Blond, just over 6-foot-2 and handsome, England’s Joe Alwyn is a natural to play romantic heroes.
But opposite Margaret Qualley in the Cannes prize-winner “Stars at Noon,” Alwyn’s Daniel is, literally, trapped in an unnamed Central American country, continually watched, in danger for his life and hardly heroic.
“For me, the movie’s haunted by the specter of death. From the very start,” Alwyn, 31, said on Zoom of the strewn corpses that dot the landscape. “I felt that feeling of death and sickness and corruption everywhere. It seeps into the atmosphere.
“These two, Daniel and Trish, both have their own defenses and their own guards up, almost constantly. He is definitely enigmatic, a bit of a mystery.
“They’re in an environment that they can’t trust,” Alwyn continued. “They’re both trying to escape. Both are lonely. Both desperate. I think they never fully know how much they can tell is true of the other. And in themselves in a way as well.
“So there’s a real opaqueness to who they are. What does bring them together is this kind of instinctive love between the two. And then they have to escape.”
“Stars at Noon” is the latest film from one of France’s most influential filmmakers, Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”), who at 76 continues to be celebrated for the sensuality of her work. “Stars” won the Grand Prix (or second place) at Cannes last May.
Much of “Stars” sees Trish and Daniel in bed as they hug, hold, squeeze each other and desperately try to connect.
“There was no intimacy coordinator,” Alwyn allowed. “In those environments ultimately what it comes down to is trust. Trusting Margaret, Claire and the crew.
“It was very clear about the feelings that Claire wanted from those scenes. She just creates a very safe environment. Both of us felt very comfortable going where she wanted to take us.
“It is one of the ways that those two people are able to speak to each other: physically. Because there’s so many games going on when they’re speaking, that really is one of the ways they can and do communicate.”
After six years dating, Alwyn and Taylor Swift are engaged to be married. He won the Album of the Year Grammy for his work on Swift’s “Folklore” album.
Does this mean if he gives up acting, a career in music would follow?
“It was a product of lockdown, a surreal amazing thing to happen. But,” he said with a smile, “it’s certainly not what I would call a career.”
“Stars at Noon” opens Friday.