With his previous three films, J.C. Chandor announced himself as a sharp and talented director, crafting compelling dramas and drawing stellar performances from A-listers. Now he’s following up Margin CallAll Is Lost and A Most Violent Year with Netflix action-drama Triple Frontier, assembling a star-studded cast including Ben AffleckOscar IsaacPedro PascalCharlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund. They play a group of former special ops soldiers facing financial hardship, choosing to resolve their situation by pulling off a heist against a notorious Colombian cartel kingpin. Safe to say, it won’t be easy.

Speaking in the new issue of Empire, Chandor explained that Triple Frontier balances action spectacle with character drama and underlying social commentary, exploring the impact that military experience has on war veterans – and the wider US population. “In my mind, the film was a play on some of those action movies with a kind of moral or ethical dilemma at their core,” Chandor tells Empire, “as well as an idea of masculinity, and what makes you valuable to yourself, your family and society.”

Read more about Triple Frontier in the Captain Marvel issue of Empire, on sale from Thursday 24 January and available to order online here.

He may look like the stereotypical guy’s guy, but Garrett Hedlund’s life, on screen and off, is all in the subtleties.

There are certain actors who are at ease behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Their quiet masculinity hints at a deeper, complicated inner life. They’re artists who also look good in a uniform. Sam Shepard is their spirit animal. They are very skilled at playing drunk. Garrett Hedlund is one of those actors.

“I can’t say that it was the first time,” Hedlund says of playing an alcoholic for five straight weeks on the set of the Netflix feature Mudbound. “I’m kind of used to it.” Co-starring Carey Mulligan, the drama follows a sensitive World War II pilot who returns home to rural Mississippi and grapples with complex family dynamics in the still-segregated South.

In a white T-shirt, beat-up jeans with a pack of Marlboros in the back pocket, Ray-Bans and work boots, the 33-year-old Roseau, Minn., native looks like the guy you might run into in the fantasy version of Hollywood. When we meet at an Eastside coffee shop, down the street from his first apartment in Los Angeles (where he still spends most of his time, despite the fact that he owns a much larger home nearby), he doesn’t exactly blend in: 6 feet 2 inches with a shock of dark-blond hair that adds another couple inches to his height, he speaks in a baritone voice that renders him, as his publicist mentions in an email, “hard to miss.”

“I was the last one of my pals to get anything technologically advanced,” he says, lighting a cigarette at an outside table. “Whether it’s the latest phone or a new computer, my friends say, ‘If Garrett gets an iPad, the world’s going to end. He’s much better in his pickup.’ On the surface, I’m a little bit old-fashioned.”

In reality, a guy like Hedlund is as rare as rain in L.A. And when casting directors find someone like him, they put him to work. In his 15-year acting career, he’s played a Greek hero opposite Brad Pitt in Troy (2004), a high school football star in the Peter Berg-directed film Friday Night Lights(2004), a muttering beatnik in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis(2013), a singer-songwriter in Country Strong (2010) opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, and, perhaps most memorably, Dean Moriarty in the Walter Salles adaptation of On the Road (2012).

This year, Hedlund stars in two movies based in the South that are eerily timely given the extreme racial tensions that are bubbling to the surface in America. There’s Burden, also starring Usher and Forest Whitaker, based on the story of a Ku Klux Klan member in South Carolina who then leaves that world for love. And there’s the aforementioned Mudbound, director Dee Rees’ adaptation of a gorgeous, lyrical novel by Hillary Jordan, which is already generating early award buzz.

“We shot Mudbound in just a handful of weeks in Louisiana,” Hedlund says. “We did our damnedest not to make it sentimental. We wanted it to be real. The way Dee works, with these long shots on the actors’ faces, you empathize with them. You feel like you’re in there in the story with them.”

On the set of Burden, filmed in rural Georgia, director Andrew Heckler staged a fake Klan rally, and it attracted some participants who didn’t understand the nature of the proceedings.

“We had people come to the set thinking it was real. Someone would ask, ‘Are you with the crew?’ And they’d say, ‘No! We just needed to check it out.’ They were Klan members. [The cast and crew] all came on board because they aren’t naïve. They know what’s happening out there.”

Hedlund is not the kind of guy who makes strong political statements with words, but it’s clear that he is proud of the work he has done on both of these recent films and that he possesses a powerful drive to tell stories about real, often darkly complicated men who make hard choices for the right reasons.

“I have the empathetic curse—I would definitely call it a curse,” he says with a laugh. “If you’re stressing right now, I’m the one who might feel nauseous for you. The stories I love make me cry my brains out. But I’m a Virgo. Naturally, we’re the sensitive ones.”

