So far, Will Tilston has had it pretty good. “My childhood has been great,” says the 10-year-old British actor. “Parents today have time for us, they look after us, and they really love us.” Sadly, the same cannot be said for the titular character he plays in this month’s stirring A.A. Milne biopic, Goodbye Christopher Robin. The story centers on the film’s namesake, the real-life son of the Winnie-the-Pooh creator whose woodland exploits inspired his father (Domhnall Gleeson) to turn from playwriting to children’s books. The wild success of the series did not induce positive Milne family relations; the son believed his childhood was stolen from him.
The 22-year-old British actor Alex Lawther plays Christopher Robin Milne as a teenager and young man, when his growing celebrity in England compelled him to enlist in the army simply to gain some anonymity and respect. “He did a radio interview later in life where he said to the presenter, ‘If anybody knows a desert island where I can go and just be by myself, let me know,’ ” Lawther says. “It broke my heart.”
For his part, Lawther seems prepared for fame. He made his big-screen debut in 2014 as the young Alan Turing in the Academy Award–winning drama The Imitation Game, with a performance that garnered him a London Critics’ Circle award. But Lawther is most often recognized for his starring role on an episode of last season’s Black Mirror, in which he played a young pedophile blackmailed by an online vigilante group. “People stop me and say, ‘Oh, you’re that guy,’” he says. “And I respond, ‘No, that’s not actually me. But thank you for saying hi!’” Early next year, Lawther will be seen alongside Bette Midler and Laverne Cox in Trudie Styler’s Freak Show, a comedy about a boy who runs for homecoming queen.
As for Tilston, an industry newcomer, the future is still up in the air. When not in school (“It’s all facts and exams,” he says with a sigh), he sings and dances at a local theater club. And though he’s auditioning for more film roles, he’s careful not to limit his career choices too soon. “I like expressing myself in different ways,” he says. “Acting is just one of the many things I love to do.”
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN HITS THEATERS OCTOBER 13, 2017.