Douglas Booth

It was such a thrill to be 17 years old and standing on a stage dressed as Boy George—wearing his actual clothes from the 1980s. He told me, ‘We’re gonna be friends for life now!’ and I truly hope that we are. Douglas Booth

Sitting down to chat with Douglas Booth is a bit like staring into the sun. The 21-year-old British actor has the kind of impossibly good looks that would be distracting, if not downright off-putting, if he weren’t also so talented. Having first shimmied into the spotlight by playing Boy George in the 2010 TV biopic Worried About the Boy, Booth moved from BBC productions to the Hollywood big time, starring in the doomed titular role of Carlo Carlei’s 2013 Romeo & Juliet before jumping on board Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah as husband to Emma Watson’s character. This year he can be seen as a loutish rich kid in Lone Scherfig’s Oxford-set drama The Riot Club. In February of 2015, Booth will be flying around in the Wachowskis’ hotly anticipated sci-fi mind-bender Jupiter Ascending, a film that finally provides the actor with his very own space ship. Cue liftoff.

T. COLE RACHEL: Do you live in London when you’re not working?

DOUGLAS BOOTH: I grew up in London, and that’s where I spend most of my time. Unless I have a really good reason not to be, I’ll always be in London.

RACHEL: What do you do with your downtime?

BOOTH: I like to travel, but honestly I really like to just be at home in London and spend time with my friends. I also love movies. That’s still my favorite form of escape, and I usually end up going alone. I love to go and sit in the theater by myself, no distractions. I recently went to see The Great Beauty [2013] by myself. I’ve never had such a profound movie experience before.

RACHEL: Everyone is very excited about Jupiter Ascending. Have you actually seen the movie yet?

BOOTH: No! No one has seen it yet. Well, I’m sure some people have seen it. They do friends-and-family screenings for their films, but generally they are really secretive. I’ve actually been afraid to say too much about it out of fear that Warner Bros. might sue me.

RACHEL: Did making the movie involve a lot of acting against a green screen or reacting to things that weren’t actually there?

BOOTH: More than Noah did, certainly. Most of Jupiter was shot in a studio, but we did shoot some scenes in a cathedral, which basically served as the interior of my spaceship. It was quite gothic.

RACHEL: Your character has his own spaceship?

BOOTH: Oh yes. My character isn’t involved in too many of the action sequences, but he definitely has the coolest ship. My character needs to have the coolest ship.

RACHEL: For a lot of actors, having the opportunity to do a science-fiction movie or a real Hollywood blockbuster-type film is a dream come true. Did you grow up watching those kinds of movies?

BOOTH: I did. As a kid, I used to run around our garden waving a stick and pretending to be a million different people. That’s why I became an actor, really. To be able to experience a thousand different lives within my lifetime is something that always appealed to me. I wasn’t content with just being one person for the rest of my life.

RACHEL: You were quite young when you started, right?

BOOTH: I was 16. I’m 21 now, so I’ve been doing this for five years.

RACHEL: Did you always have a sense that you’d be an actor?

BOOTH: Not always, but for some time. I knew I wanted to do something creative. I am dyslexic, so I really struggled in school. I knew I was never going to sit behind a desk or do something involving numbers. As a kid, I took up the trumpet and wanted to become a jazz musician, but by the age of 13 or 14—when everyone else is playing rock guitar and trying to be cool—you can’t just whip out your trumpet and impress people. It didn’t seem cool at the time, but in reality it is fucking cool.

RACHEL: When was the last time you played a trumpet?

BOOTH: About a year ago? You can’t easily pick it up and start playing it again. You actually have to build up the muscles in your lips. It’s hard.

RACHEL: So when jazz failed you, acting took over?

BOOTH: Yeah, I was cast in a school play. I realized that it was where I felt the most comfortable and where I could really express myself, so I stuck with that. From that point on there was really never a plan B. I’ve never had a plan B.

RACHEL: It’s a tough business and you have to learn early how to handle rejection. As a kid, was that hard to take?

BOOTH: I remember someone saying to my mom that it must be so glamorous to have a child acting in movies. They had no idea how hard it was for her. For her, it was like seeing your child go on multiple job interviews every week. Then, assuming you did get the job, you got to hear someone point out every flaw and weakness. I would be the last person on earth to complain about what I do—I feel very fortunate and I know there are a million jobs in the world that are much, much harder—but it’s not always an easy or glamorous thing to do, that’s for sure. There were definitely times that I wanted to run away and do something different. I had friends who ran off to become ski instructors or worked in cool bars, and I often envied them, but I know I’d quickly become bored with that kind of life. I always need to push myself.

RACHEL: Growing up in London, what was it like for you to go to L.A. for the first time? It seems to be a rite of passage for any young actor.

BOOTH: I went there when I was pretty young and stayed for a couple of weeks. One of my best friends lives there, so that made it much easier. I went on about 40 go-see meetings and everything was kind of a blur. I think Hollywood is interesting. As an actor, Hollywood would be a horrible place to go if you weren’t actually invited. I’ve been lucky, though. When I do go to L.A., it is usually for a reason—to meet with a director or something—but I’m always so happy to go back to London.

RACHEL: Who were your actor role models?

BOOTH: There’s no one person, but there are definitely actors whose careers I admire. I look at someone like Leonardo DiCaprio’s career and admire it for his ability to balance commercial and artistic success. I admire Sam Rockwell. I’d like to be known as somewhat chameleonic. Being able to drastically alter my appearance—like I did when playing Boy George—is really exciting for me.

RACHEL: That’s such an auspicious beginning to any career. Did you get to meet Boy George to train for the part?

BOOTH: Oh yes. It was such a thrill to be 17 years old and standing on a stage dressed as Boy George—wearing his actual clothes from the 1980s. He is an incredible person with such an amazing heart. He told me, “We’re gonna be friends for life now!” and I truly hope that we are.

RACHEL: Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your work?

BOOTH: Well, I don’t think I’ve reached perfection by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe someday I’ll become a perfectionist. I’m still in the first baby steps of my career, so I’ve got so much to learn and so much to figure out. And what is perfection anyway? I think it’s more important to seek the truth than to try and be perfect, to be honest.

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