Harry Styles is living proof that you can step outside the boundaries of what the world expects of you. The former One Direction star once embodied manufactured fame, but he’s now found his true voice both as a stadium-filling solo artist and as an actor, most recently appearing in dystopian thriller Don’t Worry Darling alongside Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and Gemma Chan.
RSNG.com caught up with him to talk with him about life, music and self-expression…
RSNG What can you tell us about Don’t Worry Darling?
HARRY STYLES, MUSICIAN AND ACTOR “The storyline centers around an experimental community in 1950s America, and the fact that while everything from the outside seems pleasant and normal, there is a disturbing undercurrent that begins to gnaw away.
“It was a brilliant film to work on, and the idea behind it resonated with me quite strongly given how the music industry is, and the fact this outward façade very rarely matches the challenges and emotions that go on inside.”
RSNG This is your first movie for five years, since Dunkirk in 2017. How come it has taken you so long to move back into acting?
HARRY STYLES “Dunkirk was really important to me because it forced me to step outside my comfort zone, and that has always been something I’ve pushed myself to do, and always will.
“The break is really down to putting together two albums. Obviously a lot of that is touring, and covid had a big effect too. I always had the confidence to put myself back into acting, so there was no doubt in my mind it would come back around; sometimes you’re just waiting for the right project and the right opportunity.
“Ultimately though, whenever a window has emerged I’ve jumped at the opportunity to get something done.”
If you want a good life filled with happiness and contentment then being nice to those you share the world with is a pretty good place to start
RSNG Does the scale of your fame still surprise you? Do you find it difficult to be on your best behavior all the time?
HARRY STYLES “Being successful isn’t a reason not to be courteous or to have humility. For me it always goes back to how I was raised – as a kid I was told to always be nice to people. If you want to get the best out of others around you, and if you want a good life filled with as much happiness and contentment as possible, then being nice to those you share the world with is a pretty good place to start; and that is a lesson for life I have carried with me.
“I think any artist will tell you how amazing the experience is, even if at times you do feel very cocooned away from reality.”
RSNG Do you feel you can handle the media nowadays?
HARRY STYLES “It has never really been a problem for me. When we first broke through as One Direction there was a lot of media coaching and training in the early days. We were taught how to respond to questions, what to say, how to sit and even facial expressions.
“It was all slightly crazy, but obviously the brief was to create a perfect pop star image and to limit the prospect of slip-ups.
“I’m definitely less likely to fall foul of something now, but then in the same way the media are also less interested in tripping me up, and I feel I have worked hard for that privilege.”
RSNG Do you feel you have liberated yourself from the pop machine?
HARRY STYLES “I do, yes. I think you have to feel that way. In the early days you are definitely in the system, and you have to fight to pull yourself away from it. It can be really damaging, and it has shortened the careers of a lot of stars because they just can’t stand being programmed 24/7.”
RSNG You make acting look easy, in the same way as you do music… Is it easy for you?
HARRY STYLES “I think some people believe the crossover from music to drama is an awkward one, but really most of us grew up across the two specialisms; and music in itself is a form of acting, so I have never found the transition too difficult.”
Music and art is only ever a reflection of the soul and of how you feel
RSNG Can you talk us through how your style has changed musically?
HARRY STYLES “I’ve changed my style in recent years – a lot of this is down to lived experience. I think there are some types of records or some lyrics you can only ever produce when you have tapped into an emotional space, and sometimes you can only do that when you’ve been out in the world and experienced things.
“Music and art is only ever a reflection of the soul and of how you feel, so unless you have put yourself in a situation where you are re-living and playing out those experiences on whatever canvas it is you choose, it’s very difficult to fake it.
“As I have matured and progressed I have certainly started embracing new and different genres, and that in turn has connected me more with different artists and different ideas – from folk to country, to even some soul and gospel sounds. I am really grateful for those opportunities and It’s been really cool to move away from mainstream music.”
RSNG What annoys you most in life?
HARRY STYLES “Lack of punctuality. For me there needs to be a really good reason for not being somewhere on time!”
RSNG Do you ever feel the pressure of stardom is too much?
HARRY STYLES “Yes and no. Every gig is different, every city is different. The joy you see on people’s faces will always replace the tiredness and lethargy you may feel inside.
“When it doesn’t feel it’s worth the effort anymore, I will stop.”
WHAT NEXT? For another actor who combines Hollywood with music, read the RSNG.com interview with DJ and movie star Idris Elba, here.
Photos: Shutterstock, Moviestillsdb