Growing up in Minnesota, the only options Hedlund saw for his future were through sports like wrestling or hockey (a handful of pro players come from his hometown). If that didn’t work out, “you were taking over the farm,” he says. Opportunities for a teenage boy with his unique combination of interests and personality traits—his love of walleye fishing and skeet shooting, and his desire to communicate a certain emotional truth—were limited. At 14, he moved to Phoenix with his mother, and the world seemed to open up before his eyes.

“In Phoenix, there were creative-writing classes, photojournalism classes, theater. It got these wheels spinning. I started thinking about life in a different way,” he says, painting a picture of his teen self in “hand-me-down clothes and horrible haircuts by my sister with my dad’s clippers.”

He developed a penchant for bingeing on movies—buying a ticket for one and staying in the theater for three—which sparked an interest in acting, and he started flying to L.A. for auditions. His first major job was Troy, where he was so green that his co-stars, like Pitt and the late, great Peter O’Toole, had to give him impromptu on-set acting lessons, telling him where to stand in certain shots.

In the early days, people often mistook him for actor Charlie Hunnam, particularly during Hunnam’s stint on Judd Apatow’s campus sitcom Undeclared. “We went up against each other for the same parts for years,” he says. Now the closest of friends, they recently found themselves shooting Glocks together under the blistering July sun. “I was out in the middle of nowhere, doing weapons training with Charlie, and we had a blast,” he says, and then points to the sunburn on his arm. The plan is for the two of them to co-star in a military drama with Mark Wahlberg, but because this is Hollywood, and funding and schedule changes drop on projects like bombs, he is managing his expectations.

At the moment, he’s enjoying some rare downtime in L.A., which is technically his home, though typically for only a few weeks a year. He’ll write in his journal, listen to jazz, take a long drive out of town, avoid his big movie-star house and generally do his best to pretend that it isn’t 2017.

“When people describe me, I get ‘not from this era’ a lot,” he says, lighting up another cigarette. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Photography by KURT MARKUS.

NEW YORK – There are some boilerplate questions in celebrity interviews. Garrett Hedlund took an unusually frank and personal turn with one of ours.

Hedlund (Tron: Legacy, Inside Llewyn Davis) was deep into a pack of smokes in a New York hotel room, chill to the point of mumbling, while promoting Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

The film, based on a sharply satirical book by Ben Fountain, follows a squad home from Iraq, after video of a bold-but-failed rescue of a fellow serviceman has gone viral. The soldiers – many of whom exhibit symptoms of PTSD – are feted by a Texas football team in a halftime show and are tantalized by a proposed Hollywood movie based on their experience.

I ask Hedlund, who plays “Dime,” the squad leader, whether the script was what made him say yes to the project.

He paused, took a puff, and said, “You’re the only one that’s going to get this answer. My pops passed away right before I did this,” he says of Robert Hedlund, on whose Minnesota farm Hedlund spent his childhood.

“I was actually with my dad when I was reading the script. We were on a road trip from Billings (Montana) to LA., and I left him in Vegas to be with his grandson (the son of an older sibling).

“I was supposed to do another film instead of this. But (after his death of a heart attack), when this one came to fruition, I knew I had to do it. Because my dad was a soldier, I thought I should. He was stationed Stateside. My grandpa was Germany with Elvis. My other grandpa was in the Philippines. So…”

In the mood to purge emotionally, Hedlund offered some morbid humour. “Man, before I did Troy, he dropped on the ice from pneumonia where he was ice fishing. Before I did On the Road, he had a heart attack on my birthday. So every film I’ve done, I’ve always been wondering if that was going to be the one.

“He was a farmer; we only had three channels on our TV. We got Cheers, we got Roseanne. So the fact I worked with John Goodman twice made his day. If he would’ve seen me with Steve Martin (who plays the team owner in Billy Lynn), he would’ve been over the moon.”

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime walk had, “some really important issues. These guys were thinking about what they were fighting for and if it’s worth it. Everybody thanks you for your service, but do they mean it as a compliment or an insult?”

Hedlund says that insight came from the movie’s military supervisor. “He was like, ‘Man, when people say, ‘Thank you for your service, to me…’ (Hedlund flips a middle finger)

“It would depend who it was. But especially if they were rich. He realized he was fighting for people who said they were appreciative, but weren’t really.”

It’s not like you’ll be seeing Hedlund in any romantic comedies soon. He’s playing a damaged returning soldier yet again – this one a WWII vet – in Mudbound, with Carey Mulligan.

“Yeah, that’s another f—ing, f—ed-up one,” he says wryly.

And he’s currently filming Burden, the real-life story of Ku Klux Klan member Mike Burden, who left the white supremacy movement for a better life.

Surprisingly, he said he took that movie to lift his spirits.

