Oscar-nominated director Christopher Nolan has revealed that his decision to cast pop star Harry Styles in his upcoming war epic Dunkirk was a move comparable to casting Heath Ledger as the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Dunkirk will mark Harry Styles’ first major foray into acting since his departure from the band One Direction back in 2016 and the recent release of his first solo album, earlier this year. To date not much is known about the musician’s role in Dunkirk, though there has been a great deal of speculation over his involvement with the film.
Not concerned with Styles’ celebrity status, Christopher Nolan has previously stated that he wasn’t all that familiar with Styles’ fame as a pop star prior to casting him. Instead, the beloved Dark Knight trilogy director insisted that Harry Styles was cast in the role of a soldier called Alex because of his potential, having “fit the part wonderfully” and genuinely earning the part. Now with Dunkirk’s theatrical release a matter of weeks away, Nolan is opening up more about the casting of Styles and comparing it to arguably his greatest casting decision.
This latest piece of information comes courtesy of a Christopher Nolan interview with Entertainment Tonight (h/t People), where Nolan explained that his decision to cast Harry Styles was comparable to his decision to cast Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. In both cases, the actor was a relative unknown and their appointment to the respective roles brought about much comment and uncertainty from the media and public. Said Nolan:
“When I cast Heath Ledger as the Joker [in The Dark Knight], it raised a lot of eyebrows and caused a lot of comment. I have to trust my instincts, and Harry was perfect for this part.”
While acknowledging his relative unfamiliarity with Styles’ pre-existing pop star status, Nolan also explained some of the qualities that convinced him to cast the musician – qualities that he likely also saw in Ledger when casting The Dark Knight:
“I was new to Harry. I mean, I’d heard his name from my kids, but I wasn’t really familiar with him. What I was seeing [when Styles auditioned] was a very charismatic guy who clearly had a truthfulness and a subtlety in his ability to perform as a film actor.”
Though Ledger’s performance as the Joker is now regarded by many as the greatest take on the iconic role and backed up by a posthumous supporting actor Oscar, the early days prior to The Dark Knight’s release were filled with no small amount of condemnation by fans for Nolan’s choice. Then as now, Nolan had relied on his gut and filmmaking instincts to bring something spectacular to life, so his comparison between the casting of Styles and Ledger seems to act as reminder to the naysayers that he is a filmmaker in control of his vision.
Exactly how big of a role Harry Styles has in Dunkirk is still not known, aside from it being supporting in nature. However, it’s arguable that if Nolan is comparing the casting decision to Ledger’s, there might be something substantial in Dunkirk for Styles – something that could help elevate this much-adored pop star to the status of a new and much sought after face in Hollywood.
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