Where you know him from: As tortured gay farmer Johnny Saxby in God’s Own Country.
Sum up the film in a sentence: “It’s set on a farm in Yorkshire; it’s about someone who is unable to love and incapable of being loved, an examination of masculinity and an exploration of what happens when someone opens up for the first time.”
On taking it to Sundance Film Festival: “Nobody there knew what ‘a bap and a brew’ meant. We had to explain it.”
What the film gets right about Yorkshire: “The film never tries to imply life in a remote, working class community is dated. Johnny is gay but his problems extend to every other part of his life. He’s in no doubt who he is. It’s good to see rural parts of the country still being championed as progressive.”
How director Francis Lee reacted to his accent: “He said, ‘He looks so troubled he might be quite difficult to work with’. And he met me and was like, ‘Oh, he’s actually from Cheltenham Spa’.”
Moment he knew the film was huge: “Seeing it being shown at the local Cineworld in Cheltenham, my hometown, completely floored me.”
On being proud of the film’s hardcore sex scenes: “There are LGBT films that are conservative when it comes to on-screen sex and I’ve felt short-changed watching them. The way this is shot, and the intimacy of it, I think it would be weird if you never saw such a huge aspect of Johnny’s transition and transformation. It sexual. It’s a big part of same sex relationships, but cinematically, it’s also a brilliant tool to show people how this character is changing and how a dynamic is changing. I’m proud that we don’t shy away from showing two men having sex.”
What’s harder than being naked on set? “Eye contact. Holding eye contact with someone you know is terrifying. I feel more naked staring into someone’s eyes.”
The most romantic moment: “The Pot Noodle scene. Someone I work with bought me a load of them after they saw the film.”
The least romantic moment: “Well the cow scene involved a real cow and that was my arm up its rectum. I didn’t mind it, though.”
On farm jobs: “We worked on the farm throughout. We had to pause filming one day to hop on a quad bike and go and help deliver a lamb.”
Ultimate actor-envy: “Gary Oldman. Or Daniel Day-Lewis. If I could have either of their successes in my career I’d be happy.”
See him next in: The BBC’s adaptation of Les Mis. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s an adaptation of the novel, not the film - so don’t expect me to start singing”.
Get tickets to God’s Own Country
Want to see Josh O’Connor in action before you vote for the EE Rising Star Award? ShortList is hosting screenings of all five nominee’s films, starting with God’s Own Country at BAFTA, Piccadilly from 6.30pm on 16 January. Tickets are free but limited, so head to seeitfirst.com and enter the code M7NOD6 to secure yours now.
Have your say at the 2018 British Academy Film Awards by voting for the EE Rising Star Award
The EE Rising Star Award is the only accolade at the Baftas voted for by you.
Now in its 13th year, the award is dedicated to recognising emerging acting talent that has captured the public’s imagination over the past year. This year’s nominees are Timotheé Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), who will need your vote to become the 2018 EE Rising Star.
To have your say, visit ee.co.uk/BAFTA and cast your vote before 14 February. The winner will be announced at the EE British Academy Film Awards on 18 February 2018.
(Images: Camera Press/Charlie Clift/BAFTA/AllStar)