“I met with the actual guy a couple of weeks ago in San Antonio, and he said, ‘Why do you want to play me?’

“And I said, ‘because you look like the kind of colourful f—ing nutso that nobody gets to see. Also, you’re resurrected, which nobody gets to see. You had distorted thoughts and came clean with them. I’d like to portray that.’

“And he was still not buying it, like, ‘Why the f— would you want to do that?’

“And I was like, ‘Look, I’ve had a hard year. I lost my pops, and… (he pauses, but doesn’t mention that he also broke up this year with fiancee Kirsten Dunst).

“Anyway, I thought maybe I got everything out in the last few films, but apparently I didn’t.

“I said, ‘I’ve done a lot of sad stories, I’d like to do one with a happy resolution.’ He’s a guy who was f—ed up, fell in love and came out the other side for the better.

“So I’d like to throw everything down on the table in my next movie and get it all out. F— going to therapy.”

The star of Pan would like to finally set the record straight.

Buried in the “Personal Quotes” section of Garrett Hedlund’s IMDB page, there’s this gem: “I’ve been told I’m too good-looking for certain roles, but that’s O.K., it just motivates me to go deeper.”

That’s a hilarious thing to imagine a young actor saying, and not hard to believe coming from Hedlund, whose first major role was in 2004’s Troy as Brad Pitt’s baby-faced cousin, Patroclus. Sadly, it’s also untrue.

“Maybe you can help clear it up,” Hedlund said when reminded of the quote, during a conversation about Pan, in which he stars. “You do something for Teen magazine or something because I was 18. All they care about is who would you rather be with, Jessica Simpson, the Olsen twins, or blah, blah, blah.”

The way Hedlund remembers it, he was given a leading question—“Have you ever been told you were too good-looking for a role?”—and then admitted that, being blond and blue-eyed, he wasn’t necessarily getting the darker parts he went out for. Voila, the quote was born, though he didn’t get away with it fully unscathed. “My friends busted the shit out of me,” Hedlund remembers. “I’m like, ‘Guys, it’s fucking. . .’ It wasn’t my fault.”

And he wasn’t the only member of the Hedlund family to step into it when Troy came out. “I remember one time my father was being interviewed, and they asked them about me getting Troy. He said a bunch of words and, in those words, said I looked like Brad, thus I got the role. Then you see this back and you’re like, ‘What the fuck?’ He’s like, ‘I didn’t say that.’ Now you know what we go through.”

In Pan, Hedlund isn’t exactly bad-looking—he plays a young, roguish version of Captain Hook, who befriends Peter (Levi Miller) and helps him fight against the vicious Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). The character is old-fashioned in the style of Clark Gable or Errol Flynn, and he and director Joe Wright worked together to make the character’s voice like someone “out of an old John Ford film.” But the tone of Pan is big and brash, and Hedlund’s Hook is all exaggerated growls and wide facial expressions.

That’s not exactly the kind of acting Hedlund has done before. “When I was doing my first film, a British actor said one of the lines he always lived by was, ‘Whatever you can do, I can do less of.’ I sort of would run with that.”

That first film, of course, was Troy. Hedlund confirmed that the British actor was not, in fact, his Troy co-star Peter O’Toole, but as it turns out, O’Toole had an impact on Pan anyway. On that one Peter would like throw his arm around me and be like, “Garret, my boy. Come on,” Hedlund says, bringing out a spot-on O’Toole impression. Then he drops the British accent and says, “Now Peter, we can do this,” and suddenly, there it is: Hook is an American Peter O’Toole. As a guy who was also pretty darn good-looking when he first started acting, he would probably appreciate the symmetry.

Garrett Hedlund, in costume as Hook, practices his swing between takes.
Photo: Photograph by Greg Williams.

Garrett Hedlund quit smoking five days ago. It’s a habit he’s had on and off for years, and while we wouldn’t condone such behaviour, he’s the kind of guy that just looks cool with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Think  James Dean or Steve McQueen. That level of coolness. “I mean, I haven’t had a beer in five days either, so that might be something to do with it,” he says with a wry smile.

The reason he’s telling us this, shortly after arriving at our photoshoot in Downtown LA’s industrial area, is not to brag but because he’s explaining why he’s been to the gym and had an intense hike up the Hollywood Hills prior to meeting us. All before 1pm. “It’s just something to do, y’know? Keeps the mind off it.” While this behaviour is standard practice in body-conscious California, the last person you’d expect to see Instagramming his latest workout session is Garrett Hedlund. Not that he’s got the physique to suggest otherwise. It’s just rare you see him in the press at all, which is surprising considering his CV. In an age where social media and extensive celebrity coverage plays an integral role in shaping and sustaining careers, Hedlund, who has never had a Facebook or MySpace account and is not on Twitter or Instagram, is more comfortable keeping himself to himself. He’s the anti-Hollywood.

