“Dunkirk” is finally upon us after months of anticipation, and it’s clear the long wait has been worth it. IndieWire has named the WWII epic the best movie Christopher Nolan has ever made and a certain Oscar contender in the months ahead. As audiences nationwide get to discover why the film is such a monumental war epic, questions as to who exactly is in the cast are bound to come up.
Unlike Nolan’s recent star-driven efforts like “Inception” and “Interstellar,” “Dunkirk” features an eclectic mix of relative newcomers, Oscar winners and the director’s reliable collaborators. Getting a blend of known and unknown talent was crucial for Nolan, as including too many stars would’ve distracted from the urgent nature of the story. In following mostly fresh faces, Nolan is able to ground “Dunkirk” in the horrors of the situation.
“Dunkirk” opens this Friday, July 21, in theaters nationwide. Here’s where you may have seen every member of the ensemble in the past.
Fionn Whitehead (Tommy)
Christopher Nolan intentionally cast an unknown actor as the lead in “Dunkirk” so that the audience could feel the reality of the situation without any movie star distractions. Believe it not, Whitehead’s starring role in “Dunkirk” is his very first movie role. His only other major credit is the lead role in the BBC dramatic miniseries “HIM,” where he played a young boy who returns to his family home and discovers he has telekinetic powers. Whitehead’s post-“Dunkirk” career is already filling up; he’s set to appear opposite Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci in “The Children Act” and has been cast in Sebastian Schipper’s new movie “Caravan.”
Tom Glynn-Carney (Peter)
Glynn-Carney plays the son of Mark Rylance’s character; they are British civilians who use their boat to aid in the rescue of Allied soldiers from “Dunkirk.” Similar to Whitehead, the Christopher Nolan film is Glynn-Carney’s biggest break thus far. He appeared in two episodes of the long-running BBC medical drama “Casualty” back in 2013 and starred in the BBC series “The Last Post” just this year.
Jack Lowden (Collins)
27-year-old Scottish actor Jack Lowden plays Royal Air Force pilot Collins in “Dunkirk,” and he’s appeared in many high profile British features prior to his time working with Christopher Nolan. He made his feature film debut in Yann Demange’s acclaimed historical thriller “’71” and starred opposite Paul Dano and Lily James as Nikolai Rostov in the BBC adaptation of “War & Peace.” Most recently, Lowden appeared in Amma Assante’s “A United Kingdom,” which Fox Searchlight released earlier this year, and the Rachel Weisz drama “Denial.” His next high profile gig is playing The Smiths frontman Morrissey in the biopic “England is Mine.”
Harry Styles (Alex)
Harry Styles has conquered the music world as both a member of the boy band One Direction and as a solo musician, but “Dunkirk” marks his first venture into film acting. The pop star plays Alex, a young solider Fionn Whitehead’s character meets on the beach. Christopher Nolan auditioned hundreds of actors for the role and settled on Styles because he brought an intensity to the character that was needed. Styles has no future acting projects lined up at this time.
Aneurin Barnard (Gibson)
Aneurin Barnard may be a fresh face to American audiences watching “Dunkirk,” where he plays British Army private Gibson, but he’s been acting for the better part of a decade. He made his feature debut in the 2011 action adventure “Ironclad” but is most recognized for his supporting roles in two BBC miniseries, “War & Peace” and “The White Queen,” the latter of which aired on Starz in 2013. His recent international roles include Swiss period drama “Mary Queen of Scotts” and “Interlude in Prague,” in which he plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The drama opened in London in May but has not received a U.S. distributor yet.
James D’Arcy (Colonel Winnant)
James D’Arcy appears as a British Army Colonel in “Dunkirk” and is one of the more recognizable faces in the ensemble, even if you may not know his name. D’Arcy played Howard Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, in the short-lived ABC series “Agent Carter” and has worked with the Wachowski siblings on both “Cloud Atlas” and “Jupiter Ascending.” His television work includes the role of Lee Ashworth in “Broadchurch” and a starring role in season 3 of “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.”
Barry Keoghan (George)
You may not know Barry Keoghan’s name, but you’re definitely going to remember it after 2017. Not only does the 24-year-old Irish actor have perhaps the most memorable role in “Dunkirk,” but he’s also set to break out as the lead in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Cannes favorite “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” also starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. Prior to “Dunkirk,” Keoghan starred opposite Michael Fassbender in “Trespass Against Us” and had a small role in “’71.”
Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton)
Kenneth Branagh is easily the most esteemed actor in the “Dunkirk” ensemble. He plays Commander Bolton, the highest ranking officer on Dunkirk, and his role is the first of two high profile releases he has this year. He’s the director and star of “Murder on the Orient Express,” which hits theaters November 10. Branagh is best known for his acclaimed Shakespeare adaptations, including “Henry V,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Othello,” and “Hamlet,” among others. He’s spent most of his time in recent years as a filmmaker, directing blockbusters like “Thor” and “Cinderella.”
Cillian Murphy (Shivering Soldier)
Cillian Murphy’s role in “Dunkirk” is credited solely as Shivering Solider, and the trailers have revealed he finds a way out of Dunkirk only to be forced back after coming aboard a civilian boat heading to rescue more soldiers. “Dunkirk” marks Murphy’s fifth collaboration with Nolan. He played the Scarecrow in “The Dark Knight” trilogy and was Leonardo DiCaprio’s target in “Inception.” Murphy is perhaps best known for his breakout starring role in “28 Days Later.” Other notable roles include “Sunshine” and “Red Eye,” the Wes Craven plane thriller co-starring Rachel McAdams.
Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson)
Mark Rylance has been working in film, television and theater since the 1980s, but most audiences will recognize him as Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.” The performance earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and started a collaboration between himself and Spielberg that extended to “The BFG” and the upcoming “Ready Player One.” Rylance earned an Emmy nomination for his turn as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC Two adaptation of “Wolf Hall.”
Tom Hardy (Farrier)
Tom Hardy is probably the name and face a majority of audiences will recognize in “Dunkirk,” and his role as a Royal Air Force pilot frames up one of the film’s three timelines. Christopher Nolan is largely responsible for Hardy’s American breakthrough thanks to his roles as Eames in “Inception” and the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Other notable performances by Hardy include “Bronson,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Warrior,” and “The Revenant,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.