Joe Alwyn is the star of Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee’s new movie, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The movie is based on the acclaimed book by Ben Fountain and begins reaching theaters on November 11. It’s a perfect film to open on Veterans Day weekend, since the story explores how soldiers reconnect with life after war and how they are treated when they return home.
Billy Lynn is about a group of soldiers who return from the Iraq War only to be thrust into a victory tour. One of their stops is the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game and Billy Lynn has to walk onto the field during a halftime salute to our veterans. As he walks onto the field, he experiences flashbacks of action in Iraq. The film opens wide on November 18.
Alwyn has never appeared in a film before. Lee also used an inexperienced star in his previous film, Life of Pi, with Suraj Sharma playing that film’s title character.
Here’s a look at Alwyn and how he prepared for the role.
1. Alywn is a Trained British Stage Actor Who’s Never Made a Movie Before
The 25-year-old Alwyn is British and trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He impressed his teachers and during his final year, he started plotting out his professional career as an actor.
“He brought a maturity and intelligence that was of immense benefit to the group,” Nick Moseley, principal lecturer at the school, told Indiewire in October. “He also had a passion for the work and a conviction within his own artistry that was an inspiration to some of his younger colleagues.”
Alwyn found representation at the Independent Talent Group in London before graduation, although he has since gone back to complete his degree. One of his agents sent him the script for Billy Lynn, which was written by Jean-Christophe Castelli.
Coincidentally, this is also Castelli’s first produced screenplay. He is a longtime assistant of Lee’s, having worked on The Ice Storm and Sense and Sensibility. He’s also credited as an associate producer on Life of Pi.
2. Lee Said Alwyn Doesn’t Look at all Like how They First Imagined Billy Lynn Would Look
In a Vogue profile of Alwyn, Lee said that Alwyn didn’t really look like how he imagined Billy Lynn. However, his audition was impressive.
“He didn’t look at all how I imagined Billy,” Lee told Vogue. “But when he read for us, I went, ‘I want this guy.’”
Alwyn said he was surprised by how quickly the film came together. Four weeks after being in class, he was suddenly on the set in the U.S.
“Now I was in Atlanta, where every single scene was shot from my point of view and I was working from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night,” Alwyn said. “There was no escape. I loved it.”
Before filming Billy Lynn, Alwyn had spent his life in London. His mother is a psychotherapist and his father makes documentaries. Now, he’s famous for playing a 19-year-old American soldier just back from Iraq.
“He’s a normal, everyday nineteen-year-old kid caught up in this grand situation with a camera under his nose,” Alwyn told Vogue of his character.
““As soon as I saw the tape, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s Billy,’” casting director Amy Kaufman told Indiewire. “There was just something very subtle about his reading. You could feel the tenderness inside of him. He just felt real.”
3. Alwyn Is a Big ‘Twilight’ Fan & Was ‘Overwhelmed’ to Be in the Same Film as Kristen Stewart & Other Stars
In a People Magazine interview in October, Alwyn said he was “overwhelmed” by being on the same set as the stars in this movie. Kristen Stewart is one of those stars and he said he is a big Twilight fan.
“He’s a huge Twilight fan,” Stewart, who was sitting right next to him, said. “I’ve seen one of them twice,” Alwyn admitted.
The cast Lee assembled for Billy Lynn would overwhelm anyone, even seasoned veterans. The cast includes Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker and Tim Blake Nelson. Even Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has a cameo.
4. Despite Never Making a Movie Before, Even He Understood That the Way Lee Was Shooting the Film at 120 fps Is Unique
Alwyn might never have acted in front of a camera before, but even he knew that Lee was making Billy Lynn differently from any other movie. It’s the first mainstream film shot at 120 frames-per-second, in 3D and with 4K HD resolution cameras. The traditional film rate is 24 fps and Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at 48 fps.
In a Hollywood Reporter interview, Alwyn said he knew that Lee was trying to make something unique. Every member of the cast had to be prepared and they only wore very little makeup because the cameras would make it too obvious.
…I could tell it wasn’t a usual experience and the usual set. These cameras were absolutely huge, and often would be centimeters away from your face. – you couldn’t see the other actors… Everyone was finding their way in it and testing how it worked. We were all guinea pigs together.
The high frame rate is so unique that only two theaters will be equipped to show it. The AMC Lincoln Square theater in New York is one and the other is the ArcLight Cinerama Dome Hollywood theater.
5. Alwyn Already Has 2 New Films in the Works, Including ‘Keepers’ With Gerard Butler
Making a movie with Ang Lee will open up opportunities for anyone, and that’s the case for Alwyn. Although Billy Lynn wasn’t met with the same critical acclaim as Life of Pi, that’s not stopping Alwyn from getting offers.
Alwyn has already completed The Sense of an Ending, which is based on Julian Barnes’ novel and co-stars Emily Mortimer, Charlotte Rampling and Michelle Dockerey. He’s finishing work on Keepers, a thriller co-starring Gerard Butler and Peter Mullan.
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