Olly Alexander

Intense is a good word for it,” says Olly Alexander about his upcoming film debut. He isn’t kidding: The 18-year-old British actor recently completed work on the surrealistic drama Enter the Void. It’s directed by Gaspar Noé, the man also responsible for 2002’s controversial film Irréversible, which included an excruciating nine-minute rape scene. Enter the Void features Alexander as a troubled teenager in Tokyo who spirals into drug addiction after discovering his mother is sleeping with his best friend. “Sex, violence, drug-taking . . . I got to do it all,” he jokes on a stopover in New York from London, where he currently lives. “In pretty much every scene I’m either crying or screaming or doing something violent.” The actor’s own life was a different sort of roller coaster: His father’s work in amusement parks had him moving around the English countryside as a child. At 16, he landed a role in the British TV series Summerhill, and, in addition to Enter the Void, he appears in three more films due out this year: Tormented, a story about bullying; Bright Star, Jane Campion’s biopic of John Keats, in which Alexander plays the poet’s younger brother (“My character looks very ill and dies,” he reports); and Dust, in which he plays an incestuous twin in a post-apocalyptic love triangle. With a résumé like this, it’s safe to say that he’s averted the gawky-teen-soccer-movie period altogether. “Every job I’ve done, I reached the limits of my acting capabilities,” he says. “I have always pushed myself to feel extreme emotions.”