If you don’t remember the mathematical expression that governs the motion of three celestial bodies in a vacuum, fear not. Netflix has spent over $160 million to help you out. To make that completely clear: the streaming supergiant has spent $20 million (£16 million) per episode to make 3 Body Problem, an alien-invasion epic of such sweeping complexity that it makes the Big Bang theory read like a nursery rhyme. That makes it the streamer’s most expensive scripted series ever.

IMDB

Based on the Remembrance of Earth’s Past novels by Chinese author Liu Cixin, the show covers a phantasmagoria of spacey theories and concepts—both real and imagined—from the “Wow! Signal” to the Fermi Paradox, Rare Earth Theory to Dark Forest Theory.

Do you need a degree in astrophysics to enjoy the show? Of course not. Still, an elementary understanding of some of these ideas will improve the journey. This is where Liu Cixin’s books come in, carefully explaining abstruse science concepts in clear language, many of which Netflix can only touch on lest it overloads our screentime-addled attention spans.

But the Remembrance of Earth’s Past is more than just a string of theories. It’s also a rollicking tale of cosmic intrigue, human resilience, and angry aliens. It’s a narrative that spans centuries and galaxies, intertwining a rich constellation of characters as they pinball about through time and space.

The story is not just about survival against extra-terrestrial forces. It's also about the philosophical and ethical questions that come with the advancement of civilisation. It challenges viewers to consider what it means to be human in the face of the unknown and the lengths to which we will go to protect our world and our species.

IMDB

Which is all to say, really: it’s a load of alien-invading fun.

There are five books set in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past universe, three of which were penned chronologically from 2006, with a prequel and a sequel later written to fluff out the franchise.

But how should you read them, and when?

1. Ball Lightning (2004)

This is not part of the original trilogy that shot Liu to fame two years later. So it should be seen as more of an antipasto to the main course. But it’s nonetheless a tasty introduction to the Three Body Problem universe, minus the aliens.

It follows Chen, who, after witnessing his parents’ death by ball lightning, dedicates his life to unravelling this phenomenon. What that is, exactly, is best left to the book to explain in detail but suffice to say it’s a rare and unexplained phenomenon where small electrical fireballs burst like bullets out of thunderstorms and then explode. They’ve been known to kill people.

Chen’s research leads him to Lin Yun, a brilliant physicist with unorthodox theories about the nature of ball lightning. As they embark on a perilous quest for knowledge, they uncover secrets that challenge fundamental understandings of physics and reality itself. It’s a gripping narrative that weaves together science, intrigue, and human emotion in a thrilling exploration of the unknown.

2. The Three-Body Problem (2006)

The serious business begins. It opens during China's Cultural Revolution, where astrophysics student Ye Wenjie witnesses her father's death and loses faith in humanity. After a stint in prison, she is recruited by a secret military project tasked with uncovering extraterrestrial life. She sends a beacon into outerspace... and unwittingly invites aliens to Earth.

Meanwhile, nanotech expert Wang Miao is drawn into a mysterious VR game mirroring the chaotic climate of a three-sun alien world. Turns out the game and the secret military project are linked, revealing a desperate alien civilization planning to invade Earth. It soon gets out. And as humanity wrestles with this threat, Ye Wenjie becomes a leader for those who welcome the alien takeover, fracturing society and forcing humanity into a tug-of-war for its own future.

3. The Dark Forest (2008)

The second book of the trilogy digs into two key alien-related theories: the Fermi Paradox and Dark Forest theory. The first asks: if we exist, so too must aliens… so where the hell are they? The second says we should hope we never find them.

Dark Forest theory, in other words, argues that – in a universe where civilizations don't know each other's intentions – the safest bet is to lurk in the shadows like hunters in a forest, ready to strike first against potential threats.

But back to the story, and humanity faces annihilation. Four centuries separate Earth from the arrival of a ruthless alien armada, the Trisolarans, fleeing their dying sun. But Earth's fightback is crippled by sophisticated alien probes, sophons, that monitor every move and stifle technological advancement.

In a desperate bid for survival, Earth creates the Wallfacers - a clandestine group with access to any resource imaginable. Their mission: devise humanity's secret defence strategy. Luo Ji, a brilliant but unorthodox sociologist, is thrust into this world after a near-fatal encounter. As he delves deeper, he uncovers a terrifying cosmic truth - the Dark Forest theory - that rewrites the rules of interstellar relations and forces humanity to make unthinkable choices in the face of an unforgiving universe.

4. Death's End (2010)

Decades after the precarious truce with the Trisolarans, humanity enjoys a golden age fuelled by alien technology. Yet, a chilling truth lurks beneath the surface. Cheng Xin, an idealistic engineer from Earth's pre-invasion past, awakens from hibernation to a world transformed. She's thrust into a new role as a Wallfacer. However, whispers of a devastating Trisolaran weapon, capable of destroying entire solar systems, threaten the fragile peace.

Meanwhile, a historical anomaly from Earth's past resurfaces, hinting at a mysterious force that could rewrite the course of the Trisolaran invasion. As humanity grapples with existential threats and internal factions with conflicting agendas, Cheng Xin must find a way to ensure humanity's survival in a universe where cosmic deterrence hangs by a thread.

5. The Redemption of Time (2011)

If Ball Lightening was the antipasto, this is the complimentary limoncello that comes with the bill.

Liu didn’t actually write this instalment. It began as a work of fanfiction by the (now acclaimed) sci-fi writer Baoshu. But its reimagining of Liu’s world, fresh with new characters and ideas, proved so popular that the original trilogy’s publisher picked it up and published it in 2011, with Liu’s permission.

It revives a number of characters from the series, including Yun Tianming, a controversial and lightly drawn figure from Death's End. Presumed dead, he awakens in a distant future where humanity is facing existential threats from advanced civilizations. He discovers that he has been resurrected by an enigmatic alien entity known as the "Sophon" and is tasked with uncovering the truth behind humanity's past and its place in the universe.

As Yun Tianming navigates this unfamiliar future, he encounters familiar faces from the original trilogy, such as Ye Wenjie and Cheng Xin, and grapples with complex moral and philosophical questions. The novel delves into themes of redemption, identity, and the consequences of humanity's actions across time and space.

Fans of Liu can probably live without it, but if you’ve completed the series and need an extra fix, Redemption of Time will scratch that itch.

Originally published on Esquire UK

On 13 October 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into a glacier in the Andes on its way from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile. Many of the 45 people on board were Uruguayan rugby players. The plane was ripped to pieces, killing passengers and crew immediately. And for the survivors, what happened in the following months was a excruciating descent into human survival: avalanches and hostile winds and most chilling of all, cannibalism. Only 16 people made it out of the mountains alive.

It is a remarkable story, absurdly ripe for retelling and adaptation. Many of the survivors have written books and who can blame them? That experience was likely cathartic and possibly sense-making. And everything about the story, from the hostile environment to the gruesome plot details, makes it ideal for the cinema. The most high-profile attempt was 1993’s Alive. An adaptation of British historian’s Piers Paul Read’s account of the crash, directed by Frank Marshall and starring Ethan Hawke. It has some terrific sequences but the overall thrust was a full-throttle embrace of Hollywood. One that's all hope and heroes and endurance.

There have, of course, been many other documentaries and podcasts and TV movies. And now we have another feature film: Society of the Snow, recently Oscar-nominated for Best International Feature. After its January release on Netflix, the Spanish-language film—surely a dark horse at the Academy Awards—became one of Netflix’s most watched non-English language films ever. It clocked in over 50 million views (and counting).

Thankfully, director J. A. Bayona (whose previous work includes another true-story disaster flick The Impossible and very much not true-story disaster flick Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is unafraid to go hard on the uglier parts of this story. At times, Bayona’s camera angles presents these beleaguered men—absurdly good-looking actors with enviable ‘70s flares and swooped fringes—as not quite human. Their facial features are distorted into the figures of a Goya painting. Conversely, when time comes for the cannibalism, because of course it must, Bayona eschews gross-out tactics and focuses on the practicalities. How to dismember the dead bodies, how to stomach the flesh (with plenty of ice to dilute the tastes). An unimaginable situation is presented as a how-to survival guide.