Except for when he is starring in some of the biggest films in recent times, of course. Best known as the face of Disney’s Tron sequel, Hedlund, who turns 31 this month, is the embodiment of everything you want from a Hollywood star. His face – perhaps best described as intriguingly inconspicuous – seems to mould itself to any role. And then there are his striking blue eyes, soft drawling Midwest accent and broad but sinewy frame. Those physical attributes, along with his acting ability, have allowed him to play an impressively diverse range of characters during his 12-year-long career.

He’s comfortable playing a prisoner of war, as he did in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken; a homicidal drifter (Mojave) or a fictional pirate the next, as he will do in his latest role as Hook, in Joe Wright’s new Peter Pan movie, Pan, released next month. And in between shoots, he’s more likely to
be journaling or writing poems, rather than hanging out at the right parties. Hedlund, it transpires over the course of our day together, seems genuinely focused on making movies rather than tabloid headlines.


You could trace this behaviour back to his roots. He grew up on his father’s cattle farm in Wannaska, Minnesota, a town that had a little over 2,500 people. (His parents having divorced when Hedlund was a toddler, with his mother leaving for Phoenix, Arizona.) He had an older brother and a sister, there were just three TV channels on the family television and farming chores to be done. A well-received part in a school play at the age of eight planted the seed of aspiring to something outside the rural life, as well as gaining the dubious nod of approval from his father, who was also a wrestling coach.

But acting as a serious career option was nothing but a far-fetched dream until, at the age of 14, he moved west to live in the big city with his mother. Suddenly there were theatres and video shops. Having only been to the cinema three times in his life, a new world awaited. Hedlund rented pretty much every film from his new local movie store, soaking up as much as he could, and the decision was made: he was to be an actor. “Once I got into my teen years I started really believing in the stories, investing in the characters I was watching, falling in love with them and feeling their pain,” he remembers. “I think I was finally able to become emotional within the viewing experience, and I wanted to give somebody else that experience.”

 Garrett Hudlund wears top, Dhs5,200, by Louis Vuitton

It was around this time that he also developed a passion for reading and writing. He devoured American literature in a bid to educate himself to a level where he would understand more about his characters than any of the other young actors he was up against at auditions. If the next guy in line could act the part, could Hedlund learn to become it? The next few years became a juggle between school, acting lessons paid for by waiting tables, and cold-calling agents asking them for meetings. He’d frequently take the 90-minute flight back and forth to Los Angeles for any audition he could get. By 2003 he was 18 and impatient, and so a few months before his high school prom he moved permanently to LA. Within two weeks he’d got a part in Troy, as Patroclus, the beloved cousin of Achilles, played, of course, by Brad Pitt. Filmed in Mexico, London and Malta, the movie wasn’t a critical success but nevertheless took almost $500 million at the box office. Not bad for a first gig.

“Brad taught me to always stick to the good ones, you know?” Hedlund reminisces at his first taste of movie making. “He told me, ‘Go with the ones that are fulfilling’.” If you look at his IMDb profile, Hedlund seems to have taken the advice seriously, with a steady flow of reputable movies and interesting characters to his name. After Troy came a role in cult classic Friday Night Lights, where Hedlund played a small-town high-school football player who struggles with an abusive father, played by Tim McGraw. Parts in Four Brothers, Eragon, Georgia RuleDeath Sentence, Country Strong and Tron followed and in 2012 he got the coveted lead, Dean Moriarty, in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

The Coen brothers came knocking shortly after with a role in Inside Llewyn Davis. He played a taciturn driver for John Goodman’s heroin-addicted jazz musician, which was probably not an accidental follow-up to his stint as Moriarty. All of Hedlund’s performances to date have been not only varied, but convincing, precise and captivating. While talent is a given, it’s also because of his unrelenting commitment to each project. Hedlund takes each movie like an assignment and prepares, revises and studies for the part. “For me, taking on a character is exploring a new way of life as much as possible and what that person has to offer,” he says, slowly and thoughtfully. “I want to be convincing but I also feel an obligation to the community of people I’m portraying. I want to make them proud. I’ve always loved a good struggle, and usually it’s starting from scratch and working to get to a point where you’ve progressed in whatever direction you’re aiming towards.”

On The Road is probably the best example of this work-bornfrom- struggle attitude. Director Walter Salles took two years to get the movie going after Hedlund signed on to the project to play Moriarty, after impressing with the Beat-style diaries he had long kept. The young actor promised to not take on any other work in the meantime and so spent the next 24 months reading every Kerouac book he could get his hands on, including the entire works of Neal Cassady, upon whom the character is based.

