Josh O’Connor is already getting a lot of attention for his hot and confident role in the cool tennis movie by Luca Guadagnino called ‘Challengers’—and this is after he won awards for playing the uptight young Prince Charles on #TheCrown. So, what’s a rising star like him doing living in a van?
For #GQHYPE, check out this cool interview with @joshographee. He spills the beans on taking tennis lessons with Zendaya and Mike Faist, having a major crush on FKA Twigs back in school, and why he’s all about living out of a van instead of fancy hotels. Don’t miss it! 😎🔥
Josh O’Connor was driving his yellow camper van through the Italian countryside, finally heading home. The British actor had been living in the van for three months while filming La Chimera, a period drama about grave robbers, in the hills of Bolsena. In the two hectic years since he had left London, O’Connor had won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance as Prince Charles in The Crown, and shot two films, bouncing between the US, Italy, the US, and Italy again. He had been playing other people for so long that he felt exhausted, the kind of tired where it is as though you are already asleep, and drifting on is somehow a less daunting prospect than trying to slow down.
“God, I didn’t live in that,” O’Connor says when he sees me, explaining that I’ve been staring at a trash-removal truck. He leads me around the corner to meet the real Winnie: a refurbished yellow DHL delivery van. Inside, fairy lights are strung above the dining table, near a neat stack of gardening manuals and cookbooks. In the tiny kitchen, a waxy plant tumbles down past a spice rack, containing the big three of oregano, chili, and cumin. Hung on the walls are two needlepoint canvases of a medieval woman and man, made by O’Connor’s mother. Winnie is both a getaway car and a home away from home for O’Connor; he takes her on camping trips to unplug or, as he did last year, to Italy to live in while filming. “I got the van to get out of London and be away from all of it,” he says.
“I remember Luca saying to me: ‘Actors are like racehorses: You have to keep them in condition…’ Nice hotels, nice food. But being in a hotel room isn’t the best condition for me. I just felt depressed.”Josh O’Connor on GQ Hype
O’Connor’s folksy, pastoral tendencies come from his roots. One of three boys, he grew up in Cheltenham, a place unofficially referred to as the Garden Town of England, where the local amusements include an annual downhill race to chase after a wheel of cheese. When O’Connor was a kid, his parents would drag him and his brothers on camping trips to France, driving through the night in their old Volvo. “We’d get a baguette in the morning and chomp on that whilst hiking up a mountain,” he says, taking a big bite out of the air. They never ate at restaurants, or vacationed in Mallorca or Marbella, like all his friends at school seemed to. Back then he thought it sucked. Now, those trips seem magical; a memory to hold close when his family are far away. He describes his parents as “beautiful souls,” and lists his relationship with his brothers as the thing he cherishes most in his life. “All three of us boys are so granola,” he says. “We’re a bunch of happy campers.”
Initially, O’Connor had not wanted to even audition for The Crown; as a (small r) republican, he doesn’t support the British royal family or the concept of monarchy. Then he read the script, specifically the scene in season three in which Charles realizes that his life cannot have meaning until his mother dies, and the prospect of the role became irresistible. If O’Connor’s career BC (Before Crown) afforded him relative anonymity, the success of the show ended that. He was soon being photographed in public, and endlessly probed for his views on the royal family. “It was a fucked-up time. I found it so impactful, people stopping me,” he says. “You want to be in stuff that’s successful and seen, but I think sometimes we underestimate how powerful even a slight loss of anonymity can be.”
When Winnie arrived back in London, O’Connor’s neighbors were shocked she was still going. O’Connor can’t keep her parked outside his flat for long, and so he’ll have to move her—which is sad, because one of his favorite things about driving her in the city is a little game he likes to play: pretending he’s actually a DHL delivery driver. “When you pass other vans you have this brief moment of eye contact where it’s like, total respect,” he says. “They think you’re a van driver, and not an actor living in a van. It’s usually when they see the chimney that you can see them go, Oh, God, here we go.”
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From the scrapbooks he makes of the characters he portrays to a photo of Helena Bonham Carter and his eye rollers, these are Josh O’Connor’s #GQ10Essentials.
GROOMING BY MARYLAND GOTIDOC USING TOM FORD. TAILORING BY VIKKIE TARBUCK. SET DESIGN BY JOSH STOVELL AT SAINT LUKE ARTISTS. PRODUCED BY ALEX BASSFORD AT FARAGO PROJECTS.