Liberties have been taken. For example, the survivors were rescued over two nights not in one fell swoop as the film depicts and you can read about those comparisons elsewhere. But what is more interesting is how Bayona chooses to frame this well-worn story. The film is narrated by law student Numa Turcatti, played by stand-out Enzo Vogrincic, who seems destined for big things. He is a rousing, philosophical addition to the men, whose presence is made doubly tragic by the fact that he was not really supposed to be there. He does not play for the team, and simply could not could not resist the relatively cheap flight to Chile. Turcatti—and perhaps this is a spoiler, so avert your eyes for a 50-year-old news item—does not make it out alive. Killing off the narrator two-thirds of the way through adds a fresh twist to a familiar tale.

With a run time of over two-and-a-half hours, Society of the Snow stretches a viewer’s limits. But the tediousness works, for what is more tedious than hoping? Over and over again, the rugby players head out on walks in an attempt to retrieve the plane’s engine where they hope that batteries stored. Over and over again, they try to make the radio work to make contact with the outside world (crushingly, they instead hear that the search party has moved on). There are some simplistic sentiments about the power of friendship. But mostly the film is an antidote to the real-life awards bait, which often blandly papers over survival stories. It is certainly miles ahead of other Netflix movies based on a true story (of which there are countless).

Towards the end, as the players are washed and cleaned in hospital—a sequence that should feel euphoric, but lands with a thud—we see their starved bodies for the first time without clothing. Throughout, they have been layered in sweaters and coats, the reveal has the effect of a twist ending. You expect to see them as superheroes, but they are skeletal. It neatly evokes the confusing aftermath of traumatic events. In real life, there was indeed public backlash after stories of the men’s cannibalism broke. Bayona’s resistance of a Hollywood ending gives the men the complexity they deserve. And it is also what makes Society of the Snow linger long after the credits. Hope persists, yes, but so does terror.

Society of the Snow is available on Netlix now.

Originally published on Esquire UK

HBO

There are obviously a ton of highly anticipated TV shows and sequels in the pipeline this year. There's Masters of the Air coming to Apple TV+ this month, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith reboot (Amazon Prime) and Abbott Elementary Season 3 (Disney+) across early February, and 3 Body Problem (Netflix) on 21 March. That's just the first three months of the year, guys.

Our hearts are personally on Severance and Silo, even though the mind knows better than to expect seeing their new seasons this year. In the meantime, there are a handful of already confirmed installations, with HBO Max taking the most of the picking. The trailers aren't just teasers. These shows are certainly dropping this year, the only uncertain thing is the exact date, which are to be announced in due time. Get excited.

House of the Dragon Season 2

The redeeming spinoff from the messy conclusion that was Game of Thrones returns. With allegedly more dragons this time (“You’re going to meet five new dragons,” says showrunner Ryan Condal), the second season will likely pick off from the impending civil war and perhaps even trouble in uncle-husband-niece-wife paradise.

The Sympathizer

C'mon, that's how a trailer should be done. Give a little premise, but not spell out the entire plot in two and a half minutes. Name drop A24 under Executive Producers alongside the Downeys, and casually mention direction by Oldboy's Park Chan-wook. Plus, RDJ doing the most? Sold.

The Boys Season 4

With the surprise cameos in Gen V season 1, it's reasonable to expect crossovers between the two narratives. Besides the familiar antiheroes reaching for their capes again, new faces joining the cast are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Rosemarie DeWitt, Rob Benedict and Elliot Knight; characters yet to be revealed.

The Bear Season 3

We didn't need the accolades to convince us what a gem the hit FX series is, but in case you needed reminding; it bagged a total of six awards at the 2023 Emmys. Best comedy series, lead actor in a comedy series (Jeremy Allen White), supporting actor in a comedy series (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and supporting actress in a comedy series (Ayo Edebiri). So yeah, can't wait to see Carmy get out of that fridge.

The Penguin

Whatever your verdict on Matt Reeves' The Batman was, no one can deny Colin Farrell's performance as the titular villain. Oh wait, did you just find out that was the actor under all those unrecognisable layers of prosthetics? We don't blame you. To his credit, the voice and mannerisms also played a part. Which is why we can only anticipate how the eight-parter on the Gotham gangster will play out.

10-Word Review

All sound and fury but it also signifies something... familiar?

The Skinny

An intergalactic fascist empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist. Its military threatens farmers on the distant moon. A former soldier seeks out a rebel faction to make a stand against the empire. This is Star Wars- I mean, Rebel Moon.


Here Be Spoilers...


What we like:

Watching Rebel Moon: A Child of Fire, you might be immediately clued into director Zack Snyder's film inspiration—Star Wars. To be fair, films about the little guy going up against a group of baddies will follow a narrative thread similar to Star Wars... but then again, even Star Wars took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. So, yes, if we want to pick nits, Snyder took inspiration from Star Wars and Seven Samurai. There will be similarities but Snyder wanted to create something wholly original so you gotta respect the man's hustle.

It's that timeless tale of the Motherworld, who controls the galaxy. They have a military aka the Imperium, that threatens a farming colony on the moon of Veldt. Kora (played by Sofia Boutella) is an ex-Imperium soldier who was trying to get a second chance at a normal life as a farmer, now has to return to a life of violence to protect the colony. She does so by putting together a supergroup to fend off the Imperium before they return to Veldt. You've grand sets and world-building; there's lore and details. This has all the trappings of an epic; a many-chapter saga. A franchise that can spawn toys and merch; spin-offs even! The sky's the limit.

And with Snyder at the helm, you can expect gorgeous slo-mo action sequences that can make John Woo nod in approval. Like that scene with ex-military Kora first facing off with the Imperium in the farmhouse.

What we didn't like:

Everything else.

Look, no one goes out to make a bad movie. Snyder had the idea to make Rebel Moon in 1997. That's 27 years of gestation. He had plenty of time to mull over this.

But it's boring. I don't know how a US166 million dollar movie can be boring but there you go. A bulk of the humdrum stems from the characters; I don't care for them. It's a huge cast and because of the number of personalities, you don't get development or much of a backstory. They are extraneous, which is a pity because they all have potential. You've Tarak (Staz Nair), who is a royal-turned-slave. He talks to animals and looks like he has a cool backstory but no, that's never explored. There's Bae Doona's Nemesis, who is a cyborg swordsperson. That's cool, right? But we don't go in-depth about her motivation.

Maybe all of their origins will be covered in the sequel (Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver coming out on 19 April, 2024) but if I didn't know there was a second instalment, you'd lose me as a viewer on this chapter.

The protagonist Kora has a reasonable amount of history but that's told through clunky exposition. Her stoicism paints her as a reluctant hero but without an emotional anchor, she's just going through the motions. And I, as an audience member, am just going through the motions of waiting until the end credits.

What to look out for:

Anthony Hopkins voicing Jimmy, an android of the Mechanicas Miltarium. He's arguably the best character in the film. Despite not having any human features, Jimmy displays more personality than some of the other actors. It's fascinating what a little voice acting and movements can bring to a character.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is now out on Netflix. Watch out for Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver coming out on 19 April, 2024 to see if it can redeem itself.

Listen up, players. A robotic voice shouted into a giant dormitory stacked to the gills with 456 bunk beds. I craned my neck all the way up to the ceiling—which was at least ten Shaqs high—to catch sight of the giant piggy bank that was suspended in the air. If you're reading this, you probably know where I was. On the set of Netflix's brand-new reality showSquid Game: The Challenge.

Did you watch Squid Game in 2021 and think to yourself, I would totally sign up for these death-defying games to win major dough? Well, I didn't. When I watched the South Korean dramawhich follows a down-on-his-luck man who is invited to play a series of games with fatal consequences—I thought to myself, I would die immediately. Despite that, in late January, Netflix invited Esquire to a giant production studio in Northern London, where they had painstakingly transformed the world of Squid Game into a living, breathing space.

