How Harry Styles Went From One Direction to the Big Screen

This weekend audiences will flock to the theaters to see yet another Christopher Nolanblockbuster. The prolific director, who is best known for The Dark Knight trilogy but also brought the world Inception and Interstellar, among others, is back—this time with an epic war movie. It seems like it’s scientifically impossible for Nolan to make a boring movie and Dunkirk, with its gripping war scenes, is no exception.

As viewers sit through the two-hour-long drama there’s a good chance they’ll feel the same symptoms they have with past Nolan films: A quickened heartbeat, slight claustrophobia at times and a healthy dose of overwhelming emotion. Dunkirk portrays one of the most pivotal moments of World War II, when Allied soldiers were evacuated from a French beach by regular citizens as the Nazi fighters surrounded them. It doesn’t sound exactly as sexy as, say, watching Christian Baleplay Batman, but the flick is full of surprises.

Audiences will watch a cast full of near-unknown actors try against all odds to stay alive as they’re bombed, shot at and abandoning sinking ships. It’s like watching Titanic, but if the passengers kept escaping from one destroyed ship to another. Plus fighter planes. And just when viewers will think they’ve had enough of watching soldiers hold their breath under raging water (that is sometimes on fire), Nolan jumps over to the alternate storyline, in which Mark Rylance (yes, of Bridge of Spies and The BFG) plays a British civilian sailing his own leisure boat to Dunkirk to help ferry back the soldiers who are still alive and they’ll find themselves fighting back tears.
But the one thing that should be noted for Dunkirk is that there is another very large reason that this isn’t your average Christopher Nolan movie—or even your average movie, period. It stars one Harry Stylesin his long-awaited acting debut.

All eyes have been on the young star since One Direction announced in the winter of 2016 that what was previously thought to be a hiatus was actually a permanent break. He’s seen success as a solo artist, with his self-titled debut album reaching number one in several countries. His first-ever non-One Direction single, “Sign of the Times,” debuted at number four on the American charts and ended up kicking Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” out of the top spot in England.

But everything changed exactly one year ago just before the first look at Dunkirk hit the Internet. To start, the fact that Directioners’ beloved Harry was graduating to the big screen was incredibly exciting. But the haircut he donned to play the part of British soldier Alex made the biggest wave of all. Gone was the old Harry and the long, flowing locks everyone used to know and love, and here was the new, grown-up and decidedly more serious actor who wore a buzz cut and took on World War II stories.