Christopher Nolan cast Harry Styles in ‘Dunkirk’ without being ‘aware’ of 1D

Dunkirk Weymouth filming

Christopher Nolan’s war movie, Dunkirk, comes out in a few weeks. While I get tired of World War II movies, I think Dunkirk looks really amazing. So many WWII movies tell stories about the European theater of the war, as told from D-Day on, like the last year of the war, when the Allies were winning. The Battle of Dunkirk took place in 1940, before America joined the Allied forces, and it was a devastating moment for British forces. You can read more about it here. Anyway, I think it’s a great move for a British director to tackle the Battle of Dunkirk and the evacuation of British forces from France.

Nolan cast some of the best British (and Irish) actors he could get for the film, from Oscar winner Mark Rylance, to Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and James D’Arcy and more. The film also features Harry Styles’ feature film debut. It’s not a cameo either – Styles has a decent-sized supporting role, from what I’ve heard. So how did Nolan end up casting someone from One Direction in his big war movie?? Well, according to Nolan, he cast Harry Styles without really knowing about One Direction or any of that.

Director Christopher Nolan and actor Mark Rylance didn’t know quite how famous Harry Styles was before “Dunkirk.” The young people in their lives certainly did.

“I don’t think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was” before casting the pop star in the upcoming World War II epic, Nolan said Friday. “I mean, my daughter had talked about him. My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of it. So the truth is, I cast Harry because he fit the part wonderfully and truly earned a seat at the table.”

Styles, 23, who gained fame with One Direction and recently launched his solo career, plays a British soldier in Nolan’s suspense-thriller about the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France, in May and June of 1940. Rylance, also featured in the film, said he learned of Styles from his 11-year-old niece.

“She was just more excited than anything I’ve ever done because I was going to be acting with Harry Styles,” said Rylance, who has won an Oscar and three Tonys. “I went up in her estimation. I won the Harry!”

Styles described his first days on set as “overwhelming.”

“I’d say realizing the scale of the production was very overwhelming. I think whatever you imagine kind of a giant film set to be like, this was very ambitious even by those standards. You know the boats and the planes and the volume of bodies … it was pretty amazing.”

“Dunkirk” opens in North American theaters July 21. It also features Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, and stars newcomer Fionn Whitehead.

[From Page Six]

I realize that not everyone is a gossip-blogger, but surely these middle-aged or older guys had some concept of the size and scope of the One Direction phenomenon? Maybe not Mark Rylance, who seems to live in his own little (delightful) world. But Christopher Nolan would have and should have known. I mean, imagine that casting process. Imagine asking Harry Styles what he does for a living when he’s not acting? I will give Nolan the benefit of the doubt on one thing, though: it’s possible he saw Harry Styles and recognized that Harry has “the look” of a young British soldier during WWII and didn’t really consider it any further. But even then… this story is strange rather than cute.

Dunkirk Weymouth filming

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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33 Responses to “Christopher Nolan cast Harry Styles in ‘Dunkirk’ without being ‘aware’ of 1D”

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  1. Anya says:

    Lol, of course.

  2. third ginger says:

    Respect Nolan and willing to give young Harry all the chances. But I do not believe this for a minute. Having said that, I do recall an odd story showing that people in one realm of show business might not know those in another. A few years back when B. Cumberbatch was up for an Oscar, his name was a clue in a game J. Fallon was playing on TONIGHT with Blake Shelton. The country singer [admittedly an oaf] claimed it was a fake name and there was no such person!!

  3. me says:

    Hey he might be a good actor, let’s give him a chance.

    • Jillian says:

      I’ve heard some positive stuff about him in the movie.

      Got a lot of “people are just going to see the movie because of Harry Styles”. Older men are angry

    • minx says:

      I find something very interesting about his looks. I could see him having an acting career.

      • I am bored says:

        I think he’s truly unnatractive and soon will be bald. He has a severe hairline.

  4. Mia4s says:

    I could easily see him being not that aware. My nieces are 1D crazy but while their father would know the name I doubt he could name you a single song he certainly pays no attention to their fan sites!

    This is getting amazing early reviews so I look forward to it. However his fans need to calm down. He apparently does well but the movie is an ensemble piece with no one main character or star. He’s not going to get acting nominations. If the film is nominated it will be for director, best pic, and tech noms. You can vote for him for a Kids Choice or MTV award or that other nonsense.

    • third ginger says:

      KIDS CHOICE. LOL He is likely just fine, but the idea that he will outshine Branagh, Hardy, Rylance, and Murphy is absurd. These guys were stealing scenes on stage and screen before Harry was an embryo.

      • Casey says:

        Yep! I am really interested to see how Harry does in the movie but I would want to see it even if he weren’t in it. Great cast and I like Christopher Nolan films.

  5. Snazzy says:

    I just asked my BF (aged 40) if he knew who Harry Styles or 1D were, he had no clue. When I mentioned the “that’s what makes you beautiful” song, he had a vague recollection. Some people just aren’t as into popular culture, I suppose.

    • minx says:

      I only knew because my daughter was a huge 1D fan. If you ask my husband he would be “who?!”

