Pin It

Iain De Caestecker: show your bones

Iain De Caestecker, breakout star of Lost River, tells us what it’s like having the world's most handsome man up in your grill

Taken from the spring/summer 2015 issue of Dazed: 

With a lead role in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River, Iain De Caestecker is about to have a Drive-sized moment of his own. As scrap-metal dealer Bones, the Scottish actor smoulders with intensity amid blazing houses, cold-blooded crazies and an all-star cast including a down-and-out mum (Christina Hendricks) and naive girl next door, Rat (Saoirse Ronan). But don’t assume the 27-year-old picked up his introspective bent from his mentor – he learned it when he was young, forced to hide his home movie-making to escape playground prejudice in Glasgow.

When did your interest in film begin?

Iain De Caestecker: My family visited LA when I was about ten and my brother and I went around interviewing strangers. We pretended to be two young Russian documentary filmmakers, putting on these indistinct eastern European accents. It’s really weird now that I look back on it. Back in Glasgow, we tried making comedy movies and sketches at home. He decided he wanted to go to acting classes at weekends, and I just copied him. When I was eight or nine, someone came into class and put me in a short film called Billy and Zorba. That was my first experience of being in front of the camera, and after that it was all I wanted to do.

Did your mates get involved with your DIY tween filmmaking?

Iain De Caestecker: Well, I never talked about (acting) except with my brother. So I had two separate lives. I’m not sure my friends would have really understood. Kids are really cruel when they want to be, and when you’re at school there are really fucking stupid social rules. I find it confusing when people say, ‘School’s the best time of your life.’ I definitely didn’t feel that way. I was quite small and I wasn’t overly confident. I remember I used to dread going to some classes because there were people that would make fun of me the whole time. Some of those people are now my best friends, but they have never cared about me acting; they’ve got more important stuff to deal with. I think it’s a good mentality – it gives you a certain level of grounding.

You’ve lived in LA for five years now, do you still feel an affinity with Scotland?

Iain De Caestecker: Yeah, my family kind of rips me for it a little bit, but nobody acts in a different way. Two of the best Scottish actors in the world are Peter Mullan and Gary Lewis, and they’re still in Scotland. For me, leaving was just the right thing to do at the time, but if I wasn’t acting, I’d still try to be involved in the arts in some way. I don’t have a Scotland flag over my house or anything like that – but yeah, I will always be proud to be from Scotland. It’s part of me, it’s who I am.

Your first big role was in the recent adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth (2013). Was it nerve-racking having to follow in the footsteps of Trainspotting?

Iain De Caestecker: A little bit, yeah. Trainspotting is an institution in Scotland. For me, nights out in Glasgow were about timing yourself to see how quickly you could get really drunk and black out. I’ve only got great memories of the place.

Your character in Lost River looks practically malnourished. How did you physically prepare for the role?

Iain De Caestecker: The character is called Bones. He was written in the script as being a young, skinny guy. The family that he’s part of lives in poverty – they don’t know where their next meal’s gonna come from. So the day after I found out about the role, I got myself on a diet and started training in the swimming pool. It was intense. I used to eat one chicken breast or one sushi roll a day, and I was pretty rigid with it. My energy levels went down – there were definitely times at night where all I could think about was food. I realised how much of a luxury it is to be able to just walk into a burger place and order whatever you want.

“Ryan had certain ways of psyching you up before a scene. He would come up and take you into a corner and try to make you angry or evoke some sort of emotion in you” – Iain De Caestecker

Lost River is full of eccentric characters. Did you meet any while filming in Detroit?

Iain De Caestecker: A lot of people from Detroit are like local celebrities. The first day I was there, I walked about and I found this swimming pool. There was some old guy in the corner doing kung fu and he started talking to me. People would come up and tell you very personal stuff about their life. Maybe someone in the family died, or they were married to someone who cheated on them – they will tell you anything.

One scene is interrupted by a woman screaming at a petrol station – she looks like she just walked right into frame from the street...

Iain De Caestecker: She did! There was another guy at the bar that we went to a few times – in the movie, he works in the scrapyard. He wasn’t an actor by trade, but he was on the news because some burglars tried to break into his house one night and put nine bullet holes in his chest! A lot of those characters are the best parts of the film. They give much truer performances than I ever could.

The film is quite dark. Did Ryan have ways to help you get into that headspace?

Iain De Caestecker: Ryan had certain ways of psyching you up before a scene. He would come up and take you into a corner and try to make you angry or evoke some sort of emotion in you. It could be experiences or a story of something that happened to him. Sometimes he would shove some earphones in my ear before a take. The first day of filming, we got up at six in the morning because we wanted to get the sun coming up. We were filming some scenes around this big derelict building and he was listening to a Brian Eno song, I can’t remember the name. It was the first take, and he shoved these earphones in my ear. Ryan makes a lot of music himself, so he would write music that we would listen to. We did a few takes like that.

When the film debuted at Cannes, reviewers said it was ‘mouth-dryingly lousy’, and ‘juvenile and dumb’. How did it feel to hear all that hate?

Iain De Caestecker: I really do think Ryan is an amazing filmmaker. It’s maybe not exactly what people expected of him, but he knows a lot about movies, and I admire the fact that he never changed what he wanted to make because he thought that other people might like something different. I love it, but there are definitely things on a personal note that I would change. I’ve never done something I’ve watched and thought, ‘I’ve done that as well as it needed to be.’ I would rather be part of things that are new and interesting.

Lost River is released in the UK on April 10

grooming by Helen Robertson at Celestine Agency using Radical Skincare

Subscribe to Dazed magazine here or pick up your copy from newsstands now