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‘Dunkirk’: Christopher Nolan Compares Casting Harry Styles to Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’

Trusting his gut has worked before for Christopher Nolan, and it should work again for "Dunkirk."

Christopher Nolan knows a thing or two about taking a risk on casting. The filmmaker’s choice to cast Heath Ledger in the role of The Joker for “The Dark Knight” wasn’t exactly a universally beloved decision (this article from The Telegraph covers a lot of the hostile fan reactions). But Nolan knew Ledger was the perfect actor for the part, and the director’s gut instinct ended up giving the movies one of its most iconic performances ever.

READ MORE: Christopher Nolan Reveals the ‘Dunkirk’ Pitch That Allowed Him to Make the British War Epic

Nolan is currently making the promotional rounds for his WWII drama “Dunkirk,” and he spoke to Entertainment Tonight about how casting pop star Harry Styles reminded him of taking a chance on Ledger. Styles’ casting was met with skepticism given the former “One Direction” star has never acted in a motion picture before, but Nolan has learned it’s always best to trust your gut. Here’s what he said about casting Styles:

When I cast Heath Ledger as the Joker, it raised a lot of eyebrows and caused a lot of comment. I have to trust my instincts, and Harry was perfect for this part

As a director, I have to trust my instincts, my ability to figure out who’s the right guy for the part. I’m not too worried about baggage. I was new to Harry. I mean, I’ve heard his name from my kids, but I wasn’t really familiar with him. What I was seeing [when he auditioned] was a very charismatic guy who clearly had a truthfulness and a subtlety in his ability to perform as a film actor.

What I’m hoping for, when people see the film, is I’m hopeful that they won’t miss what he’s done, because it’s very subtle, very truthful and real. I wasn’t giving him a sort of flashy thing to do. But it’s really important what he does in terms of what it says, I think, about human nature and what people do in different situations, and I think he pulled it off with incredible grace and reality. And that as a director, that’s what you’re looking for.

The specifics of Styles’ role are still under wraps, though he is officially credited as “Alex” and trailers have confirmed he’ll appear opposite Fionn Whitehead as a British soldier stranded on Dunkirk beach. Styles auditioned against hundreds of other actors and won the part.

Warner Brothers opens “Dunkirk” nationwide July 21.

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