    • WileyKit says:

      The only reason my better half knows anything about music 1) composed after 1900 that is 2) not a soundtrack, is because I put the local pop/rock station on the radio when we drive into work in the mornings. And even then, despite my pop-culture junkie tendencies, our ten year old daughter, and Shaun Mendes-obsessed teenage niece, he couldn’t name you a single young pop star or boy band if pressed under torture.

      He can, however, give you an in-depth run-down on why Hans Zimmer is a poor man’s John Williams, complete with citations and score analyses. So we’ve all got our things. 😛

      • Tippet says:

        My music snob ex liked to say that John Williams is the poor man’s Gustav Holst.

  6. Exxie says:

    First Reviews said that he is pretty good, i dont know, but will definately watch this.

    • I am bored says:

      Hmm looked on Metacritic and no reviews so I checked rotten tomatoes and no reviews.

  7. Neelyo says:

    This story is older than the talkies. Whenever there’s an athlete/model/singer celebrity type moving to the big screen, the director without fail will speak of how they had no idea who this person was, they were just blown over by their natural, untrained thespian gifts. I call bullshit.

  8. Jenns says:

    I’m 38 and couldn’t tell you one thing, or even name a single One Direction song…

    And the only thing I know about Harry Styles is that he and Taylor Swift broke up and she ended up alone in a boat. I think I have that story right?

    Anyway, I’ll admit my own ignorance. I think once I hit 32, I just stopped paying attention to anything new in the world of music. #old #getoffmylawn

    • Snazzy says:

      hahah I love you @Jenns

      • third ginger says:

        Jenns, you are hilarious and a mere baby!! At 64, for better or worse, I do keep up with movie actors, most of whom are young enough to be my sons. Music, not so much, did know young Harry, though.

    • ORIGINAL T.C. says:

      I think most adults over 25 might have heard of 1D but not the name Harry Styles. I too only know him through Taylor Swift and Celebitchy. I’m sure Nolan knew he was some pop artist but he himself did not have Harry on his radar as a big deal. There are degrees of fame. Anyway this stunt casting never works. Only a few fans of the singers go see the film.

  9. Ankhel says:

    They wanted to get girls in seats too, and are embarrassed to admit it.

    • Sarah says:


      This reminds me of “Tori Spelling auditioned for 90210 under an alias”. Nolan himself might not have known at first but I don’t believe the whole thing was completely “here’s this anonymous face in the crowd auditioning for a movie role.”

  10. Lucy says:

    I must say, I’m excited about this. So far I’ve only read good things about the movie in general (and Harry in particular).

  11. Tiffany says:

    Dunkirk running time is 107 minutes. That I am finding harder to believe than him knowing who Harry Styles is.

  12. Miss S says:

    No one will convince that a major director like him doing a big film like this has no idea about who they are casting if the ones auditioning or being considered have some kind of background. The kid got a seat at the table because he is who he is and will bring a faithful audience to the film. This doesn’t mean he isn’t good, he may actually be quite talented, that’s a different issue. But coming up with that narrative of not knowing who Harry was, makes him look like an idiot, playing us for idiots too. Probably producers suggested his name or something like that, but choosing the person unaware of their public profile? Please. If he didn’t know before he became aware when his name was being considered.

  13. Elisa the I. says:

    i had no clue who he is until I saw him – by chance – on Carpool Karaoke and really enjoyed his songs. So I have been listening to Sign of the Times and Kiwi a lot in recent weeks. 🙂 He comes across as quite charismatic and charming on screen, so….

    • Dttimes2 says:

      I first heard him on that show too and im hooked on his new album…it reminds me of a young Bowie or Mick Jagger
      …its well. Worth a listen

  14. Marianne says:

    If he did ask Harry what he did for a living, I assume he would have said “singer”. And that still doesnt automatically mean that you’re super famous. And no, not everyone pays attention to celebrity culture. Its not like One direction’s fanbase was targeted to middle age guys or anything. Its easy to see why he wouldnt know him.

  15. Mia says:

    I work in the industry and this is a load of BS. It wouldn’t be Nolan who intially picked styles anyway. It would be a casting director so this is just Nolan twisting the truth if he in fact had never heard of him. There’s no way a casting director wouldn’t be aware of Harry styles status in popular culture. It’s their job to know who is hot, who can sell a film etc. For a novice actor like styles half the battle is just getting in the room.For this kind of high profile work it’s never an open casting call. They see a select group and the actors will be there on basis of how look the part and usually how well connected they or their agent is, maybe which drama school they went to etc, sometimes combined with merit but not always,
    So no there just no way a guy who never acted and doesn’t have any training would get to audition for nolan if he wasn’t famous and as such had built in commercial potential.
    To Styles credit the guy is known to be king of networking so I can see him going in there smashing the networking side of things, if not necessarily the acting and since this is a smallish part the commercial/PR benefits of having him involved far outweighs any potential downfall.

    • I am bored says:

      Harry styles did very well by becoming friends with top players in Hollywood. 🙄

  16. Louise177 says:

    I don’t know why people think Nolan is lying or not knowing how famous Harry is is strange. He did say he had awareness of 1D. It’s not as if Nolan said he never heard of them. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean everyone is an expert. I don’t use social media so I know very little about it, other than the general basics.