Why, you may ask? Well, Netflix staged a reality competition series, called Squid Game: The Challenge, where players would compete in games inspired by the show for a US$4.56 million jackpot. 456 contestants would arrive and begin the competition mere days after we toured the set—and they'd have tough it out there for three weeks. Cut to Thanksgiving week, when The Challenge premiered to the tune of more than a million viewers in the first five days.

After releasing another batch of episodes this week and whittling down its playing field to just three players, The Challenge is gearing up for its endgame—which debuts next Wednesday. Meanwhile, those million-some viewers of The Challenge are wondering what it's actually like to live and play in this batshit world of Netflix's creation, which is where I come in. Hell, I even wondered how a reality show that removed the serious social commentary of Squid Game would even work.

So, after a comfortable (non-drugged) ride to the The Challenge's production lot, I—along with a group of journalists—were prepped to start our two-day-long tour. Squid Game's director Hwang Dong-Hyuk, also visited the warehouse that week. He was just as bewildered by the detailed recreation of the Squid Games sets as us. I asked him what it takes to win Squid Game. "You have to be lucky," he said, somewhat cryptically. Yikes. Could this possibly be the most gruelling competition series to ever exist?

The real game: IKEA or Squid Game: The Challenge set? SIRENA HE

The Digs

When we arrived to the set, we received our green tracksuits and designated numbers. For the next two days, I wasn't Sirena He—I was 388. Afterwards, we were squibbed. In place of, you know, death—The Challenge gives each player a vest with an ink pack, which explodes when they lose a challenge.

Once we were all set with our squibs and our suits, those guards—the ones dressed in red jumpsuits and black masks—ushered us into the world of The Challenge. They were fully in character. No matter how many jokes I made about competing in the "Squib Games," the faceless guards didn't crack. In a single-file line, we arrived to the first section of the set: the giant dormitory that would house 456 people, lined with rows of stacked bunk beds. When we signed our liability waivers that morning, we were told to be careful while climbing the beds. Cut to me a few hours later, nailing my head on a bunk bed railing.

But that wasn't the most ominous line from the liability waiver. One clause claimed that the show can’t be held liable if I suffer any "emotional damage," prompting the natural follow-up question: What kind of emotional damage will I experience in The Challenge?! I'd soon find out.

Anupam Tripathi, who played the beloved Ali, from Squid Game, said he felt like he was back on set. SIRENA HE

Don't Lose Your Marbles

Later that day, the guards led us through the pastel-hued staircase until we reached two large doors. They pushed them open, revealing the sprawling marbles set. The walls were painted in the tones of perpetual dusk, with an orange glow shining down on us. Anupam Tripathi, who played the beloved Ali from the original Squid Game was present with us. "I feel like I am right back on set," Tripathi tells me.

We wandered around in awe, exploring the replicated alleyways. But we didn't have much time—it was time to play. Just as in the original show, we would have ten minutes to play. Game rules were explained to us over the intercom, and guards handed us bags of marbles. My partner was was another journalist from a fashion outlet.

We decided to play a game from the show—the one where you put your hands behind your back, clasp the marbles in one hand, bring them in front of you, and your partner guesses which hand the marbles are in. As the countdown clock on the wall ticked away, with guards dragging losing contestants to unknown corners, the game started to feel real.

"Hurry up and pick already!" he said. His eyes constantly flickered to the giant clock looming over us.

Well, the thing was—I was taking my time to try to make him anxious. Because my partner had a tell. He held his marbles hand further behind his back than the other one. I won all of his marbles, and since I knew that a guard wouldn't actually shoot my friend, I did a little victory dance.

Doggone Dalgona!

Our last stop of the day was to the playground—which means, of course, that it was dalgona time. The guards handed us candy tins, and I placed my palms over the box and tried to manifest a triangle shape. By some brush of extraordinary luck—just like Director Hwang said I’d need—when I opened my tin, a neat little triangle was inside. I flashed my honeycomb at the closest guard. He didn't react.

The 10-minute countdown began. I tried Player 456’s winning technique of licking the back of the dalgona to break down the edges. Almost immediately after I switched to the needle, my dalgona split and took a chunk of the triangle shape with it. Even with the best candy shape, I still lost. Patience is the name of this game. I heard my number, 388, over the intercom. And the squib? The one I was wary of all day? SPLAT! Cold, black ink spurted out all over my chest and neck. I screamed—as dramatically as possible, mind you—and keeled over in defeat.

This wasn’t your third grade classroom’s game of ’Red Light, Green Light.’ SIRENA HE

Red Lights Look Like Green Lights

There she was: Younghee, the giant schoolgirl with laser eyes. The next day, we found ourselves on one end of a football field-sized playground with dozens of cameras peering in through sky-painted walls. "Red Light, Green Light" was our last challenge— and the most gruelling. Here's why: in the show, The Challenge edits the game to appear as if it's only five minutes long. Really, contestants have to remain frozen for an indeterminable amount of time, while a group of impartial panelists analyses the footage and decides who moved and who didn't.

When the countdown began, I immediately broke into a sprint. My heart was pounding hard, as if Younghee’s eyes could actually shoot lasers. When she spun her head around, everyone froze mid-stride—some unfortunate players were in a half sprint. Thankfully, I stopped my right foot planted on the ground, ready for my next step. I fought back a yawn. (Would a yawn disqualify me?!)

A voice called out the numbers of the players who were eliminated. Eventually, I reached the halfway point, clenching every muscle. Minutes passed like hours. Just as I ran past the middle of the field, I heard my number over the intercom. I had to accept my fate. My squib exploded once again, hissing and spraying my face with ink.

As soon as you see Younghee for the first time, shit feels real. SIRENA HE

This is when I went full reality-TV diva mode.

"This is rigged!" I shouted in defiance, while a silent guard tried to take me away. "Check the video! I didn't move!"

When they finally managed to bring me backstage, I spied on my fellow contestants through the gaps in the walls where the production crew propped the cameras.

"The cameras caught you moving," a production assistant informed me.

"But... I don't think I moved," I insisted, though I was beginning to doubt my own recollection.

"We've got a lot of cameras and a panel of experts examining the replay. You definitely moved," the production assistant said.

Director Hwang's words rang in my head: You need to be lucky. And I just didn't have any luck. Though I'm still considering filing a formal complaint to Netflix.

Originally published on Esquire US

David Fincher’s new film The Killer stars Michael Fassbender as a ruthless hitman with a penchant for process, a drive for revenge and a high threshold for boredom. It’s a stylish movie, as you’d expect from the director of such gloomy noirs as Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Except maybe when it comes to The Killer’s own wardrobe. As we see our protagonist move from Paris, to the Dominican Republic to New Orleans to Florida and finally New York, his wardrobe is an oddball mix of Hawaiian shirts, sensible slacks, anoraks and bucket hats.

Less John Wick more dad-at-Wickes. That, apparently, was the point.

To tell us more, Cate Adams, costume designer on The Killer, who previously worked with Fincher on the 2017 Netflix series Mindhunter, shared her mood board and inspirations. And helpfully provided actual sources for anyone wanting to ‘Get The Look’—including Fassbender’s bucket hat, shirts and comfy slip-on shoes. Enjoy!

NETFLIX

David Fincher is famously exacting. Presumably this extended to your brief for The Killer’s wardrobe?

Right from the start he said he wanted him to look like a German tourist in Paris. And he wanted him to look dorky. And not cool. Like he did not want him to look like ‘James Bond/Tom Cruise-in-Collateral’ – he didn’t want anything like that. He was very specific about that. We talked a lot about clothing [The Killer] could take on and off. Everything he has could be purchased from an airport. He doesn’t think a lot about the clothes. But strangely, he has good style.

What labels does he wear?

If you’re in a ‘walking city’ like Paris, there’s a few shops on every block where you could find something [The Killer wears] easily. In the States it’s, like, [mid-range, off-the-peg brand] JoS. A. Bank, Hugo Boss… those brands that have ‘ND’ jackets—nondescript, they don’t have logos on them. JoS. A. Bank is a mens’ store that’s been around forever. They have Oxford shirts. Jackets. Trench coats. My dad actually shops there.

