The secrets of Paul Mescal: Gaelic football, his fame as a “sausage man” and the keys to his sex scenes in “Normal people”
The 26-year-old Irishman earned his first Oscar nomination for his role in “Aftersun”. In just three years he became a star and will be Ridley Scott's next “Gladiator”
Paul Mescal was nominated for his role in "Aftersun" at the 95th Academy Awards in Hollywood (Photo by Emma McIntyre/WireImage)
He rose to stardom with his portrayal of Connell Waldron in “Normal People” in 2020. And since then the career of Paul MescaHe has gone from strength to strength culminating in a Best Actor Oscar nomination this year for his role in “Aftersun,” a moving tale of the close bond between father and daughter, by Englishwoman Charlotte Wells. . At the age of 26 and due to his acting talent, he conquered his Hollywood peers.
The public was captivated by his sensitivity in “Normal People” and catapulted him at the age of 24. He went from unknown Irish lad to sex symbol in a short span of time. Today he is enjoying a journey that is just beginning, but critics are already predicting that he will be one of the most talented actors of his generation.
With just three years of fame, the actor has been critically acclaimed for his delicate performances in both “Normal People” and “Aftersun.” Allergic to compliments, Mescal also makes it clear that movie stars today don't have to be rude. “I am comfortable with my masculinity and I think it can be expressed in many, many, many ways, and it will probably be a territory that I will be constantly drawn to throughout my career.”
Paul Mescal in "Aftersun". His role in this film earned him a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars
Born in Maynooth, Ireland, Paul Mescal landed his first role in 2017 in the play “The Great Gatsby” in Dublin. In subsequent years, he landed stage roles in such productions as “The Red Shoes,” “Asking for It,” “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Mescal's attraction to the theater stemmed from his home with a father, an elementary school teacher and amateur actor, and a police officer mother. But from a very young age he was devoted to Gaelic football, the most popular sport in his country. And while he showed enough talent to become a professional player, a jaw injury in one game sidelined him.
Years later he realized that acting could be more than a hobby. At one point he was about to drop out of school to join the army, but was urged by a student advisor to study drama. His acting coach, Hilary Wood, remembers him as “flamboyantly talented ” and “not afraid to fail.”
Like any actor in his beginnings, he accepted jobs off stage. In 2018, he starred in a very popular commercial for “Denny & amp; sons”. Mescal has said on more than one occasion that he is more likely to be recognized on the street for playing the “Dachshund Man” than for his role as Connell in “Normal People”
He became a well-known actor when he was cast in that series alongside Daisy-Edgar Jones, which premiered in 2020 during social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Daisy and Paul starred as Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron in the hit show based on the novel by Irish author Sally Rooney.
His praised performance in the miniseries “Normal People” (2020) led him to stardom
The romantic drama focused on the on-off relationship between two Irish teenagers, from their school days to their college days. Mescal's performance in the 12-episode series garnered him acclaim from critics and audiences.
He was voted Best Actor at the annual BAFTA TV Awards and was nominated for an Emmy and Critics Choice Awards.And now, with only a few years in the industry, Mescal is competing for the most important film award thanks to his leading role in the movie “Aftersun”, where he plays a father who spends his last vacation with his daughter.
Mescal landed a spot in one of the most coveted categories, after rising to fame less than three years ago. His performance was acclaimed by both the public and critics and he will compete at the Oscars with figures such as Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (Inisherin's Banshees) , Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Bill Nighy(Living room). It doesn't start as a favourite. However, it has not been a small thing to enter the fight. He left out established Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Hugh Jackman.
"Aftersun", a film that has been one of the big surprises of the year
In an interview with The Guardian , uses the word “luck” at least eight times to describe his life and career. She was very lucky to go to school in Maynooth, Ireland, where it was mandatory to audition for the school musical. I was also lucky enough to graduate drama school at the very time BBC Three was casting for “Normal People”, the show that launched Mescal's career.
And he was “very, very lucky” that playing Connell Waldron caught the attention of three young female directors: Charlotte Wells, who cast him for this year's independent film, “Aftersun”, and Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer, the duo behind the drama “ God's Creatures” (2022), in which Mescal stars as Brian O'Hara, a young man returning to a remote Irish fishing village and a mother (Emily Watson) torn between protecting her son.
“I am not at all a religious person. But that role felt like it was handed down by a higher power in terms of what it represented,” he told the outlet. “He's the antithesis of Connell, a character that made him a heartthrob. Brian O'Hara, by contrast, is definitely not the type of character to inspire Instagram tributes.”
Sex and nudity
How the sex scenes in “Normal People” were filmed
For Mescal, the transition from an unknown name to a familiar one was very quick, and it didn't always sit well with her. He created a stir with sex scenes with her co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones and her on-camera nudes, including a frontal one. She became one of the most popular faces on the small screen and, to her own amazement, also a sex symbol. “Obviously, the story is very daring on a purely sexual level”, acknowledged the actor. “But I think when it gets personal, it's just awkward. What I've learned, though, is that I can deal with it. It's something I can choose not to give a shit about.”
he also revealed that “on the first Friday of the first week, we had a full day of sex scenes. I confess that we were both incredibly nervous. I didn't sleep that Thursday.”
Like many viewers, Mescal also agrees that the chemistry between him and Edgar-Jones was undeniable. “You see a lot of great TV shows and movies, but you don't believe the chemistry between the leads,” he explained in dialogue with E! News. “It's something innate, you can't read a book and suddenly have chemistry between two people.”
Of those full frontal nudity scenes and the sex scenes between Connell and Marianne's characters, Mescal told the publication: “I'm not concerned because I made the decision that this project is something I'm proud of. There will be people who don't like it, but you just have to remind yourself: would you change anything? I don't think it will.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, both actors discussed the important role a privacy coordinator played in the scenes explicit erotica.
Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, in a scene from "Normal People"
According to intimacy coordinator Ita O 'Brien, who also trained actors on Netflix's “Sex Education” and HBO's “Gentleman Jack,” it was important to form guidelines that would create a “professional structure so that the actors can separate themselves from the characters.” O'Brien's principles included open communication and transparency, agreement and consent of touch, and choreographic movements.
Lenny Abrahamson, who was a producer on the series and also directed several episodes, admitted that he initially thought Ita O'Brien would come between him and the actors. “You have a very clear vision in your head, and my fear was that when an intimacy coordinator came in, everything would flow away from me. But having her there was instrumental in making something seem real and at the same time reassuring the actors that it's not.”
Mescal described how O'Brien helped him make make the scenes look more realistic. “One of the keys is about supporting your weight in a way that makes it look like your bodies are connectedhe told the publication. “My shoulders were incredibly strong at the end of the process, because you're holding on for a long time to give the right illusion.”
In an interview with Variety, Mescal elaborated on how it was behind the scenes of those very intimate moments between him and his partner. “Basically, Daisy and I rehearsed with Lenny (the director) for two weeks before shooting. And on one of those days, the intimacy coordinator took us through her process of what a day on set would be like when we were shooting those scenes. And that was really useful because it eliminated anxiety when filming those scenes, “he told the aforementioned outlet.
Paul Mescal with Daisy Edgar-Jones (Getty Images)
The connection with his partner was essential. “Daisy and I felt safe throughout the entire process. The privacy coordinator would communicate with me and Daisy in our dressing rooms in the morning. And then she would ask me if we were feeling okay and we would have a short chat. We would then discuss the degree of nudity that would be required. And then after that, Daisy and I would come on set, and we'd practice the scene in clothes. Then we had a conversation about what we felt comfortable with, “he explained.
Asked if his relatives saw him naked, Mescal recounted the previous talk he had with his parents . “It's a weird experience when you sit down and say, 'Mom and Dad. We're looking at episodes 1 through 4. And in episode 2, there's a big sex scene.”
His parents reacted positively because they understood that their son's nudity was part of the story. Mescal had his head in another potential situation “Ultimately, I would be much more embarrassed if I thought that I was somehow taken advantage of in the filming process, which was never the case. I was able to look back and say, 'These are scenes I'm really proud of. Yeah, it's a little weird seeing him with your parents, but I think they handled it in a pretty normal way.”
His decision on social media
Paul Mescal wants to be an actor and not famous (Alex Bramall/Observer Magazine)
Although Mescal believed the miniseries could become a huge success, he did not consider that it would lead to him becoming a public figure. “It was like the perfect storm for a young actor to have the opportunity to reach a global audience. I wasn't prepared for the level of scrutiny that comes with it and decided to quit social media.I just don't think it's particularly helpful for people to literally see you,” he explained. “I thought it was either get off the bus now or stay on it, and I wanted to get off.”
As he navigates his new level of fame, critics, always looking for a young actor like a Marlon Generational Brando, they believe that Mescal is on the right track. They say he has a palpable movie star magnetism but adapted to today's times.
“Masculinity can be expressed in many ways” , he told The Guardianthe new sex symbol of Hollywood who does not believe his own attractiveness. It's no coincidence that her films are directed by women who find unusual acting work.
“You either have it or you don't,” said Lenny Abrahamson, who directed six episodes of “Normal People.” He even dares to guess that Mescal's appeal stems from his specific brand of masculinity: “There are phases in the film industry where the leading men were big and strong. And then you can see phases where they got thinner and more delicate. Paul is an interesting combination. I think what people fell in love with was that beautiful combination of sensitivity and power. It's a very unusual combination.”
Paul Mescal in the Rolling Stones video
The Irishman is a disciple of the method acting school and is aiming for roles driven by the characters more than the plot. To prepare for the role of him in “ God ’s Creatures ”, Mescal became an apprentice to oyster farmers in Ireland.
“The fun part of acting for me is doing the detective work and putting the stepping stones in place that make entering the heaviest parts of a person's psychology”, he noted about his choices when accepting a job.
And with the image of a normal boy with great charm, he also became one of the most influential men in fashion today and was chosen by Rolling Stones for their video clip for the song “Scarlet”. He then appeared in a film opposite Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson, in actress Maggie Gyllenhaal's “The Lost Daughter.”
Mescal is building his career with small movies largely because they tend to elevate character above plot. “It's not about the characters saying things to advance the plot. They say the things they need to say and don't say the things they don't need to say,” he explained about what he wants to say in his work as an actor.
Although he didn't see himself in the world of Marvel superheroes, Ridley Scott is already preparing “Gladiator 2″, the long-awaited sequel to the 2000 hit, with Mescal in the lead role. However, filming will be delayed a bit by his Oscar nomination and the stage version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that Mescal is performing in London.