BEN SCHNETZER IN BROOKLYN, JULY 2016. SHIRT: COACH. TANK TOP: SCHIESSER. JEANS: AG. RING: GUCCI. BOOTS: FRYE. GROOMING PRODUCTS: ORIBE, INCLUDING ROUGH LUXURY SOFT MOLDING PASTE. STYLING: MIGUEL ENAMORADO. HAIR: PETER GRAY FOR ORIBE/HOME AGENCY. MAKEUP: YUKI HAYASHI FOR NARS/STREETERS. MANICURE: ERI HANDA FOR DIOR VERNIS/MAM-NYC. SET DESIGN: JAMES LEAR. SPECIAL THANKS: SALT STUDIOS NY.
“Life used to be a rite of passage in and of itself,” theorizes actor Ben Schnetzer about modern male identity. “But it’s not our parents’ generation anymore.” The 26-year-old New York City native is talking about his breakout role in the upcoming film Goat, the true story of a college freshman who follows his brother (Nick Jonas) into a fraternity and is subjected to a harrowing hazing ceremony just months after being assaulted and robbed off campus. “A lot of men can relate,” says Schnetzer, who was drawn to the project for its exploration of a generation’s search for identity. “My character is on this journey to reclaim a sense of masculinity that he feels has been compromised, tarnished, taken away from him. It’s kind of a distillation of every insecurity you’ve ever felt.”
It’s also a true prestige project bolstered by a number of indie luminaries—screenwriter David Gordon Green (George Washington) and producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry) are part of the team. But the A-list bona fides are nothing new to Schnetzer, who made a big impression last month as a NSA agent opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone‘s Snowden.
Schnetzer grew up in Harlem, the son of actors (his parents did the soaps and stage), and trained after high school in London. “I’ve been incredibly lucky,” he says. “I know what it’s like to be an unemployed actor, to beat the bricks. I’ve been in the right place at the right time.” Still, with each new project, he’s getting a serious education in the craft. “What I learned on Goat is that 99 percent of the work you do as an actor is just for you,” he says. “No one gives a shit about all the books you read. I learned a lot about that on this film: divorcing yourself from the expectation of what should be and just opening yourself up.”