Nicholas Galitzine Wants to Keep You Guessing

From indies to blockbusters, the actor embraces complex roles that challenge convention

Nicholas Galitzine didn’t need to watch any rom-coms to prepare for his latest role in Michael Showalter’s “The Idea of You"— the genre is already embedded in his DNA. 

Growing up, the actor was enamored with 1990s classics like “Pretty Woman,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and “Notting Hill.” But rather than replicate familiar tropes in Showalter’s film, Galitzine knew he wanted to make his own mark. 

“You can never treat the work you’re doing with that saccharine feel that a lot of these rom-coms have,” he says, speaking via Zoom from a London hotel room. “You just have to approach it [with] a grounded perspective.” This outlook is a reflection of his broader acting philosophy, developed through life experience rather than formal training.

Born and raised in London, Galitzine never gave much thought to a career in acting. While studying at the prestigious Dulwich College, he was a social chameleon who connected with a variety of cliques—the gamers, the artsy kids, the jocks—but he wasn’t a permanent fixture of any group. That way of life, he says, could be paralyzingly lonely; but it also bolstered his deep fascination with other people. 

Reflecting on those years leaves him flustered. “I have an unknowability of myself. I think we all try on different hats and see what fits and who we are,” he explains. But the experience helped him become a “more open person,” which he says has enriched his personal and professional life.

Nicholas Galitzine photoshoot

In his formative years, Galitzine was preparing for a professional rugby career. But his interest in the sport began to wane when he was 17, following a series of rotator cuff injuries. “I just started falling out of love with it,” he recalls. “The more I got hurt, the more I disagreed with the fundamentals of the community…. Becoming a sensitive young man—there were growing pains.” 

Late in high school, he starred in Jo Billington and Tim Norton’s “Rites: A Children’s Tragedy” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; his performance led to him being scouted by an acting agency. His attraction to the craft, he realized, wasn't entirely improbable. 

Galitzine describes himself as “a repressed creative”; though he spent his childhood performing for his family and strangers, he never thought of acting as a viable profession. “It just didn’t seem like a real job to me, so I never considered it until I got cast in my first movie, and then I was doing it,” he says. 

That film was John Williams’ 2014 indie “The Beat Beneath My Feet,” in which he played a bullied teen with rock-star dreams opposite Luke Perry. “I don’t really know what they saw in me, to be honest,” Galitzine says with a laugh. “There’s inexperience, and there’s no experience—and I had no experience.”

That performance ultimately kick-started Galitzine's career. He began booking at least one film a year, all while supporting himself with part-time work. He says he "had a very low point" working at Abercrombie & Fitch, but he also took on catering jobs, coached kids' sports, was a "manny" (one of his favorite jobs), and even doled out scoops of frozen yogurt alongside future "Bridgerton" star Simone Ashley. Galitzine knows all too well what it takes for actors to survive in the industry. "I think we're a resilient bunch, he says. 

“I have an unknowability of myself. We all try on different hats and see what fits and who we are.”

Galitzine takes pride in that resilience, challenging himself with a dynamic range of characters. He's landed an array of diverse projects that have flaunted his fluidity without pigeonholing him. 

He played a bisexual bully in Zoe Lister-Jones’ “The Craft: Legacy” (2020), Prince Charming in Kay Cannon’s “Cinderella” (2021), and a troubled Marine in Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum’s marriage-of-convenience romance “Purple Hearts” (2022). Last year, he starred in Matthew López’s adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s beloved novel “Red, White & Royal Blue” as Prince Henry—a character who, despite being deeply closeted, describes himself as “gay as a maypole.” 

The same month that film was released, Galitzine stole the show as a himbo quarterback in Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott’s queer teen comedy “Bottoms.” To prepare, he watched Joel Gallon’s “Not Another Teen Movie” (2001) and other flicks about hyper-American high school culture. 

It was around this time that his career shifted into overdrive. This year has already seen the release of two buzzy projects: “The Idea of You” and Starz’ bawdy historical psychodrama “Mary & George.”

Whether he’s ready for it or not, the Galitzine era is upon us. Take a look at his Instagram page, teeming with comments like “my london boy,” “babygirl all grown up,” and “prime video’s it boy.” One poster dubbed he and his “The Idea of You” costar, Oscar winner Anne Hathaway, “anne hathaslay and nicholas slayitzine.”

“There’s not much rest at the moment. It’s lots of flying and talking about myself,” he says. The chaos has only been amplified thanks to his star turn on “Mary & George” opposite another Academy Award winner, Julianne Moore. 

Nicholas Galitzine photoshoot

On the series, set in 17th-century England, Galitzine plays another queer character: George Villiers, a charismatic nobleman whose mother (Moore) grooms him to seduce King James I (Tony Curran) in order to bolster their family’s influence in the royal court. The show is full of scheming, murder, and steamy moments; the actor shot four sex scenes on the first day of filming. 

Galitzine calls Villiers “a slam dunk” of a role. “I mean, you’ve got a real-life figure [who] goes from naive and fragile and tender and insecure to just completely self-aggrandized, megalomaniacal, power-hungry, and sex-crazed,” he says with awe. “I’ve never played a character like him before. I mean, I probably enjoyed playing him more than anyone.” 

But the part wasn’t without its challenges. Since Villiers is a man of few words, Galitzine had to focus on the physicality of his performance. “He doesn’t have these really large soliloquies where he gets to show his character,” the actor explains.

