Josh O’Connor: ‘No one really talked about the pandemic, did they?’

Every time I read a Josh O’Connor interview, I like him even more. He manages to come across as both grounded yet very bohemian-artsy. In this recent Vanity Fair profile, he even talks about how his goal was never to become rich or famous, and I get the feeling that he has absolutely never taken a gig just for the money. Josh is currently promoting Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers and Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera. After reading him talk about La Chimera, I can’t wait to see it. And of course, I’m all about Challengers. Some highlights from VF:

His character in Challengers is a real jock/dude: “I don’t [relate to him at all]. It is a tricky one. Generally speaking, when I go into any character, I’ll try and find the things that are different about a character. Most actors, we’re all deeply insecure, don’t love ourselves. Even if they portray this idea that they do, most people don’t. So the joy of being an actor is you don’t have to be yourself for a bit, and don’t have to be in your head. Truly, I have no interest in tennis, apart from the fact that I like watching it. The idea of competitiveness, I think I understand. I have an element of that inside me, although not like Patrick in the slightest.”

His character takes up a lot of space: “I actually found it really hard. The truth is, Luca had to take me aside after about two weeks and was like, “Josh, you can’t hide. You have to be all out.” I’m not brilliant at that. I like to be in the corner, hiding away a little bit. One thing that I definitely think helps with that: I’d never spent time in a gym in my life. When I went over to Boston to do this film, Luca was like, “We’re in the gym.” We did three or four weeks of: two hours in the morning, tennis; two hours gym; rehearsal every day. I was forced into going to the gym. There was no option. And apart from the fact that I felt amazing, I suddenly had all this regret from when I was a kid—if only I’d discovered the gym earlier, maybe I could have been an athlete.

His vibe with Mike Faist: “Between takes, particularly in the main tennis match, Mike and I would be doing laps of the tennis court or doing push-ups or burpees and just properly sweating. Put two actors on basically what is a stage, where there’s sweating and you’re feeling boisterous, and it’s like, if you plant two male actors in that scenario, you’re going to have a bit of swagger. That really helped. It’s not a space I’m necessarily natural with, but I loved it. It felt good.

He stopped going to the gym: “Well, first of all, when I first saw it, I was like, “What happened? Where’s it all gone?” I’ve now learned that you can’t just go to the gym for three months and then stop and it’ll be there forever. So that was a good, late lesson for me to learn.

Filming ‘La Chimera’ at the tailend of the pandemic: “It was a time in my life where I felt like an outsider. I felt a little bit lost in my life, and I didn’t know where I fit in. Arthur represented that for me. No one really talked about the pandemic, did they? At no point have we sat down and looked at each other and were like, “Are you good? That was f–king insane.” We shut down life, socializing, engaging with other humans. We’re social animals and we couldn’t do it for two, three years. I was living in New York. My family were back in the UK. I wanted to live where I grew up, surrounded by trees and hills. And there was this feeling of losing my anonymity post-The Crown, being stopped, looking like sh-t and putting your hood up and still being recognized.

His dream of his actor’s life: “When I was at drama school and training, I wanted to have a theater company touring around the UK doing small plays, because I really believed in regional towns being able to access theater. What I certainly didn’t want was to be rich. Because if I did, then I was an idiot. You don’t become an actor if you want to be wealthy. Putting the money part of it aside, the question is, What entices you? What’s interesting? It has to be something about yourself. It’s finding what is challenging here, and scares me here. What does it say about me?

[From Vanity Fair]

LOL: “Apart from the fact that I felt amazing, I suddenly had all this regret from when I was a kid—if only I’d discovered the gym earlier, maybe I could have been an athlete.” Followed up by the fact that after three months in the gym, he never went back and wonders where it all went. The thing about getting through the pandemic and never talking about it is interesting too. I remember when people wondered why there was so little written about or documented about the pandemic of 1918, and then once we got to 2021-22, people were like “oh, this is why – I never want to speak about this time ever again.” It’s barely being represented in films or television either.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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13 Responses to “Josh O’Connor: ‘No one really talked about the pandemic, did they?’”

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  1. Lynn says:

    My theory is that it’s just too soon to talk about the pandemic in art. When I see it addressed in a TV show or movie, while I appreciate the honesty and witnessing what happened, I have a negative reaction. Maybe we just need a bit more distance.

  2. Freddy says:

    He’s adorable. I think it’s the ears.

    • SciLies NU says:

      This is a good time for me to pitch one of my favorite movies (starring Josh O’Connor) called GOD’S OWN COUNTRY. Absolutely brilliant.

  3. Raspberry Tea says:

    I am beginning to see conversation about COVID’s impact in academia and from thoughtful commentators—thank goodness! I was feeling a bit gaslit, that no one was talking about this huge life-altering event. I suspect part of the timing is related to the upcoming US presidential election — we need to be reminded of the very real consequences of incompetence at the helm.

  4. Flamingo says:

    It’s weird, I enjoy movies more that were filmed in 2019. Since that was the innocent time of no one knowing about that damn Covid.

    I don’t particularly love Covid in TV or Movies it takes me out of the fantasy. And a reminder if a fat orange clown. Didn’t downplay it to keep the stock market up. As that horrible orange clown was depending on the strength of the economy for reelection.

    Maybe less people would have died if the alarm had been raised sooner and not politicized. When the republican fat cats made a fortune in quietly investing in PPP companies. And getting vaccinations while telling their constituents it’s a Democratic sham.

    Yeah, it’s a blur and a bad memory.

  5. Shawna says:

    We desperately need conversations about Covid experiences.

    I can’t get enough of Josh O’Connor. For awhile, that space in me was occupied by Colin Morgan (Merlin, one episode of Dr. Who), but his career has turned out to be too much London-based theatre for me to be able to actually follow his career. O’Connor lets an American follow his career better (although I didn’t like how his character disappeared in The Durrells in Corfu).

  6. Betsy says:

    I think it’s still too fresh and too fraught to be easy to put the pandemic into art. One book I thought did a really excellent job of it was Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, but I’ve seen far more examples of it being done poorly.

  7. Square2 says:

    Josh is so young & a bit naive. It’s fine to have a dream & pursuit it; but a touring theater company needs BIG MONEY backing it. There’s a lot of expenses for touring than just stay in one location. You can’t ask all the actors & crew members only take minimum wages. Josh, it’s better you make a lot of money from Hollywood then you can do whatever you wishes.

  8. Diamond Rottweiler says:

    I think there’s been only one truly great poem written from the lens of being inside the pandemic and that’s Ada Limón’s “The End Of Poetry.” The last line is absolutely crushing.

  9. Mina_Esq says:

    My gosh…he…he is so right. I had journaled since high school but suddenly stopped when the pandemic started. I was too anxious to process my feelings and put them into words. Like, I didn’t want to relive my days by writing about them. I tried video journaling too but didn’t get past two videos. It’s strange, now that he points it out! He is so right. I took photos of my kid and my baking. That’s my pandemic memory.

  10. AuntRara says:

    I can see how it would be hard to write shows/movies set during the pandemic. The response to it was so politicized that I think people might fail to connect with characters whose response to it was different from their own.