Douglas Booth: O Romeo!

He has always been a heartthrob. Now Booth gets to prove he can act too.

Photography by Anthony Maule Styled by Patrick Mackie

When the popular BBC adaptation of Great Expectations debuted in the United Kingdom in 2011, many characters were spilled on Twitter over the casting of the miniseries’ comely breakout star, Douglas Booth. The online commentariat alternated between an all-caps swoon (he is beautiful) and complaints that he was simply too handsome for the role of Pip, the working-class orphan. By now, Booth, 21, has accepted that his looks threaten to hijack any conversation about his talent. But, if anything, it’s been useful training. In October he arrives in U.S. theaters as the lead in Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’s film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The last person to play the Star-Crossed Lover on the big screen was Leonardo DiCaprio, who parlayed teen idolhood into megastardom. “At the beginning of his career, DiCaprio went, ‘My looks aren’t the most important thing,’ ” Booth says. “ ‘I’m going to work with some really good filmmakers, and I’ll see you all in a couple of years.’ ” It’s a strategy that Booth has already put into action. In addition to the Shakespearean drama, he has wrapped a sci-fi blockbuster with Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) and an epic retelling of Noah’s Ark with Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan). “I’m definitely interested in taking on roles where I don’t look like myself,” Booth asserts. “But I’m not saying I’m going to go out of my way to play a disabled person in order to win an Oscar. There’s no grand plan, only what interests me right now.”