Is The Killer meant to blend in, or stand out? There’s scenes in crowded airports where if someone said ‘Which one’s the assassin?’ I think people might say ‘It’s him—the weirdo in the sunglasses and the bucket hat’

I think that’s open to your interpretation, right? In Paris, when I started doing mood boards, I was, like, ‘Ok, I know David doesn’t want him in black. He doesn’t need to look ‘bad’’. So, I originally had him in the colours that were coming into play for the season—honey colours, tans and browns. I had my crew in every city go around and take pictures of what everyone was wearing. David likes to have mood boards with just one image—instead of using collages, which is what I usually do. And he wanted a chino khaki that was, like, eggshell or cement, so [The Killer] weirdly stands out. So we started with Paris and just played off of that.

Cate Adams’ reference for ’nerdy german tourist’. IMGUR

So, he’s meant to look a bit… off?

My take in Paris is that he is meant to stand out. He’s meant to look weird. ‘What is he wearing? Why is he wearing all these light colours? He’s clearly not from here.’ But no one wants to talk to him.

The Killer, in Paris. RICHARD MERRITT

He’s been compared to a dull dad. Is that a compliment?

Yes, it is. I think that’s exactly what we were going for. David had mentioned ‘dad vibes’ early on. Like, dad sneakers. He really wanted Skechers because they’re so universal and the über-dad shoes. We also went to every bucket hat shop that existed in North America. And we finally found one online which is a cotton poly roll-up hat from an army surplus store that comes in packages of 30. The point was it was so nondescript.

There are opportunistic retailers online now selling ‘The Killer Michael Fassbender Jacket’.

Oh, I hadn’t seen that! Isn’t that every costume designer’s dream? If I have people showing up like Michael next Halloween, I will die and go to heaven.

Let’s talk about some of the people on your mood board. Jack Nicholson in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). Paul Newman in Absence of Malice (1981). Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond (2006). What was it about those characters?

It was not so much the characters, more that I liked the look of them. David had mentioned Le Samouraï to watch, the French film [starring Alain Delon as hitman Jef Costello; 1967]. He wears a trench coat and has a nice hat on. But he didn’t want that [look]. So I went through so many movies. I also watched American Gigolo (1980), because it’s so tonal – that was a big inspiration. I loved Leo in Blood Diamond. If you watch any of David’s movies—and I knew this from Mindhunter—he wants everything to looked lived in and worn and real.

Why the bucket hat?

‘Bucket hat’ just played in to the ‘German tourist’. [Fincher] wanted a bucket hat that was waterproof, or water-resistant.

That really is quite specific

He didn’t want him to have to carry an umbrella. It’s really hard to find a waterproof one that wasn’t black. I found one from a vendor in Thailand that was green. David didn’t want green.

There’s some good bucket hat references on your mood board

If you Google references for ‘bucket hat’ then Hunter S Thompson is going to be the obvious one. And I found that sketch of the ‘nerdy German tourist’. I thought that was funny.

Also, we couldn’t help noticing: Liam Gallagher

He’s always wearing bucket hats and oversized windbreakers. It’s, like, ‘Are you kidding?’ You can look at him through the decades and he’s aways wearing something similar.

Liam Gallagher. CARLOS ALVAREZ

What do you think of Liam’s look?

Um, well, I mean, I think that Oasis is timeless, obviously. I fucking love Liam Gallagher. I figure he’s a douchebag but I thought that documentary [Liam Gallagher: As It Was (2019)] was really well done. I’m sure he’s a complete asshole. But I do love his look. I mean, he was playing Glastonbury and I don’t even think it was raining but he was wearing this, like, ginormous, oversized windbreaker. And I was, like, ‘What is going on? Aren’t you sweating to death?’ But maybe that’s his schtick, you know. He’s trying to burn calories.

He's been called ‘Britain’s most effortless style icon’.

Oh! Cool!

I guess all the people we’ve just talked about embody a certain… attitude?

‘I don’t give a fuck’, right? Isn’t that Liam? That’s The Killer. There’s nothing in there. He doesn’t care. Couldn’t really care less about what anyone thinks of him. He doesn’t really need anyone to survive. It’s just him. I feel like Liam’s kind of like that, right? He didn’t give a fuck about his brother. He’s, like, ‘I’m the man. I really don’t care about all of you’.

NETFLIX

What else can you tell us about the clothes?

David said at the start that everything had to be functional. So the Barbour jacket is water-resistant. He wears Lululemon. He wears Patagonia as a lightweight knit in Chicago. That had a little bit of cashmere in it—so he can sweat in it. [Fincher] kept saying [technical outwear brand] Ather. Like, Ather was a big thing. We didn’t use it but we definitely shopped it and tried it. So, yeah, everything had to be accessible. Everything had to be ready for any climate. All the layers—you could take them on and off and use them again. A lot of Gap, and then, randomly, Tommy Bahama.

The Killer, in the Dominican Republic. RICHARD MERRITT

We don’t have Tommy Bahama in the UK

Tommy Bahama is, like, a Key West-Florida-Aloha Hawaiian shirts brand. It’s dad vibes. It’s the almost-retired 55-year-old, upper-middle class man… What he thinks is ‘dressing up’ for vacation. It’s, like, ‘I’m going to get my Hawaiian shirt for vacation and my linen pants, and I’m going to look great at my all-inclusive resort in Mexico or Florida’. That’s what that’s about, basically.

When he gets to New Orleans, he has a stash of shrink-wrapped Dickies in his lock-up

Yes. That’s when we see him pushing a garbage bin into the building. He has a whole rolling rack of ‘disguises’ behind him. So that’s the one time he looks ‘brand new’ and ‘out-of-the-packaging’. And we dyed a belt and a hat to match.

NETFLIX

He does have one more traditionally ‘stealthy’ look, on a mission in Florida

That black look was for the [big set piece] fight scene. So everything is black, techy, zippy—the navy zippies from Lululemon. He’s got different kinds of track pants. He puts on a ski-mask. And it was Michael’s idea to roll it up, fisherman’s-style. So he looks kind of…. trendy? But he’s not meaning to. Really, his whole wardrobe is anything slim-fitting that he could pack in his suitcase. And obviously he didn’t need to iron.

No umbrella, no iron.

Right!

Originally published on Esquire UK

The release of Beckham, Netflix’s four-part documentary chronicling the rise of English football’s most famous son. Directed by Succession and Short Circuit actor Fisher Stevens and assembled by Beckham's own production company, it promises “never-before-seen” footage of the former England captain’s career and family life. No mean feat for a man who has taken us behind the Brylcreemed curtains from the very beginning.

Ours was a full-blown national obsession that transcended sport and social strata, whipped up by a consummate self-promoter with a face for billboards. In the eight transformative years that followed his wonder goal at Selhurst Park in 1996—the ones that took him from a house-share in Salford to a mega mansion in Madrid—David Beckham released three autobiographies: My Story, My World, and My Side.

They were best-sellers, supplemented by three access-some-areas documentaries—David Beckham: Football Superstar (1997), The Real David Beckham (2000) and The Real Beckhams (2002)—as well as countless interviews in magazines and newspapers and TV studios.

GETTY IMAGES

All but one of the aforementioned documentaries promised the kind of candour and intimacy that you very rarely receive—or arguably even deserve—from a star of his wattage. They occasionally deliver on it. Watching them all back is an exercise in squaring his supposedly shy, solitary, family-first persona with a relentless pursuit of global fame. The clothes are fun, too.

In Beckham, the latest "definitive" effort, we're watching a man bask in the glow of his own legacy, often mere millimetres away from his (admittedly, still great) face. It's the never-ending victory lap, available in perpetuity around the world. And to director Fisher Stevens' credit, the film is as deftly put together as its subject. But to watch the old documentaries back—shot in more detached, traditional formats—is to see David in the eye of a long storm, as the giddy days of Beckham-mania give way to something eerier, more perilous and overwhelming.

