Glass talks to a laid-back Harris Dickinson

Glass talks to a laid-back Harris Dickinson who went from camera man to actor to become one of Britain’s busiest young stars

It’s a rainy, cold morning in east London when Harris Dickinson takes a seat opposite me in a stereotypical trendy cafe.

Unbeknown to those around us, the tall, lean Londoner sipping his coffee, concealed in a fitted bomber jacket and a grey hoodie, is the 25-year-old British actor on the precipice of becoming a household name as he takes centre stage with Ralph Fiennes in the much-anticipated prequel, The King’s Man.

Completely unfazed, Dickinson has quietly triumphed, steering clear of all the glitz and glamour many get consumed by.

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

Born in Leytonstone, east London, his childhood planted the seed for his future endeavours because of his knack of being at the centre of attention. “I was always performing,” he explains. “It’s silly but I feel, like, in order to hold the attention of a group, you have to be a good storyteller. I guess it stems from that, but I never thought I would go on to this as a career.”

Starting out as a camera assistant and occasionally acting in short films, he originally planned to head down the path that kept him behind-the-scenes. “I didn’t enjoy the spotlight, it sort of scared me a little bit,” he says. But after four years of auditioning, he struck lucky. “Listen, I got very lucky and got whatever a break is defined as. But there was a time when I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be a viable career.”

The good fortune was the lead role in Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats – a big-screen debut that would later earn him critical acclaim along with nominations in the Best Actor category at various film festivals.

Centred around an 18-year-old New Yorker who spends a summer exploring his sexuality, it was a storyline that threw Dickinson straight into the deep end.

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

“I didn’t know anything about that world. I’d never even been [to New York] so I think the idea of the unknown was quite exciting,” he recalls. “At the heart of the character – and at that age you’re on the cusp of adulthood – you’re not only dealing with becoming an adult but also the idea of being conscious of your sexuality and identity. It was this weird middle ground. It’s very complex without even having to vocalise it.”

In Henry Blake’s sobering feature, County Lines, about the practice of drug-trafficking using children, the Londoner took on a darker role, one unfortunately he had witnessed first-hand himself.

“There were boys at my school doing it,” he says earnestly. “The problem is, boys are getting gripped into it at that [young] age as there is this appeal and attachment to consumerism, to be a part of the rat race. It’s going from nothing to everything and that’s a danger.”

Finding a solution to this problem is not one either of us can fix over smashed avocados on toast, but the actor briefly touches on the risk drill music has on influencing naïve teenagers in this country. “It’s a problem and it’s a very difficult line to dance between because you don’t want to stop people speaking naturally in music. But at the same time, there are young boys and girls that will latch onto that sort of violent appeal and think it’s maybe OK.”

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

We both quickly converge on the influence that Kid Cudi has had on both of us. “I love Cudi. Day’N’Nite is a seminal piece of work that speaks to me,” says Dickinson, who, like many,  credits the American rapper for his therapeutic lyrics regarding mental health within a genre that typically focuses on materialism, crime and sex.

And just like Kid Cudi’s impenetrability in music, Dickinson is determined not to glue himself to a specific film type as he stars in The King’s Man; the third instalment of the Kingsman franchise, set during the First World War. “Matthew [Vaughn, director] is a risky filmmaker and I like that,” he replies when I ask him what drew him to this project.

“I think if you can work with people that do bold things with their work then it is exciting to step into new spaces like that.” He describes Vaughn as refreshingly frank. They met, then read the script together and afterwards Dickinson got offered the part. “It was nice and normal, there wasn’t this pressure.”

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

Playing Conrad, the Duke of Oxford’s son, played by Fiennes, he appreciates the significance of performing alongside such a well-respected actor “He’s incredible. So, to watch him work and to be in scenes with him was special.”

It was from observing Fiennes’ composure that taught Dickinson the power in stillness, “When you work with great actors, you realise that the majority of the work is just relaxing yourself and not getting worked up and stressed about it.”

There’s a particularly memorable moment in the film where Dickinson runs across no-man’s land carrying a fellow solider across his back. “[That] was one of the hardest bloody things I’ve done,” he laughs, recalling the countless takes it took to get it right. While that may have momentarily pushed him to his physical limits, he did gain a skill. “I learnt how to use a knife … like to chop spring onions finely,” he says sarcastically, shaking his head.

“I’m only joking. For the trench scene, I got to learn how to fight with a small knife, which I hopefully will never have to use.”

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

With the urge to continually seek new opportunities, his role as Pete in The Souvenir Part II may be minor but as it is a Joanna Hogg film it has been a real test of his capabilities.

“She doesn’t tell the actors much at all, she sort of tells you who your character is and where you fit into the story,” he explains, adding that there wasn’t even a script to go by. “She’ll encourage you to improvise around those guidelines and what comes out of that are really natural moments.”

After it premiered at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the actor was once again met with a tsunami of praise.  “I don’t read reviews or anything because it messes with my head. I’m already an over-thinker. I’ve got an analytical machine running in my head.”

Harris Dickinson. Photograph: Freddie Stisted

With Where the Crawdads Sing, Triangle of Sadness and Untitled Murder Mystery all set for 2022 releases, his trajectory is not one he needs to question. Naming Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay as the person he hopes to one day work with, he knows he’s had the privilege of already working with the very best.

“When I was on set for Trust [a TV drama series about the Getty family], I was turning 21. Just before a take, [Danny Boyle, the director] comes to me and was, like, ‘Happy Birthday, not a bad place to be turning 21’, and he closed the door and shouts ‘action’. The scene started and I was like ‘oh shit! He’s right this is pretty cool’.”

I draw him back to the present and ask him what the theme of this issue, “reflect”, means to him. “Isn’t reflection just a posh word for anxiety,” he says with a grin.

by Imogen Clark

All clothing and accessories from the DIOR Spring22 men’s collection.







Lighting assistant BREANDAN MCBENNET