Meet Mr Karl Glusman, The Latest Addition To The Kravitz Clan
Mr Karl Glusman is perplexed by an article he read recently in this very publication on “How To Wear Sweatpants In Style”. The advice, to “do your loved ones a favour and refrain from wearing anything with holes,” particularly confuses him. “In our household,” he begins politely when we meet in the Los Angeles garden where his MR PORTER cover shoot has just wrapped, “holes in your T-shirts are cool.”
This is the guy who, true story, proposed to his now wife, Big Little Lies and High Fidelity star Ms Zoë Kravitz, in sweatpants and a shabby Friends T-shirt, after all. “I was on the verge of having a panic attack so I needed to get into something much more loose and comfortable,” he reasons with a smile, before digressing into full-on 1990s sitcom fandom.
“We love Friends. I tried to convince Zoë to get the furniture from the café or [Monica and Rachel’s] apartment; that picture frame around the peephole on the door. But she is strongly against any of that, like, ‘No, absolutely not!’”
Mr Glusman, 32, is quick to point out that, despite his carefree, kitsch approach to athleisure now, he was certainly not cruising around in sweatpants when he first met Ms Kravitz, 31 – the daughter of rock royalty Mr Lenny Kravitz and actor Ms Lisa Bonet, and arguably one of the coolest girls in Hollywood – back in 2016. “When we started dating, I did feel like I needed to get nicer clothes,” he says.
“It’s funny, over time you relax around each other more, and that’s when Zoë started commenting that she really liked how I was dressing. I was like, ‘This is how I’ve been dressing since middle school’. You know, sneakers, baggy pants and oversized T-shirts,” he shrugs, gesturing to his similarly casual look today. “I could have saved myself all that money.”
It’s testament to Mr Glusman’s burgeoning rising-star status that the low-key proposal in February 2018 – which led to a star-studded wedding at Mr Kravitz’s Paris home in June 2019 (more on that later) – wasn’t as spontaneous as it sounds. “With our schedules, I just didn’t know where it would happen,” he explains. “We spend a lot of time on planes, so at one point I thought, maybe I could wake her up by going down on one knee in the aisle and give her a nice heart attack at 34,000ft!”
It was landing a role in the forthcoming war movie Greyhound, and having to suddenly leave the couple’s home in New York to fly to Louisiana the next day, that gave Mr Glusman the impetus to finally pop the question. And it’s just as well. Mr Glusman went straight to New Orleans to shoot Netflix’s Wounds with Mr Armie Hammer and Ms Dakota Johnson, then immediately began work on Mr Alex Garland’s highly anticipated tech-world thriller, Devs.
The release of the latter, an ambitious eight-part series – the first TV project from the author of The Beach and director of Annihilation and Ex Machina, for FX on Hulu – looks set to catapult the artist most commonly known as “Mr Zoë Kravitz” into a different stratosphere entirely. Devs follows a computer engineer, Lily (Ms Sonoya Mizuno), as she investigates the secretive development division of her employer, a cutting-edge tech company in Silicon Valley, which she believes is behind the murder of her boyfriend, Sergei (Mr Glusman).
For Mr Glusman, who adopted an impressively accurate Russian accent and loosely based Sergei on a real-life programmer – “I won’t say who because his story is similar to my character in that he had to take a polygraph, got hired by a government agency and was sworn to secrecy” – accepting the role was a no-brainer.
“You read scripts that are a bit taxing to get to the end of, but it was so fun to read Alex’s writing. As a cast, we revered him and yet he was so open to our input. Some writers are like, ‘I wrote it this way for a reason,’ and want to assert their power. Not Alex. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with and I’m not just saying that because the show’s about to come out!”
Three projects back to back might sound like a dream scenario, but for Mr Glusman, it was more like a lifeline. Despite a promising (albeit controversial) start to his Hollywood career with a leading role in Mr Gaspar Noé’s erotic arthouse film Love (2015), which led to parts in Nocturnal Animals and Neon Demon in 2016, Mr Glusman was out of work for a whole year before this latest hat-trick turned his luck around. An occupational hazard for sure, but how does he cope with such dry spells? “Hobbies are good. I love building up and riding bicycles. The one I’ve been spending most of my time on – my baby – is a fixed-gear Cannondale Track 1992,” he says proudly. “Some people think it’s cool, others think it’s super nerdy, but it’s a beautiful, sought-after frame. I get a lot of compliments when I go into the bike shop, but my wife looks at it and she’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s a bicycle’. I put on real flattering spandex and go fast so none of my friends recognise me.”
Mr Glusman also writes; he’s currently on his fifth draft of a screenplay. “It’s quite fun to be the god of your own imaginary world but there’s something terrifying about going into an empty room and punching the keys [on your computer],” he admits. “You have to enjoy the process – whether or not it turns into a movie that anyone ever sees – because if you worry that you’re doing all this and it might turn into nothing, and that stresses you out, then you’re living in hell.”