It starts out innocently enough with the straight-to-VHS David Beckham: Football Superstar (with “free double-sided Becks poster!”) filmed a year before the World Cup in France. The 22-year-old seems to be taking his newfound fame in his stride, proudly showing off the racks of designer clothes that fill his modest home (alongside a life-size cardboard cut-out of… himself. He swears it’s not his).

But in other ways, Beckham seems unfit for it. He talks protectively about his alone time, and likes nothing more than going to his local Chinese restaurant for a solo meal. “I enjoy my own company," he tells the documentary-maker, bashfully. "I suppose I’ve got used to being alone for a long time”. You wonder when he last enjoyed a prawn cracker in peace.

Then things ramp up several notches. In the 2000 BBC documentary, The Real David Beckham, he talks about the people who rummage through bins outside Vidal Sassoon "trying to find my blonde locks"; about the fall-out from that self-inflicted red card at the 1998 World Cup, the death threats and the abuse and the bouts of depression. Sitting in a sports car outside Gary Neville's house, the documentary fades to black as Beckham laments his lack of trust with the outside world.

If Netflix's Beckham owes a debt to The Last Dance, then The Real Beckhams from 2002, aired again on the BBC, is a heavily subdued take on the early reality shows of that era. It catches the couple in a moment of flux: David has just been (somewhat reluctantly) carted off to join the Galácticos of Real Madrid, while wife Victoria is on the verge of launching a new single and touring the world.

But it's at this crossroad that you can see the pair finally begin to wrestle control of the PR machine, talking solemnly about their business politics, commercial interests and desire to take personal brands to "the next level". The disapproving spectre of Alex Ferguson is no more. Ironically, an otherwise dry conversation about setting up an office in Madrid produces one of the film's lighter, more revealing moments.

"We both worry about the overexposure thing," says Victoria, as her husband lounges on the sofa chomping Hobnobs. "There isn’t a lot that David hasn’t advertised recently. He’s got away with it because he’s played fantastic football. But we're very much aware of the sell-by-date."

David looks bruised. "I haven't advertised that much".

"Babe, you have," responds Victoria. "But you haven't advertised McVitie's, so stick them behind the terrapins."

But none of the documentaries, in my mind, can match the accidental pathos that arrived with David Beckham’s cameo in ITV's seminal piece of football reportage, Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup Wind-Ups. Aired in the summer of 2006 in the build-up to another doomed international tournament, it was a hidden camera rip-off of the MTV reality show Punk’d, aimed at the England squad, with Rio larking about in the Ashton Kutcher role (it followed Nancy Dell'Olio’s Footballers' Cribs a year earlier, which was cancelled after a spate of robberies). Some of the pranks were surprisingly dark—Wayne Rooney comforting a boy whose dog has just died, in particular—but Beckham’s episode is equal parts melancholy and menace.

The set-up was simple: a taxi driver and loudmouth security man have been tasked with whisking the Real Madrid winger from Manchester's Lowry Hotel to an important business meeting, and they decide to take a time-wasting, deal-delaying detour. Harmless stuff. But from the moment Beckham enters the cab and folds to the floor like a discarded sarong, the everyday reality of his A-list status sets in.

We recognise smiley Becks. We recognise steely Becks, posing over a free kick, a magazine rack or a major shopping district. But here he looks uncharacteristically shifty, scoping out a potential paparazzi ambush while resting awkwardly against the car door handle, as speed bumps jostle his expensively insured body around the carpet. Even when the coast is clear, he can’t help but stare out of the rear windshield like a hunted animal.

Then the drama ramps up. Beckham asks if the driver is going the right way, and before you know it the pair are refusing to let him go, building to a full-blown barney. With the car still rolling with some speed towards a red light in Manchester’s Moss Side, Beckham jumps out and legs it before Rio and his camera team can catch up. Obtuse as this may sound, it does leave you wondering: what is the real upside to all this? Why would someone so self-contained want to be quite so famous? It looks like hell.

As sell-by-dates go, Beckham has long outlasted the biscuits. A pre-destined move to America four years later launched him into the stratosphere, first as a player for Los Angeles Galaxy and then, lately, as the Messi-whispering co-owner of Inter Miami. There have been more TV specials; more books, merchandise and commercial deals. He has received justified criticism for some of those—not least from the LGBTQ+ community for his ambassadorial role at the Qatar World Cup—but he can fall back on his 83 million Instagram followers, or the 3.6 billion views he has received on TikTok.

The world of celebrity has changed irrevocably, but the artist formerly known as Golden Balls remains on top. Now comes the award-bothering Netflix treatment. What next? And, perhaps more interestingly, why? Only David Beckham knows.

Originally published on Esquire UK

By now you've likely already watched at least one of the four shorts gleaned from Roald Dahl's literary world, retold through the symmetrical, pastel lens of Wes Anderson. This is not Anderson's first rodeo when it comes to a Roald Dahl adaptation, but it is the first live-action since Fantastic Mr. Fox was an animated take.

“I like the idea, right off the bat, of having a little company play the whole film,” the director told Netflix early this year. The release of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison spanned the last week of September, keenly featuring different combinations of six key recurring actors. And perhaps you're wondering where you recognise some of these faces from. Successful thespians in their own right, here are some of their most notable work across film and TV that you may have come across. Or, if you've not had these titles on your watchlist, where to see more of their performances.

Ralph Fiennes. NETFLIX

Ralph Fiennes

Playing the almost fourth wall-breaking narrator across the series as Roald Dahl himself, Fiennes also repeats in minor roles as the policeman (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar) and rat man (The Rat Catcher). His collaboration with Anderson began from The Grand Budapest Hotel as concierge Gustave.

Where you've seen him

The Menu, Schindler’s List, Harry Potter franchise, Kingsman franchise, James Bond franchise

Benedict Cumberbatch. NETFLIX

Benedict Cumberbatch

The titular Henry Sugar also rotates as makeup artist Max Engelman within the same film, and Harry Pope (Poison).

Where you've seen him

Doctor Strange, Sherlock, The Imitation Game, The Power of the Dog, Patrick Melrose

Ben Kingsley. NETFLIX

Ben Kingsley

Is it me or is it always a delight to see Sir Ben Kingsley appear on screen? He plays the intriguing Imdad Khan, the casino croupier (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), as well as Dr. Ganderbai (Poison).

Where you've seen him

Ghandi, Schindler’s List, Iron Man 3, Sexy Beast, Shutter Island

Dev Patel. NETFLIX

Dev Patel

Rotating between Dr. Chatterjee and financial manager John Winston (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), Patel is perhaps the chattiest as Woods (Poison).

Where you've seen him

The Green KnightLionSlumdog MillionaireHotel Mumbai, Chappie

Rupert Friend and Asa Jennings. NETFLIX

Rupert Friend

The main narrator in the haunting true story-inspired tale (The Swan) alongside Asa Jennings, and well, Claud (The Rat Catcher).

Where you've seen him

Asteroid City, Hitman: Agent 47, Homeland, Pride and Prejudice

Richard Ayoade. NETFLIX

Richard Ayoade

You first catch Ayoade as Dr. Marshall, but later heavily disguised as the mysterious yogi (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), and once again as the reporter (The Rat Catcher).

Where you've seen him

The IT Crowd, Gadget Man, Travel Man

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison are now showing on Netflix.

Ah, Berlin we knew you well. If you haven't seen the original Money Heist, this fan favourite (played by Pedro Alonso) took the L for the team in the second season. It may be an early exit for someone with top billing but in later seasons, Berlin stuck around in flashbacks.

But given the popularity of Money Heist, why kill the cash cow when you can get more from a spin-off? An upcoming series, BERLIN, focuses on, well, Berlin and it will be set in Paris, during a period before the events of Money Heist.

