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  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.
* * *
Growing up in Derby, England, Jack O'Connell saw his future on the soccer field. At least he did until the age of 13, when a drama teacher suggested he should audition for television roles. A stunning film debut soon followed as violent youngster Pukey Nicholls in Shane Meadow's 2006 coming-of-age drama This Is England, and O'Connell began popping up when casting agents needed Artful Dodger types. He terrorized a middle-class couple in horror film Eden Lake (2008), and was part of a murderous gang in the Michael Caine revenge flick Harry Brown (2009). O'Connell then excelled as the self-destructive James Cook on the notoriously racy Channel 4 teen drama Skins. And this past September, the 23-year-old actor was the toast of the Toronto International Film Festival for his rough-and-tumble performance in the prison drama Starred Up (out later this summer). O'Connell's sprint toward stardom hits full stride later this year, when he'll star as the World War II P.O.W. and Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini in the Angelina Jolie-directed biopic Unbroken.
KALEEM AFTAB: Since I met you last, you've filmed Unbroken. How was that?
JACK O'CONNELL: God, I was very hungry when I spoke to you last—the diet. I was rather strict on myself. There was a lot of pressure playing Louis Zamperini. I slimmed down. I just put it down to having to be an Olympian, spending all this time hungry. I've been eating again, which is nice.
AFTAB: What was the food you missed most?
O'CONNELL: Roast dinner. That was my last cheat meal. My Derbyshire roots kind of surfaced. My cravings for roasted meat and potatoes were heightened.
AFTAB: Did your childhood athletics help you at all in preparing for the role?
O'CONNELL: Ostensibly, yes. Originally I wanted to become a footballer. But it's great when I get to marry the two because, in the acting field, a competitive mentality can be beneficial at times.
AFTAB: Have you received good advice in your career?
O'CONNELL: Yeah, from [musician] Ian Brown. It was in 2009, I think—July, a festival, fucking roasting hot. I was playing with a band that I used to piss around with. We ended up backstage at the festival, and Brown was just getting set up, doing his thing, having a cigarette. I walked past him and because he is a favorite of mine, asked him for a bit of advice. He said, "Don't be nervous, have a purpose." A nice quip. I've been really sentimental about that.
AFTAB: What did you do in the band?
O'CONNELL: A bit of guitar, a bit of vocals, a bit of rhythm. I was with very talented musicians, and I guess that rubs off.
AFTAB: Do you do karaoke?
O'CONNELL: I quite like to sing, actually—just belting out numbers with my guitar. I find that it's a form of tranquility. After all this mental lifestyle of the past seven or eight years, it's good to find some outlets that are not bad for my health. I sang last night—a song that I wrote about a mate who passed away. It was the first time I played it. It went well.
AFTAB: Have you ever made a big fashion faux pas?
O'CONNELL: When all my mates used to think they were proper rude boys, they used to take the piss out of me for wearing casual clothing. But in terms of a faux pas, I reckon I'm too proud to admit it—I'm of the opinion that I always look boss.
AFTAB: Does that help in auditions?
O'CONNELL: I really enjoy being in that [audition] environment, testing stuff out. It's very productive for me to be in that position again. I remember jumping on trains down to the city, being totally broke, sometimes having to stay out overnight, really bumming it, having to choose between cigarettes and a sandwich. One night we didn't have accommodation. We slept rough in some square in the West End. We didn't actually sleep. We just spent the night having a laugh because it was a one-off. I hope it's a one-off.
AFTAB: Has your working-class background helped you?
O'CONNELL: I started auditioning at the age of 13, which, all of a sudden, is now 10 years ago. So I spent a decade getting to this level of recognition. It's a bit of a whirlwind with a lot of graft. I've had to eat a lot of shit without compromising myself, which is important, and that is down to the culture I hail from. There is pride, and such a thing as honor. I do think that has helped me with my progression, certainly with the rejection and shite side to it.
AFTAB: Was there anyone growing up that you looked up to?
O'CONNELL: Certainly, plenty. It would be tricky to name just one, as I feel I would be doing the others an injustice. My dad is the best example. We didn't have the perfect relationship, we used to clash a lot, but on reflection, I'm thankful for that.
