If you’re looking for a truly immersive summer movie experience, nothing fits the bill quite like seeing Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new historical drama, in an IMAX theater—just ask the film’s star, 27-year-old Scottish actor Jack Lowden. “In Imax, it’s an experience,” says Lowden. “It’s like a ride. It’s insane.”
With great emphasis and enthusiasm in his review, it’s clear that Lowden is speaking not just as an actor doing his dutiful promo, but as a true fan of the movie. “I am such a fan of [Nolan’s] films,” Lowden adds. “If I hadn’t been in this, I would have gone to see it.”
Starring in the war epic is a breakout moment for the on-the-rise actor, as well as far cry from his initial intended career: professional ballet dancer.
Growing up in Scotland, Lowden’s older brother Callum went on to study at the English National Ballet School; naturally, as little brothers are wont to do, Lowden wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps. “I came along and wasn’t very good and was gradually pushed along towards the narrating parts,” Lowden recalls. “I ended up talking when I should have been dancing.”
It was then that Lowden decided to give acting a chance, focusing on theater in his first few years, including a lead role in the touring production of "Black Watch." Following the tour, Lowden moved to London, found an agent, and proceeded to book jobs in films such as the 2016 BBC mini-series War & Peace, co-starring Lily James, which Lowden calls his “first big, big job,” and the Rachel Weisz-led drama Denial.
But it’s with Dunkirk that Lowden is striking big in the U.S., starring as Collins, a Royal Air Force pilot during the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. Despite the major caliber of the project, Lowden describes the process of getting the job “regular.”
“We all auditioned,” he says. “All you knew was it was Christopher Nolan and it was about Dunkirk. But no one saw a script. We went in in different groups of people. Even when we got offered the job, we really didn’t know what we were doing.”
The movie centers around three different perspectives of the evacuation, with Lowden sharing most of his storyline with Tom Hardy, however the two never share the screen together as they navigate different cockpits. “ It was a very strange experience,” Lowden says. “A lot of it was on my own, as well. It was actually fun. It’s like shooting your own little short film.”
Albeit, a short film that happens to be directed by one of the most famous directors in the world. “It was daunting because of how big of a fan I am,” Lowden says of working with Nolan. “He’s a lovely bloke. He shoots very, very quickly. He’s like the ultimate boss, as well. It was a strangely intimate experience shooting with him. He stands so close—he’s not away in a tent shouting stuff; he’s right there. But he’s very delicate and respectful of all of the actors, and he very much gives you your space. He’s not a control freak when it comes to that. He picks the right people for the right parts, and he just lets you do them.”
One of those people, as you may have heard, is Harry Styles, the former One Direction member-turned-solo artist. “Harry’s great. Of course I knew who he was,” says Lowden. “When he walked into the audition, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s Harry.’ I actually auditioned with him. He is really good [in the film]. He is 23, but he has a lot of confidence. I think that’s what Chris saw, and he honestly really, really wouldn’t have put him in the film [otherwise]. And when you see the film, it’s not like he sticks out like a sore thumb. The whole film is an ensemble film, and he’s very much part of the ensemble. He doesn’t look like a rookie.”
Lowden himself will take on a leading male musician—though one a bit more morose, and not so keen on flashy Gucci ensembles—with is next role, starring as Morrissey in the biopic England Is Mine, opening in the U.K. next month. “It’s a portrait of an incredibly shy man,” says Lowden. “He is fascinating. I didn’t grow up listening to the Smiths, but now I am a fan. I love his music and listened to so much of it for the film. It's not a regular biopic; they picked a part of his life that people don’t really know about. You learn what informs his lyrics.”
The film will also see Lowden take on the musical aspect, doing all of his own singing. “That was easily the most fun,” he says. “Because it was a portrait of him and not a direct copy, there was so much to play with, so I didn’t feel any pressure. If I’d played him from The Smiths onwards, I would have felt more pressure.”
From there, Lowden will play an aspiring professional wrestler in Stephan Merchant’s upcoming film Fighting With My Family, due out early next year, and starting in just a few short weeks, begins filming Mary Queen of Scots, in which he’ll play Lord Darnley opposite Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.
“It’s been nuts,” Lowden says of his schedule—not that he’s complaining. "I hate chilling. I hate even the notion of chilling. I like doing stuff. Since I was 21, I have not been able to sleep past 9 a.m.; I just want to get up and do something. It’s an inherent feeling of guilt, like ‘You can’t just sit on your arse.’”
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