Jack Reynor praises 'chameleon' fiancee Madeline Mulqueen and chats wedding plans
He's one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, with a model fiancée. But Wicklow's Jack Reynor has as little interest in the 'celebrity couple' label as he does in winning an Oscar
You've probably made your mind up about Jack Reynor.
The golden boy of Irish cinema went to a posh school, dates a model, starred in 2014's noisiest, silliest blockbuster, aka Transformers 4. An uber-jock dripping privilege and presumption, right?
Reynor (23) is perfectly aware of the caricature that has come to define him (in the eyes of Irish people at least). He understands his break-out portrayal of a violent rugby brat in What Richard Did felt a little too on the money to many - with his private education and good looks, he was generally understood to be playing an exaggeration of himself.
"There's a bit of a notion out there," says the actor. "It got out in the media I'd gone to a private school [the exclusive Belvedere College]. It became an overwhelmingly defining element for people - they saw me as an upper middle class, Celtic Tiger kind of thing. When, in fact, that couldn't be further from the truth."
With last year's Transformers 4, Reynor became a global star. Does he enjoy his burgeoning celebrity? Well, it's okay. Red carpets aren't his thing and he'd rather keep his relationship with fiancée Madeline Mulqueen out of the spotlight. "Some people are mad into it - they really want to have their relationships out there, to talk about their personal life. That's very dangerous. It's not the healthiest psychological step. You are leaving yourself open and vulnerable, in some of the most important things in your life."
He and Madeline announced their engagement last year but they haven't circled a space in the calendar yet - much to the frustration of celebrity watchers across the country. "I AM going to get married," he says in response to the familiar question. "We haven't set a date."
Speaking of weddings, Madeline is vaguely well-known as the sassy bride eloping with a Rubberbandit in the Horse Outside video. She was great in it - hammy with a sprinkling of self-awareness. Is acting something she'd consider again?
"She's kind of a chameleon," says Reynor. "She can do whatever she wants. Would she act? I don't know. I think it would be cool if she got into it. I'd like to see her do it."
Of course, that would only serve to heighten their joint status - what's it like being part of a celebrity couple?
"We keep ourselves to ourselves. We're unassuming individuals. Anyway, people don't recognise me generally. I don't have people coming up to me. In the media, I do notice people writing things, trying to build an image of who I am. It's not for anybody to know who I am."
Reynor prefers to let his achievements speak for themselves. Today, he's brought along the (extremely heavy and shiny) special jury prize he won at the Sundance Film Festival for new movie Glassland. The film is about as removed from Transformers as is possible. The setting is contemporary Tallaght, with Reynor playing the taxi-driving son of a woman (Toni Collette) determined to drink herself into the grave.
Winning at Sundance meant a great deal - possibly more than an Oscar, were he ever to receive one. This is the thing about Reynor that isn't obvious from his public persona.
He's an arty guy - not at all the underwear twanging, locker-room hero you may have anticipated.
At the start of our interview, for instance, he floors me when he cops my HP Lovecraft T-shirt and starts waxing about Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. A passion for obscure early 20th-century horror writers is not what I had expected.
"I don't hold a huge amount of weight in [Oscars] to be honest," says Reynor, asked if he would like to one day receive an Academy Award (he has plenty of meaty parts up and coming, including The Jungle Book with Benedict Cumberbatch and Macbeth alongside Michael Fassbender).
"Obviously any accolade would be nice. For a lot of people an Oscar is the greatest validation. That's not the case for me. I don't worry about accolades or premieres . . . any of that. Once I shoot a film I try not to think about it again.
"I don't like red carpets," he adds.
"They are a bit soulless. I don't buy into the glamour. I understand why they would be a pull for some people. I don't have a huge amount of room for that in my life. I am interested in things that are substantial, things I can be proud of - in stuff that stretches my brain."
In Glassland, Reynor and Collette are a devastating double-act.
Both are subtle actors, who know when it is appropriate to sign-post their feelings, when it is smarter to hold back. Most surprising of all, arguably, is Collette's on-the-nose accent.
"Growing up I loved Toni Collette films," says Reynor. "About A Boy [in which Collette plays a single mother]. . .there were similarities to my own life. And I could really relate to The Sixth Sense as a kid. I read the script for Glassland and the one person I could visualise in the part was Toni. She was in Ireland just five days but she was incredible - the only person I could have made the film with."
Reynor was himself raised by a single mother. She fell pregnant in Colorado. The chances of she and Reynor's father having a long-term relationship appeared slim and, still a toddler, Reynor was shipped back to his grandparents in Wicklow while she worked at raising enough for her own air-fare. They're close - and yet it is clear he had a peripatetic upbringing.
This was something Reynor was able to draw on for Glassland. As with the actor and his mother in real life, the two lead characters have an unusually co-dependent dynamic. "Without going too much into my relationship with my mam - if you have a single mother, and are in close proximity, it can be intense. I was eager to explore it in the movie."
The rags-to-bling aspect of Reynor's biography has been remarked upon endlessly. He was down to his last tenner when he moved to Los Angeles, desperate for a part. Incredibly, his first screen test caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who recommended him to Michael Bay for Transformers 4.
"It's just surreal, man. Since the age of five I've dreamed of this. And I've always believed I could achieve it. Now that it has actually happened, I can't believe it - if you can understand."
He made Glassland because he felt a need to detox after a year immersed in Transformers - which received a bit of a panning. "I was coming into the fourth film," Reynor says of the backlash.
"Everyone already knew what the critics were going to say before it was even made. Transformers affords people two and a half hours to transcend whatever is going on in their lives and enjoy the spectacle of a big action movie."
Don't get him wrong - he loved every minute working with Bay. Nonetheless, he wanted to get back to something real - and you don't get more 'real' than Tallaght in the grey, greasy winter.
"Hollywood wouldn't have a lot of cultural substance," he says.
"I go out to LA if I have to. I do my meetings. Then I come home and completely disassociate myself from it. It is my goal to stay entirely detached [from Hollywood] if I can. That affords me the ability to remain a genuine person. And I think you need to remain genuine if you hope to portray characters in a truthful way."
'Glassland' is in cinemas now
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