AFTAB: I know you want kids. Do you have a particular woman in mind to be their mother?
O'CONNELL: Several. There is a blueprint. Aesthetically I'm not that fussy. Maybe that's a bad thing. But character—if we are having a laugh, then I'll probably want to spend time with you.
AFTAB: Are you a perfectionist?
O'CONNELL: I like the ideology of there being no such thing as perfection. I really like what that suggests. But I'm of the opinion that I have witnessed perfection at various times, especially in art. I've had the good fortune of studying the 17th-century art of Amsterdam in preparation for a film.
AFTAB: You've played a lot of tough roles, but do you cry a lot?
O'CONNELL: More than I want to mention probably. I cried at The Lion King, the West End musical production, but only the first time. I've seen it twice—I have a younger sister.
AFTAB: What are you doing next?
O'CONNELL: I'm off to the White House tomorrow. I think it's all in alignment with the role that I've just done with Angie [Jolie]. I've been invited to go. I hear Barack is at home too.
AFTAB: What will you say to President Obama?
O'CONNELL: I'll probably just talk about Guinness, unless he's interested in football, which I'll have to remember to refer to as soccer, but that word always pains me. So I think I'll start with football, and see how we go from there.
* * *
At least one of the reasons we binge-watched and obsessed over True Detective early this year was Alexandra Daddario's performance as the seductive woman scorned. The now rather notorious scene in which she handcuffs Woody Harrelson and then strips down naked set the Internet ablaze with, shall we say, appreciation for her form. Since then, things have continued to shape up nicely for the 28-year-old Daddario, who grew up on Manhattan's Upper East Side and appeared in both installments of the Percy Jackson franchise, as well as in Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). Later this year, she'll star in the zombie comedy Burying the Ex with Anton Yelchin and Ashley Greene, and she's currently filming the disaster epic San Andreas with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Daddario, who now lives in Los Angeles, would neither confirm nor deny my fanciful renderings of a meet-cute in front of the green screen with her rumored boyfriend, Percy Jackson himself, Logan Lerman.
CHRIS WALLACE: In True Detective you play an adolescent male fantasy and some weird fever-dream nightmare—an Amazonian woman turned avenging angel. Did that unnerve you? Did it make you think, "Wow, is that how men see women? Is that how Hollywood portrays women?"
ALEXANDRA DADDARIO: No! It was the first time I was nude for anything, so I was definitely unnerved by that, but I think any implied misogyny is a result of defining the characters. You see Woody Harrelson's character as a family guy and then, all of a sudden, you see him in this very sexual situation with this naked girl. It just completely changes the way you see him.
WALLACE: And how we see you, as it turns out. How did the response to your nudity scene make you feel?
DADDARIO: It's very flattering. But it's not something I try to think about too much.
WALLACE: And now you're doing the earthquake movie San Andreas with the Rock. Are you running around in a skimpy dress, saving the world?
DADDARIO: I wear normal jeans and T-shirts. But this is another really strong, confident character. I have had the opportunity to do a lot of really tough characters—from Percy Jackson and even Texas Chainsaw, in a way—they're really tough, good female role models.
WALLACE: Are you tough in real life?
DADDARIO: I'm a combination between extreme insecurity and extreme confidence. [laughs] If there was an earthquake of the same magnitude as in the movie, I would be hiding in a corner somewhere, not sure of what to do.
WALLACE: Growing up with two lawyer parents, were you the black sheep because you wanted to act?
DADDARIO: No. When I was little, I thought about becoming a lawyer like my parents, and my mother would always tell me, "You can do anything you want—except be a lawyer." Not like I couldn't. [laughs] But my mom used to model when she was younger, before she went to law school, and I think she thought it was pretty cool. I think my parents saw that acting ultimately made me happy, even though it was a rough ride for a little bit. There wasn't a ton of pushback about it. Which is interesting, coming from where I came from.
WALLACE: Do you find the process of auditioning difficult—do you have war stories?
