Writer-director Christopher Nolan admits that he didn’t know how popular Harry Styles was before casting him in Dunkirk. Styles is, of course, best-known to most teens and millennials as one-fourth of the British pop quartet (formerly quintent) One Direction, whose hits include such global smashes as “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Best Song Ever” and “Story of My Life.”
Outside of Morgan Spurlock’s 2013 documentary, One Direction: This is Us, Styles has never made any appearances in front of the camera as an actor – which perhaps the reason Nolan didn’t realize who the singer was, exactly, when it came to auditions for his upcoming World War II epic.
According to THR, Nolan says he was only aware of Styles thanks to his kids, but had no idea of the sort of global appeal the singer – whose about to embark on a solo tour across the world – had with pop music fans. Nolan says:
“I don’t think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was. I mean, my daughter had talked about him. My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of it. So the truth is, I cast Harry because he fit the part wonderfully and truly earned a seat at the table.”
Dunkirk co-star Mark Rylance echoes Nolan’s sentiments, saying his 11-year-old niece “was just more excited than anything I’ve ever done because I was going to be acting with Harry Styles.”
There’s really no reason to doubt Nolan is sincere in his remarks since through his 19-year film career he’s generally cast talented actors in his projects in favor of brand name celebrities or movie stars. In fact, Nolan not only assembles his casts from the best actors available in the pool of talent from today, he has a knack for remembering venerable performers like Rutger Hauer (Batman Begins), Tom Berenger (Inception) and Matthew Modine (The Dark Knight Rises) who have otherwise sadly fallen off of other big name directors’ radars.
Whether Styles has the chops to make it as a film actor is yet to be seen, but given the confidence Nolan has in the singer-turned-actor, Dunkirk is as good a first chance to prove himself worthy as Styles could have hoped for. Of course, there will always be skeptics who claim Nolan cast the singer to help market his film, but the truth of the matter is, the director’s films have always contained concepts (like Inception and Interstellar) or iconic figures (Batman and The Joker) who are far bigger than any actor who has appeared in them. Dunkirk will be no different.
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