He even sat down with Cassady’s son and a notepad of questions to find out more about the man. Hedlund, who was still not quite an established or wealthy star, says he was eating instant noodles and on the cusp of running out of money and having to move back in with his mother by the time filming began. While the movie fell a little flat (which was somewhat inevitable when you’re interpreting a milestone in American literature), Hedlund emerged with his head held high. Unlike many newcomers eager to gain maximum exposure as quickly as possible, this approach also meant choosing his roles carefully. “I’ve never really rushed into things. I mean, even in the first three years I was working I’d do a film and then wait for something that I felt strongly about,” he explains. “I was worried about selling my soul. Something would always come up at the right time, just as I was back down to Spaghetti Hoops, and I’d have another family for a few more months.”

 Garrett Hudlund wears sweater, price on request, by Brioni and trousers, Dhs1,120, by Acne at

This sense of contentment in the choices that he’s making also means Hedund is not desperate for the limelight and, by Hollywood standards, leads an unflashy life. The jeans he arrives in are five years old and he still has the small rented Los Felix apartment he signed the lease on when he arrived in 2003. Not that he doesn’t enjoy some trappings of success. He admits to now having a “bigger place” up in the hills where he now lives with his girlfriend Kirsten Dunst (an exception to his generally non-flashy rule), letting his buddies stay in the rented pad when they’re in town. Well, probably. He doesn’t offer that information up, but it’s no secret that the two have been together for three and a half years.

In an age where even Queen Elizabeth II and the President of the United States are on Twitter, it still seems strange that we don’t know more about Garrett Hedlund. This lack of exposure is partly because of his virtually non-existent social media activity — either from himself or from PR representatives on his behalf. There are both Twitter and Instagram accounts pretending to be Hedlund’s, but both are set up by fans and are nothing to do with the actor. “Even though I’m not on it, I completely understand a lot of people find it helpful because they like to be in touch with their fans,” he politely offers of his digital absence. “I have some close friends that are like, ‘You don’t get it, there are times when you’re done and you go on there and see messages of support and they make your day’. But it’s a new generation. It’s not me.” Hedlund will argue with some conviction that his motivation for being in the industry is not fame but rather the work and the life lessons that come along with the job — a statement often made in the industry but one that rarely stands up to scrutiny. There was his total immersion into the world of 1950s Americana for On the Road, where he took trips through the Midwest backwaters in order to live, rather than act, the part.

Filming in Slovakia, for 2006’s Eragon, Hedlund learned how to play the violin, with lessons courtesy of co-star Jeremy Irons, This was also the start of a love affair with the music of Texan country singer Blaze Foley, who was shot to death in 1989 and has since assumed cult status. Hedlund requests Foley as the soundtrack to our shoot and quietly sings along throughout the day. “The actor Gary Lewis gave me a book, called You Have to be Careful Living in the Land of the Free,” he says of the darkly comic portrait of a post-9/11 America by Scottish author James Kelman.

“In it there’s this beautiful line, ‘Blue eyes, she said/Pretty blue eyes/She said I had pretty blue eyes’, which I found out was a line from ‘Oooh Love’, a song by this guy who I’d never heard of before called Blaze Foley. That trip was long and sometimes lonely. That book really saved me during that trip.” In case you hadn’t already gathered, Hedlund loves music. For 2010’s Country Strong, starring as rising country singer Beau Hutton, alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, he plays the guitar (he’d already had unofficial lessons from pal and Four Brothers co-star Terrence Howard). Anyone that’s seen the movie will see that he’s pretty good. It also put him on the path to writing songs. “Once you learn the guitar, it’s pretty hard to prevent the writing process; songs start piling up, I love it,” he says while air-strumming along to the background music. “A lot of my friends are great musicians and we all get together and have a great time and I think it’s going to be a part of my life, undeniably, from now until forever.”


Next month sees the release of Pan, an invented origin story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook, in what will be the tenth movie to be made about Neverland. Hedlund plays the young pirate James Hook, in a story where Peter (played by newcomer Levi Miller) and Hook are allies, with Hugh Jackman starring as baddie Blackbeard. Preparation for the role came in the form of four weeks of rehearsals where the cast were told to take clothes from a dressing-up box and “explore and evolve” their characters. “Joe [Wright], the director, said that he’d imagined Hook as a character from an old John Ford film, like in the 1900s, and that if he wasn’t on this island he’d be happy riding a horse on the prairie,” he explains. “I thought it sounded really interesting to portray a character’s back story before he turns into a f*****g nut job.”

