the beach, British pilots fighting off German
bombers in the sky, and civilian boats on the water en route to
Dunkirk to help with the evacuation — Nolan explores the journey
of a handful of men involved in all three instances.
Styles plays Alex, one of the soldiers trying to get off the
beach, and it’s not easy. Escaping out of sinking destroyers and
avoiding being shot at by oncoming Germans soldiers on foot
advancing towards the beach, Styles delivers a riveting
performance. And for a movie limited with dialogue, he gets a
large part of the lines that are spoken.
Nolan is no stranger to doing unique casting. He cast Robin
Williams in one of the actor’s rare turns as a bad guy in 2002’s
“Insomnia,” had David Bowie play Nikola Tesla in 2006’s “The
Prestige,” and then there was the shocking choice of choosing
Heath Ledger to play The Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” which
went on to earn Ledger a posthumous Oscar win for best supporting
Nolan sees similarities to those castings and going with Styles.
“Ever since I cast Heath Ledger as The Joker and raised all kinds
of eyebrows, I’ve recognized that this is my responsibility and I
really have to spot the potential in somebody who hasn’t done a
particular thing before,” Nolan told
Business Insider. “Because whether you’re taking about Harry
Styles or Mark Rylance you don’t really want to cast them in a
position where they are doing something they’ve already done. You
want to give the audience something different. So you’re looking
at their talent and how that can be used.”
And there was little preference given to Styles in the casting
process (though Nolan has admitted he wasn’t aware how
famous Styles really is).
“The truth is, Harry auditioned for our casting director, he sent
the tape along. The casting director rightly pointed out how good
it was. We threw him into the mix with many, many other young men
and he earned his seat at the table over a series of very
hard-fought auditions,” Nolan said.
Styles definitely holds his own on screen, proving he can move us
with his dramatic acting as much as his comedy, which he showed
off earlier this year on “Saturday Night Live.”
Nolan can’t wait for audiences to see this side of Styles.
“I’m very excited for people to see what he has done in the
film,” Nolan said. “I think it’s truthful and it’s a very tough
role he’s playing, too.”
Watch Styles in the “Dunkirk” trailer below: