Forget the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama. Forget the crazy jet-setting back and forth from his 15-night residency at Madison Square Garden to his Venice and Toronto premieres two films this season. Harry Styles’ lead role in Michael Grandage’s My Cop is, as Harries and Stylers would say, a sign of the times.
In the past, the idea of a pop star starring in a movie was knee-jerk, largely because of the stigma of money-grabbing affairs associated with the likes of Elvis Presley. Even David Bowie, who took a very different tack in his acting endeavors, called his widely panted Just a Gigolo “My 32 Elvis movies in one.” Those with serious screen aspirations — Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra are among those who have won Oscars for their acting — were the exceptions that proved the “beach blanket bingo” rule. And even the Crosby “Going My Way” and the Sinatra “From Here to Eternity” were large studio pictures in a large studio world of carefully cultivated personalities designed for maximum acceptance.
For a guy like Bowie (were there guys like Bowie then or now?), whose image quickly established itself culturally as an avant-garde chameleon in an era of sexual exploration, and translated into experimental narratives with art-house directors such as Nicolas Roeg (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”) wasn’t nearly as weird as it would be to see Crosby doing something like that. (It wasn’t often that Bowie and Crosby were mentioned in the same breath, although it did happen.)
But how many instances have there been of big pop stars — boy-band fugitives at the height of their screeching popularity — taking on roles in art-house films where they did it all in steamy, semi-explicit scenes of gay romance? And play even more with the hearts of the fans, roles in which they are the perfect gorgeous cisgender straight man on the outside and a passionate gay lover in a committed homosexual relationship at heart?
In the film version of veteran stage grandage’s “My Policeman” (based on Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel by Ron Nyswaner), Styles plays just that as young Tom – a police officer in 1950s England when homosexuality was still a crime. He and his girlfriend (turned-wife) Marion (Emma Corrin) form a close friendship with Patrick (David Dawson), a slightly older, cultured museum worker. Marion doesn’t realize that while Tom genuinely likes her, he loves Patrick deeply and erotically. The narrative weaves in and out of her 1950s history and her 1990s reunion as a trio (played by Linus Roache, Gina McKee and Rupert Everett) after something devastating happens – the third devastating event to happen to this character.
The role of the younger Tom requires the emotional availability one would expect from any serious actor, but also a searing commitment to the passionate same-sex encounters that define much of Tom and Patrick’s relationship. Forget the days of Sinatra or Presley, that wasn’t it the A Long Time Ago (1993) that Will Smith refused to kiss a man on screen in Six Degrees of Separation. One of the preeminent sex symbols of the day, Styles does a lot more than just kisses in “My Policeman.”
This is a sign of social change. Styles has long been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and his fashion sense defies the gender convention. However, this is different for a teen idol, a star of this magnitude, especially at a time when public acceptance of gay people and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been increasing at the same time, as per a recent Times article featuring several of they noted Styles’ collaborator on the film.
Thank you to these employees, of course, along with him, for making this commitment possible. During the brief Q&A following Sunday’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the host asked the trio of actors who played the characters in the 1950s how they bonded to make their friendship scenes seem authentic.
Corrin said, “We’re very fortunate because we had two or three weeks of rehearsal, which is very rare in film,” Corrin said, suspecting they had Grandage’s theatrical background to thank for the arrangement.
Styles said: “I’ve been very fortunate to work with David and Emma. When you get the opportunity to work with people who you just feel comfortable with – they’re both wonderful people – I think having a base of real friendship outside of the characters allows for the friendship scenes…it doesn’t require a lot of acting. In the more intense scenes there is a lot of confidence and security. All of this benefits from a real connection, which I found very fortunate during this project.”
Dawson said, “We made a promise to each other early on that we would look out for each other throughout the process.”
Words that could apply to this most complex of times.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-09-12/harry-styles-my-policeman-world-premiere-toronto-film-festival-2022 TIFF 2022: Harry Styles feels ‘lucky’ at ‘My Policeman’ premiere