His performance also brings to mind a young Indiana Jones, a similarity that hasn’t gone unnoticed and one that might just bear fruits if Disney goes ahead with a reboot of the series.“Garrett’s portrayal of Hook is wicked, and very witty,” Wright tells me later in an email. “He’s not the Hook that audiences will expect; he’s the Hook before the Hook.” Wright also enthuses about Garrett’s onset persona, referring to him as “a true gentleman. [He was] considerate, charming and always very funny. He also plays the guitar rather beautifully and would often serenade the set. He was a joy to work with.” He’ll also star in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an Ang Lee movie about soldiers returning home from Iraq that he’s just finished filming with Kristen Stewart in Morocco. Hedlund took the part after reading the Ben Fountain book on which the film is based. “It’s incredibly inventive, fresh and creative,” he says. “It’s one of those books that you can’t put down, and I hadn’t read one of those in a while.” It doesn’t hit movie screens until November 2016, so in the meantime…?

“I always find it hard to read another script while I’m on a project,” he explains. “It’s really hard for me to even respond to most of my friends when I’m working, although I’m getting a little better about it now.” When pressed, Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter)and Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre and True Detective) are on his wish list of directors to work with, so who knows, maybe he’ll be cold-calling them soon? If the end of our shoot is anything to go by, he isn’t panicking about his next move. It’s 7pm and he tells us he has nothing to rush off to when we ask what his plans are for the evening. Maybe he’ll go to the gym again, he ponders, or not.

His girlfriend is away filming, so he might just chill on his own. His actions (or rather inaction) give a genuine sense that work is a way of life rather than a career that needs to be fast-tracked for money or fame. Hence he doesn’t feel the imperative need to churn out movie after movie in case momentum is lost or to maximise every second of the day in pursuit of his next role. If he is involved in a project then you’ll get the 110 percent Hedlund. But as for the rest of the Hollywood circus? He seems secure enough to leave that for someone who wants it more badly. The only thing he wants out of this game is the chance to work on something he believes in. Most people in Hollywood say the same thing. Only a few of them are brave enough to mean it.

– – –
Shoot Credits:

Styling and words by Kate Hazell
Photography by Lindsey Byrnes
Grooming: Amber Dreadon using Sisley Cosmetics.
Fashion assistant: Erica Howard.
Photographers assistant: Colleen Haley.


In the December issue of InStyle, on newsstands and available for digital download now, actor Garrett Hedlund opens up about pliés, working with Angelina Jolie, the trouble with birthday parties, and all the ways girlfriend Kirsten Dunst has helped hone his laid-back style. The following is an excerpt from his Man of Style feature.

“It’s too early for jazz hands, right?” says Garrett Hedlund, the rugged actor one might not associate with razzle-dazzle. It’s 10 o’clock on a brilliant L.A. morning, and Hedlund, who grew up on a cattle farm, is recounting the first day of a jazz-dance class he took at age 16. His manager at the time had recommended that he get in touch with his 6-foot-2-inch trapezoidal frame. The former high school football player was the only male, surrounded by a bevy of bemused cheerleaders. “One minute we were stretching, and then suddenly,” he says, wincing, “I had to pirouette across the room all by myself and do a split in the air.”

Those awkward jetés paid off. Within a few years the determined actor landed his first big-screen role as the loyal warrior Patroclus in Troy (2004), and he has been racking up worthy and varied credits as rebellious son Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy (2010), crooner Beau Hutton in Country Strong (2010), heartthrob miscreant Dean Moriarty in On the Road (2012), and, last year, taciturn valet Johnny Five in Inside Llewyn Davis. Happily, a decade spent in Hollywood hasn’t sapped his small-town sincerity. He makes and maintains eye contact and has a firm grip on handshakes and reality. “Knowing how to knot a bow tie is less important to me than opening a door for someone or just being polite,” says Hedlund. Rooney Mara, who co-stars with him in the upcoming Pan, was charmed by his thoughtfulness: “Garrett is really crafty. He wove this kind of strap for me out of leather so I could walk both of my dogs on one leash.”

This month, the gentleman plays an officer who’s been captured in Unbroken (in theaters Dec. 25), a WWII-era drama based on the New York Times best-seller by Laura Hillenbrand. “I loved the story so much that I told Angie I literally would be the caterer’s assistant to work on it,” says Hedlund.

Was it intimidating to work with Angelina Jolie in her role as director?No. She’s very nurturing. She was open to any sort of improvisational story we could offer that might enhance the character. And she knows how to guide a ship beautifully. We had almost 200 extras as POWs on set every day. She kept everything perfectly afloat.

You seem to maintain a get-the- job-done-quietly ethic. So many actors tweet or post on Facebook, but not you.I just can’t describe my life in a hashtag. That’s not my style. I’ve always felt more of a longing for the timeless things in life. I would rather read a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Sir Walter Scott. When I’m traveling I write things down in long form in yellow notebooks—I’ve been doing that ever since I was in high school.

