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 The Wrap

Paul is featured in this month’s issue of The Wrap magazine! Check out some outtakes and scans in our gallery!

One of the exciting things about your nomination is that “Aftersun” is kind of an anti-Oscary movie. It doesn’t have big emotional showdowns and such. Even in your big scene, we don’t see your face.
I would love to take some credit for that but I think that’s innately what Charlotte wanted from the film and in the screenplay that Charlotte wrote. I don’t think that the film was manipulative or pushy in terms of asking an audience to feel things. I think as a result, mine and Frankie’s job was to come in and understand the task at hand. And that was to just step into a quiet film. The running joke with me and my friends on my team is, like, I have no idea what clip they’re going to use for this. [Laughs.]

I do take great pride in the fact that I don’t think it’s a classically Oscar-y performance, but also, it’s a testament, I think, to the actors branch of the Academy who went out and voted for it anyway. Had I not been in it, it’s the kind of film that I would want to see as an actor.

What’s it like to be in this category of nominees? It’s wonderfully age diverse category, and it’s people doing very internal work. Have you gotten to know the guys ?
I have. The pre-nomination campaign, I was doing the play so I didn’t bump into people, but at the nominees lunch, I bumped into Bill [Nighy] a couple of times, met Brendan [Fraser] and Colin [Farrell] properly, and bumped into Austin [Butler]. So I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeing much more of each other. But yeah, in terms of the standard of the work, to be in and amongst them — it’s just a massive honor that isn’t lost on me at all. 

You’ve had an incredible year with great projects like “Aftersun,” “God’s Creatures” and an Olivier-nominated turn in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in the West End. There are many more projects coming up. You’ve become a very unclassifiable actor in the most wonderful way. Is that something you’re conscious of?
I don’t think I’m a particularly patient person, right? It can feel rapid and all-encompassing, but I think at the moment I would struggle with, say, doing a recurring series or something — and not for any reason other than my own disposition, which is just that I like changing it up. Things that feel innately different are more interesting to me. But it’s not a roadmap of, like, “We’ve done something small and intimate. So now we need big studio moments.” The choices I’m making are related to predominantly the screenplays that I’m reading.

Speaking of changing it up, we have to ask about the progress of Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” which will be shot over 20 years as the characters age. What’s it like to work on something nobody will see for a long time?
We’ve shot the first segment, and we’ll shoot the second segment this year at some point. I imagine that there will be a curiosity at the halfway point to be, like, ‘How does it all look?’ It’s such an interesting process, because we know that we’re going to be filming for 20 years. I imagine it will be very humbling.

Do you imagine going back to the stage now, during the height of all of this attention, as a palate cleanser?
I think it makes me a better actor. I love the structure of my day when I’m working on stage. I mean, there’s nothing really palate cleanser-like about Stanley Kowalski. It’s one of the most exhausting characters that I’ve played. I feel like the palate cleanser will be whatever the fuck I do after. [Laughs.] Just like I don’t feel like [Ridley Scott’s sequel to] “Gladiator” is going to be a palate cleanser. But it’s the only way I know how to work. I think this gap was the longest that I was ever off stage. And it felt like too long for me.

What was it like to do the play amid all the attention you received for “Aftersun”? Because I have worked on stage productions and I know what that eight-show-a-week schedule is like. It’s hard to absorb other things within that. Was that challenging?
I didn’t really have to absorb much because had there been a real expectation that we were going to be firmly in the mix for a nomination, it would have made the play probably more difficult, or it would have been a more difficult conversation because there was no world in which I was ever not going to do the play.

There was never a firm expectation that this [nomination] was ever going to happen for my performance. It wasn’t particularly forecasted. I think it was, like, champions in the media and in the news, who were like, “We really enjoyed the performance.” And that was enough. I think we were wonderfully outside of the bubble and just let it be what it was going to be, and it ended up being this. I’m blown away by the fact that has happened. 

Any chance you might bring your Stanley Kowalski to the Broadway stage?
I imagine there would be conversations happening somewhere, but to be honest, I don’t know. We’re just focusing on getting it up in London. I mean, if I do a play on Broadway, I can call it quits and be a happy actor.

03 March '23

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
23 February '23

Paul Mescal for The Hollywood Reporter

Paul is featured in today’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter and with a very fitting title of Everybody Hearts Paul Mescal! We have also been blessed with a pretty new photoshoot. You can read an excerpt of the feature below, and photos in our gallery! I’ll add scans when I get them!

On the day he turned 16, Paul Mescal was on a stage, being presented with a cake by the cast and crew of his high school production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. “That’s the first thing I ever did, so I actually take great pride in it,” says Mescal of his public acting debut, playing the Phantom. (The entire production has been uploaded by the school to YouTube. Mescal is a gifted high baritone.) “That was the moment when I was like, ‘Oh fuck — this adrenaline is incredible,’ ” he says. “I’ve never felt a high like that.”

Imagine the high, then, that Mescal is feeling today, his 27th birthday. He’ll spend it on a stage once more, as the marquee draw of the hottest theater ticket in London, possibly even the English-speaking world. It’s a radical reworking of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire starring Mescal as Stanley Kowalski, the part that famously launched Marlon Brando, first on Broadway then in film. The reviews have been stellar, with THR praising his menacing Stanley as a “ticking time bomb” whose “destruction of Blanche” — Dubois, the play’s faded debutante, played by Spanish-British actress Patsy Ferran — “is deliberate, cruel and shocking.”

