Dunkirk, as seen from the cock pit Get­ting the low-down from Jack Low de non the war epic

Cur­rently shoot­ing up the big screen as a Spit­fire pilot in ‘Dunkirk’, Jack Low­den is also turn­ing heads for his per­for­mance as a young Mor­ris­sey in ‘Eng­land is Mine’. He talks to Don­ald Clarke about get­ting in­sid­e­the mind of the renowned mis­er­abilist

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As far as his views now are con­cerned, they were never of in­ter­est to me. I was told to ig­nore any­thing past the day he met Johnny Marr. It is for every­body on the out­side to call it a Mor­ris­sey biopic

Where did Jack Low­den come from? You doze off for a mo­ment and sud­denly the young ac­tor is in all the right places. He was the Scot­tish Spit­fire pilot in

Dunkirk. This week he plays the young Mor­ris­sey in the rainy

Eng­land is Mine. That was him as the young An­thony Wedg­wood Benn in A United King­dom.

Plucked from ob­scu­rity? Not re­ally. Jack has been act­ing steadily in juicy roles since leav­ing col­lege at the start of the decade. He won an Olivier Award in 2014 for play­ing Oswald in Ib­sen’s Ghosts. He was lead in the West End ver­sion of Char­i­ots of Fire. The man has scarcely taken a breath.

“I have been very lucky,” he says. “There was a pe­riod of about four months where I worked in a bar. Ev­ery ac­tor should go through that. But I’ve been lucky.”

This is how things go. A blonde, hand­some man from the Scot­tish Bor­ders, Low­den has es­tab­lished him­self as one of the era’s great young stage actors. But no­body much notices un­til you ap­pear on films or on the telly.

“My younger brother is a bal- let dancer. I went along with that first, but I wasn’t very good. So I ended up in the speak­ing parts. I ended up as the nar­ra­tor,” he re­mem­bers.

While Calum Low­den set off on a jour­ney that ended with him be­com­ing first soloist with the Royal Swedish Bal­let, his brother stud­ied act­ing at Glas­gow and even­tu­ally made the in­evitable trek to Lon­don. Now, in Eng­land is Mine, he mopes through a film that works as a sort of Mor­ris­sey ori­gin story. It be­gins with the Man­cu­nian singer de­pressed in school. It end as he fi­nally teams up with Johnny Marr to form The Smiths.

“I didn’t grown up with The Smiths,” he says. “When I read the script, I thought it was in­cred­i­bly funny. It is the story of this ex­tremely awk­ward teenager. The fact that he be­came Mor­ris­sey is sort of the ic­ing on the cake. I found the guy on the page so en­ter­tain­ing. He re­ally tries and I al­ways find that more en­dear­ing than peo­ple who ac­tu­ally are cool. I pre­fer those who just try to be cool.”

Mor­ris­sey has grown into a (let’s be kind) prob­lem­atic fig­ure. He was barely out of The Smiths be­fore he was bran­dish­ing Union Jacks and writ­ing songs called The Na­tional Front

Disco and Ben­gali in Plat­forms. “The gates of Eng­land are flooded. The coun­try’s been thrown away,” he told the NME in 2007. After the Manch­ester at­tacks, he chose to at­tack Sadiq Khan, Lon­don mayor, for be­ing in­suf­fi­ciently con­dem­na­tory of Is­lamic State. The once-lov­able ec­cen­tric looks to have become al­most, well, My­er­sian in mid­dle age.

Low­den has a firm line on

this. “I can see how if your hero says things you dis­agree with, it can be painful,” he says. “But I didn’t have that weight on my shoul­ders. I am just play­ing that guy on the page. As far as his views now are con­cerned, they were never of in­ter­est to me. I was told to ig­nore any­thing past the day he met Johnny Marr. It is for every­body on the out­side to call it a Mor­ris­sey biopic. It didn’t feel that way while we were do­ing it.”

One thing that does come through in Eng­land is Mine is the un­der­ex­plored Ir­ish­ness of the singer. (Who’d have thought that some­body called Stephen Pa­trick Mor­ris­sey would have par­ents from this side of the Ir­ish Sea?) Si­mone Kirby and Peter McDon­ald have strong sup­port­ing roles as his par­ents. Manch­ester is, course, awash with Ir­ish folk. Noel and Liam Gal­lagher are from the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion. So is Steve Coogan.

Re­lief

“I no­ticed his Ir­ish­ness when I lis­tened to the songs,” Jack says. “You can hear it in how he says ‘any’.”

How in­ter­est­ing. That is some­thing that few Ir­ish peo­ple would no­tice.

“Yeah, yeah. We had two bril­liant actors in Si­mone and Peter. Peter was des­per­ate to do the film be­cause he was a great fan. No­body makes a com­ment about him be­ing Ir­ish or any­thing. But, be­ing Scot­tish, I get the Ir­ish sense of hu­mour. It’s about tak­ing the piss: ‘Stop be­ing a dick!’ The audience get their own back on him from Si­mone and his sis­ter. That’s very Celtic.”

Low­den is cur­rently ap­pear­ing in the world’s big­gest movie. It must come as a re­lief to be able to talk about Christo­pher Nolan’s Dunkirk. When I spoke to Barry Keoghan a few months ago, he was still un­able to say any­thing about the plot. But he did say that he was sur­prised to dis­cover that al­most ev­ery­thing on screen was there on lo­ca­tion. Com­puter graph­ics are at a min­i­mum.

“I think Barry was con­fused about the knitwear he had to wear,” Low­den laughs. “What is this all about?”

I had as­sumed that, play­ing a fighter pilot who re­mains within the cock­pit for al­most the whole du­ra­tion, Low­den shot most of his scenes in the stu­dio. This is to un­der­es­ti­mate Nolan’s pas­sion for the real.

Strange ex­pe­ri­ence

“None of it was in a stu­dio,” he says. “I was in the air. I was fly­ing along­side Spit­fires with an Imax cam­era strapped to the wing. Or it was in a gim­bal with the cock­pit sus­pended over a cliff with the sea be­hind it. It was a strange ex­pe­ri­ence in that I spent a lot of the time on my own. It was a bit like Eng­land is

Mine that way. I did that just be­fore and I’d spent half that film in his bed­room. Ha ha! So I was used to the idea. But if you see me in the air, I am in the air.”

That sounds just a lit­tle fright­en­ing.

“Not re­ally. I am good at giv­ing my­self over to these things,” he says. “The first time I went up, though, the pilot said: ‘See that red lever. Let me know if it’s not in that po­si­tion.’ So I spent the first 15 min­utes star­ing at my shins. That was ter­ri­fy­ing. But I’d be ly­ing if I didn’t say most of it was ridicu­lously ex­cit­ing.”

Low­den is not ex­actly a movie star yet. But he has cer­tainly ar­rived. There is much more to come. He will ap­pear op­po­site Saoirse Ro­nan and Mar­got Rob­bie in Mary Queen of Scots. He is also shoot­ing Stephen Mer­chant’s hugely in­trigu­ing Fight

ing With My Fam­ily, a wrestling drama with Florence Pugh and Lena Headey. Where will this lead?

“I re­ally want to di­rect,” he says. “But, for the mo­ment, I just want to see what I can get away with. I’ve man­aged it so far. Ha ha!” Eng­land is Mine is out now and is re­viewed on page 10

The first time I went up, though, the pilot said: ‘See that red lever. Let me know if it’s not in that po­si­tion.’ So I spent the first 15 min­utes star­ing at my shins. That was ter­ri­fy­ing

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