Tom Payne is done acting like a teenager. As the Essex, England–born actor pointedly puts it, “I’m 26, and I’m finally getting to play characters in their early twenties.” After a small but attention-grabbing role in Bharat Nalluri’s 2008 romantic comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Payne has now been given the opportunity to slip into some adult-size boots. He was recently selected by director Colin Barr to play soccer legend George Best, the 1960s Manchester United superstar who was a notorious party animal and his era’s David Beckham, for a forthcoming BBC biopic. The dashing British actor has the same dark eyes and slender frame as the wing wizard Best, but says the similarities end when it comes to the soccer field: “I recently played my first game since school,” Payne recounts. “After 15 minutes I was knackered. It was all actors, so anytime someone fell we’d all run over to check that they were all right.” These days Payne is more than all right, especially now that he doesn’t have to dip into the psyche of an obnoxious teen, which he did for two seasons in the BBC series Waterloo Road, as well as on the controversial English TV drama Skins. “I went on Skins when I was 23, and everyone else was about 17,” he recalls. “It was like -being back at school. There were these weird -rumors about me and another girl in the cast that were born out of jealousy.” Now his acting peers will be jealous for more verifiable reasons.
ABOVE: TOM PAYNE IN LONDON, NOVEMBER 2008. TRENCH COAT AND TIE: DKNY. SHIRT: DIOR HOMME. HAIR PRODUCTS: MATRIX MEN. FRAGRANCE: DSQUARED2 HE WOOD. STYLING: ANDREW DAVIS/LISA GORMAN AGENCY. HAIR: LISA EASTWOOD/PREMIER. MAKEUP: SILVER BRAMHAM/PREMIER. SPECIAL THANKS: SNAP STUDIOS.