British actor Joe Alwyn stars in one of the most anticipated movies of the year as he takes on the lead role in Oscar®-winning director Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Joe was picked from obscurity to take on the title role of ‘Billy Lynn,’ his feature film acting debut.
Based on the acclaimed bestselling novel by Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions.
“This is obviously a huge transition for Joe and, I think, a huge discovery by Ang Lee,” says producer Stephen Cornwell. “Billy is the heart and soul of the film and I think the detail of Joe’s performance, the way that he lets you into his soul and the way you share his feelings, is extraordinary and profound. Joe’s freshness (he’s someone that an audience hasn’t seen before so he brings no baggage) and the subtlety and range of his performance encourage you to want to know Billy and, I think, ultimately feel for him.”
Lee, who has a knack for recognizing and nurturing new talent, had a very specific idea of the actor he needed for the title role and until he saw Alwyn, no other actor had fulfilled his requirements.
“I mean, it’s called ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,’ we needed him to carry the movie. It’s a coming of age story really, more than anything, a boy recognizes what his life is about, what he’s going to be. I really needed a compelling, soulful actor, one who, most importantly could blend innocence and sophistication because he starts as a naïve teenager and during the course of the film he becomes a man. We went through the regular casting process and my casting director Avy Kaufman is particularly good at finding new talents. Joe was still in school in London when we saw the tape he’d made. I was on my way from New York to Atlanta to make the movie, we’re already in pre-production so I wasn’t really going to see him but Avy said, ‘You have to, you have to.’ She’s done that to me quite a few times in the past and she’s always right. So I stayed a little longer in New York to meet with him. I remember it was a very cold morning, a Sunday. I saw this handsome young man standing outside of the building, freezing, definitely under dressed. I felt cold for him! And I met him, he read and that was that. It was immediate. Perhaps the best reading I have ever witnessed,” Lee says.
Joe Alwyn confides how “throughout the whole audition process it was hard to compute the scale of it—this being Ang Lee and such a huge project. So when I was flown to New York to meet and audition for Ang I didn’t feel particularly nervous because in my head it was something completely other and so big that it didn’t kind of compute. So yeah, it’s a big one, I guess, to take on for the first-ever job. Coming from drama school and not having done any film work before, it’s taken some adjustment to be acting in a way that does not incorporate the entire arc of a journey over a few hours, as you would in a play. Film work being so fragmented and broken down (which is so common and obvious to people who do it all the time) has definitely taken some getting used to, especially patching together the emotional continuity of the character, getting that all to make sense and really having where it all fits into place in your mind, especially since so much is recorded his point of view.”
Alwyn believes that “what is attractive about Billy is that he is this image of the all-American normal kid, which is why people try to turn him into what they want to project onto him, to mold him into what they can use him for. I also think of Billy as a rebel, but not too much the rebel, who is a bit on the outside, on the fringes and quite a solitary character who likes to get on with things by himself. I think he has leadership qualities, but I think he likes his solitude.”
Opening across the Philippines on November 9, 2016, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.