Adding to the adrenaline is the fact that this birthday comes nine days after Mescal learned he’d been nominated for an Oscar for his work in A24’s Aftersun, a festival darling from first-time director Charlotte Wells of Scotland. With that, Mescal gains entry into one of Hollywood’s most exclusive and illustrious clubs: 26-year-old best actor nominees. It consists of Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, James Dean for Giant, Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain and Ryan Gosling for Half-Nelson. If he wins — and it’s anyone’s race with five first-time nominees, including his fellow Irishman Colin Farrell — he will be the youngest best actor winner ever, beating Adrien Brody by three years.

It’s a bit much to take in for a guy who just three years ago was an anonymous young theater actor in Dublin. “It’s a world that I may be starting to understand slightly,” he says of his success. “And I love work. If I could work every day, every hour, I would. I get itchy when I’m not working. I know at some point I’ll get tired and probably burn out for a little bit, but I don’t feel that now.”

For our rendezvous, Mescal suggests a health food spot — though he’ll only drink a coffee, then later politely ask to smoke a cigarette — a few blocks from the Almeida Theatre, a 325-seat venue in North London where Streetcar has been playing to packed houses since Dec. 20. Mescal saunters up having come directly from the gym, wearing a long overcoat (a label on the cuff reads Gucci) over a navy fleece and worn denim jeans. A cap bearing the name of his health club is tucked over his famous gray blue eyes.

The Saturday prior, Nicole Kidman was in attendance at Streetcar and led that evening’s standing ovation. (“She came to the [men’s] dressing room. We were in our pants,” says Mescal, referring to underwear.) The Almeida has been an incubator for many successful West End transfers. Sure enough, this Streetcar, directed by Rebecca Frecknall — who won an Olivier Award directing Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley in a 2021 Cabaret revival — will relocate to London’s Phoenix Theatre in March. Every ticket for the six-week West End run sold out in a single day.

I ask him about the Oscar nomination, his emotional reaction to which was documented in a family Zoom, shared on social media by his younger sister Nell. His mother, recently diagnosed with cancer, had gotten her hair cut short that day in preparation for chemotherapy. The family is in tears. Shocked faces. Joyful disbelief.

Did it come as a total surprise to him? “It’s very hard to avoid the forecasting,” Mescal says. “So I was kind of aware that I was maybe on the bubble — like on the outside of potentially getting a nomination. I was aware that films like Aftersun aren’t the go-to Oscar pick a lot of the time. So it was a big surprise. The surprise was real. Yeah.”

The Hollywood Reporter
22 February '23

Paul Mescal for Los Angeles Times

Paul sat down with Los Angeles Times and talked about his Oscar nomination and his career. It’s only a few photos, but Paul looks great in this photoshoot. If you’re not able to read the full article on Times’ website, I have added the article on this site as part of our upcoming press archive!

“Madness.” That’s how Paul Mescal dubs his unexpected lead actor Oscar nomination for playing Calum, the unfathomable young father at the heart of writer-director Charlotte Wells’ beautifully haunting “Aftersun.”

“A lot of the nominees know they’re gonna be nominated on the day,” says the Irishman — born in the small town of Maynooth, County Kildare,15 miles west of Dublin — over Zoom from London three days before his 27th birthday in early February, and barely an hour after stepping offstage at the Almeida Theatre, where he’s earned glowing notices portraying Stanley Kowalski in Rebecca Frecknall’s sold-out revival of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” “But we had no idea… It was genuinely thrilling.”

“Madness” and “genuinely thrilling” define Mescal’s impressive ascent since catapulting onto the scene in Hulu’s 2020 limited series “Normal People,” playing sensitive jock Connell, a performance that netted him an Emmy nomination and a BAFTA TV Award win.

Since then, he’s appeared in the films “The Lost Daughter,” “God’s Creatures” and “Carmen” with cast mates including Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Emily Watson and Rossy de Palma. He’ll soon co-star in a slate of fresh movies alongside the likes of Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt, Andrew Scott, Saoirse Ronan, Claire Foy and Josh O’Connor.

So charged has been Mescal’s schedule over the last three years that he’s had only a couple months off here and there, which is just how the man likes it.

“Enough for a break, but not enough to get itchy again,” he says, revealing his insatiable appetite for work, and his opinion that actors are “phenomenal people.” While he’ll forever be grateful to Wells — whom he “loves deeply” — for helping him earn his first Oscar nomination in her first feature, what is particularly gratifying is that the honor was bestowed upon him by the academy’s acting branch. “For that to come from my peers is one of the coolest things ever,” he continues. “The thing I feel most is a great sense of pride in the work I’ve made to date, and pride in the people I have worked for… I work hard for just the opportunities to make films, and I work hard on the films that I get.”

Interestingly, Mescal’s not sure he was “a fan” of theater growing up. While he was exposed to music, the arts and culture in a home headed by a semi-pro actor father, his first love was Gaelic football, at which he excelled as a teen. Had it not been for Maynooth Post Primary School’s proviso compelling all fourth-year students to try out for its annual high school musical, the world may never have discovered Mescal’s dramatic gifts.

“I definitely wanted to be in it,” he stresses. “I didn’t go into the audition reluctantly. But I think, had it been an optional thing, it probably would’ve passed me by because I don’t know if I would’ve had the confidence, at 16, to turn to my friends and be like, by the way, I’m gonna audition for ‘Phantom of the Opera.’”

But he did audition — and won the title role. He “immediately” fell in love with being onstage and went on to earn a degree in acting from the Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin at 21. “I had the most profoundly wonderful time in drama school. I loved every second of it. It was difficult… I needed the time to figure out what I liked about acting, what I felt I was good at, what I felt I was bad at.”

Los Angeles Times
21 February '23