Do you ever read old entries and cringe with embarrassment?No, but some of it is so sad. There’s something more fulfilling about moving someone to tears than creating a happy moment—you know, the way sad song lyrics strike the heart chords.

So let’s move on to a lighter subject—like how you’d describe your personal style.I’m much happier in just jeans, a T-shirt, and boots than in a suit. But I also have a tendency to get overdressed, like wearing a tuxedo to a casual cocktail party

What do you like to see on a woman?I have always liked the clothing in period pieces—those old-fashioned styles.

Are we talking about a corset and a hoopskirt on a dinner date?Oh, no! Though I appreciate the intricacy of those clothes whenever I work on a period film. Honestly, I can’t say I have a preference about what a woman wears to dinner. Whatever makes her feel most like herself is probably the best choice.

You’re the face of YSL’s cologne La Nuit de l’Homme. Your girlfriend, Kirsten Dunst, is no slouch either in the style department. Who shops for whom?Well, she doesn’t really shop for me. But her style and everything else about her never cease to amaze me. For my 28th birthday she bought me a Rolex from 1957, which is the same year that Jack Kerouac’s book On the Roadcame out. Let’s just say that it looked like someone squirted lemon juice in my eyes, I was so moved.


For Garrett Hedlund’s full feature, pick up the December issue of InStyle, on newsstands and available for digital download now.


IThe blackbird whirled in the autumn winds. It was a small part of the pantomime. Wallace Stevens, from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

II It’s good to have Garrett Hedlund standing next to you upon discovering a brunch reservation is required and no brunch reservation has in fact been made. They’ll seat you anyway. You can brunch anywhere.

III Perhaps best known as the face of the Tron sequel, 29-year-old Garrett Hedlund is that strange and beatific embodiment of Hollywood lore, the flesh-and-blood protagonist of an old tale, that of the dreamy Midwest farm boy with stars in his eyes, looking to make good on big-screen aspirations.

At 14, he left his father’s remote cattle farm in Wannaska, Minnesota and began heading west. First, to his mother’s digs in Phoenix, Arizona, where, over the next couple years, he became an unabashed cold-caller of agents and managers, repeatedly taking the ninety-minute flight to Burbank for any audition he could get.

Then he swam out to the deep end—drove to Los Angeles. Within two weeks of moving, the script for Troy fell into his lap. All that paddling apparently paid off. Rather than sink or swim, Hedlund seems to be coasting on a deluxe inflatable with built-in beer koozies.

IV Garrett Hedlund recalls the first time a movie ever made him cry. The year is 2001, probably. The film, I Am Sam. “When you have Eddie Vedder singing Beatles tunes, and Sean Penn acting his heart out, I mean, yeah, I think that was the one.” His 16-year-old self watches the film at least four more times.

The actor Garrett Hedlund has to make a conscientious effort to deflect the spotlight away from his flattering physique and physiognomy, to turn the industry and audience’s gaze upon his capacity to portray characters notable for both their physicality and psychological complexity. As a small town high school football player in Friday Night Lights, Garrett’s commiseration with his oft abusive father (Tim McGraw) after losing the championship game is gut-wrenching and golden; as Beat poet and muse Neil Cassady in On The Road, his hifalutin ramblings and devil-may-care dancing feel like authentic articulations of spiritual malaise; and as a rising songwriter in Country Strong, Garrett is…Well, okay, in Country Strong Garrett is just 100% hunk.

VI Garrett Hedlund smokes Marlboro Lights. He calls them “Marbs.” He drinks Earl Grey tea.

VII Garrett Hedlund almost cried, several times, the first time he saw Lullaby, in which he plays an estranged son dealing with an ailing father (Richard Jenkins) who has opted to take himself off life support. “Even having read the script and preparing to watch it, I found myself choking up three or four times.”

Hedlund shouldn’t be harangued for crying at his own movie screening. The film presents a kind of no-frills confrontation with the realities of dying, and with it, the strong possibility of loved ones passing before the righting of past wrongs or regrets.

To prepare for the intensive drama, Hedlund, Jenkins, co-star Anne Archer, and cinematographer Florian Ballhaus rehearsed for several days on an NYU stage, taping out the geography of the hospital room in which the majority of the film takes place, and working their way through every scene.

Shot in 23 days at a Veterans hospital on Roosevelt Island, “the experience ended up mirroring the story in a way,” says Hedlund. “We didn’t leave the hospital room all day, every day. A lot of real patients would go by and you just can’t help but be affected by it all and feel that you’re shooting something that can be empathized with.”

