Variety Studio at Cannes Variety Studio at Cannes
Paul Mescal has had a swift upward trajectory over the past two years with breakout roles that put him on rising star lists that every budding actor can only dream of. His film debut, “The Lost
Paul Mescal has had a swift upward trajectory over the past two years with breakout roles that put him on rising star lists that every budding actor can only dream of. His film debut, “The Lost Daughter” from Maggie Gyllenhaal in 2021, was at the center of Oscar conversations, and he nabbed an Emmy nomination for Hulu’s “Normal People,” which earned critical acclaim and catapulted him into the pop culture zeitgeist. Now, at the world’s most glamorous festival, Mescal has two films premiering at Cannes.
And yet, Mescal is happy sticking with indies. Speaking to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival — where he had both “Aftersun” and “God’s Creatures” debuting — Mescal said he loves the work he is doing and has no Hollywood tentpole aspirations at the moment.
“I’m very happy with films that I’m getting to make right now,” Mescal tells Variety of his indie projects. “That’s a wheelhouse I feel like I’m more comfortable in right now in my life and what I want.”
Mescal spoke in conversation with “Aftersun” writer and director Charlotte Wells at the Variety Studio presented by Campari at the Cannes Film Festival.
Produced by Barry Jenkins, “Aftersun” is an intimate drama centering around a young father (Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter (Frankie Corio), who are on holiday at a resort in Turkey in the late 1990s. The film was loosely inspired by Wells’ memories of growing up with her father, though the story is not directly autobiographical.
In real life, Mescal does not have children, so he unintentionally drew from his own father when developing and playing his role. When asked what sort of roles he wants to take on in the future, Mescal joked, “I feel like I need to not do a dad for a little while, being 26.”
“But I’ll do anything if I really like the script,” he added. When asked if he has any dream roles or types of projects he wants to be involved in, Mescal said, “There’s nothing that I’m yearning to do. But at the minute I read it, I’ll know in my head.”
Despite his popularity among critics and fans, Mescal pulled himself off of Instagram in 2021, opting to stay off of social media.
“I just think it’s a scary place sometimes,” Mescal said of social media. “For the work that I want to do, I think it’s important to be a little less visible so that you can disappear in a little bit, so that they can’t see you essentially in your work all the time. They’re seeing you on social media. I just feel happier without it. I feel a little bit more invisible and just less pressured around the work.”
Making her feature directorial debut, Wells, an accomplished short-film director, was giddy as her film was receiving rave reviews out of Cannes. The movie’s U.S. and Canada distribution rights were picked up by A24 at the festival.
“It has been a very surreal dream,” Wells said. “I think we got a little bit of an ovation at the end, which was just wildly unexpected. I think we spent a couple of minutes wondering what was taking people so long to leave the theater and then realized they were applauding…It was really nice to see everybody’s work called out: the cast, the crew. It’s been amazing.”