It follows the same formula as the original series. (It's such a trope that we can rattle it off like we're reading from a food label.) There's a plan; then a recruitment; followed by the heist, which is sure to be filled with twists and turns. Could we expect anything more from this? Something that makes it stand out from all the rest of the heist series, we've seen thus far?

What to Expect?

Welp, from the trailer, it looks like there's a lighter tone to the series, with an emphasis on the protagonist's charisma. Money Heist's creator Álex Pina helms the show. So, we may see the reappearances of some of the characters from the original series as well. Maybe Tokyo (played by Úrsula Corberó) but most probably The Professor (Álvaro Morte).

In the Q&A with Pina at this year's Tudum event, he has this to say about BERLIN. That it will be "a trip throughout the golden years of the character. When he was stealing all over Europe, madly in love." And given the romantic history of the character (married five times?!), expect to see Berlin fall heels over head over a femme fatale (probably).

BERLIN is expected to stream on Netflix on 29 December 2023.

Regressing to a past life finds Pedro Alonso filling the sandals of Filipo, an ancient Roman warrior. In an autobiography unlike most others, the actor—I’m referring, of course, to Alonso’s present-day proceedings. There are details a journey towards spiritual liberation; how the encounters with a rebel leader (think Neo from The Matrix) open young Filipo’s eyes to a hidden truth. Oh, and a troubling trade-off: to serve the system or to serve his principles.

For a man robbing the Royal Mint of Spain, this soldier’s dilemma is easily answered. After all, the desire to illegally print billions of euros doesn’t betray much love for the system. In Money Heist, Alonso plays Berlin—a character driven by a strict code of duty. So committed to the plan, in fact, that he opts to stave off a SWAT team by himself while the rest of his crew try to escape.

Alonso lives many lives—on-screen, in regressions, through his words and paintings—and he lives them all at once. Yet, in his eyes, they all seem to be one and the same.

“I try to work with my own nature,” Alonso describes the process of playing Berlin. He pauses, to clarify that he’s not a killer or pervert. “I’m not so tremendous nor terrible, but all of us have shadows and areas of light. I try to find the resonances, the notes that are innate to me. And I go deeper and amplify these aspects.” It’s a melting pot born from introspection. “I begin cooking it up like soup. I paint using references, fill in the blanks with my intuition. In some moments, I pray, in my own way, to try and figure out the mysteries. It's about putting myself in a place to disappear in the role.”

Alonso’s method is one of self-discovery. It doesn’t call for him to transform into a character but, rather, to find the character within himself. He sleuths through the script. In search of lines (or the spaces between them) that connect with him on a visceral level. “I approach it like an investigator would. Trying to shine a light. To find meaning behind what’s happening in my pure present—as an actor and as a human being too. I always want to discover the angle of view in a role that offers me the opportunity to grow as a person,” Alonso says.

“Sometimes, it’s not exactly in the script. I have to find the right perspective which allows me to bring something alive in the role. Without that intimate connection, I wouldn’t be able to channel the right emotions.” By way of his method, Alonso finds some roles to be simply out of reach. “There are actors who play almost the same character every time, and I admire them. Then there are others who have the ability to play different characters, and I admire them too. For me, it’s important that there be an esoteric meaning in the opportunity to play a role. I don’t believe I can play all sorts of characters.

“But I prefer not to anticipate what’s going to happen in my career,” he interjects—not for the first time during our conversation. Alonso is enamoured by the idea of being present.

It’s a trait which he has picked up over his time spent in a red jumpsuit and a Dalí mask. “Berlin is in the pure present,” he says. “He’s in no rush to know what’s going to happen next. That has been a good lesson for me.” Alonso’s unexpected return for the third season of Money Heist (albeit in flashbacks) helped solidify his indifference towards the future. “I died, and then I continued playing the role,” he explains. “I’ve realised that it’s best not to anticipate.”

Each time that it’s brought up, Alonso speaks about Berlin’s death as if it were his own. “After my death,” he says, “I had a new opportunity to live the process on another level.” As it turns out, his close association with the character—which birthed his excellent portrayal in the first place—would now become his primary obstacle. In playing a younger version of Berlin, Alonso would have to strip him down of qualities which, so far, he had firmly committed to. “The best parts of the role disappear in flashbacks. I spoke about that with the writers. I told them, ‘I’m going to die and I don’t know if I’ll be able to sustain the role after that.’”

A jump into the unknown then—accompanied by a fear of critics, but balanced out by a relentless search for personal growth. “For me, the miracle is that I received the support of the public,” Alonso recalls the aftermath, yet again endorsing his thoughts on anticipating the future. “This difficulty, this handicap—it offered us the opportunity to uncover hidden parts of the role and paradoxically, these hidden parts were more luminous than the ones already known to us.” It takes a lot to elicit sympathy for an egocentric narcissist with a tendency for misogyny and murder, but as the story goes so far, Berlin’s set to bow out a fan favourite.

Coming up on the final season, Alonso says, “We’ve put together all the different aspects of the role here. I pray, in my way, to be able to offer the spectators an explanation which makes them perceive the entire journey of the character.”

As the curtains close, for good this time, Alonso isn’t one to seek comfort in familiarity. “I understand that in life there are cycles. Everything has a beginning and everything must have an end,” he reflects. “I feel like this is a good time to close off this amazing experience. What happens after this is going to be a new cycle and we’ll see what that entails.”

So, What's Next?

A Netflix project under wraps, a documentary about shamanism on hold, but most imminent is Alonso’s role in a movie by Oscar-nominated director Rodrigo Sorogoyen. “If Berlin is super sophisticated, the role that I’m playing next is the opposite,” he says. “[The character’s] rudimentary, irrational— almost a brute. It’s a very different role and I’m beginning to feel the fear creep in because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my process. I’m very thankful for the opportunity though.”

Contemplating the blank canvas ahead of him, Alonso draws parallels between acting and painting. “Many years ago, I discovered that when I read literature written for painters, I understood it better than the texts written about being an actor. I connect better with the sensibility of the painters. It aligns with the way I process information. This has allowed me to approach acting more intuitively,” he shares.

“I try to play my roles the way I’d paint. When you’re in front of a canvas, you can have a plan but the most incredible thing is to be open to accidents. When I paint, I mostly use my right hand. But I’ve discovered that when I do this, my brain forces me to be precise and controlled. It isn’t interesting. So I’ve started using my left [hand] to mess up the strokes, after which, I try to reconcile the painting. I like painting in an impulsive way and using these ‘mistakes’ as opportunities.

“The same goes for acting. If I’m playing a sequence and something unexpected happens, it can be a gift. It’s more mysterious. It’s more authentic. If you demand control, you’d see it as a problem. But if you’re open, it can be the best thing— you stop trying to anticipate moments and instead, find yourself connected with what’s happening right now.”

Further connecting the dots between his artistic endeavours, Alonso quotes Italian sculptor Ignazio Jacometti—“I paint so I can see better.” Through his sequences, musings, paintings and past lives, he discovers pieces of himself—each one helping him hone in on a greater puzzle. “I discovered these treasures in my adult life and it was a surprise for me. I began to paint when I was 33; I started writing, the way I do now, six years ago at 44. I’m not a professional painter or writer but I enjoy both. I recognise myself in my work. It’s difficult to be absolutely clear but these are the lenses that I try to regulate with more and more precision—to be open to the mystery, the infinite mystery.”

Though he stumbles upon contrast and conflict, across characters portrayed and disciplines pursued, Alonso views such qualities as being intrinsic to life. “I try to be the person that I am, with all my paradoxes.”

All of the original Money Heist series is now out on Netflix.

Photography: Monica Suarez De Tangil
Styling: Sara Fernandez Castro.

Originally published on 7 December, 2021.

Camille L'Espanaye (played by Kate Siegel), Tina (Aya Furukawa) and Toby (Igby Rigney) stare at... something.

Gather around the TV for a bonfire. Halloween approaches and it's time for Mike Flanagan to scare us once more. He, of "The Haunting" series with NetflixThe Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor—both based on the works of Shirley Jackson and Henry James, respectively. His final "The Haunting" project with Netflix before he leaves for Amazon Studio is based on the works of the OG of gothic horror, Edgar Allan Poe.

