Crazy Rich Asians was not the biggest rom-com of the past decade. Henry Golding had never played the role of actor. So what expectation will he then shatter?
The first dream of Henry Golding was to cut hair like no one's business. His goals: "work in London, be a notorious and famous barber and so on," he says. "And that's what I did." At the age of 16 Golding left school to work in a salon and later moved to London to work at the salon of royalty shooter Richard Ward. The transition, like many things for Golding, was easy, of course.
One day, in the steamy murmur of his morning shower, he was struck by another itch: to move to Kuala Lumpur and start a new life as the host of a TV show. So he went looking for the salon to break through Malaysian TV without any experience, armed with a demo reel that he made himself. In the video, which he showed sheepishly to me on his phone, a lanky 21-year-old Golding organizes a fake travel show, touring Brick Lane in London. The clip is grazed seriously and Golding is obviously a natural one, but he can only watch a few minutes of his younger self before he deliberately turns it off. ("Look at my arms!" Waving screams. "Wise and shit! So bad! ")
In one way or another the gambit worked, he got the job. Golding's life grew into a peripatetic fantasy: a short period in ESPN, then three years of walking through the beaches, jungles and streets of Asia and New Zealand as a travel host for BBC and Discovery Channel Asia.
A decade later, the 30-year-old Golding would drop everything for the third time to pursue another dream – the one who put it on the cover of GQ before his arrival in Hollywood Crazy Rich Asians. He was not discovered by a casting director, but by an accountant who worked in the film's Malaysian production agency. She called Golding to director Jon M. Chu, who then bought Googled Golding, watched all his Instagram and YouTube videos and contacted Facebook via a mutual friend. Golding had never acted before, at least not professionally, and had to interrupt his honeymoon for an audition.
You know how the rest goes: Crazy Rich Asians broke box-office records as the largest rom-com in a decade, proof that people have thirsty found Asian-American stories from a film industry without them. Even if it is only one movie, Crazy Rich Asians is hopefully a harbinger of more representation in Hollywood (or, at the very least, Crazy Rich Asians 2). And as for Golding, he is a pretty face that you will see more and more. This autumn he made it out with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick A simple favor, and he wrapped himself up Monsoon, an indie film about a homosexual British-Vietnamese refugee who brings the ashes of his parents home. Next year he will shine in a Guy Ritchie gangster film, Toff Guys, and the holiday movie Last Christmas.
But before the shooting starts, Golding is in LA for a few days and wants to relax, which means he takes his camera to Venice Beach: "It's just therapy", he says, so I tag it. When we join for the first time, Golding is highly valued by the people standing at his lunch spot, his thick hair tangled in a smooth back from Cary Grant. Although at first he seems a bit drowsy and aloof (perhaps it is the jetlag), he immediately disarms the strict cashier with a boyish grin and an accent that is the British class of the upper class with hints of Singing's singing staccato. He is charming, unpretentious and friendly to everyone – he even rolls through the window on the highway to greet a dog who is bobbing from another car.
Henry Golding goes Undercover on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit
Photography is Golding's old passion, and he likes to be cunning while cutting photos of his unsuspecting subjects. Invincently dressed in a Madewell jean jacket, Golding tries to work ironically enough as a Le Carré scavenger when he becomes one of the world's most visible actors. A man with sunglasses on the floor lifts his head to us. "He has seen us!" Whispers Golding, rocketing.
Later Golding will ask me if I am an In-N-Out Burger person or a Shake Shack person. I tell him that I am In-Out of the team, where he is protesting, "but their fries are terrible." When we split up, I go to Shake Shack and texting him a picture of my hamburger. Knowing that he has to go directly to the airport to take a 17-hour flight back to Singapore, I do not expect a reply for a while. But five minutes later my phone buzzed: "Hahaha, you have the cabin!" Golding had told me before that he and Jon Chu went to Shake Shack quite often. & # 39; The person at Sunset Boulevard knows us by name, & # 39; he had said. It never occurred to him that he might not be recognized because of his desire for ShackBurger, but because he is Henry Golding, the next leading man of Hollywood.
GQ: What has changed for you since then? Crazy Rich Asians?
Henry Golding: When I finished filming, but before the movie was over, I went to many of these general Hollywood meetings. They should look at the newspaper with my face on it and a little bit of bio. And they are like, "Crazy Rich Asians. What the hell is that? Is this a television show? Is it a web series? "
I would say, "No, no, it's a movie, I think it's going to be pretty big." When the success of Crazy Rich It's as if everyone knows exactly who you are, and the way they talk to you is different. I have remained the same everywhere. It is simply the perception of people that you change.
So I struggle a bit with the fame.
There have been really great moments when people came to me and it's like: "That movie meant so much to me, it really affected how I think about Asians in the cinema." They really have a lot of support given. Then you just get the weirdest, who want to run to you when you have a conversation and you eat lunch. I'll find you after I've finished my meal, if you're still there.
Do you think your past life as a traveling show host helped you with your acting?
I do. For me there is a realism for everything, and I do not get carried away by the glittery, glamorous side of Hollywood. Because I know what's really important in the world. I understand that all of this is super volatile. It may be that I am a taste of the month.
So what do you have to learn now?
The American accent, which I really suck to hell.
Let me hear it.
No, no … no chance. It's terrible.
How are you going to learn your accents?
I will investigate. I am an internet flyer. I will examine everything and everyone that pops up in my head. YouTube is my university. It is where I grew up so well in the past ten years – I left the school when I was 16, 17. I learned in life at a very young age that I lived much more of people I respected and could learn from instead of a textbook.
Do you think that international education has taught you to live in many different roles?
You just get more of a perspective than a lot of people. Even later in life, when you live in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Everyone is from all over the world, and that has not been their only stop. You have the craziest conversations. Like: "Oh no, I'm going to be in Hong Kong the next few days, and then I'll go to Azerbaijan or Dubai, and then I'll come back, so let's have a lunch here." You get used to the idea that the world just great as a flight.
So earlier Crazy Rich Asians, before you traveled the world as a TV host, you were a hairdresser. Were you then thinking about acting, or was that on the back burner?
As a teenager, I watched MTV Asia when I went back to Sarawak, Malaysia, for summer vacations – that was the only thing on TV that was in English. And I thought, "Well, I could do that." Only five years later I said: "That's what I'm going to do."
Then I started making plans to leave for Kuala Lumpur. It was so & # 39; s crazy, foolish, naive thing. I was 21. I worked in a great salon. I had my own customers. And I did not even think about it: buying a single ticket, packing a bag and moving to Kuala Lumpur, where I did not know any soul or person or how I would enter the industry. I thought, "Well, it'll be fine, I'll just do it." I had my scissors with me, so I thought: if all else fails, I might go to Australia and cut her.
Are you intimidated, a modest hairstylist who has now been thrown in Hollywood?
No not really. That's the weird thing. It feels so normal and natural. I have made it so far in my life without having to rely on anyone else. I can save it if I do not make it in Hollywood. I have nothing to lose. That's the beauty. There is no pressure.
If I really enjoy it, which I do thoroughly now, I will continue to work hardest for it. It is not like I try to calm someone else apart from myself. Many people say: "I have to win my prizes." I just want to make great films.
That is an admirable mentality.
I do not know. There is another side to me that says, "I do not know if I feel comfortable when Brad Pitt is famous." You can not go anywhere. You can not live a life.
But do not you feel like you're going that way?
That makes me especially crazy, the consequences of success in this industry.
Does that lead to the types of roles you choose?
No. I think it looks more like a slow car accident. You can see where you run – you just keep going. Well, it's going to happen. Either you accelerate or you take the scenic route. Let's take the scenic route.
Michelle Lhooq is a writer in L.A.
This story originally appeared in the December 2018 / January 2019 issue with the title & # 39; Henry the first & # 39 ;.
Behind the Scenes with Henry Golding, GQ Man of the Year