Boyz film critic Jack Cline met up with rising star Harris Dickinson to talk about his new movie Postcards from London which is released in two weeks time on Friday 23 November – plus Jack gives us his review of the film.
Harris Dickinson is one of this year’s top rising stars, but he had never played a lead role in a feature film when he was cast in Steve McLean’s Soho fantasia Postcards From London. Before filming started, he landed another role and headed to New York to shoot that film first. This was Eliza Hittman’s edgy gay drama Beach Rats, which won a top prize at Sundance and would later earn Dickinson the Young Performer of the Year award from the London Critics’ Circle.
In the past year, Dickinson has gone on to star as the kidnapped teen John Paul Getty III in Danny Boyle’s acclaimed TV series Trust, and he has just finished filming the role of the handsome prince in Maleficent 2, opposite Angelina Jolie.
Meanwhile, Postcards From London is finally landing in cinemas. So it’s interesting to look back two years, as the then 20-year-old actor spoke exclusively to Boyz magazine on the film’s set, unaware that he was about to become the hottest actor in the world. Wearing his character’s wide-wale red cords, boots and braces, he’s articulate and almost criminally likeable…
How did you hear about Postcards From London?
The casting agent sent me the script and said, “This is a different kind of film, not something you’d usually see.” And I loved it. The film came off the page when I was reading it. I got the tone straightaway, which doesn’t always happen. I could tell what Steve was going for. And this character, Jim, came into my mind easily. I was like, “I haven’t even auditioned yet, I need to stop getting into this so much.” But I loved the stylised approach, all shot in a studio.
Yes, the sets are a fantastical version of Soho.
It’s hard to imagine how it will play when someone tells you you’re going to shoot a film set in Soho for four weeks in a studio. Then you get here and it just exceeds every expectation you’ve ever had. It’s amazing, because it contains you inside the film. The opening shot is me coming from a real London street into an alleyway, and it becomes the Soho that Jim has always imagined and idealised as a kid.
Jim’s journey takes him into art and his homosexuality. How did you relate to him?
Like me, Jim is from a small town on the edge of London, and I understood that idea of wanting to break out from people and places I’d known for years. He wants something better for his future, he wants to learn more and broaden his mind and meet the people that will allow it to happen. And for me I think what was nice about Jim’s journey was about him finding his version of happiness and beauty in art, in friendship, in people. I don’t think the film is making a blatant comment about his sexuality. It’s making a statement about the relationships he makes with people, whether they’re friendships, sexual relationships or brief encounters.
You were naked in Beach Rats, and here too.
It was an implied sex scene, but it was artfully shot as Steve’s homage to Frances Bacon: two naked bodies entwined on a red carpet. And it was beautiful! If you’re close to the other actor and you’ve established some trust and comfortability between the two, it’s fine! You just get on with it. The dancing scene was more difficult, but not because I’m a terrible dancer. I had so many lines to learn, and then I have maybe 15 minutes to learn this dance! And you get the pressure of the crew standing there, the camera’s ready to roll and you’re like. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this.” But there’s a pace set already, and they’re trying to move along quickly, and I’m like, “Fuck, if I get this one step wrong we’ve got to do the whole thing again,” because it’s all Steadycam. But I think that pressure’s good because it makes you think on your feet, as it were.
Postcards From London – review by Jack Cline
Looking nothing like any movie you’ve ever seen, this is a stylised exploration of the impact of art and sex. Steve McLean’s intriguingly offbeat drama is set in a fantastical version of Soho that still exists just outside the boundaries of civilised society. It’s here that Jim (the magnetic Harris Dickinson) heads from his parents’ cramped house in Essex, and he is quickly recruited by the Raconteurs, a group of rentboys who discuss art with their mature clients. Jim is perfect for this, even though he has Stendahl Syndrome, which causes him to faint at the sight of beautiful paintings. Caravaggio is his major weakness, and he frequently has visions that put himself inside those lurid paintings.
McLean’s surreal approach is visually stunning, using sets and costumes to draw out deeper themes about the nature of creativity. Indeed, Jim eventually becomes a muse to a painter (Richard Durden), then realises that he needs to create his own art rather than just being an object of beauty.
As he did in Beach Rats, the gifted Dickinson uses his full physicality to create a character who has a vividly layered inner life. Jim is thoughtful and frankly gorgeous, but it’s his humour and vulnerability that make him engaging. So the actor grounds the film’s sometimes excessive flights of visual fancy, bringing the exaggerated imagery into sharp focus through Jim’s mesmerising blue eyes.
As the film progresses, it becomes much more than another story of a young guy discovering the free-spirited life of a young gay man away from his family in Soho. This is a parable about how each of us discovers the aching beauty in the people and artwork we encounter, and this helps us create our own world.
Postcards From London arrives in cinemas on 23rd November.