The result is a film that is both claustrophobic and cathartic. What one might colloquially refer to as an emotional roller coaster. A real tearjerker. Or what Garrett more eloquently refers to as, “a heartfelt unpeeling process.”

VIII “Every once in a while we remember that life is short, and to appreciate the time with your friends and family, and to be open to have beautiful exciting moments in your days and stop worrying about what’s pulling you down.” —Garrett Hedlund

IX Recently, Garrett’s father came out to visit him in Los Angeles. “It’s hard to get him off the farm, to fly. He’s gotten older now, but he was able to do it. He was helped by the assistants at the airport—not people with Blackberrys but people with a wheelchair.”

His dad hadn’t visited the big city since Garrett moved here.

“It’s not all that glamorous. But it’s nice for someone on the farm to come to a beautiful city where it’s primarily 90 degrees all year round and you get to see the ocean and see a faster-paced life. But really, he’s just proud of me. ”

The family gathering comes as Garrett prepares to leave for London on a six-month shoot for Pan, the popular fairytale rebooted once again, this time with Garrett as the infamous captain forever at odds with the flying boy who refuses to grow up.

Brad Pitt: “helped me understand a lot of the technicalities that actual filmmaking involves, how broken up it can be just to shoot one scene, how many different angles and camera shots, and how to approach the scene with different colors of emotion each take.” Brian Cox: “gave me the old films of Peter O’Toole and said, ‘Watch [these]. [These] will really inspire you.’” Peter O’Toole: “threw his arm around me and said, [in mock Peter O’Toole voice], ‘Do you wanna hear how we shot this movie, my boy?’” Mark Wahlberg: “was hilarious to watch, how he improvises throughout the film.” Viggo Mortensen: “gave me a book of his photography and poetry during On The Road.  It’s great to see people that never lose touch with that creative side of themselves, to meet that artist that never ceases to see the world in a different way.”

XI Garrett Hedlund nearly cried while reading The Road, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, about a father and son surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.

“It fuckin’ got me,” he says.

Hedlund was alone, sitting with a broken arm on a beach somewhere in Mexico as he began to dig into an important scene: the desperate father and son stumble upon a home’s hidden shelter, filled with canned fruits and vegetables, the likes of which the young boy had never seen or tasted.

“That’s when I found myself starting to well up. I was really rooting for them.”

XII Garrett Hedlund has twice portrayed a Beat poet. Once, in On the Road, and again for Inside Llewyn Davis. Inspired perhaps by the spirit of that literary generation, he’s come to enjoy roles that require a bit of off-roading.

For Unbroken, the true-story of Olympic runner and World War II POW Louis Zamperini (written by the Coen brothers), he spent over two months in Australia, driving from the Gold Coast to Brisbane to Sydney.

For Mojave, written and directed by William Monahan (The Departed), the actor spent three months camping in the desert. Hedlund portrays an artist in the throes of a powerful existential dilemma. During a self-imposed exile, he confronts his homicidal doppelganger, played by Llewyn co-star Oscar Isaac.

XIII As a teen, Hedlund developed a fancy for The Glass Menagerie, a film based on the Tennessee Williams play about a distraught son (John Malkovich) whose strained relationship with his overbearing mother and crippled sister forces him to fly the coop.

“At the time I was living with my mother and sister, so seeing John Malkovich portray that, seeing him out on the stairwells having a cigarette—just sort of deflated and wanting to go to the movies to escape reality for a while—I liked that.”

Years later, Hedlund would work with Malkovich on the making of Eragon. Filmed in Slovakia, the actor found himself holed up at a Best Western in the High Tatra Mountains, passing the time by learning how to play the violin, lessons courtesy of co-star Jeremy Irons.

XIV Garrett Hedlund believes in privacy. He’s never had a Facebook or Twitter account, or a MySpace account, for that matter. He does have a secret Instagram account. Upon last check, he had three followers.

“The industry can be very small sometimes,” he says. “I think the only way to keep even the smallest amount of privacy is to just not participate.”

What’s to be known about Hedlund is primarily to be found in what he shares on-screen, in his obvious commitment to plunging into the unknown, his deliberate and persistent challenging of himself in order to take what he finds and bear it to the world. To find that truth he first left home to find.

XV “What first made me want to be an actor was the first time I found myself crying in the theater.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Garrett Hedlund.

Photographer: Tetsu Kubota for Stylist: Christian Stroble for Groomer: Kim Verbeck for using Oribe. Videographer: Tyler Kindred. Photography Assistant: Tomonori Iwata. Styling Assistants: Cecilia Liu and Kayla McIntosh. Location: Mack Sennett Studios at

Grooming Notes: The oil absorbing lotion by La Mer. Dry Texturizing Spray, Fiber Groom elastic texture paste, and Superfine hairspray by Oribe.

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