(LEFT) Top A.P.C. and jeans LEVI’S
(RIGHT) Coat FENDI
“I was just some fucking British kid coming over and trying it,” laughs Harris Dickinson, the star of this year’s Sundance hit, Beach Rats. The 21-year-old newcomer embodies the brooding, turbulent Brooklynite, Frankie like he’s been treading that same creaky Coney Island boardwalk for all of his life, even though he’d never been in the borough until he arrived on set.
Set for release this Friday, Eliza Hittman’s second feature film (following 2013’s It Felt Like Love) tracks Frankie’s painful coming-of-age while he struggles to confront his homosexuality, secretly connecting with older men online and venturing into the world of cruising. His self-exploration unfolds while he fights to maintain an unfulfilling relationship with his girlfriend, experiments with drugs and prematurely becomes the man of his house as his father battles terminal illness. To put it mildly, it’s a heavy watch; but entirely absorbing.
“There aren’t many opportunities for you to smile in the film,” I offer to the actor, who plays the teenage protagonist with an intensity that’s almost intimidating but consistently captivating. “I do smile in real life,” he beams back. “I went into a dark space at times,” he says, having had to reverse his sunny disposition that’s infectious in person. “It took me a while to shake the character off. I did feel immersed in it quite heavily but I enjoy that… Without sounding pretentious, ‘cause us actors are fucking pretentious aren’t we?” Dickinson rounds off the sentence with a self-aware smirk for fear of getting too serious. “But I did smile at night, sometimes,” he jokes. “I went home and I had a little smile to myself and I said, ‘It’s gonna be alright Harris, you are in there somewhere!’”
Despite his chameleonic talent on screen, Dickinson was headed for a life in the Royal Marines until his acting coach and friend, Graham Bryan — and his mum — encouraged him to consider a future as a thesp. “You know it’s a good choice, if your mum’s like, ‘Alright, go on,’” he grins. Not one to do things by halves, he positioned himself behind the camera too, beginning with “silly little short films” aged 14, a hobby that transcended into stints as a runner and working as a junior camera operator on documentary, Divided by Race, United by War and Peace.
All the while, Dickinson was writing his own projects and at 16 he won funding from the Jack Petchey Foundation to create his own short using only local actors and filmmakers. “It was about a young carer and we got a lot of young carer and mental health charities involved. I got it all together and had a lot of friends who were passionate about filmmaking and we made a few other films and they went to a few local festivals, you know, small budget things,” he shrugs modestly.
“I just want to work with directors that are passionate about their stories and they care about honing performances,” he enthuses, evidently a byproduct of his own younger years crafting narratives for the screen. “Hollywood isn’t just saturated by bullshit, there is still amazing content coming out.” Dickinson reels off the Safdie brothers, Clio Barnard and Andrea Arnold to prove his point before telling me he’s working with contemporary great, Danny Boyle on a series called Trust, “I’m playing Jean-Paul Getty III. In 1973, the grandson of the richest man in the world got kidnapped and I’m playing him and portraying his story in captivity.”
Airing in January 2018 on FX, expect to see Harris Dickinson everywhere next year, in anything with a plot enthralling enough to capture him.
Taken from the Autumn 17 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.
(LEFT) Jumper PRADA and chain Harris’ own
(RIGHT) Jumper JOHN SMEDLEY and jeans LOEWE