Henry Golding on this year's surefire smash hit Last Christmas

The actor discusses his role and the possibility of becoming Bond

Henry Golding on this year's surefire smash hit Last Christmas

For his starring role in the world-conquering romcom Crazy Rich Asians, former Travel Show presenter Henry Golding seemed to come out of nowhere, lighting up the screen and breaking many a heart. In Paul Feig’s Last Christmas, a winning slushfest co-starring Emilia Clarke and soundtracked by George Michael’s back catalogue, he’s about to do it again. The world is his.

Were you already a George Michael fan?
Massive. The majority of my childhood was in the UK, I arrived in 1996. I grew up in Surrey, from the age of 10 to 22, and George was the king of pop stars. My go-to karaoke song is Faith. I grew up singing it whenever possible.

Are you good at it?
I’m terrible at it, of course! As good karaoke should be.

You’re rarely seen in this film without rocking a dance twirl. Was that in the script?
It wasn’t. It came from a discussion with Paul Feig, [screenwriter] Emma Thompson and myself. Tom as a character loves life, he lives in his own little world, he lives in the present, he isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself, and he’s light on his feet. I wanted to integrate that more into his character, so I asked Paul for a movement coach.

What were you going for?
Tom just has this thing going on, he’s constantly on the move, constantly dodging people in the most flamboyant way, because it makes him smile. So I wanted to infuse the character with a little bit of Gene Kelly. That Frank Sinatra feel.

That’s interesting because in this and Crazy Rich Asians, there’s something traditional about your performances – something of the golden age of Hollywood in there.
Completely. You know what I think it is? The golden age of Hollywood was where a leading man’s actions spoke for themselves. It wasn’t necessary for them to over-establish themselves as males. And with these two characters, Nick and Tom, there’s charm more than anything. There’s humbleness. There’s nothing wrong with being the guy next door but also that very approachable leading man. These silver screen actors were pretty much living out their own persona, and I think that’s why people went to cinemas to watch them. And part of me wants that in my movies.

In a couple of years Last Christmas will be on TV every Boxing Day, which makes sense as you’re like a matinée idol in the film.
Ah man. Every year I’ll be like, “What else is on?! Let’s watch Love Actually instead.” But you know, I think that’s what we’re in the movies for, to create timeless classics.

Do we see an accurate representation of London?
I think it is. We filmed in Covent Garden, Embankment, along the Strand, Regent Street. But at the same time it raises a lot of points – we do struggle with homelessness, and it’s good to highlight that, and perhaps it’ll make people think twice about people who are less fortunate, who are spending Christmas on the streets. So I think it’s a true sense of London in many ways. And it’s so multi-cultural.

Crazy Rich Asians was celebrated for its Asian cast. With this one, you’re the co-lead but your heritage is irrelevant, which is just as important.
Massively. It’s normalising. My character and Michelle Yeoh’s character [in Last Christmas] aren’t related. When people see two Asian faces in a movie, they’re like, “Ah, mother and son” – people think I must be Michelle’s son. Isn’t that weird?! Is every white person on the screen related? You don’t come to that conclusion, do you!

You’ve moved around the world a lot. Does that give you a unique perspective?
Completely. I grew up in Asia, where representation isn’t a problem. It’s a problem in Hollywood. But I grew up watching Asian faces telling stories: Hong Kong movies, martial arts. You have to understand that one man’s problem isn’t necessarily another man’s – and vice versa. So to have a broader understanding of what really matters is a good thing, it helps me to navigate Hollywood. Now home is wherever my wife is. I can pretty much make do with the clothes on my back.

There are Bond rumours swirling around you. Are we at the point where it’s just accepted that the character would be half-Malaysian?
There will always be your naysayers and your supporters. At the end of the day it’s about, what is the mission of this film? Who you use or how you portray it plays an important part, but it’s not the end-all.

Most people didn’t know who you were two years ago – what’s it like to be part of such rumours?
It’s an honour to even be in that conversation. Of course I hold no expectations. I have the highest regard for the movies, I’m a massive fan. Growing up, that was the guy you wanted to be. If I’m able to be part of something that has some little kid roaming around his playground with his hand in the air, living a world of fantasy? Those are the types of films I want to be a part of.

There’s a behind-the-scenes clip with Emilia and she says when she saw Crazy Rich Asians she thought, “That’s the single most attractive man I’ve ever seen in my life”...
She’s a charmer. You know what, Emilia’s gone through so many struggles with herself. Health struggles. But not one day on set did she complain, she was always the ball of energy that we all needed.

Right, but are you getting used to these comments now? Lots of people are dishing out compliments.
Umm... I take it with a pinch of salt. You’re making me embarrassed now, dude. Look, the best compliments for me are if I remind people of old Hollywood. Because that’s something I really look up to. I hold that in very high regard. Because it comes from a time when men didn’t have to be toxic to be the leading man. So, those are my favourite kind of compliments. Everything else just makes me blush.

What’s next for you?
My next film is a Guy Ritchie film [The Gentlemen], which is the complete opposite of this. There’s a powerfulness in that character, but he’s a vicious gangster, but his actions do more speaking than words. And then in the film that I’m working on at the moment, Snake Eyes, it finally gives a backstory to one of the greatest characters ever created, and you’re able to actually hear his story from his standpoint. And having that on-screen charisma, or just that little something – it’s harder to bury that with too much than it is to just let that come out naturally.
Last Christmas is in cinemas from November 21.

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