stand by me film

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Stand By Me characters (1/8): Chris Chambers

“It’s like God gave you something, man. All those stories that you can make up, and He said, 'This is what we got for you, kid, try not to lose it.’ But kids lose everything unless there’s someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should.”

Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles have a unique brotherhood bond.

The British duo make their film acting debuts in epic style, starring as soldiers in Christopher Nolan’s World War II action thriller Dunkirk (in theaters Thursday night).

Whitehead, 20, was working in a coffee shop for money before he got the call to play Tommy. Styles, 23, came from a very different direction, One Direction music stardom, to earn the role of Alex.

“It was nice to not be the only newbie on set,” Whitehead says. “We were thrown into the same boat, really.”

Off the boat as well, as Dunkirk depicts the famed British troop evacuation across the English Channel, with both characters reeling when their ships are sunk by German attacks.

Whitehead and Styles sat down to discuss freaking out when they were cast, a real fear of drowning and exploring the dark side.

Q: When you found out you landed your first movie roles in a Christopher Nolan film, what was the percentage of joy to panic?

Whitehead: You get the initial hit of excitement. Followed by a plunging sense of panic right up to the first day of filming.

Styles: It was about 50/50. I was totally, completely overjoyed. But then the panic started and stayed with me. Actually, it left about four minutes ago. And now this is bringing it all back.

Q: How real did the drowning scenes feel underwater?

Whitehead: The minute you’re starved of oxygen, you get this slight sense of panic anyway. Added to that the fact that you’re in the dark. There’s something about swimming in the dark that was so much scarier.

Styles: While you’re down there filming and acting out the scene, you’re also thinking, “I cannot breathe for much longer than this,” which obviously helps the situation.

Q: You guys look exhausted even sitting on the beach between scenes. Were you?

Whitehead: I was knackered. Anytime we look tired or cold or waterlogged, it was because a lot of time we were. So when the cameras were on, it was about being as natural as possible and trying to avoid acting.

Styles: We all, along with the crew, were just getting rest when we could. They didn’t put us in heated tents or anything like that between scenes. You were out there still. It really stripped you down to your bare bones. It made the whole film kind of come out in its rawest form.

Q: Harry, your Alex goes dark during battle, was that difficult for a laid-back guy to bring out?

Styles: I really enjoyed it. Absolutely. It’s so different to try and completely remove yourself from a situation and be someone else. It was something new for me.

Whitehead: That scene really highlights Tommy’s compassion and humanity he has managed to cling onto. And Alex is kind of veering toward selfishness, you could say.

Styles: You’re not offending me. He is selfish.

Q: Where do we stand with second film projects?

Styles: Fionn will only do full nude work from now on.

Whitehead: This is his sarcasm. Just FYI. Often, this is misconstrued.

Styles: OK, I’ll put that in my (contract) clause. But I haven’t thought too much in terms of next movie. I’m so excited about this project coming out. Even with the drowning scenes, I quite enjoyed it, to be honest. I’d do it again.