Yesterday, a movie written by Richard Curtiss and directed by Danny Boyle himself. How often do you pinch yourself?
It was definitely one of those pinch yourself moments and makes you wonder if you’ll ever get an opportunity to be in something like this again. The part came at such a dip in my career at that point too. I had moved back home, was working in a what seemed like Fawlty Towers-esk hotel and bar and the next thing I know I’m going into meet on an ‘Untitled Danny and Richard Project’. It was all kept very under wraps and didn’t even get to see a script before accepting the part. Still, I had a pretty rough idea of what the story was.
Do you find it stressful to work with such talent in such a big project?
The first couple of days were quite overwhelming. I kept thinking something wasn’t right! From hitting this dip to being involved in a big British summer film with all these incredibly talented people around me was just a huge shock. I have made some great friends filming and most of all, it was inspiring to be able to learn from such a passionate filmmakers like Danny Boyle.
Two more heavyweights, John Malkovich and David Mamet. Can you tell us a bit about what the play Bitter Wheat is about and how it has been working with John and David?
I know! I’ve had an interesting year to say the least. Working with such an array of incredibly different and brilliant people. Fundamentally, Bitter Wheat works as a satire the inner workings of Hollywood and depicts the power dynamics and the hypocrisies of our time. Barney Feinn (John Malkovich), is a film producer who does whatever he can to get what he wants. He never says please and he never admits when he is wrong.
Seeing John bringing the character to life was such a remarkable opportunity for me as an actor. Over the course of the run he changes things up constantly, which is so refreshing to see and to play with. You have to react to what’s being thrown at you. There is never a dull moment. David too is such a unique person. He always says what he means and has quite a simple way of directing that is specific to his writing. You don’t invent anything nor deny anything as an actor in his plays and there’s truth to that. He has such an expansive knowledge of the theatre and you can see his mind working faster than anyone else’s in the room.
Can you give us some hints about your next project The Outpost?
There is not too much I can say about The Outpost, but again is another unique project that is different from all the others I have worked on this year. The film is based on the bestselling book by CNN anchor Jake Tapper that chronicles the lives of the men who served at Outpost Keating and who fought in what was later to be known as The Battle Of Kamdesh.
What do you do to relax/switch-off?
I’m trying to switch off more. I think I have quite an overactive mind. Putting my phone down for a while would probably help with that. Still, I like to write. I attended the Royal Court Young Writer’s Program a couple of years ago and that has encouraged me to continue thinking of characters and ideas. I like going to gigs and watching bands. A lot of my friends aren’t actors so I like hanging with people who are more attuned to the real world. I also think I have a new affinity for the sea. Perhaps in a sort of poet-by-the-sea way like T.S. ELLIOT. But yeah, also the seas are rising so that’s a bit of a worry too. God, there is no bloody escape is there.
What bit of advice would you give to young aspiring actors?
At school I only cared about the subjects I was interested in, which were Drama and Film Studies. I have been told not the wisest subjects to pursue if you want a backup in life and there have been times where I regret not pursuing other qualifications too. So, if you’re interested in other pursuits besides acting, I would say go for them. I didn’t go to drama school but I’ve always tried to learn from other actors as well as reading and watching as much about the craft of acting as I can. On a practical level I would say just go and do everything. If you have an idea for something, write it down and go out and try and make it. Get your friends involved. You might have people who are making their first short films or have written plays and it’s important to get involved in that way too. It’s good to bring a sense of community to what you’re doing. That way you can help each other grow and also rely on and work alongside those people in the future.
Alexander Arnold can currently be seen in Universal’s YESTERDAY in cinemas now as well as in Bitter Wheat at the Garrick theatre, London, until 14 September.
Interview & photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Sam Basham
Styling by Emily Inghe
CLOTHES: T-shirt by Topman, Jacket by The Kooples, Jeans by Mother, Shoes by Converse – Jeans by Mother, Shirt by The Kooples, Shoes by Converse – Jeans by Mother, White shirt by Topman, Shoes by Converse – Cream flannel shirt by Orlebar Brown