Revisiting our HERO Winter Annual 2022 in-conversation between actor Jack Dylan Grazer and director Luca Guadagnino.
Roaming around a US military base in Italy for Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age 2020 HBO series We Are Who We Are, Jack Dylan Grazer played Fraser, a stormy skater kid: confused, mysterious and volatile. Tussling with questions of his sexuality and identity, the character provided a level of flexibility and complexity for Grazer to transform and grow – on set and off. Reconnecting here, Guadagnino calls Grazer who has just returned from the premiere of his latest project, Dreamin’ Wild, shown during Venice Film Festival 2022. Directed by Bill Pohlad, the film follows the incredible, against-all-odds true story of musician siblings Donnie and Joe Emerson, with Grazer playing a young Joe alongside Noah Jupe as his brother.
Luca Guadagnino: I was so happy to meet you in Venice, Jack [at the Venice Film Festival], even if it was so brief.
Jack Dylan Grazer: I know, it was too brief, but I was so happy to see you, especially after watching Bones and All [Luca’s new film that was also shown at the festival] I have so much to tell you that I loved about it. I have so many compliments to give you, I thought it was a perfect movie.
LG: How long did you stay in Venice afterwards?
JDG: A while, I was there until September 8th.
LG: Did you have a movie there?
JDG: Yeah, Dreamin’ Wild. It was good, I’m happy with the movie and the reception of the film so far.
LG: Fantastic. Then after that, you came back to Los Angeles?
JDG: Yeah, and I’ve been kind of dormant for a while. Today I had a photoshoot with my band, I play the bass guitar.
LG: What kind of band are you in? I didn’t know you were in a band.
JDG: It’s pretty new, I’ve been in it for maybe a few months. There’s a guitarist, a drummer, a lead singer and we’ve been having the best time. We have so much fun, it’s a kind of distraction from my career, it’s a new little hobby. I love playing bass.
LG: You don’t sing, right?
JDG: I don’t. I did sing at the last show we did though. I sang Billy Stewart’s Summertime.
LG: What’s the name of the band?
JDG: The Sex Symbols.
LG: Okay. [laughs]
JDG: We didn’t actually come up with that name, people just started calling us that because at the end of our first show, Matty Thomas, who is the lead singer, was like: “My name’s Matty Thomas and we are all sex symbols!” In a cheeky little way, and then people started making posters calling us The Sex Symbols.
LG: Fun stuff.
JDG: It’s just a fun little outlet.
BLANKET BY THE THIRTEEN CLUB
LG: Are you still using the skateboard?
JDG: Yeah! I used the skateboard you gave me recently for a photoshoot.
LG: I remember that. Do you hang out with the community of skateboarders?
JDG: Less… I always have my foot in the door there, but I don’t skate that much anymore. I think I’m doing fewer ‘body things’ and more ‘brain things’. I’m really into music right now, that’s my favourite vice.
LG: Does playing music give you a focus on how to prepare a character?
JDG: No – you know what? I had an epiphany after I watched Dreamin’ Wild in Venice, I realised I don’t even know what I’m doing half the time when I’m acting – I think I’m on autopilot; I’m not that present. I think that’s how I act the best though, when I just listen to my instincts. But I realised I’m not really working hard, I’m just playing pretend and having fun. I had some insecurity after I watched the movie, I was like, “Fuck, I’m talking about real people’s stories…” and was worried I didn’t take it seriously enough. Honestly, after the premiere, I was really emotional and lethargic. I had to call the real dude [that Jack played in Dreamin’ Wild] Donnie Emerson and I was like, “Hey, I just want to thank you – I feel terrible.” I was so melancholy afterwards.
LG: What have people said about your performance? Because you’re being very harsh on yourself, but maybe people didn’t think like that.
JDG: People were good, nobody said anything bad. I have a really small part in that movie, but I just had an existential deal about it after.
LG: Do you keep coming across these existential crises recently?
JDG: I don’t think so.
LG: No crises?
JDG: I feel like I’m always in a state of crisis! Sure. I’m always kind of a scatterbrain worrying about the next thing, anticipating something either bad or good happening to me. But I don’t know if that’s a crisis… If that’s a crisis then nothing is different! I’m kind of always panicking.
“I want to explore truth, darkness and the dichotomy of the shameful parts of humanity that aren’t expressed often.”
LG: That’s the essence of Los Angeles, everything is the same over and over.
JDG:: Yes exactly, agreed. It’s very true and I’m trying to get out of here, I was actually thinking about moving to Paris.
LG: Great, you should. Why do you want to move to Paris?
JDG: Because I make friends easier in Europe.
LG: Why do you think so?
JDG: I don’t want to make generalisations, but I feel like with the majority of people I met either in Italy or in France, in Austria or Germany… it’s easier to say weird shit and they’re not freaked out by it.
LG: You feel you can be more spontaneous in Europe?
JDG: I can express myself better to people. I know it’s a generalisation, but the people I met I had good experiences with. They were sensitive about the complexities of feelings, but I didn’t feel like I had to censor myself.
LG: Do you censor yourself a lot?
JDG: I have to sometimes, yeah.
LG: In which sense? [laughs]
JDG: Right now! [laughs] Do you like Carl Jung? He talks about wearing masks and that it’s okay to be vulnerable and find comfort in wearing a mask. There are some people out there though… like you – you are one of the very few people I can be completely maskless with. My mum is one, and my two best friends. You’re one of the very few people I don’t have to try too much around. I love to care but I don’t have to when I speak to you, I feel very comfortable and then I’m accepted in my nudeself shell. But also I find I’m comfortable, not when I’m being ‘fake’, but when I’m wearing a mask that’s palatable for the setting I’m in. Being presentable.
LG: It’s not that you’re not presentable even being yourself, honestly.
JDG: You’re right, but I’m always trying a little bit.
LG: A little bit.
JDG: When we did We Are Who We Are together I think I was a bit of an asshole, a little bit of a loose cannon. Or no?
LG: Not to me and not for me, in We Are Who We Are you were just completely inspiring to me. Watching you being Fraser was a fantastic experience, I still believe you are one of the finest actors I’ve worked with.
JDG: Really?! Thank you. You’re the greatest director I’ve ever worked with!
LG: Thank you.
JDG: My career hasn’t been that long yet though. [laughs]
JACKET AND JEANS BOTH BY CELINE HOMME BY HEDI SLIMANE FW22
LG: You’re young, how old are you now?
JDG: I’m nineteen, I turned sixteen when we shot that movie.
LG: I remember. Have you kept any friendships with the other wonderful actors from We Are Who We Are?
JDG: I talk to Francesca [Scorsese] sometimes, when I was in Venice I talked to Ben [Taylor].
LG: I love Ben and Francesca. Jack, what are you working on at the moment?
JDG: There are some people who want me to be in a short film.
“You’re the greatest director I’ve ever worked with!”
LG: How do you avoid things you don’t want to do in your life?
JDG: Super simple, I don’t interact.
LG: You don’t engage? Do you feel bad when you ignore people?
JDG: Not if they call me multiple times a day, every day non-stop. But if my grandpa were to call me and I had to hang up on him because I was doing something, I’d feel guilty! How about you? Do you feel bad when you ignore people?
LG: I try not to ignore people, honestly. I try to be attentive but, at the end of the day, we have so many things to think about and carry together with us that it’s inevitable sometimes we behave in a way that might sound cruel. It’s not an intention.
JDG: I know. Do you like Noah Jupe?
LG: I like Noah.
JDG: I think he’s really a cool actor! I find there aren’t many young actors I know, or at least who I have worked with, who are really obsessed and who want to put the work in. When I did this movie with him, he wanted to act with me when we were off camera, off-set. We had a moment where we were in a jacuzzi and we talked for two hours in character. Then the Northern Lights appeared in the sky, it was the weirdest most serendipitous thing. I don’t know why I bought that up. He’s a cool kid. What kind of stories are you interested in exploring and telling?
LG: I am interested in exploring stories of fragility and complete openness to the other, trying to find a way in which you can be completely unguarded and totally ready to be hit by things. That’s what I’m interested in right now, what about you Jack?
JDG: Actually, something similar, but I’m thinking of it in a much more brazen sense. I want to expand from being a boy and I want to be a man, I think I’m ready. I think I have enough empathy to do it. I want to explore truth, darkness and the dichotomy of the shameful parts of humanity that aren’t expressed often.
LG: Do you think you’ll find that role?
JDG: Maybe, I might have to do it myself.
LG: In fact, I want to end our conversation with this: You were thinking of becoming a director which I thought was a very good idea, because I know how smart and, in a way, how complete a person you are. You know a lot about many things, so I feel you can be a director, what’s going on there?
JDG: I keep getting really inspired and pouring my whole world into a script, I’ll write for five days without sleeping then I’ll write myself in circles. I’ll write a word that I hate so much, I’ll write the word ‘gun’ or ‘sex’, then I’ll be so mad at myself that I copped out. But I am obsessed – I’ll write a script a month. There is something I wrote you might love, can I send you a script?
LG: You should do it right now, send it to me.
JDG: Everybody I’ve pitched it to is deeply disturbed and they feel like there is no resolution. I keep trying to fix it but there’s not much room to, because the point is that there is no resolution. I think you’d appreciate it though. I liked how you shot We Are Who We Are, through a very still and neutral frame – there is no bias behind the camera there is no opinion anywhere.
LG: I hope so. Would you like to do this as a short film or as a movie?
JDG: I want to do it as a short film, I don’t think it would be good as a movie and I don’t want to act in it I just want to direct it.
LG: You should do it.
JDG: I think so too.
GROOMING MARK HAMPTON AT JULIAN WATSON AGENCY USING SCHWARZKOPF AND DIOR SKIN; FASHION ASSISTANT RENEE OLD