If there was an acting award for versatility at this year's SXSW film festival, Welsh performer Aneurin Barnard would be the clear winner. In the Narrative Spotlight selection "Hunky Dory," he sang and acted opposite Minnie Driver as a hunky high-school student with a voice to melt hearts. And in the Midnighters film "Citadel" (winner of the Midnighters Audience Award), Barnard played a young father suffering from agoraphobia, fighting for survival after a pack of feral children attack him and his family. The latter horror-thriller comes out this Friday (go HERE to see where it's playing).
[Editor's Note: This interview originally ran during the 2012 SXSW Film Festival. "Citadel" opens in select theaters this Friday.]
The actor recently wrapped shooting "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," directed by Francesca Gregorini ("Tanner Hall") and starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina. He also stars in the upcoming "Trap for Cinderella," co-starring Alexandra Roach (the young Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady") and directed by Iain Softley ("Hackers").
I was surprised to go from watching you play a teenager in "Hunky Dory" to a father in "Citadel." How old are you?
I'm 24. In "Citadel," I play a very young father. When I first signed onto "Hunky Dory" I was actually 18 years old. I was lucky enough that nothing's changed. The age has changed, but I still look like a teenager! Whether I'll ever grow up or remain like Peter Pan, I'm not sure.
So is this your first festival experience?
I did a movie called "Ironclad" a while back and that went to the London Film Festival and a few other places. But this is the first one in the States.
How's it going so far for you?
It's brilliant. Everything that I've done over the past three years is only now coming out, which is fantastic. I'm very happy about that. So you know, having "CITADEL" here, "Hunky Dory" here. Then I've got another film which is about to come out in the UK called "Elfie Hopkins." And I just had a TV movie come out called "We'll Take Manhattan" on the BBC. It's a really nice time for me.
You're like the British male equivalent to Jessica Chastain.
Yeah, maybe, yeah!
There's such a good thriller/horror following here at the festival. So that's why "Citadel" works so well here and with the people that come here. The fans, the bloggers, the press, the industry people. And then also I think with something like "Hunky Dory," it's great because of the music side to this festival. A major part of the film is just music. It really jumps into that element of the festival.
"Hunky Dory" kind of plays like a British '70s period equivalent to "Glee," a show with a huge fan-base. Are you ready for that side of the job, if the movie goes over well in Britain and abroad?
I try to stay out of it as much as possible. I try to be respectful and talk to any fan and sign anything that anyone wants. Without the fans, you're not much. You need fans to do this job. I've got a nice little following and it seems to be growing as each thing comes out. Different films, different genres show the different things I do. It's nice because it brings different groups of people to following what I'm doing. So hopefully it kind of reiterates that I'm not just a one-trick pony as well.
You look a fright in "Citadel," especially after seeing you play the teen hunk in "Hunky Dory."
I do think about this! I kind of go, well how are "Hunky Dory" fans going to feel about "Citadel"? I think they're gonna love it and think, "Jesus! That was completely different." We'll see. I'm very lucky because all of my roles have been completely different. So that's quite sweet. Hopefully, it will just show that my dynamic as an actor is versatile.
So many actors, when starting out, struggle not to get pigeonholed in one genre/role. In the two things I've seen you in, you've manged not to do that. What do you account that to? Your training? Plain luck?
I think it's training, but I think it's also a strong mind from when I was younger. The actors that I watched, they could play any role. In the good old days of the movie business, the greater actors survived really in the world. You have lots [of actors] now, but not like the old-fashioned guys. It didn't matter what the role was. They would make it their own. And there's never a role too small, never a role too big. It was about the dominance, just kind of driving through and creating something.
For me as a Welsh actor, Richard Burton is one of my biggest idols. And I've got so many: Peter O'Toole, Laurence Olivier and Oliver Reed. If they got "Hunky Dory" and "Citadel" offered to them, they would do completely different jobs on both of them. For me, it's important to show that it's a creative work that I do. It's my craft. If I was a carpenter, I wouldn't just make the same chair continuously for all of my life. I'd like to make one out of wood, different textures, different styles and different carvings. It's very important to me because I like having fun, showing that I can do anything that comes towards me really. I'd like to think so anyway.