OU wouldn’t expect to find a star like Harry Styles lying in a trench on a wind- battered coastline in France for hours on end.
No one in their right mind would want to feel the sting of the sand burn their cheeks for days at a time, but Styles — a man whose star power would allow him to pick any project he wished — was determined to begin his acting career with a truly challenging role.
For Styles, there would be few Hollywood roles more fitting than depicting a soldier in Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic, Dunkirk, the true tale of the evacuation of surrounded Allied troops from the French beach of the same name.
The operation, during which civilian boats sent from England rescued 300,000 troops from certain capture or death at the hands of the Nazis, has come to be regarded as one of the most extraordinary triumphs in military history.
Styles says he left the set each day One Direction heart- throb Harry Styles got no special treatment alongside a host of fellow newcomers on the set of Christopher Nolan’s By scrubbing sand out of his hair and fending off frostbite on his toes. Styles laughs as he explains how the cast was made to shiver in trenches on the beach while Nolan — a notorious perfectionist — worked to achieve the optimal scene.
“I’m a big fan of Chris’s films and as soon as I heard about the film I knew I wanted to be involved,” he says.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience but it was a challenge. I think it was a challenge for all of us physically.
“You can’t imagine being in the position that those soldiers were in at the time but, we definitely had to act cold. It was as real as someone could make it.
“That is what makes Chris so amazing. He wants it to be very natural and he wanted to make it real. He made things blow up around us so we would give very natural reactions.”
The One Direction singer, who has performed on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans admitted to feeling “intimidated” by the size of the project at first glance. “The initial feeling I had was that the scale of what we came into was so much bigger than expected,” Styles says. “It was super intimidating. But when you started seeing how much they develop the characters around the set you start to relax.
“Chris is amazing at making you feel comfortable on set and there is no special treatment for any of the actors.
“I don’t think he compromises in terms of only having one chance to film things like a plane overhead. He takes his time and gets it right, which takes the pressure off us.”
Nolan certainly didn’t give Styles any special treatment. The famed director sheepishly admitted to not knowing exactly who Styles was during casting.
“I don’t think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was,” Nolan said recently.
“My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of it.”
Nolan said the singer simply auditioned and scored the role. It was clear Styles had developed a strong bond with the cast of up- and- coming stars who joined him on set. They look at ease sitting next to each other in a London hotel room and are happy to describe each other as “family”.
For UK actors Tom Glynn- Carney, 22, Jack Lowden, 27, and Fionn Whitehead, 19, Dunkirk was by far the biggest credit to their names.
British- born Glynn- Carney, who grew up hearing tales of Dunkirk at school, says the set was like walking through a documentary.
“It was really jaw- dropping seeing these huge monuments to the soldiers but as Harry said it was quite a close atmosphere that Chris created,” he says. “You focus more on the scene and the interactions than dwelling on how big the project is.”
The young actors have been praised by critics for their performances which is an accomplishment when flanked by a cast including Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy.