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Interview: Nicholas Galitzine in "Handsome Devil"

An abridged version of this interview was previously published at Towleroad

Nicholas Galitzine is a star on the rugby field in "Handsome Devil"

by Nathaniel R

The third time is the charm. Just three years and three films into his acting career, Nicholas Galitzine has what looks like a breakout role. John Butler's Irish dramedy Handsome Devil centers around the unlikely friendship of a new student Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and the star athlete Conor (Galitzine) at a rugby-mad boarding school. Their friendship is encouraged by their teacher Mr Sherry (played by the fine Irish actor Andrew Scott of Pride and Sherlock fame) but the rugby team isn’t wild about it. Conor is a wonderful showcase for Galitzine’s talent, and in more ways than one. The role also allows the actor to use what he calls his "separate passion,” music.

Screen International named Galitzine one of their “Stars of Tomorrow” in 2015 as part of their annual feature promoting the UK’s most promising actors. Their prediction is looking sound. Galitzine, for his part, isn't taking it for granted. He appears both eager to test his range and grateful for his opportunities. He calls acting "the best job in the world" and admits that "I've been very lucky so far".

Our interview follows after the jump...

Fionn O'Shea and Galitzine as Ned and Conor

NATHANIEL: Handsome Devil was really good. One of the key themes is finding your own voice. Andrew Scott has that great line  “You spend your whole life being somebody else, who’s gonna be you?” Do you relate to that search to discover who you really are?

NICHOLAS GALATZINE: It’s a universal theme that a lot of young people identify with. It’s really difficult to stay away from all of those voices and similarities in the mainstream. You grow up kind of wanting to be like someone else and you try and recreate that. It leads to you being an inauthentic person in some ways. It’s not just if you’re a musician or an artist, It’s an issue of identity and being true to yourself. I think everyone is part of a school clique in high school or wherever — maybe you get roped into a way of thinking.

In the film there’s something kind of tragic about this weird vicious cycle of machismo that all these boys buy into. They don’t really know why they do it. Hopefully Handsome Devil will shed a light on that and help young people realize it’s more than okay to be different. It’s actually pretty fucking cool.

The film hasn’t really been advertisingly itself as a gay film, so I was surprised by the story when I saw it at TIFF last fall. You’ve been promoting the film. Have you learned a lot about LGBT issues and discussed it a lot at Q&As by this point?

It’s a huge theme in the film so people ask about it a lot. Just before we filmed this the referendum came out in Ireland that they were going to give gay people the right to marry. That was a huge thing in that country. It is really lovely to see how passionate members of the gay community are and how much this means to them . We had a mother at the last screening. She was saying ‘I have a gay daughter and this really touched me in a big way because it’s all about being true to who you are.’ I hope that there are other other gay and LGBTQ teens who see this and feel compelled to speak out and be true to themselves.

I come from a very multicultural background. Being a Londoner you kind of grow up with every type of person around you so you’re more kind of comfortable with anything. But maybe people from other communities…

There’s a large music element to Handsome Devil and you sing and play guitar beautifully offscreen, too, on your Instagram account!  

Thank you. 


BOARD GAMES 🎲 (original)

A post shared by Nicholas Galitzine (@nicholasgalitzine) on May 25, 2017 at 12:03pm PDT


Does that mean you’re popular on set, people making you pick up the guitar between setups? 

GALATZINE: [Laughter] There’s a little bit of that, a little bit of jamming that we did on set. And a little bit of rugby playing as well! I was going to be a rugby player as a career. But every time I picked up a ball I had the producers shouting at me because I was going to get injured in some way or another. But it’s actually funny because we were supposed to do this shot [with a high speed camera tractor]. We did this rehearsal and I knew this move wasn’t going to work. They almost ended up breaking my legs and running me over. The producers won’t be happy with me telling that story but it’s funny looking back on it now because they wouldn’t let me even touch a ball but they’d almost run me over.  The irony is oh so sweet.

Galitzine also played a musician in his debut "The Beat Beneath My Feet"You've been a musician of sorts in all of your roles to date. Do you think you were hired for those reasons since these were your first roles? 

NICK: It was kind of coincidence how it happened to be honest. I started music just before I did acting. I wasn’t extremely proficient in it — I  didn’t actually play the violin in High Strung (2016), I fake played it. They gave me two weeks to be a violin virtuoso and I wasn’t cutting it. But I think it maybe gave me an edge because as an actor the more you’re capable of doing, the more people are going to hire you for that role. If I’m not an expert in martial arts, people aren’t going to higher me to do a kung fu film necessarily.

At the core of it, every film I’ve done has been about interesting characters. The music has been a side thing. It’s nice to be able to combine my passions. Now, more than before, I’m kind of moving away from that and showing more strings to my bow, pardon the pun.

You just worked with Andrew Scott who is such a great great actor and I know you've already filmed a remake of The Watcher in the Woods with Anjelica Huston and a thriller with Melanie Lynskey and Timothy Spall. I hope you're being a sponge and stealing everything you can! 

One of the most rewarding experiences about Handsome Devil was getting to work with Andrew Scott. He is one of the best actors of his generation. He has this quality that is just incredibly compelling. I was exactly like a sponge and probably harassing him! Anjelica Huston, Melanie Lynskey, Timothy Spall ... if you’re not being a sponge at this stage in your career you’re arrogant and don’t deserve the opportunity you’re given! Acting, like any craft, you keep learning and you keep building on what you already know. 

What kind of roles would you really love to play next?

I really just want to play multi-faceted characters. There’s a darkness inside me that makes me want to play a psychopath or something like that. Tom Hardy did it so well in Bronson, playing an unhinged character. That’s something that — It’s kind of getting past the way people might look at my face to convince on the character side.

About that face. Obviously you're leading man attractive. Do you think you’ve lost jobs because you’re too pretty?

Galitzine in High Strung (2016)

GALITZINE: I don’t view myself in that way but I notice it’s the way I’m perceived. The second film I did [High Strung] was down to an aesthetic that was appealing to teenager girls. I think a lot of actors go through this: You look a certain way — the genes that your mum and your dad gave you — and there’s a character which you know you could bring 100%, the audition has gone really well, but at the end of the day it comes down to aesthetics.  Some times they want someone with a different shaped nose or whatever — they have a very specific image in mind.

That’s something you have to take with a pinch of salt as an actor and just keep on throwing yourself into the mix time and time again. If you keep throwing stuff against the wall, one day it’s going to stick. That’s been my philosophy so far. 

Thank you so much for the chat. It's funny, you know, Conor is so quiet and withdrawn and you appear to be the opposite!

 It’s interesting that the film is about identity and what is real identity and what is persona. Is there a persona that Conor puts out there? The line is always blurred to a certain degree.

HANDSOME DEVIL is now playing in limited release and On Demand.

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Reader Comments (5)

Thought about seeing this and the article convinced me. :) Great performances all around with Andrew Scott following up his wonderful Pride performance with another soulful turn here. Especially loved the ending theme where... well, I shouldn't spoil it but I love the impact of personal growth for each character individually.

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