You didn’t forget about Joe Alwyn, did you? Yeah, we’re pretty sure you did. Well, get ready for a surprise as the 27-year-old Brit is set to appear in three highly anticipated releases over the next two months with roles in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased” and Josie Rourke’s “Mary Queen of Scots.” And if you’re so inclined you may be aware he’s currently dating none other than Taylor Swift which, well…sure. What’s most remarkable about Alwyn’s year is what a comeback it’s turning into after the disappointing response to his big screen debut, 2016’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
READ MORE: Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” is deeply hilarious and fabulously entertaining [Review]
Frankly, Ang Lee’s 4K HD experiment did no one any favors, but Alwyn’s upcoming slate (he also appeared in August’s “Operation Finale”) demonstrates what an unexpected chameleon he is an actor. In fact, you might not recognize Alwyn as the same actor in all three roles.
“I take that as a compliment, definitely,” Alwyn says during an interview last weekend. “I mean, you wanna try and sign different kinda parts and different kinda projects and be different people. It’s a good thing, I think.”
The only intriguing connective string in Alwyn’s upcoming work is that he’s playing two notable figures in the history of the Royal Court in two of the features. In “The Favourite” he portrays Samuel Masham and in “Mary Queen of Scots” he’s playing Robert Dudley. The North London native prefaces that it wasn’t a conscious decision to seek these type of period roles out.
“‘Mary Queen of Scots’ [can’t be] more different from ‘The Favourite’ in some respects,” Alwyn says. “Both from the kind of the rehearsal period to shooting it. Yorgos and Josie are completely different directors in terms of attacking that kind of material and Yorgos is obviously, well, I mean as was evident from the script, it was incredibly refreshing and unconventional in terms of period film. Whereas ‘Mary’ is more straitlaced in a way, I suppose.”
For Lanthimos’ critically acclaimed dramatic comedy, Alwyn describes Masham as an equerry who has a fair degree of rank (an equeery is an officer who assists the Royal Household). He elaborates, “He spots Emma’s character pretty early on and falls head over heels for her. And throughout the film we have this cat and mouse game between the two of them where he is wanting to catch her and she similarly wants to use him to climb rank.”
The Emma in question is Emma Stone who portrays Abigail Hill, a young woman of noble blood whose family has lost their fortune. While Alwyn’s Masham has fallen for her, Abigail is using her charms to work her way into the favor of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). This starts a devilishly petty (and quite funny) game of favor between Abigail and Queen Anne’s current favorite, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). Masham, meanwhile, is naively unaware of how he’s become a pawn in the proceedings as he continues to take advice from the politically savvy Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult).
Alwyn says he would love to work with Lanthimos again praising him for his off-kilter direction and singular vision. Best known for “The Lobster,” Lanthimos puts Alwyn at the center of some of the film’s more memorable scenes including a dance number with Weisz that becomes intentionally more contemporary (or we assume so) and a “love chase” in the forest with Stone where the roughhousing comically crosses the line. The actor was quite aware that it was a bit over the top and absurd but also knew what hew as getting into when Lanthimos sent him specific references of comedic legends Buster Keaton and Jack Lemmon to study.
“I think he wanted us to go and completely jump in and go for it,” Alwyn says of the chase scenes. “I mean, we tried to choreograph it in the weeks leading up to it, but we didn’t know the location until the day so it kind of had to be re-figured once we got there. It is what it looks like, which was a lot of jumping around and rolling on the floor and pretending to be a rugby player. But it was so much fun. I love how lots of his stuff is very physical, it’s quite freeing in that way. You don’t have to think about it too much. And it’s quite big and that helps.”
For “Boy Erased,” Alwyn plays Henry, a college running buddy of Jared (Lucas Hedges), the “boy” in question. It’s a small, but key role in understanding the trauma Jared endured and why in the context of the film he’d even consider attending gay conversion therapy sessions. Like “The Favourite,” Alwyn read the script and loved it, but most of the parts were taken. He recalls, “I thought it was such a good script and such an important story. And I just wanted to be involved in some capacity, especially with [Edgerton] directing it and the cast that was already assembled.”
He landed the role after sending in a tape from a scene that takes place in the aftermath of arguably the most affecting sequence in the entire film. It is also the best scene Edgerton directs in the picture and, without giving too much away, Alwyn says he was quite “delicate” with it.
“It’s the first time I’d had an actor who was also a director [and] in general, he kind of had a very good shorthand I think and way of working with the actors,” Alwyn says. “But that scene, in particular, you just choreograph things almost like a dance in some respect, as much possible so that you know there are certain beats to hit. And because it has that structure, hopefully, it never feels too out of control so that one actor or another actor feels vulnerable in a way which they shouldn’t. But then within that, you obviously have to kind of pace yourself and give it everything you have. And kinda try and play the relative within the structure that’s built for you.”
Even with three awards season players on his resume Alwyn will have limited appearances on the circuit this year as he’s already shooting another highly anticipated new film, Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet.” Alwyn is currently in Richmond, Virginia where he’s playing a slave owner in the incredible story of Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo), who freed dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad. Janelle Monáe recently joined a cast that also features Jennifer Nettles, Leslie Odom, Jr. and Vondie Curtis-Hall.
However, with “The Favourite” continuing its Oscar run and finally hitting theaters next month, Alwyn’s thoughts won’t be far from his Lanthimos adventure. He notes, “When you have Sandy Powell making the costumes and Nadia Stacey designing these incredible wigs and you’re running around in heels and these amazing clothes, it’s a lot of fun.”
“The Favourite” opens in limited release on Nov. 23. “Boy Erased” opens in limited release on Nov. 2. “Mary Queen of Scots “opens in limited release on Dec. 7.