An interview with Nolan Funk
“I want to work with to work with Emma Stone, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and Warren Beatty. I’d love to work in an European film. You know, Bertoulucci recognized me from The Canyons and it blew my mind, The Dreamers is one of my favorite films.” Nolan Funk lives in the East Village, he’s 29 years old, a July Leo who grew up in Canada’s wildlife surrounded by blackberry bushes, which, according to him, were painful to step on them if “you didn’t nurture them right.” As we walked to lunch in the West Village he continued, “People think that my background is music but really, all I did was sing my ass off when I was a kid. I wanted to be a singer, but I didn’t grow acting in plays nor Broadway.”
With a young thirst to put his foot on the door, he danced “his ass off” to prove that he was the guy for it. Eventually, Bye Bye Birdie, the Broadway musical inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft notice into the army, came knocking and offered him the lead role of Conrad Birdie. It was no wonder that Priscilla Presley came to see him perform on numerous occasions. Funk, with his classical features, brooding jawline, a vast smile that makes anyone weak in the knees and deep sea tainted jade eyes was the one for the role of her late-husband. Over tuna melts and coleslaw at the White Horse Tavern, Funk and I discussed his career and his method techniques. In the process he opened up in that unique way that only actors know how to - with a controlled vulnerability, difficult to emulate by mere mortals.
Dressed in matching mauve basketball shorts and t-shirt, he continued, “I listened to a lot of R&B, but then went through a rock phase and listened to a lot of Pearl Jam. I sang so much. No one could shut me up.” As he talked about his discontent due to pressure in his school days, I asked him how he could handle it as an actor, one of the most strenuous career paths you can choose. Stealthily and swiftly responded, “I always like pushing myself and changing. Any pressure that I feel in this industry is self inflicted. I’m not a baby, I’m choosing to do this. If I didn’t feel happy doing this, I gotta do something else.”
In this first period of his career, he’s already been the face of Versace, had a lead role in a Brett Easton Ellis’ penned film and acted alongside Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence in the 2012 thriller, House at the End of the Street. Between tuna melt bites, he told me that Lawrence was “the most confident girl” he’s ever met in his life. A year later, Paul Schrader’s The Canyons blew up all over the radar. The controversial film written the writer of American Psycho was an all around gossip circus. The erotic-thriller included porn starred James Deen in the lead role, heavy doses of Lindsey Lohan’s usual behind the scenes banter, a handful of great sex scenes and in the eye of the storm, stood Funk, playing Ryan, Lohan’s scorned lover. After the filming and promotion concluded, Funk has kept in touch with Easton Ellis who he says is an “excellent dinner companion”.
Funk continues, “I’m in a moment of my life that I am creatively wanting to expand myself a bit more. I wish I was lesser known so people wouldn’t have preconceived notions. I’m an engaged person and when I’m into something, I like collaborating with other people.” His recent movie, Wildlike, is the story of a Mackenzie, a young girl played by the actress Ella Purnell who played the teenage version of Angelina Jolie in Disney’s 2014 smash hit Maleficent. Mackenzie goes through some serious family dysfunctions and Wildlike explores chance encounters between people, the mystery of what drives these two people together. Through this process she ends up on the run in Alaska. Funk tells me that he’s looking forward to hearing audiences reactions towards a specific dark character in the film. “The movie explores subject matters that people are afraid to talk about and they are actually quite common.”
As our conversation progresses, he opens up, revealing that he’s been practicing a lot of forgiveness. Although he seems laid back, he tells me, “I’m very detail oriented. I don’t always talk about it and anything I do, I always want it to be the most expansive opportunity.” The conversation turns into a detailed description of his craft, “I don’t want to think like an actor. I want to think like a human. Exploration is the most thrilling process.”
I ask how is he able to be the go-to guy for evil roles. Funk pauses and looks at me in the eye, “The more authentic you are in yourself, the more you are able to experience being someone else without judgement.” He relaxes and continues, “I find it easier sometimes to jump into things. You want to get into a space where the creativity can just happen organically. You have to create that safety net for yourself.” For him, every process is different. During his early Broadway period, Larry Moss was his acting coach and during those moments of inspirations he was able to tap deeper into his mind, “The more I allowed thoughts into my subconscious the freer and easier it was ok to be with situations.”
Funk expands as I sit bewildered, “Yes, you go to a dark place, but it’s part of humanity. You gotta suck it up and realize it. There’s a fine line between glorifying and humanizing. Yes, I’ve played villains and I’m known for it.” This situation has translated into real life with people in the industry who have assumed that he’s actually like his characters in reality. The thing is, with a face like Nolan Funk, you can get away with murder. “Are you going to fucked up places with characters? Yeah, it’s alright, but you had it in you. You’ve had a dream where you’ve killed someone.”
After he’s treated me to our tuna melts and we’re about to go, we get to talk about magic. Actors and singers are the ultimate sorcerers. I ask him what he thinks about this, his eyes sparkle and responds like a true master of illusion, “Yeah, it’s funny how that works.” The possibilities are endless for Nolan Funk, who would also like to do a comedy with Judd Apatow. “I feel like I can do everything.” He sure can.
Originally published in the F/W 2015-16 issue of Hercules Universal: Bright Young Things.