HFPA in Conversation: Johnny Flynn, Poet, Actor, Musician, Country Boy

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros March 4, 2020
Actor Johnny Flynn

jon kopaloff/getty images

Johnny Flynn brings a rock and roll edge to Jane Austen’s character George Knightley in Emma. While he was diving into the role he didn’t think about the other versions of the classic story. “When I get a part that’s been adapted lots of times, I want to just go to the source material of that particular version and our script,” he told HFPA journalist Katherine Tulich. 

Eleanor Catton wrote the screenplay and Autumn de Wilde directed the film.  “I wanted to work out who George really was in his soul behind the veneer of all these societal laws and the etiquette that they all buy into.”

Flynn describes George Knightley as an earthy and humble person. “He’s an innately sort of spiritually profound person in his moral uprightness. He’s true and has a classic moral bearing. I tried to buy into that. And he had this innate masculinity that needs to be there and yet he is incredibly sensitive and empathetic to women and sort of complicit to women.”

Flynn related especially to the scene of Mr. Knightley walking through the fields and talking with his tenant farmer. “I’m certainly a country boy and spent a lot of time roaming the woods as a kid and still do.”

He was born in South Africa and raised in the United Kingdom. Both of his parents are artists. “I loved when my dad was doing theater. I really loved going backstage and seeing where the magic happened and see the putting together of different elements to create an effect.”

He studied acting at drama school before launching his band, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit. “They always informed each other. I felt like I learned about being on stage in a theater play by playing shows with my band.”

After a decade he tried to keep acting and music as separate careers.
“I wanted to be taken seriously in both and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was piggybacking on one with the other.”
Now he enjoys being recognized for both. “It’s coming together and I’m happy about that because I feel like actually now I’ve kind of earned my stripes enough for people to know that I do both.”

Listen to the podcast and hear how he reacts to fame; what kind of common background he has with photographer and director Autumn de Wilde; how he feels about nude scenes; why he understands women when filming a romantic scene; why he appreciates his wife and kids; what kind of musical he writes; how a 70s songbook inspired him to become a musician; why he likes traditional songs; how long he has played violin; how was it writing a song for Emma’s final credits; what kind of research he did for Stardust, the movie where he plays David Bowie in the early 1970s; why he is not singing Bowie’s songs in the movie; what kind of nightmares he used to have; what was the moment he was ready to quit acting and what play made him fall in love with acting again; what his upcoming movie Operation Mincemeat is about; and what kind of musical he is working on at the moment.