DADDARIO: I guess the weirdest was a "Got Milk?" ad for chocolate milk. I must have been 13 or 14 and had only kissed one boy. I went to an all-girls school for part of high school, and the idea of boys was amazing to me, like, all I ever wanted to do was kiss boys and be around boys. The audition was me and one other guy. I would have chocolate syrup in my mouth, and the boy would put milk in his mouth, and we'd make out. And then, we'd come up from the big make-out, and we'd have chocolate milk mustaches, and we had to be like, "Got milk?" or "Got chocolate milk?" or something. [laughs]
DADDARIO: It was so nerve-racking, but also exciting as a 13-year-old kid who got to make out with a boy. And then I got a callback and got to do it again. I'm absolutely positive my parents didn't know that was what the audition was. It was a little weird. Acting is a really strange thing. You have to know when you're put in a bad situation, but you also have to be willing to do something very strange.
WALLACE: Have you ever lied on your acting résumé, claiming to speak Russian or knowing how to do kung fu? Or do you really have secret talents?
DADDARIO: When I was first starting out as a kid, I tried to pad my résumé with everything I had ever done-ice-skate, carry a tune. I can't dance for my life, but I can learn, so I'll tell people I can dance. I play the piano—I'm a really good pianist, actually.
WALLACE: What's your go-to song?
DADDARIO: I love the "Moonlight Sonata." I try to write my own music. It's a good way of de-stressing.
WALLACE: Is there any actor you'd like to emulate?
DADDARIO: I definitely have role models. But it's hard to say, "Okay, I want to be Angelina Jolie," or "I want to be Charlize Theron." Even though, yes, of course, I would love to. I really love Charlize Theron. I've never met her before, but she seems really down-to-earth in interviews, really intelligent and funny and cool—and she's just this glorious goddess who holds herself with such confidence. I'm a huge fan of Steve Martin. He's hilarious, but he has this depth to him and this way of dealing with the difficult things in life with a sense of humor that I think has helped me as an actress.
WALLACE: Do you have formal training?
DADDARIO: I took Meisner for a long time. I use a lot of sense memory and, well, I wouldn't say Method, but I can't really avoid getting into character. I always use Texas Chainsaw as an example, because it was the most intense level of emotion to get into, being chased by a guy with a chain saw. You get home at the end of the day, and you feel really depressed and strange and anxious, because you've tricked your body, essentially, into feeling that way, sobbing hysterically and screaming and thinking about all these horrible things in order to get yourself to that place. There's also this weird thing about being an actor: There's joy in even being in the darkest place, knowing that you've reached that point where you're supposed to be.
WALLACE: Are you where you're supposed to be, as a New Yorker in L.A.?
DADDARIO: I've been in L.A. for almost five years, and it's on-and-off, but in the last year, I've really found myself here. I got a dog. I take him on hikes, and I go to yoga all the time and drink green juice—very cliché actress. When I first moved here, I almost felt like I was obligated to hate L.A., as a New Yorker. I moved way too fast for this city. I walked everywhere, and I was lonely, too. It was a really hard time not knowing anybody, and you don't run into people the way you do in New York. You can go a week without seeing anyone. So I make an effort to see people, and I really like L.A. now.
WALLACE: I'm guessing that Woody Harrelson showing up for bourbon and handcuffs isn't your dream date. But what would be?
DADDARIO: Well, I'm sure there's some fun to bourbon and handcuffs, too. I love to travel, and I think being whisked away somewhere for a vacation is a pretty amazing date. But, I'm really into the basic movie and dinner. It's not where you are, but who you're with that really matters.
* * *
Ansel Elgort is what is traditionally called a triple-threat-he acts, dances, and sings. The 20-year-old New York native and theater-camp vet who started performing in ballet class at age 9 and crafts bass-thumping electronic dance tracks under the nom de musique Ansolo made his screen debut as pretty-boy high school jock Tommy Ross in last year's remake of Carrie. He recently appeared in this spring's young-adult dystopian juggernaut Divergent, and in June gets leading-man status as Augustus Waters, one half of a pair of star-crossed, terminally ill teenage lovers in The Fault in Our Stars alongside fellow Divergent alum Shailene Woodley. His fourth movie, Jason Reitman's dramedy about modern love, Men, Women & Children, due out later this year, has him sharing the screen with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner. It's been a packed two years for Elgort, but he doesn't seem to be letting up soon.
