In person, Whishaw exhibits little of Sebastian’s lilting voice and fey mannerisms. And though expansive about his characters, he remains tight-lipped about himself. Only reluctantly does he divulge that he has a twin brother (fraternal), that his mother sells cosmetics in a department store and that his father “does something to do with computers.” Whishaw began performing in a local youth theater troupe before landing a coveted spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the career-sparking role of Hamlet. But talk-show appearances and life as a celebrity leave him cold. “I find it weird that people want to know about you,” he says.
These days he’s busy filming Bright Star in London and Hertfordshire, not far from where he grew up. Playing the frail genius Keats “has blown my mind,” he says. “His poetry has been a revelation.” Working with Campion has likewise altered him: “She always tells me, ‘Let the divine come into you,’ which is what Keats did.” Could it be that Whishaw is channeling the Brooding Romantic within? “When I play these parts, they’re not me,” he says. “I’m not tortured and neurasthenic—I’m really not.”