Dunking head in ice every day for shoot

Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, who was forced to put his head into a bucket of ice for five minutes on every morning on set.
Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, who was forced to put his head into a bucket of ice for five minutes on every morning on set. PHOTO: A REALLY HAPPY FILM

Every morning on the set of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, British actor Joe Alwyn was forced to put his head into a bucket of ice for five minutes.

The 25-year-old stage actor was not getting hazed as a newcomer making his movie debut.

He tells The Straits Times in Taipei: "Every morning, I get really tired-looking, so I was forced to try and get the swelling under my eyes down."

He also had to shave two to three times a day as the camera could pick up any hint of stubble.

Those were the perils that no one told him about because the director, Lee Ang, shot the film in an unforgiving and unprecedented high-definition format.

But Alwyn was only too happy to work with someone who is regarded as one of the best directors around.

He says of the auteur: "He's a mixture of someone who, as a human being, is such a good and nice person. And at the same time, he's incredibly detailed and knows what he wants and is a true visionary.

"All of his films are pushing boundaries and even if there are thematic ties, no two films are the same."

Lee, 62, also sang the actor's praises, saying memorably at the press conference for the film: "If a young actor is talented, I can sniff it out from 2km away. Within the first or second minute of an audition, I pretty much know."

Growing up, Alwyn watched a lot of movies and often went to the theatre. He says simply: "It was a world I wanted to be a part of."

He did theatre as a subject throughout school and graduated last year from acting school Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Nabbing the lead role in a Lee Ang film was definitely a big deal, but he says: "When I was auditioning, it happened so quickly that I almost didn't have time to get nervous."

The import of it sank into him only when filming started.

"It was a big thing to take on and a lot of it was on my shoulders. I didn't want to let Ang down."

Indeed, Alwyn is still coming to terms with this business of being not only an actor, but also a movie star.

The trip to Taipei is his first to Asia and his inexperience comes across, albeit charmingly. He does not quite know how to pose during photocalls and is embarrassed when host Bowie Tsang teasingly asks the lanky good-looker at the press conference if he had to do anything special for a scene in which Billy Lynn looks as if he "just got laid", according to his sergeant.

Blushing, Alwyn says: "It's my job, I don't know."

Director Lee steps in and adds: "We have an expression 'eating tofu' (to hit on someone). She's eating your tofu."

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Dunking head in ice every day for shoot'. Print Edition | Subscribe