Jack Reynor can still remember the first movie he fell in love with. “I definitely shouldn’t have watched Die Hard when I was six, but I did,” he recalls. “And it just was lasered into my brain. I grew up in Ireland and was kind of mystified by film. My earliest memories are entwined with the culture of film. I loved watching movies from the youngest memories.” Not dissimilarly, Reynor’s latest film, Midsommar, is not one you’re soon to forget.
To hear Reynor explain it, ever since he started diving into the world of cinema, that was it. Upon graduating from school, he immediately pursued acting as a career, immediately landing roles, first in a Hallmark Christmas film that happened to be filming in Ireland—”It was called Chasing Leprechauns,” he notes. “I didn’t play a leprechaun.”—and Kirsten Sheriden’s experimental and unscripted feature Dollhouse. If he wasn’t already totally hooked before, this sealed the deal. Soon after he landed the lead in Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did, and after success of that role at the Toronto Film Festival, headed to Los Angeles where he scored a starring role in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the Transformers franchise.
“It was mad,” he recounts. “Doing a franchise film like Transformers, no critic is ever going to critique it well, but it was the highest grossing film of the year. And for me, I always wanted to be an actor more than I wanted to be a movie star. Coming out of it, I hadn’t felt like there was a huge amount of room to put in the performance that I wanted to perform. It was only later that I realized that you don’t put out that kind of film for that reason. But the result of having done it was I was now a viable option for smaller studios or mid-level features.”
Since Transformers, Reynor has appeared in new indie cult classics Glassland and Sing Street, and next week, will add another sure-to-be future fan favorite to his resume with a starring role in Midsommar, Ari Aster’s follow-up to last year’s horror hit Hereditary.
If you thought Hereditary was bone-chillingly scary (because, well, it was), Midsommar will shake you in a different, more visceral experience—though no less chilling. Without spoiling too much, the film follows a group of college friends who travel to Sweden for a unique local festival that only occurs 90 years. Things get weird quickly.
“I got the script and a package of Ari’s short films,” Reynor says. “I thought the script was unlike any conventional slasher movie or Eli Roth thing. It’s not gory for the sense of being gory, or shock porn. I recognized that there was something much deeper going on. It’s so ambitious, and such a big film. Even though he was very clear about his vision and how he was going to achieve it technically, it still felt like, ‘Okay, but how are we going to make this work?’ And that’s exciting.”
In the film, Reynor plays Christian, the boyfriend of Dani who has recently suffered a giant personal tragedy in her family and acts as the centerpiece to the film. When Reynor signed on, the role of Dani, which eventually went to Florence Pugh, had yet to be filled. ”I was really strongly advocating for Florence,” he says. “I had previously met her, but only briefly. We had been in touch on Twitter a few years ago when Lady Macbeth came out, and we both had wanted to work together and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to work together.”
The cast, which also includes Will Poulter, The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper, and Vilhelm Blomgren, filmed over the summer last year in Budapest, Hungary, for what Reynor describes as an “intense” shoot. “The film is so technical, which you can see from watching it; even the design of the cinematography,” he says. “But I certainly was aware that we were making something special, and whether or not it was well-received or made a lot of money, it was going to genuinely be a piece of art.”
Reynor’s hardest scene comes at the film’s climax: a sex scene involving full frontal nudity and a strange mating ritual. “I felt naturally incredibly vulnerable doing it,” he says. “It’s a difficult mental space to occupy because—without giving away too much—he’s heavily under the influence of psychedelic drugs and he feels that he’s in a very hostile environment. It was a tough place to go to. And it was a good fifteen hours. On the last day.”
Despite wrapping in October, Reynor and the rest of his cast-mates only saw the final product about ten days ago at a private screening in New York. “I expected it to be heavy, but I’ve never had the experience of watching a movie with the cast and the credits rolling and nobody talking,” he said. “It was just silence and heavy breathing.” Immediately, he notes, he has no plans to rewatch the film anytime soon—it’s a general rule, he explains, that he lives by when it comes to movie viewing.
To this day, Reynor remains as steadfast a cinema fan as he was as a little kid back in Ireland—so much so, that he recently launched an Instagram account, @jrcinemania, to talk about the films he’s been watching recently (on average, when he’s not working, Reynor will watch up to fifteen movies a week). “It’s not critiquing—I can’t be a critic and be in this industry,” he says. “I write positively about films that I like and what I like about those films. I’m not going to bash anyone.”
It does beg the question: has he been reading the Midsommar reviews? “I have,” he says. “It’s divisive in a really interesting way. I’m very interested in the conversations that people are having it. I’ve never been in a film that was almost unanimously agreed upon that it was a good film, but that the reactions to the film were so polarized.”