Spotlight Project: Aftersun

At a fading vacation resort, 11-year-old Sophie treasures rare time together with her loving and idealistic father, Calum. As a world of adolescence creeps into view, beyond her eye Calum struggles under the weight of life outside of fatherhood. Twenty years later, Sophie's tender recollections of their last holiday become a powerful and heartrending portrait of their relationship, as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn't.

Paul for ES Magazine

It’s raining new photoshoots! Paul has done a new one for ES Magazine. In this interview, Paul talks about his new-found fame and also answered some questions in Everything London Wants to Know. Check it out the video below, along with an excerpt of the article, and photos in our gallery! Scans will definitely be added soon.

A woman recently stopped Paul Mescal to ask whether she could have her photo taken with him. They were outside the Almeida Theatre in Islington where Mescal was starring in a sellout run of the Tennessee Williams classic, A Streetcar Named Desire. ‘As we posed for it, she put her hand on my ass,’ he says with a frown. ‘I thought it was an accident, so I like…’ he gets up from his chair and shimmies awkwardly away from an imaginary hand, ‘but the hand followed. I remember tensing up and feeling just, like, fury.’ So what did he do? ‘I turned to her and said, “What’re you doing? Take your hand off my ass.”’

We are in a dressing room in a north London photography studio. Next door, a team is preparing the set for our shoot. ‘The last thing I want to do,’ he says, skewering me with a very blue-eyed gaze as he sits back down, ‘is call somebody out in front of the theatre — it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved — but it was really not okay. It was so gross, creepy.’ This has been Mescal’s experience of fame so far, he tells me: ‘97 per cent of it is really nice — then 3 per cent is somebody, like, grabbing your ass.’

There is a palpable energy around the 27-year-old Irish actor. Not just because of Streetcar (a resounding triumph, garnering a slew of five-star reviews and a transfer to the West End in March) but also, of course, because of the Oscar. Mescal has been nominated in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of young father Calum in Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun. ‘It’s crazy, right?’ He seems sweetly awe-struck when I bring it up. Today he arrived wearing a fleece top and jeans, very low key. He doesn’t look like an LA movie star but there is something compelling about him, he has presence. ‘Look, I’m not going to win,’ he is saying — his voice is low and gravelly, he’s got that inviting Irish brogue. ‘So it’s kind of low-stakes pressure, I can basically just sit back and enjoy it.’ It hits him every so often, he says, ‘like if I’ve a film coming out, now it will say, “Oscar-nominee Paul Mescal,” and I’m like, “Whoa that’s mad.” It’s just cool, I’m going to be at the thing I remember watching when I was growing up. And when they call out the best actors there’s going to be a camera on me and my mum, waiting to clap for — hopefully — Colin Farrell.’ He says he’ll have a speech prepared just in case. ‘But only because I didn’t have one for the Baftas [he won Leading Actor for Normal People in 2021]. I was convinced I wouldn’t win and then had a full brain .’ He mimes his head exploding. ‘I saw Michaela Coel backstage straight after and she was like, “Well done, well done — you should have prepared a speech,”’ he laughs. ‘So I’m going to write one and then have it framed when I never have to use it.’

Mescal has a cold today; he’s drinking Lemsip and says that he’s on some kind of post-Streetcar comedown. It’s unsurprising. I saw the play on the last day of its six-week run at the Almeida; his role, as the story’s brutish lodestar, Stanley Kowalski (a part made famous in 1951 by a young Marlon Brando) is incredibly physical. The thing about watching famous people on stage is that it can be hard to forget who they are. In Streetcar, though, Mescal sheds the mild-mannered, smiley self he is today and becomes men acing, a bestial and imposing abuser. A frightening presence. ‘I had to have a steroid shot to go on that day,’ he says. ‘I barely got through it. I think my body knew it was coming to the end of the run.’

There’s a sense of barely repressed violence in his portrayal of Kowalski. In God’s Creatures, too — a film coming to cinemas in March, co-starring Emily Watson — he plays Brian, a young man accused of rape. He is charming and vulnerable but also a little frightening. ‘The minute Emily was on board I was over the moon. I’ve admired her work for so long; the thing I noticed was how easy it was for her to lead us as a cast. I loved every second.’ That glimmer of violence is also present in his portrayal of Calum in Aftersun. Where does that hint of menace come from? ‘Somewhere deep within…’ he starts, before laughing. ‘No, I’m joking, I don’t know. I mean, it has to come from someplace and it probably does come from within myself.’

ES Magazine

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