Callum Turner has discovered a coping mechanism for keeping one’s head on straight when your career is about to blow up: Pretend that the blockbuster franchised movie you’re starring in is the usual small indie, and everything will be just fine.
That is, of course, until the studio heads plan a viewing party for the trailer, and diehard fans are flown into New York from worldwide, and you’re face-to-face with people bearing tattoos of the creatures from said “small indie.”
Turner, the 28-year-old London native, joins J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts” franchise for its second installment, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” out this Friday. Known for his roles in films like “Tramps” and “The Only Living Boy in New York,” Turner is getting his first taste of mega-movie buzz with the release.
Now that the moment has come, he seems to be taking it all in stride. “It’s different,” he says, relaxing into a corner booth in the restaurant at the London Hotel in Midtown, dressed in a button-down shirt, jogger bottoms and Adidas sneakers. “I’ve not been in something with the same sort of level of interest. It’s nice, you know, just having conversations with people that are invested in the movie.”
Signing on to join the rather A-list cast — Eddie Redmayne, whose older brother he plays; Zoe Kravitz; Jude Law; Ezra Miller; Johnny Depp, and more — had the potential to get to him, had he not chosen to block it out. “I’ve got to do my job at the end of the day. I’ve got to have fun, got to play, and I just removed that pressure: I pretended that it’s a small independent film,” he says. “When you work with people that are amazing and you’ve watched for a long time, you have to remove that. I’ve worked with Jeff Bridges and I was very nervous the first day. The second day of rehearsal, that’ll go out the window.”
Turner grew up in the Chelsea neighborhood of London and always liked movies, but acting wasn’t on his radar until he was nearly 20. After leaving school at 16, he played soccer for a year then did some modeling for Comme des Garçons before getting a job as a salesman at Dover Street Market.
“I was terrible at it,” he admits of working the floor. “I ended up getting fired after like two-and-a-half years. I was late, and they were disciplinary about me being late.”
As luck would have it, he booked his first professional acting gig — which filmed in the Cook Islands, just to sweeten the deal — just as the Dover Street job ran out.
“I was like I’d quite like to see how this goes,” he says rather nonchalantly.
Acting, it turned out, provided the escape Turner had been seeking since leaving school. “I remember a conversation that I had with my mum when I was about seven or eight, when I realized I didn’t have to continue school,” he says. “I was frustrated that I had to be there. I loved the social side of things, [but] a lot of the things that I’ve learned were [on] my own.
“School was just…I realized it wasn’t for me and I just wanted to get out. I felt trapped. And I guess that’s why being an actor is perfect because I don’t feel trapped.”
Once he wraps press for “Fantastic Beasts,” he’ll stay put in London shooting a TV series for the BBC called “The Capture.” Before he leaves New York, though, he’s off to the boxing gym for a class at Rumble.
“I’m supernervous. I went to SoulCycle once with my girlfriend [‘The Crown’s’ Vanessa Kirby] and she didn’t really tell me what it was about and then I was dying,” he says. “And I was shooting a movie and I couldn’t work on Monday.”
Not to say he’s not up for it, though.
“Today, there’s no getting out of it,” he says.
More from the Eye: