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“Do you ever feel, in times of either great excitement or great sadness, that you’re not experiencing the emotions you’re supposed to?” wonders Harris Dickinson.
We’re in the corner booth of a Dalston coffee shop, and after an hour or so of chatting, the conversation has turned to the existential. You see, Dickinson dreamed of winning an Oscar. (“Anyone who’s gotten to the point of contentment where they don’t need a little pat on the back, I love that for them,” he jokes.) For years, he has been steadily working towards that goal. Since his breakout performance in 2017’s lo-fi queer drama Beach Rats, the 27-year-old British actor has been infusing boyish sensitivity into ostensibly shallow heartthrobs: a posh spy out of his depth in The King’s Man, a deceitful quarterback in Where the Crawdads Sing, a himbo-ish Richard Attenborough in the whodunnit See How They Run.
This work seemed to be paying off. Earlier this year, Dickinson was within touching distance of the Dolby Theatre stage when he attended the Oscars for Best Picture nominee Triangle of Sadness, the Palme d’Or-winning class satire in which he plays a struggling male model on a hellish luxury cruise. Here he was, finally in the room he always wanted to be in, but something just felt off – like taking a bite out of a gold-flaked dessert that just isn’t sweet enough. “I didn’t feel as alleviated as I thought I was going to be,” he tells me, sipping his coffee. He couldn’t reconcile the experience he was having with what he imagined as a 12-year-old, sitting in class thinking about the Oscars as an institution.
“But that’s OK because a lot of the time, your expectation of an event doesn’t always line up with the reality,” he continues. “People have a certain amount of ambition, right? And then it almost doesn’t stop. You want to keep going, even when the good thing happens. I don’t think about that. I guess we’re searching for this kind of vibration that never comes. Or it does sometimes, but it comes when you’re…” He trails off, honing in on the right phrase.
Not expecting it?
“But also with pure things, like, I don’t know, seeing a dolphin.” He laughs. “That sounds whimsical, but that makes you feel something very individual.”