It was a tale of when Harry met Harry at the “Dunkirk” premiere in London’s Leicester Square on Thursday. Former One Direction star Harry Styles, who caused deafening screams from the crowd, is making his acting debut in the movie, which tells the true story of trapped Allied troops being rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.
Prince Harry stopped to meet the cast after walking along the red carpet with real-life veterans, including 97-year-old George Wagner, who served in France in 1940 with the Royal Engineers.
The Prince offered his congratulations to the film’s stars who attended including Styles, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance.
Before the screening started, director Christopher Nolan proclaimed “I firmly and passionately believe this is one of the greatest casts put together for any movie.” He thanked Warner Bros. for giving a “British movie an American budget.”
Styles praised Nolan and his eye for detail. “On my first day on set he told me my laces were tied wrong,” he said. “When you’re around someone so passionate, it’s infectious.”
Styles’ first day of filming in the waters near Dunkirk, northern France, was his biggest challenge, he said at the premiere.
“It was the worst weather and I thought I want to get back to the studio,” he joked. “It was as difficult as it would ever get but we were aware it was nothing compared to what they would have gone through.”
There’s a British phrase “Dunkirk spirit,” inspired by this time, which is used to describe people pulling together in times of adversity.
Branagh, who plays Commander Bolton, said the country is reminded of that phrase in times such as the London and Manchester bombings. “It’s about the here and now, what do you do in a terrifying situation?” he said.
“Dunkirk” tells the story of how Allied troops were surrounded by German forces. The British Army launched Operation Dynamo, which saw 338,226 troops being evacuated in around 900 vessels including fishing boats, fire ships, paddle steamers and private yachts.
The story has resonance in today’s world. “In large dangerous situations, some will be terrified and others will be more rational,” said Branagh. “Everyone reacts in different ways.”
Earlier in the day, Prince Harry met 12 WWII veterans, ages between 96 and 100, at Kensington Palace. Recalled Wagner: “The Germans, they started to shell us. I’m afraid that’s when I lost most of my blokes, my unit. It was pot luck.”
Said the Prince: “I hope it gets the story as accurately as possible and gives everybody only the smallest experience of what it was like for you out there.”
The royal introduced Wagner to Styles, telling him the veteran approved of the film. “He is very satisfied with it,” he said.
In true British style, the premiere screening was greeted with moderate applause, with the attending veterans getting the strongest reception.
Other early viewers have been effusive with praise for Nolan’s effort. Director Edgar Wright tweeted that “Dunkirk” is a “powerful, immersive, intense masterpiece.”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson tweeted, “‘Dunkirk’ is an all timer.”