If all you know of Hero Fiennes Tiffin is his brooding editorial shots, or the brooding scenes of his character in the “After” film trailers, you might be surprised by the wholesome humility of the real Fiennes Tiffin. Despite his debut lead film role on the horizon — and a majorly anticipated one, at that — the 21-year-old actor seems to be rooted in gratitude without the pretense. Aware that an interview had to be rescheduled several times to accommodate a worldwide promotional tour that was just starting to ramp up, he begins and ends the conversation with an apology for what was largely out of his control. “Sorry it took so long,” he says, for perhaps the third time.
He may play the bad-boy on screen, but in person his sweetness shines through.
For the British actor and model, his path to starring opposite Josephine Langford in “After” was a long time in the making. His first role was a one-day part for a friend of his father — a cinematographer and writer-director — when he was nine or 10 years old; his next part was playing young Tom Riddle in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” a part later portrayed by his uncle, Ralph Fiennes. His other uncle is Joseph Fiennes; his mother also works in the industry, as a director. Fiennes Tiffin was all but destined for the big screen.
“I think it was a gradual thing,” Fiennes Tiffin says of his foray into film. “My family being in [the industry] definitely had an effect on it at the start, because I wouldn’t have considered it an option if I weren’t in a family that does it.” Despite his early roles, he wasn’t immediately sold. “I didn’t walk away thinking, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I carried on going to school and doing normal children stuff that children want to do. And it was the more time that I spent away from acting that I realized how much I liked it,” he adds. “My parents were obviously always very supportive of me going into that industry, but also made me very aware like this is not guaranteed and you should also have a plan B and stuff. Which is, obviously, completely true, but luckily now I’m in a position where it’s going well right now.”
Going well is an understatement, although Fiennes Tiffin remains democratic about reaction to the film ahead of its official release. The movie is adapted from the popular self-published new-adult novel series by Anna Todd, who started writing the story as Harry Styles fan-fiction. (Fiennes Tiffin’s character was changed to the name Hardin Scott for publication.) If all goes well at the box office, there are subsequent books in the series ready to go. The project bears resemblance to another self-published hit: “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was undeniable in its influence on star Jamie Dornan’s career. Still a few weeks from the film’s premiere, Fiennes Tiffin has yet to watch the final edit himself.
“I’m waiting for the right time — my laptop’s broken,” he says. “I have the ability to watch it; I’m going to watch it when the time’s right.” He wasn’t in any particular hurry, though. “I feel like watching yourself is always a little bit weird, but watching yourself in sex scenes is probably going to be a bit more weird. I’m interested to see how I react.”
“Wait and see” defines much of Fiennes Tiffin’s approach to his career at the moment. With so much fandom around the project, he seems all but destined to become embedded in the minds of the book’s already dedicated fan base. The actor describes the attention as positively overwhelming. “It’s great how much support we have and have had from the start up until now. It’s very helpful in terms of interacting because it’s so new to me and quite overwhelming. I’m probably not the best at staying in contact with fans, but the support is all recognized and appreciated.”
Despite its popularity, the actor hadn’t heard of the book before his audition, and he didn’t read it after being cast, maintaining that it was best to stick to only one piece of source material so as to not misinterpret any aspect of the character. He maintains that his interest in the project is motivated by character “the depth, and mystery to the character that slowly unravels and slowly gives the audience more and more insight is very appealing to an actor,” he says. “It’s that never-gets-old love story told in a refreshing, real modern way.”
Briefly told, the story is this: a squeaky-clean good girl goes to college and meets the non-committal bad boy with an accent and anger problem.
Fiennes Tiffin approaches the premise with a good dose of romantic realism.
“I think it’s trying to tell the broad truth that there are people who love each other, and there will be difficulties in their relationship and love is a kind of thing that is going to somehow override all of those difficulties,” he says. “And it may not be pretty, but hopefully in the end it will be. That’s kind of what they’re chasing.”
While a return to Hardin Scott may be in the works (There are plenty of other “After” books to explore, not to mention a “Before,”) Fiennes Tiffin has a few other projects floating around that he’s “really, really keen on,” one of which is a Civil War drama.
“In this industry you have to wait and see,” he says. “A lot of things do have to shift around and that’s just the nature of it all, so you kind of want to keep an open mind and not get too tied down to one thing. But the things that we are attached to, I’m excited about.”
Particularly in the lead-up for “After,” he’s taking things day by day.
“People have asked ‘Am I ready for it?’ and I always say I feel like I’m as ready as I can be,” he says. “But I don’t think you can ever be ready for something you don’t know. I think I just have to be grateful, take it one day at a time, and see where it goes.”
More from the Eye: