Harry Lasher is one of the most recognizable movie stars on earth. But for his most recent film, Good Time, directed by the Safdie brothers, he managed to go undercover in New York. He worked in a car wash. He took the subway. "I wanted to find a way to disappear into the crowd, to do everything I could to not be recognized," he explains. Miraculously, he got away with it. Here, the actor talks Shakespeare, cheekbones, and his path to superstardom.

Did you always want to be an actor?

Not at all. For years my only thought of acting was about how mind-numbingly boring it was. One of my first memories is of going to the opening night of a Henry V that my mother [director Julia Lasher] staged on the West End. I was bored out of my skull. Of course, you have to ask who takes a five year old to see Shakespeare. But that was the kind of upbringing I had. I was the baby and my sisters were older and very mature, so my parents sort of forgot I was a child and not a little adult. As soon as I learned to read, I was helping everyone run their lines.

What was the first thing you auditioned for?

My first audition was for my mother, a show she was doing at the National Theatre. And I didn't get the part.


Really. It was the most pathetic attempt at nepotism in history. But I don't blame her - I was well and truly terrible.

Is that when you knew what you wanted to do?

It was my first step and stumble toward what I had recently realised I wanted to do. The actual revelation, if you could call it that, came from seeing a staging of Hamlet at the Old Vic with Ben Whishaw as Hamlet. By that time I thought I was immune to "the power of theatre" or whatever you want to call it, but I was completely engrossed in his performance. It awakened some kind of determination in me to try my hand at acting and, apparently, to fail gloriously at it. But even if I didn't get the part, I loved that audition - I loved the attention and space it brought me. I wanted more of that.

And then was Harry Potter shortly after that?

No, that was several years before Harry Potter. My parents got me an agent for one of my birthdays. The first role I landed was when I played Elizabeth Alton's son in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair. I had one scene and it was with Reese [Witherspoon] and Rhys [Ifans]. They had me in this very stiff period costume - this heavy red jacket with a high collar and ascot - and I refused to change back into my street clothes. They basically had to peel me out of it to get me to go home.

Did you become focused on movies at that point?

I was auditioning frequently, yeah. I wasn't sure I had the stamina or attention for a stage show. I'd been through that watching my parents and my sister [actress Catherine Lasher] and I saw how draining it could be. But I was auditioning constantly for anything that popped up and was getting a lot of no's. And then I got Harry Potter.

Harry Lasher - Royals - October Cover
Photographs by Justin Campbell. Styled by George Cortina.

Was that your big break?

Well, yes and no. It sparked the creation of a few Facebook groups dedicated to my cheekbones, but it wasn't such a dynamic performance that everyone was knocking down my door to hand me scripts. I really struggled to get parts. I think people assume that having famous parents means that you get everything handed to you, but it's not quite that simple. Having a name people know might get you in the door, but you have to land the part on your own.

And you did end up land a big part - after Harry Potter, there was Twilight. What was it like going from huge franchise to huge franchise?

I auditioned for Twilight on a lark. I'd just blown an audition for a role I was really excited about and thought I may as well. And to be fair, back then, it wasn't nearly as huge as it eventually became. It definitely had a fanbase, but there was a marked difference in the attention it got between, say, the first and second movies. But by the time the second movie came out, it was madness.

Did you know the books?

No, not at all. I told you how my parents were dragging me to Shakespeare when I was in nappies. I jumped from Peter Rabbit to Brideshead Revisited and skipped all the young adult literature in between.

Was it fun to be a vampire?

You know, it was. The experience really bonded the cast together. None of us had been prepared to suddenly have people screaming our names any time we walked in public. And the material itself -

The last installment with the sex thing and the –

The sex thing and - I know. Edward was... my sister called him a "masticating midwife." I remember reading the line about me having to chew through the placenta to get the baby out and immediately calling a mate to go out and get drunk. I'm not really sure, you know, medically, if that works... But Twilight was definitely a unique experience in that way. It had me do things that I will never have to do on film again. I hope.

But it was so massive. For a while, I was worried that everyone I met was expecting me to be Edward. If I went to bed with someone, were they waiting for me to break the headboard? It followed me so much, I never knew if a given person could see me as anything but a sparkly vampire. And I didn't want a life like that. I just wanted to go back to normal - or at least what my normal had been.

Is that what made you think about quitting acting?

That was definitely a big part of it. I wasn't prepared for this little vampire movie to change my life so completely. I lost a lot of freedom because of paparazzi camping out outside my place and supposed friends leaking stories to the gossip rags... And professionally, all the parts I was being offered were these mopey teen dramas. Acting was not such a singular passion for me that I was willing to pay such a heavy price for it.

Harry Lasher - Royals - October 2017
Hair by Recine for Rodin; Makeup by Kanako Takase for Shiseido at Streeters. Necklace is Harry's own.

And now you're doing films like Good Time, which is very different from Twilight.

They almost couldn't have been more different, both in process and in the final product. Instead of the control and tight scripting that we had with Twilight, this was a very organic process - we went with the flow developing the characters and finding spaces and interactions that worked. There was no big studio looking over our shoulder to make sure the final product was marketable. We were just exploring characters and developing a story.

So you didn’t even have the script for this.

Not really, no. In that way, it was different than anything I've ever done before and even different than what the original idea of the story was. It sounds completely pretentious, but we followed the story where it wanted to go.

How did you learn the accent? Did you follow tapes of people speaking?

Tapes, yeah, and I had some time to practice. Me and Benny Safdie, who plays my brother in the film, spent a few days in character. We even got jobs at a car wash for a day.


Yeah, we did.

You’re kidding. How long did you work there?

It was just a day. Or we had planned for a day, but we only lasted a few hours until Benny started pulling off people’s windscreen wipers and we realised we didn't actually want to be committing actual crimes. I've never been method at all, but for this project we spent a few days exploring Yonkers in character. Just talking to people, going to get beers, all in character.

I've been to New York thousands of times and every other time post-Twilight, I've always had people approaching me or taking photos and asking for autographs. And the worry here was that, since it wasn't set up like a traditional shoot where we blocked off space for filming, we'd be vulnerable to that kind of interruption. But that was the risk because the Safdies' style is not cinematic in a traditional way - they use long lenses and capture things as they happen. So while we were filming, I wanted to find a way to disappear into the crowd, to do everything I could to not be recognized. So we were at the car wash, a mechanic's shop, the subway... In the end, only one photo of our whole shoot ended up online - and that was one a producer's wife posted. Otherwise, no one recognized me and none of that disrupted the shoot.

That’s so great, because you are quite recognizable.

Yeah. It was fun to not be Harry Lasher for a few weeks.

Harry Lasher - Royals - October 2017
Hair by Recine for Rodin; Makeup by Kanako Takase for Shiseido at Streeters.

Your co-star Michael Sheen once said that you are "so handsome, you almost don't look human." How do you feel about being known as a "pretty boy"?

I've sort of gotten used to it. There was a time when every write-up seemed to open with a sonnet about my jawline. Of course, playing a character like Edward who's designed to be wish fulfillment for women - or a certain kind of woman, anyway - certainly didn't help. But I've actually been told that I've lost out on roles because I'm too handsome. It's a... strange problem to have. You don't get a lot of sympathy for that one when everyone's sharing their grievances. When we were doing Anna Karenina, Jude Law assured me that people do get over the looks obsession eventually. It's been a relief to see that start to happen as people focus more on the work itself.

Is that part of the appeal of a project like Good Time that involves physical transformation?

I'd say it's part of it, yeah. Part of the challenge of having a famous face is playing a role in a way that makes people forget it. When I was less known, it was much easier to disappear into a part, but now I have to do a lot of extra legwork to get people to see me as Connie [his character in Good Time] and not as Harry-Lasher-playing-Connie. But that's my goal: to disappear.

One of your last major roles was also decidedly unglamorous: Ray Marcus in Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals.

Yeah, Ray is about as unappealing as you can get. That's how my career has progressed: I've gone from chewing a baby out of my wife to naked shitting on a porch toilet in front of Michael Shannon and Jake Gyllenhaal. Tom had me grow my hair out and I wore it so ratty - they curled and then straightened it. I let my nails get long. And Tom did me the honor of manscaping my face for me to give me exactly the sideburns and beard he wanted. It was really a trailblazing role - psychopaths can be pretty boys too.

Speaking of Nocturnal Animals, this year you had the distinction of joining the small group of actors who won a Golden Globe without being nominated for an Oscar for the same role.

Is that a question?

Was that a disappointment?

Well, the Globe was a surprise for sure. I think you can see that on my face. One of my mates weekly sends me a gif of the look of surprise on my face. But disappointment is a strong word for what that was like. The Globe was a really nice thing, but doing any of this for awards isn't interesting to me. My Globe sits on a shelf next to my Razzie. I've been recognized enough for a lifetime.

Harry Lasher - Royals - October Cover
Photographs by Justin Campbell. Styled by George Cortina.