Why the beardy Welsh star of Weekend is one of Britain’s most promising new actors
Ask Tom Cullen about the best weekend of his life and you won’t get the cliched reply about a best mate’s debauched stag do in Amsterdam. You’ll get the title of the film that’s changing – changed – his life. Cullen is a revelation in Andrew Haigh’s stirring romance Weekend as Russell: a gentle gay guy whose life of rejection gets a ray of hope in the unlikely shape of a one-night stand. His performance nabbed the 26-year old the Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards, and deservedly so.
“It’s overwhelming,” smiles Cullen, perched on the edge of a chair in a Hoxton café. “I had other offers at the time but Andrew’s script was amazing and a huge challenge because Russell’s everything that I’m not. I’m from a rough background... To be vulnerable is not in my vocabulary.”
Cullen is straight but didn’t find intimate scenes with co-star Chris New difficult. The actor, who immerses himself in his roles, declares, “When I would look at Chris on set, I’d be completely in love.” It’s a far cry from growing up on a tough council estate in Wales, where Cullen’s chums lambasted him for his creative interests.
He’s just returned from shooting the historical TV series World Without End in Budapest, where he also met his new squeeze, a Canadian actress he’s plotting to move to New York with. Courtesy of Weekend, sizeable doors are opening up for Cullen. But he’s prepared to play a waiting game. “I could take a lot of jobs now that would earn me lots of money but I’m not an actor because I want to be famous or earn millions of pounds,” he muses. “I’m looking for things where I can stretch myself as far as I can.”