Called The Fall of the House of Usher (not a tell-all doc about Usher Raymond IV), we have only the trailer and this synopsis to go on: "To secure their fortune—and future—two ruthless siblings build a family dynasty that begins to crumble when their heirs mysteriously die, one by one." While the trailer looks like the latest series will be more lurid than previous "The Haunting" fare, it will warm the cockles of any fan of Poe's work.

What to Expect

If there was a bingo card of sorts, we may expect the following from the series: a gold bug; someone called "Lenore"; a raven (shown in the trailer); the word "nevermore" uttered (said many times in the trailer!); someone being entombed alive; a "conqueror worm"; a beating heart; Auguste Dupin and a locked-room mystery.

The usual suspects of Flanagan's previous "The Haunting" instalments return: Carla Gugino; Kate Siegel; Henry Thomas; Rahul Kohli; Katie Parker... but the one face that tickles this writer's fancy is Mark Hamill. The figure behind Batman: The Animated Series' Joker or Luke Skywalker, plays *reads notes* "a character surprisingly at home in the shadows." Right. That makes things clearer. From the looks of the trailer, it looks like he's the Usher's... problem solver, if you know what I mean.

The Fall of the House of Usher will stream on Netflix on 12 October.

Shirt, NANUSHKA. Trousers and shoes, ERDEM. Socks, FALKE.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In the acting world, Corey Mylchreest is considered to be in the throes of infancy. He is a relative unknown as far as actors go, but his portrayal as King George III on Queen Charlotte has got him newfound fans and acclaim. 

The spin-off from Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte follows the titular queen in two phases of her life. The elder Queen Charlotte is still played by Golda Rosheuvel from the original series, with the younger queen portrayed by India Amarteifio. Cast opposite her is Mylchreest, as the young King George III. The series focuses on their marriage and the effects of King George III's ailment. 

Still reeling off from junkets and interviews, Mylchreest has to contend with one more: ours. Thus, a day before his photo shoot with Esquire Singapore, we meet over a Zoom video call for his turn on the hot seat. Mylchreest's hair has grown out, which softens the angles of his mien. He's relaxed, his posture slants, favouring his right, as he sits in what appears to be the nondescript room beneath the attic. 

I congratulate Mylchreest on the success of Queen Charlotte and his performance in it and ask, not certain if the question puts him in a spot, because Queen Charlotte is a Bridgerton spin-off, how he feels about the hype around the sex in the series overshadowing the drama, the complex human nature and acting

"In the eyes of the beholder, that's where the story lies," Mylchreest says. "But that is the point of all storytelling—it is for the audience, not for us. It doesn't really matter what I think; whatever the audience chose to focus on, that is success for the show."

Jacket, CANALI. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap, Clash de Cartier white gold ring and Juste un Clou white gold ring, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

While there were challenges in filming Queen Charlotte's intimate scenes, Mylchreest sees more difficulty in accurately portraying George's mental affliction without bordering on caricature. 

"That was something that I was really worried about. We wouldn't be diagnosing King George and that brought a heightened importance to what I think is the antidote to caricature: specificity and detail." 

For his role, Mylchreest dives deep into the sea of research. He spoke to a specialist about the script; on whether he was going in the right direction to highlight the moments where George transitioned from confusion to lucidity. 

"There was a doctor's report," Mylchreest adds. "A sort of daily report that was sent to Charlotte. They were delivered later in his life but it was still useful to read. It was so factual, so black-and-white. It'd describe the days when George would talk non-stop for 12 hours and would start to foam at the mouth because he has been speaking for so long. Then, there was an entry that said, though his mind was still ravaged, George seemed physically at peace. 

"It's very clinical, without emotions, these documents, but the pain of that moment seemed to scream out. By then I'd done a lot of research and it was then that my empathy peaked. I just wanted to hug him. He didn't have an easy life by any means."

Jumpsuit and beaded scarf, SIMONE ROCHA.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

Like Mylcreest's research into KingGeorge III, I've embarked on my own into Corey Mylcreest. 

Search results on him reveal myriad interviews of him doing press for Queen Charlotte. There is only one social media platform that he's on—Instagram—and on his feed, his first post is dated 7 April 2022. The casting of Queen Charlotte was announced the day before, 6 April 2022. For a Gen Z, you'd think that he would be more active on social media. 

"I have a private account," Mylchreest says, "but the last time I was on it was maybe four months ago, and before that, I wasn't on it for about three or four years. I think I jumped off it in 2019 because I find Instagram, or social media in general, a hotbed for procrastination. I don't think it's necessarily the healthiest place for people's mental health."

But Mylchreest sees benefits in getting on social media. It's a fantastic vehicle for getting the word of Queen Charlotte and any other projects he's part of out there. "If I was going to be on it, I'd want to make it limited in some way. Not only to protect my own privacy and the people around me that I love, but also to protect my own work ethic." 

Is that part of the reason for privacy? That if the public were to know more about your personal life it would affect how you'd portray other lives on screen. 

"That's a really good question," Mylchreest says. He thinks about this for a while. "I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."

Jacket, shirt and trousers, LOUIS VUITTON.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

He highlights an example: people who have known him all his life, would watch a film that he is on, and then in the slivers of the act points out, That's Corey! I saw a glimpse of him. "For people who aren't initiated into my private life, I think those kinds of moments can pull you out of the story. To tell a story requires the audience to suspend disbelief. A forensic knowledge of the actor can break that." 

But this is what he is willing to reveal about his life: he can't remember when it started but, as that old saw with any origin story of many actors, Mylchreest has always been interested in acting since young. "I remember doing plays at school and it was the most fun I'd have in that week. I gladly stayed on even when it was time to go home." 

There's a quote from a composer that his mom used to tell Mylchreest: the thing that you should do in your life is the thing that makes the hours feel like seconds. 

Time's steady beat quickens as Mylchreest enrolled into Guildhall [School of Music and Drama]. Each Saturday, he would spent five hours learning advanced lessons like Stanislavski's acting techniques; discovering that there was method behind what you see on stage. It soon dawned on Mylchreest that drama school was a possibility. That there will be no half-measures in pursuing an acting career. "I didn't even try to go to the university. I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to do and I did for four years of training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)."

Shirt and trousers, NANUSHKA. Grain de Café necklace and brooch in yellow gold and diamonds, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

While incredibly supportive, his father professed concerns and suggested that he get a vocational degree as a backup. "That came from a place of love and concern," Mylchreest is quick to add. "I understand where he was coming from. Maybe if I were to have children, I'd do what my dad did." 

His mother, on the other hand, championed his decision. She grew up in a working-class environment in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and escaped on a full music scholarship. "She understood what it was like to have such love for the creative and the need and hunger to dive into it." 

"I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."

Corey Mylchreest on keeping a private life

Mylchreest graduated from RADA in spring 2020: not the best time for launching an entertainment career when the world was ground to a halt. All things considered, the young actor was lucky; he already had an agent before the lockdown. The Sandman would pass his way. Mylchreest never read the comic series the show is based on but he met with casting director Lucinda Seisen and auditioned for the lead, Dream. After a few callbacks, Mylchreest was about to go in for a chemistry test when the decision came down the line that "he was too young". They had him read for other parts.

"And then, about four months later, I got an email offering me the role of Adonis," Mylcreest says. "I think it was a pity hire because they knew that I had auditioned many times and didn't get anything."

It was a role so small that if the character wasn't in it, it wouldn't have any ramifications on the story. But there are no small roles, Mylcreest reminds me. Only small actors. Mylcreest came up with a whole backstory for Adonis—why he was there that evening, why he needed to be admitted to see the Magus. 

His appearance as Adonis lasted less than 30 seconds. He had two lines—"Oh, the Magus insists, does he?" and "Can we still come back tomorrow?"—which he captioned on his Instagram: "'Best two lines delivered on screen'—my mum". 

