Movies

Harry Styles shines in film debut Dunkirk

Not only is One Direction member Harry Styles a chart-topper, he can act too

The path from pop to screen stardom is strewn with the wreckage of a thousand broken dreams, but British singer Harry Styles may have pulled it off in the wartime epic Dunkirk.

If initial reactions to the film, which opens here tomorrow, are anything to go by, the 23-year-old may be about to join a select club that includes the late David Bowie as rare exceptions to the rule.

The member of UK boy band One Direction plays Alex, a teen British soldier desperate to escape northern France in May 1940 as German troops push the Allied forces into the sea.

And Styles holds his own alongside heavyweights such as Irish actor Cillian Murphy, and British actors Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.

"Harry put in an amazing performance," said the film's British director Christopher Nolan, 46.

Critics were also pleasantly surprised by how well Styles did, with one tweeting: "Harry Styles can act!"

He trained with the film's stunt crew before the arduous shoot on the same beaches from which 338,000 British, French and Canadian troops were evacuated, despite constant shelling and bombing raids in the nine days that became known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.

Styles, whose debut solo single Sign Of The Times topped charts in 84 countries in May, admitted that the shoot, which was hampered by bad weather, was tough and that he was "overwhelmed" by his first few days on set.

Director Nolan, who likes to keep things real, insisted on using the actual locations where the events had taken place, real warships and World War II aircraft and many of the original "little boats" that had brought the soldiers safely to England.

Nor did he stop filming when gales blasted the French coast, tearing lumps off a jetty he had rebuilt.

Said Styles: "The whole film was a bit of a challenge. We were not working in normal film set conditions.

'VISCERAL'

"Chris is very visceral in the way he works, which can be intense at times. It was nothing, of course, compared to the real story... but yeah, it was tough."

On his character, Styles said: "Alex has this edge to him. He comes off a little more hardened than the other guys. Alex likes the idea of being the tough guy, but he is also really scared.

"It is impossible to know how you would have reacted (in that situation). And luckily, we haven't had to.

"Growing up in England, you learn a little bit about Dunkirk in school. But because it is not our finest moment, it is often washed over and told quite quickly."

Nolan admitted that he did not really know who Styles was before he began casting for the film. He said: "My kids talked about him, but I don't think I was that aware of how famous Harry was.

"We were looking at thousands and thousands of young men in open casting calls when Harry put himself forward.

"We were determined to cast fresh faces - unknowns ironically... (but) Harry much earned his seat at the table." - AFP

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