- Photography by Mr Jon Gorrigan
- Styling by Mr Tony Cook, Junior Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
Mr Julian Morris is a hard man to pin down. Caught on camera on a train platform in north London, he's in Los Angeles before the photos have had a chance to develop. The actor, who turned 30 earlier this year, is busy scouting locations for a short film he's producing for Funny Or Die, the online comedy channel, and when we finally manage to catch up over the phone he's full of excitement. It's a small project, but it will be his first outing on the other side of the lens - not to mention his first foray into the world of comedy. "It's something I've always really wanted to do," he explains. "I've never really had the chance before."
Whether by chance or by choice, comedy is unfamiliar territory indeed for Mr Morris - a quick glance at his CV suggests that he's into much darker stuff. In recent roles, he's been responsible for the accidental death of a sexual partner in the graphic, provocative British horror, Donkey Punch, slaughtered scantily clad college girls with a customised tyre iron in the slasher flick, Sorority Row, and played a Nazi lieutenant alongside Mr Tom Cruise in the big-budget thriller, Valkyrie. Themes of depravity and transgression run strong through his body of work - and this is something that his latest project will do little to correct.
We started out in the morning on this pub crawl. As I got more and more drunk, I got more confident
Kelly + Victor, based on the book by Mr Niall Griffiths, is not a film for the faint of heart. Directed by documentarian Mr Kieran Evans, it chronicles the relationship between Victor, a twentysomething dreamer played by Mr Morris, and the fragile, emotionally scarred Kelly, played with intensity and abandon by a waifish Ms Antonia Campbell-Hughes. After opening with lingering, soft-focus shots of Liverpool and the surrounding countryside, the film cuts jarringly to the titular leads' first encounter: a drug-fuelled hook-up in a dimly lit club. The story's sinister central theme is revealed shortly afterwards when Victor, in the throes of inebriated passion, submits himself - at first apprehensively, then willingly - to Kelly's sadomasochistic tendencies.
KELLY + VICTOR
Mr Morris with Ms Antonia Campbell-Hughes in the upcoming British romantic drama about a young couple's passionate relationship
From left: Messrs Tom Burke, Jay Taylor and Morris in the 2008 British horror thriller
ONCE UPON A TIME
From left: Mses Jamie Chung, Sarah Bolger and Mr Morris in season two of the fantasy television series, 2012
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Ms Troian Bellisario and Mr Morris in the US teen-drama series, 2010
Mr Morris with Ms Briana Evigan in the 2009 slasher film
"It's a dark story, and S&M plays a large part," explains Mr Morris. "I took the approach that it becomes like a drug for Victor. Here's a guy who was born with no opportunities. He doesn't have the money, the intelligence or the connections to break free, but he needs an escape, and this exciting new experience is where he gets it. Kelly - she's just the delivery system." Despite the provocative subject matter, this is no Fifty Shades of Grey. Kelly + Victor is a tender, sensually shot story of hopeless love in the midst of hopeless lives - and an intense, gut-wrenching watch to boot, offering little in the way of comfort or redemption for the viewer. Filming it can hardly have been any less traumatic, but nevertheless Mr Morris speaks with a real passion about the project. "It's the most proud I've ever been of a role," he admits. "People are really responding to it - and that's something that doesn't tend to happen with the more commercial roles I've played."
Youthful, effervescent and handsome in a way that a women's magazine might refer to as "doe eyed", the 30-year-old certainly fits the stereotype for more mainstream work - indeed, much of his career has been spent doing just that, and he's perhaps best known for recurring roles in TV dramas ER and 24. But he's always hankered after something more. "I decided that I needed to work towards getting on the track that I wanted to be on as an actor, and part of that involved doing bold stuff, stuff that scared me," he says, citing Mr Michael Fassbender's work in Shame as an inspiration. "Playing Victor was the perfect role - it scared the s*** out of me."
The London-born actor spent six weeks in Liverpool making the film, and this daring attitude immediately came in handy when he was required to get to grips with the city's notoriously tricky accent. "I'd been working with a dialect coach in LA," he recalls. "I had to really get out of that frame of mind, so they set me up with this local kid in Liverpool. We started out in the morning on this pub crawl. As I got more and more drunk, I got more confident. By the end of the day I was showing my Scouse accent off to anyone that'd listen. I even had a particular place in Liverpool that I was supposed to be from - Bootle. That's what I was going for, anyway."
Talk about jumping in at the deep end. It's no less than you'd expect from someone like Mr Morris, though, who seems to thrive outside of his comfort zone. There's something of the intrepid adventurer about him - an image that is no doubt helped by the fact that the next time we speak, he's swapped Los Angeles for the foothills of the Transylvanian mountains. "I genuinely believe that you've only got one life," he says, explaining his philosophy. "And you should max it out."
Kelly + Victor is in selected UK cinemas from 20 September