Jokes aside, this foray into a multi-million dollar production would prove useful. In the past, Mylchreest acted on intimate sets of short films. For The Sandman, he is awed by the hugeness of it all. The scene was filmed at Joyce Grove, a Jacobethan-style mansion that Mylchreest pointed out was where Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, spent most of his childhood at. 

"There was a rumour at the time that Harry Styles was going to buy the place, which everyone seemed excited by, but I just remember being completely racked with nerves." He was a speck in the grand scheme of things; surrounded by 60-70 extras, all dressed in 1920s ball gowns and three-piece suits. Restored cars from the era criss-cross in the background. Massive lights bathed the expanse of the set; cranes with attached expensive cameras swept and swivelled. A hubbub of different departments; cogs in the film machine, setting up for the shoot. 

"But to be honest, by the time the camera started rolling, I was so nervous that all the backstory just flew out my head." Sheepishness creeps into the edges of his face. "I was just glad that I knew the lines. I was told to, at a certain point, turn and deliver my line but I could never quite see where the camera was and we had to do it a few times. I felt really bad for the director and everyone because we had to reset everything." 

Regardless, this experience prepared him for his first day at Queen Charlotte. "I was incredibly nervous when I started filming Queen Charlotte but I'd have been even more so if I hadn't filmed The Sandman.

But his roles in The Sandman and Queen Charlotte are vastly different and the necessity for preparation and research into the latter warranted more attention.

Shirt, shorts, cardigan and loafers, PRADA. Socks, FALKE.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

On the set of Queen Charlotte, before shooting commenced each day, Mylchreest would run through scenes and ideas with India Amarteifio to make sure that they are on the same page. They would run the scene in the hotel they stayed at or over the phone or Zoom but what's important to Mylchreest is the preparation needed for a shoot.

"I say this with acknowledgement that I am just starting my career, so I know very little in comparison to others who have been acting far longer. On Queen Charlotte, I found it useful to know the scene inside and out. I would record the lines of the other person and run through a slew of questions for the scene." 

This allows Mylchreest to figure out the "points of concentration". The process could determine his character's intention; where he might go to and come from; what the relationship with the other player is like. "What this [preparedness] allowed me was once to earn my own trust in the moments that matter. Once I got onto set I have this whole host of possibilities in front of me that I could then let go of because I've done them a million times. I don't have to worry about lines or where it sits in the story. 

"There is only the way forward."

Shirt, NANUSHKA. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap and Clash de Cartier white gold ring, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

Mylchreest tasked himself to read Andre Roberts' bio on King George III and accessed 20,000 of the king's personal writings. There was another avenue of exploration into King George III that Mylchreest could venture into and that is the portrayal of the king by other actors before him.

The depictions of King George III are many and mostly unkind. He's been played by Jonathan Groff in the musical Hamilton; Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George; Tom Hollander in the mini-series John Adams... the list, albeit short, goes on. 

"I wasn't sure whether [watching another actor's portrayal] will be a good idea because sometimes you can start overthinking your own performance. I saw some clips of Lin Manuel's Hamilton and The Madness of King George and both of those depictions feel like they exist in completely different worlds to the George that we see in Queen Charlotte. If anything, it gave me confidence because I knew that I was going in a different direction with him. There would be almost no comparison." 

Queen Charlotte delves more into the king's hobbies of gardening and science, with a focus on astronomy. He's known as Farmer George; the king has an assemblage of scientific equipment and wax lyrical about the constellated wilderness. 

A crown too heavy for his head; his head full of stars, the mind of King George III belies more than just "madness".

Still, his mental health is a lightning rod which provides conflict to Queen Charlotte's narrative. There are swaths of text about King George III's manic episodes—he would often repeat himself; his vocabulary became more florid and complex; he shook hands with a tree because he believed it to be the King of Prussia—these and other instances baffled doctors of the time. Ranging from bipolar disorder to porphyria, there wasn't a conclusive diagnosis of the nature of the king's malady. 

Jacket and shorts, CANALI. Socks, FALKE. Sandals, CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In Queen Charlotte, the character experiences bouts of lunacy and the show is careful not to define it. Near the end of episode three, taken by mania, George removes his clothing in the silence of his garden. A smattering of stars lights the night sky. Arms raised and eyes bright with awe, George calls out to Venus, "I knew you would come." We do not see what George saw that evening but his frenzy is evident. 

In another interview, Mylcreest mentioned that before his scene, he'd listened to the theme song from Succession to get into the role of King George III. Given his familiarity with the HBO drama, how did he find the finale? 

"I haven't watched it. I started watching [the series] about a year and a half, two years ago... which is already very late, I know. It was the final episode of season one where [Jeremy Strong's] character (Kendall Roy) had this look of resignation where he realised that he has to return to be under his father's wing. There was an immense sense of claustrophobia; this feeling of being trapped and then this track came on. 

"I paused the scene, screenshotted it and taped that image on my character book." Mylcreest picked a notebook off-screen of the Zoom call and brings it into frame. He points to an affixed image of a crestfallen Kendell Roy. "I saw that and I thought that's George or, at least, that's an element of George." 

And because Mylcreest's process was to listen to his playlist on repeat when he does his research, he's unable to watch any more episodes of Succession. "It's very important for me that the song didn't remind me of anything else if I was preparing for a scene. I needed to subconsciously make that song be just for that." So, he stepped away from further updating himself on the Roys' shenanigans until recently, after Queen Charlotte wrapped, Mylcreest resumed catching up on Succession. He's halfway through season two if you must know, so no, he doesn't have a take on the finale but he sums up the series in a word: "phenomenal". 

Suit and neck scarf, AMI PARIS. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In any project that Mylchreest takes on, the result is a collaborative effort. "It takes a village to raise a child and every piece of art is a collective baby. If I feel invalidated for my work, then that's not a great feeling but I don't feel that way at all. I understand that the actors are the face of the show but there are hundreds, if not, thousands of people who work on it—remove a few of them and the entire thing falls apart." 

He recounts a piece of advice that his acting teacher imparted: "When you're in a scene, be selfish to be generous". It is an old game of improv, the basic tenets of creation between two parties, where, via generous contribution and its genial acceptances, a scene blossoms. 

This give-and-take makes for a stronger scene. To paraphrase a certain quartet of musical scousers—"the love you take is equal to the love you make." 

And these exchanges in Queen Charlotte are what gave the series its chewy centre—relationship dynamics worthy of viewers' investments; rapports that even spill over into the cast's personal lives after production has ended. 

"I'm so proud of everyone's work in Queen Charlotte and, truly I mean, this from the bottom of my heart, I have friends for life."

Suit, neck scarf and sneakers, AMI PARIS.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

It's not every day that you see this level of graciousness. If there was ever a show of congeniality, it was usually virtue signalling. But in interviews and in behind-the-scenes videos, Mylcreest is a mensch. He is effusive about his co-stars and what they bring to the table, he's self-deprecating. 

Needless to say, the landscape of Mylcreest's auditioning process has completely changed for him. Queen Charlotte has opened up doors that would have been very firmly shut to him. Mylcreest knows how indebted he is to the show. 

As to what is next for Mylcreest? At the time of the interview, he empathically says that he doesn't know. He is, as he calls it, "in a state of unknown" at the moment. 

"There are some things in the pipeline that I'm waiting to hear updates on," Mylcreest says. "I'm meeting people for something incredibly exciting." Then he adds this bit that catches me off-guard. "And even if the project moves on without me, the world will have some brilliant pieces of art coming their way." 

This period of unknowability is a terrifying prospect but while others see only the damning absence; Mylcreest sees a space of possibilities, as countless as the stars above.

Photographer: Zoe McConnell 
Agency: JOON
Photo Assistant: Carissa Harrod
Digi tech: Nick Graham
Stylist: Thea Lewis-Yates
Styling assistant: Jamie Fernandez
Groomer: Stefan Bertin c/o The Wall Group using 111 SKIN
Producer & Casting Director: Even Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Manager: Guoran Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Coordinator (UK): Kate Zhu
Post: Frisian
Location: Lordship Park
Watch: Cartier

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