- Photography by Mr Tomo Brejc
- Styling by Mr Tony Cook, Junior Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
This time last week I was face down in the mud," laughs Mr Tom Hughes as he describes his recent stint at an SAS training base for his new movie, I Am Soldier, while buttoning up for his shoot with MR PORTER.
These are busy times for the 27-year-old actor, hotly in demand on a rare press day, having just starred in two well-received, high-profile shows. First came Dancing on the Edge, a five-part series directed by Mr Stephen Poliakoff, which followed the fortunes of a black jazz band in Depression-era London, and shortly after came The Lady Vanishes, a lavish adaptation of the book that inspired the classic Sir Alfred Hitchcock thriller of the same name. And while these roles have seen his profile rapidly rise, it seems that success was always on the cards for him. Mr Ricky Gervais, on casting him in one of his very first roles in 2010's Cemetery Junction, described him as "a rock star and a film star who embodies the spirit of Liam Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft and James Dean".
A graduate of London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Mr Hughes hardly had time to find his feet before being picked up by Burberry to star in one of its campaigns. "When they asked me if I'd be interested, I'd been out of drama school for about six months," he says. "I had no press. This was before Cemetery Junction - nothing that I'd filmed had even come out yet. My agent asked, 'How do you know who he is? How do you even know that he exists?' Their response was, and I quote, 'We are not at liberty to disclose our sources'."
eight minutes idle
Mr Hughes and Ms Ophelia Lovibond as Dan and Teri in the comedy based on Mr Matt Thorne's award-winning novel about life in a call centre
the lady vanishes
Mr Hughes and Ms Tuppence Middleton in the 2013 BBC One drama
From left: Ms Felicity Jones, Mr Christian Cooke, Mr Hughes and Mr Jack Doolan in Mr Ricky Gervais' 1970s-set comedy centered on three young working class friends in a suburb of Reading
dancing on the edge
Mr Hughes in the 2013 television drama written and directed by Mr Stephen Poliakoff about a black jazz band in London in the early 1930s
sex & drugs & rock & roll
The 2010 biography of Mr Ian Dury starred Mr Andy Serkis as the musician and Mr Hughes as the guitarist Mr Chaz Jankel
"I must have sold my soul to the devil," he adds with a grin - despite the fact that it's plain to see, with his enviable looks, that no such Faustian pact would have been necessary.
Eager to avoid the "actor-cum-model" label, Mr Hughes is quick to play down his modelling experience as just that: an experience. "Fashion's a world I really know nothing about," he says. "I was so green, I had no idea what I was doing. Douglas [Booth] and Emma [Watson] were there, and Tom Guinness, too - I just followed their lead. I didn't even know the photographer. I had no idea who Mario Testino was; why should I? He's not a guitarist, is he?"
Moving away from the topic of fashion, his coyness quickly dissipates. He speaks with a passion about music, describing it, alongside acting, as one of his two driving forces, and the first of the two to exert an influence on his life. "I started playing guitar when I was six years old. That's before I first knew that I wanted to be an actor," he explains, adding that, "the two have always gone together - the one seems less vibrant without the other. It comes from the fact, I think, that they're both about the same thing - a desire to tell stories."
And with music playing such an important role in his life, can we expect it to blossom in a similar way to his acting career? "I've been meaning to get in the studio," he says. "I've got something like 150 songs running around in my head, and I just want to see some of them put down on record. Creativity isn't just about having these thoughts, it's about acting on them, too, and turning them into something tangible."