Meet the future face of Hollywood

A double exposure of a young man wearing a seventies style shirt and jacket.

Without formal training or industry connections, determination and self-belief were all actor Anson Boon needed to carve out a thriving career in Hollywood – alongside Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet in the movie Blackbird and in Sam Mendes’ hotly anticipated war epic, 1917

By Jacquelyn Lumley   Monday 6 January, 2020

On a chilly afternoon last autumn, in a West Sussex pub – somewhere that, by his own admission, felt decidedly ‘in the middle of nowhere’ – it dawned on 19-year-old Anson Boon that this was his first experience of spending an extended period of time away from home. Unlike his friends or any other person his age, Boon was not heading to university, going on a backpacking trip, or the like. He was, instead, buying Susan Sarandon a pint of beer. And it would certainly not be their last. In fact, a few weeks later, the two of them would spend Thanksgiving together getting matching tattoos inside a Chichester cottage alongside the rest of the cast of Blackbird.

‘That first day was very special,’ he remembers. After one week of rehearsals in London and three days exploring the small town that would be his home for the next six weeks, ‘I walked on set with my cup of tea and just couldn’t believe I was there. I was with Susan [Sarandon],Kate Winslet, Sam Neill and Rainn Wilson. These are people I had looked up to and been a fan of for so long.’ The film chronicles a family coming back together for a weekend to commemorate the life of their terminally ill mother. The eight-person cast caravanned down from London with director Roger Michell and relocated to a remote village for the entire filming process, ‘chucked together on this beautiful coast’, says Boon.

The rehearsal process was a revelation. ‘I learnt the most I’ve ever learnt about being an actor, about how I should handle myself in this industry, but also just about how to live as an adult,’ he says. ‘I definitely grew up on that job.’ Boon has been acting since he was 14 years old, but playing Jonathan in Blackbird was his biggest role. He grew up in Northamptonshire with both his parents and one brother, none of whom is in the film industry. He’d always been fond of performance, but didn’t know how to pursue it as a career. Unlike most of his peers, Boon has had no formal training and says he picked up everything he knows about acting ‘on the job’.

black and white photo of smiling man
two portrait images next to each other

‘All I’ve really had to go on is my own experience,’ says Boon. ‘When I do a character or look at a script, that’s all I’ve got – my basic instincts.’ This intuitive nature, along with a striking, lanky build, beautiful androgynous features and, I must admit, the most emotive eyebrows I’ve ever seen, has earnt the actor a string of unusual roles. He played a gasstation looter in the drama Crawl, a hurricane horror film that grossed an estimated $100 million worldwide, a young prostitute in the Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated psychological thriller series The Alienist alongside Dakota Fanning, a disturbed hospital patient in Amazon Prime’s British sci-fi series The Feed and a soldier in Sam Mendes’ highly anticipated post-Bond movie, 1917.

‘Even in the darkest and strangest roles, there’s a lot of positivity,’ muses Boon. ‘I did a film called The Winter Lake, which was about a very lonely, hurt, quiet soul, but someone who was also brilliant with love and happiness at the same time. It’s just about finding the light in dark places. I really enjoy playing people who couldn’t be further away from who I am as Anson, too. Right now, I want to be as “out there” as possible.’

Boon says Jonathan, the character he plays in Blackbird, is probably the role that most closely resembles his own persona. ‘At the start of the film, my character is perhaps more like what you’d assume a typical teenage boy to be like: hormonal, doesn’t like being hugged. But he has this period where he really grows up. I was kind of growing up myself throughout the process of making the film, now I think about it.’ Boon says guidance from the cast also helped cultivate the growth process both on and off set. ‘Kate Winslet really taught me about how your life can change when suddenly people know who you are. It’s like they don’t see you. She prepared me, helped me understand.’ 

Boon’s not hiding from the paparazzi quite yet, but there’s definitely a buzz around him. He’s been hailed by critics as a ‘star of tomorrow’, ‘your new favourite movie star’ and ‘one to watch’, as well as starring onstage in the critically acclaimed ‘Master Harold’… And The Boys at the National Theatre in London – he’s actually doing this interview between rehearsals. Despite such a speedy upward trajectory, it’s clear that Boon’s focused on staying grounded. His Instagram feed is that of an avid sports fan who doesn’t put too much time into his posts. ‘I’m a real person,’ he says. ‘That’s where I find my inspiration or my self-expression – by watching the real things in life.’ Not quite the angle most present-day teenagers take when it comes to social media. He says his insightful gaze and sense of grounding are thanks to a solid family life and what little time off he has being spent at home. ‘I spend so much time there, walking my dogs and hanging out with my brother, playing sports and essentially being extremely selfish in order to maintain my own health. I think that’s the most important way you can be selfish, which is very helpful in being an actor, because it means that I try out all kinds of different things to make my life rich. Also, this can only benefit a performance because it means you’ve got more life experience to bring to a character.’ 

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So, what’s next? ‘This time last year I was proper excited to be in this position,’ he says, ‘and now I’m here, it opens up a lot more doors. You have to be smart, because you get to a point where you hold value, where people start to know who you are.’ So the plan is to be smart with this moment? ‘Exactly.’ But Boon’s not too concerned about being the next big thing. He’s far more interested in enjoying himself. Rather than worrying about what opportunities might be coming his way, he’s still reminiscing about the relationships he built while working on Blackbird. ‘We created the most incredible bond, which we still have. I feel like those people have become an extension of my family. We all feel the same. I know it for a fact,’ he declares, gesturing to the outline of a bird inked above his elbow. ‘I’ve got the tattoo to prove it.’

1917 is in cinemas this month; Blackbird will be released later this year.

Images by Ben Morris
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