He’s stretching his creative muscles again in “The Idea of You,” a contemporary rom-com based on Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel of the same name, which hits Prime Video in May. Co-written by Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt, the film centers on the budding relationship between Solène Marchand (Hathaway), a 40-year-old gallery owner and single mom, and Hayes Campbell (Galitzine), the significantly younger frontman of the boy band August Moon.

“I know [Hathaway] has been speaking about that difficult period in her career [when] everyone seemed to be dunking on her for no reason. I’m really glad she’s getting the deserved respect and love.”

They meet when Solène takes her 16-year-old daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin), to see August Moon at Coachella. As their love affair progresses, the two grapple with the stark differences of where they’re at in their lives and the media scrutiny that threatens to tear them apart.

Galitzine hopes that the movie gives Hathaway her due. “I know she’s been speaking about that difficult period in her career [when] everyone seemed to be dunking on her for no reason,” he explains. “I’m really glad she’s getting the deserved respect and love.”

The excitement surrounding “The Idea of You” has been electric. Prior to its release, the film broke the record for most-watched trailer for an original streaming flick. It also fired up the One Direction fandom, who couldn't help but notice the similarities between Hayes and Harry Styles. That’s not a coincidence: August Moon’s songs in the film were penned by Savan Kotecha and Carl Falk, two of the songwriters behind the band’s first single, “What Makes You Beautiful.”

Despite the similarities, Galitzine insists that his portrayal of Hayes wasn’t inspired by Styles or One Direction. “I know a lot of people want to make the comparison,” he says. “I mean, Hayes just felt very unique in his own way and is very much the foil to Annie’s Solène. It is very much her story.” 

To make the character feel singular, Galitzine explored who Hayes was behind the facade of fame. “It’s never useful to take inspiration in that capacity, because you want somebody who feels original and interesting and fresh,” he says. 

Nicholas Galitzine photoshoot

While preparing for the role, Galitzine contemplated his character’s background—his aspirations, his insecurities, and who he is as a person. The actor thinks of Hayes as someone with a strong sense of morality who’s desperate to love and trust. “I think he’s been betrayed by the reality of the world that he’s been thrust into,” he says. 

“The Idea of You” isn’t the first movie featuring Galitzine’s musical talents; he’s previously showed off his chops in “Red, White & Royal Blue” and “Cinderella.” He even sometimes shares his covers of pop songs online. But for Showalter’s film, he turned to real-life boy bands for inspiration when it came to stage presence. 

“We looked at BTS because they’re just a very good unit—but there’s something very nonchalant about them, as well,” he says. “We did go back and look at some Backstreet Boys stuff, but some of that was useful and some of it wasn’t.” 

Galitzine’s natural chemistry with his bandmates only added to August Moon’s onstage swagger. But the actor isn’t sure whether they’ll be performing beyond the movie. “My boys don’t sing, and I don’t dance very well,” he says. “So I’d say we’re a little bit against it in that respect. That said, it isn’t a definite no. Any opportunity to hang out with the lads again, I’d jump at it.”

Though he’s happy to discuss Hayes, Galitzine is sweetly insistent that Hathaway’s character is the focal point of the film. “It’s a coming-of-age story for her in a lot of ways, and a journey of self-discovery,” he explains. “But I think Hayes is the beautiful lens and catalyst that leads to those self-discoveries and changes for Solène.” When pressed further, he adds that “female sexuality is the protagonist in the movie.” 

He recalls that Hathaway was incredibly specific about how she wanted to portray that aspect of Solène’s journey. “As Anne’s expressed a bunch of times, your life does not end at 40,” Galitzine says. “It is a new beginning, and it is empowering.” 

He hopes “The Idea of You” breaks down stereotypes about how men and women are treated as they age—the former put on a pedestal, the latter maligned. “I think we’ve been waiting for a movie like this for a long, long time, and I hope it levels the playing field in a capacity,” the actor says. 

At this stage in his career, Galitzine wants to find a “healthy balance” in the projects he chooses to take on. Though he acknowledges the broader appeal of mainstream movies, he values his roots in the indie film world, where he’s always found a sense of community. Now, he hopes to cultivate that sensibility in every project. 

Gallitzine photoshootRegardless of scale, what most attracts him are auteur-driven films. “I think my remit for the next couple of years is really just following that,” he says. His list of dream collaborators includes some of the most innovative names in the industry: filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve (the “Dune” franchise, “Arrival”), Edgar Wright (“Last Night in Soho,” “Baby Driver”), and Molly Manning Walker (“How to Have Sex”); and actors like Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Barry Keoghan, and Florence Pugh, to name a few. 

He’d also love to work with Hathaway again and reteam with Seligman and Sennott. He’s already in talks to take on another project with “Mary & George” director Oliver Hermanus. And while the actor isn’t sure if a “Red, White & Royal Blue” sequel is in the works, he’s honored that the characters have resonated with people so much that they want to see more of them. 

Though Galitzine is keeping quiet about his next roles, but he says he’s interested in exploring different genres: “I’m dying to do a sci-fi…a Western, and more psychological thrillers.” 

The throughline of his career to date is his chameleonic approach to acting. He thrives on the challenge of embodying characters who are compelling and vastly different from himself. 

He says that his future projects will be a bold departure from his previous work. “You can never let them know your next move,” he says with a laugh. “You just have to keep them guessing—which I like.” 

This story originally appeared in the May 2 issue of Backstage Magazine.

Photographed by Zoe McConnell on 4/5 at the Corinthia Hotel in London. Cover designed by Ian Robinson.

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