Tuesday 20 February 2018

Plan A perfect for Luke Grimes

Luke Grimes has come a long way from his Ohio Pentecostal roots, but his background informs how he handles the Hollywood life

Star Luke Grimes as he appears in Chanel's new Allure Homme Sport Cologne campaign. Grimes got the acting bug at seven while watching Macaulay Culkin at the Golden Globes Awards.
Star Luke Grimes as he appears in Chanel's new Allure Homme Sport Cologne campaign. Grimes got the acting bug at seven while watching Macaulay Culkin at the Golden Globes Awards.

Sarah Caden

Like the song goes, actor Luke Grimes is the son of a preacher man and he has the kind of son-of-a-preacherman presence that reaches people.

With model looks and an alluring aloofness, he's probably best known for the role of Christian Grey's brother, Elliot, in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, but tipped for even bigger things. Still, the Ohio-born actor likes to play it low-key, and something of the country boy remains in him, despite spending most of his years in New York and LA.

Luke Grimes was on holiday with his family when he was first bitten by the acting bug. He was about seven, and watching TV in a hotel room, when he saw a very young Macaulay Culkin presenting an award at the Golden Globe awards. "I want to do that. Kid's got nothing on me," Grimes, now 31, thought. He decided to become an actor and that was that, with "no plan B."

As the son of a pentecostal preacher, one can imagine that Grimes had the kind of straitlaced, Midwest upbringing that doesn't often bring a boy all the way to Hollywood. Acting was what he wanted, though, and his parents mortgaged their house to pay for him to attend the prestigious American Academy for Dramatic Arts in New York.

It wasn't just his commitment, it was a family commitment and maybe the determination to have no plan B spoke of that. This had to work, and, so far, it has.

Having grown up in a tight-knit Pentecostal community, Grimes found the anonymity of New York and LA tricky to navigate.

Above all, it was lonely; but he's an old-school kind of actor, who believes that everything informs and is about the art.

"I would have no idea who I was, or what it is like to be in the shoes of another person unless I had gotten close to being completely alone," Grimes has said of his early days in LA. "I was socially awkward, and constantly embarrassed. No one understood me, and I didn't blame them. I felt like David Brent from The Office except there was no delusion. I knew exactly how pathetic I was, and now I can draw on that experience for the rest of my life and career," - self-awareness and sense of humour, as well as those brooding, almost James Dean looks.

The latter two qualities may be what swung Grimes's gig as part of Chanel's new Allure Homme Sport Cologne campaign, in which he rides out as a sort of modern-day cowboy. He's the horse man of the campaign, while Hugo Parisi and Adam Crigler are the professional diver and skater, respectively, of the piece.

"Riding horses is something that I've kind of come into more recently," he said, "I just find a way to sort of connect with nature and history, really."

LA life, you could say, lends itself to neither and Grimes is the kind of thoughtful soul who needs a break from that. In the past, his holidays between movies have included going on classic hunting and fishing trips with his dad. It's a reconnect with his past and a touching base with a very different world to that of auditions, brand-building and the show business of LA.

Grimes loves the acting life, though, and has been lucky in his career. He has made an impact in TV series such as Brothers and Sisters and True Blood, but movies are where his heart lies.

He has had roles in Taken 2 and Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, where the veteran director taught this young blood the value of stillness in a scene, but it is in the first Fifty Shades movie that he has made real impact - and he will appear in the sequel, too, which is now filming.

Surprisingly, however, for a young gun with big ambitions, Grimes turned down the lead role of Christian Grey.

"It just wasn't for me and I knew that," Grimes has said. "I wouldn't want to get myself in a position where I'm bumming people out because I'm not performing the way they want me to." He thinks Jamie Dornan is the perfect guy for the job and confesses: "He's a braver man than I."

Brave to know your boundaries, too, one imagines, particularly in the unpredictable acting world where the temptation is to say yes to everything for fear that you'll make a mis-step.

Luke Grimes, however, seems to be a man of convictions, even from that early determination to be better than Macaulay Culkin. He is a man of faith, even if he's no longer "a fan of organised religion" that was his first foundation.

He has a plan A and he's sticking to it and so far, it's working out well for this Midwest boy.

For Chanel's new Allure Homme Sport cologne, brownthomas.com

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