COLLEEN KELSEY: You went to LaGuardia High School, the Fame school. Did you always want to act?
ANSEL ELGORT: When I was nine, I started doing ballet. That's when I knew that I was down to keep doing it. Eventually I came into acting and LaGuardia and straight play-acting turned into movies. I always did workshops. I would be at theater camp, doing shows, or after-school programs. Then I was doing shows in school. It was nonstop. I was never not in a show from ages 11 until 18. It was a great creative atmosphere but also a professional kind of atmosphere. When I finally went into the professional world, I felt ready. I was prepared for work.
KELSEY: What was the movie or play that made you want to be an actor?
ELGORT: Les Miz and Oklahoma! I was a big musical guy. Then I got into movies, watching old films my dad had, the old Elia Kazan movies, like On the Waterfront . It was those old movies, actually, that really got me started. Marlon Brando, Paul Newman—straight-up legends.
KELSEY: What was your first role?
ELGORT: The first show I did was The Nutcracker ballet. I was one of the kids who comes out in the beginning. In fifth grade, I did Oklahoma!, but I didn't get a leading role. I knew the whole play and could sing it already, but they were like, "The sixth-grader has to get the lead." I was really discouraged. Then I went to the Professional Performing Arts School.
KELSEY: Have you had any auditioning experiences that bring you back to that first rejection in Oklahoma!?
ELGORT: I guess so. I did seven auditions for Carrie. I just kept coming back and doing the same thing over and over again. I guess they just wanted to see if I was consistent. I was a total nobody. I wouldn't have hired me to be the lead in that movie either.
ELGORT: Not at first. Not off a couple auditions. I would want to see proof that I could do it.
KELSEY: You were in Carrie, a horror movie; Divergent, a sci-fi-action movie; and now you have The Fault in Our Stars, a fairly unusual love story. Have you diversified your acting skill set fairly quickly in your career?
ELGORT: It's not like I'm pulling a Christian Bale and getting really fuckin' skinny. I'm not playing a woman. Doing those kinds of things—that's diversity. I want to do that. I think that I could pull it off. I think that a theater background really helps with that.
KELSEY: Do you have actor role models?
ELGORT: Paul Newman. He could play a lot of different roles, even people who were villains, and no matter what, you love him. He was always such a relatable character—the smile, the blue eyes. Brando was just really real. James Dean was always a tortured soul. It's cool to look at the old guys. But when I'm looking at someone's career, I'm not trying to be, "Oh, whose do I want?" I don't really want anyone else's. I don't just act, and that's really important to me. I don't want to just be an actor forever. Right now I'm really into music. I want to score movies. I could be an actor first, but I don't only want to be an actor.
KELSEY: Who do you want to work with the most?
ELGORT: I think it would be ridiculous to work with Tom Hardy. I hear some crazy things about him, and he's also really good. I like the movie Warrior  a lot and Gavin O'Connor, who directed it.
KELSEY: Have you ever been starstruck?
ELGORT: Less and less recently. It's so sad, you get less starstruck when you start realizing that it's not a big deal. I got starstruck not by someone who is famous, but by someone who's famous in the miniature painting community. When I was a kid, I used to paint miniatures. There were famous people in the miniature community from forums online. I went to some big event and I saw them in real life and I was so starstruck. So silly, right?
KELSEY: With The Fault in Our Stars, the book has such a cult following. Have you been aware of what people's expectations are for the movie?
ELGORT: Definitely. Especially since I'm really big on social media stuff. I get it firsthand, which I think is important. It's important to be there.
KELSEY: How close are you with your followers?
ELGORT: I've been Skyping with them, one on one, with people who have been winning a competition for my new EDM [electronic dance music] track "Unite." I have this raffle you can enter to promote the song. It's cool. They actually ask me a lot of questions about music. They really do care. And that's why social media is so important, because these kids, a lot of them had never known what electronic music was.
KELSEY: What's the event in history you wished you witnessed?
ELGORT: The '50s; the whole greaser time in Hollywood. I would have liked to have been there when they were like, [in an old-timey accent] "Oh, we're making pictures now that have sound and color!"
KELSEY: What actor, living or dead, would you want to play you in the movie of your life?
ELGORT: Paul Newman. I trust him.
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