At the moment, Mr Glusman and Ms Kravitz are renting an apartment (belonging to La La Land director Mr Damien Chazelle, no less) in the laid-back, sun-kissed neighbourhood of Venice Beach, while their house in Williamsburg is under construction. The hipster Brooklyn neighbourhood is a far cry from the Bronx, where Mr Glusman was born before his parents moved him and his younger sister, Ms Elizabeth Glusman, to Portland, Oregon. “I think my parents wanted to get as far from the Bronx as possible,” he says. “They didn’t want to raise children in the city, they wanted space.”
Mr Glusman was four or five when his parents divorced. “It was one of my first memories. As a kid you blame yourself. You don’t know why they’ve split, they’re not going to tell you the real reasons, and you’re thinking, ‘Was it something I did wrong?’ And, of course, they tell you it’s not you, but you don’t believe them,” he says with a soft laugh.
Mr Glusman’s mother was the one who introduced him to Mr Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, jumpstarting an early interest in arthouse films. Not that he knew back then what his aspirations were. This is not the predictable tale of a theatre kid. In fact, an incident at elementary school almost put him off entirely.
“When I was 10, I wanted to be a comedian,” he says, recalling the time he told a risqué joke at a school talent show, to the amusement of the parents in the audience, but not the teacher who had warned him not to. “She came out and grabbed the mic off me, then my dad was like, ‘Hey, lay off my kid,’ and the whole talent show came crashing down.” What was the joke? Mr Glusman looks sheepish, but can remember every word. “Gee whizz, I really wish I understood this rating system they have for movies. Wait a second, I have a theory. G means, ‘nobody gets the girl’. PG means, ‘the good guy gets the girl’, R means, ‘the bad guy gets the girl’ and NC-17 means, ‘everybody gets the girl!’”
It wasn’t until Mr Glusman had enrolled in a business course at Portland State University – where he excelled in a public-speaking class – that he realised he was a born performer. He went on to study at New York’s prestigious William Esper Studio, which boasts famous alumni including Messrs Larry David and Rami Malek. “When a guy like William tells you he believes in you, that means a lot. He invested time and would speak to me after class. He told me, ‘Be confident, you can play this part.’”
Mr Glusman certainly needed that confidence when he signed up to play the lead role in Argentinian experimental filmmaker Mr Gaspar Noé’s largely improvised “3D pornographic” film Love. Dubbed “The Most NSFW Movie of the Year” by The Daily Beast when it premiered at Cannes in 2015, the film features full-frontal nudity, un-simulated sex scenes and ejaculation. In short, it would require a leap of faith for any actor. For an unknown, it was a risky debut.
“I was terrified,” recalls Mr Glusman, who almost bolted on the first day of filming. “I remember being in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to psych myself up but really thinking, ‘I should run back to Charles de Gaulle airport and go home because this is a big mistake.”
His parents were equally freaked out. “Before I started filming, I made them promise they would never watch it. Of course, my mum tried to watch the opening credits on Netflix and very quickly went, ‘Oh no, not for me!’ At one point, my dad recommended I go on Wikipedia to fill it out more so people didn’t think I was – in his words – a ‘porn actor.’”
However, once Mr Glusman understood that Mr Noé’s vision was to show a realistic depiction of a young couple in love, he felt better about the nudity of it all. “It felt like a very noble cause to make a movie that felt like a real memory,” he explains. “I’m quite proud of it. I know it’s not for everyone, but visually, it’s the most beautiful film I’ve ever been in.”
How Mr Glusman came to be cast in Love could be turned into a screenplay itself. Long story short: he’d had his heart broken, shaved his head, and had fled to Paris in an attempt to exorcise the dreadful time he once had there with his ex. While there, he met a girl who claimed to be friends with (one of his favourite film directors) Mr Gaspar Noé.
“I didn’t believe her at all. I was like, ‘bullshit’, it’s like saying, ‘I know Stanley Kubrick’ – ‘No, you don’t’. A few months later, she texts me, ‘Send me a selfie, Gaspar’s looking for an American for his next movie.’ Next thing, I’m having a panic attack because one of my heroes is calling me.”
It’s safe to say the risk paid off – and that he and Paris have now well and truly made up. After all, it is where he and Ms Kravitz chose to get married. “It really is the city of love. Literally, in so many ways for me,” he laughs. “The wedding day itself was really sweet. I was really nervous that I wouldn’t even have fun at my own wedding.”
That’s not surprising when you’re marrying into the Kravitz dynasty; not only gaining a rock god for a father-in-law, but a mother-in-law who’s married to Hollywood heavyweight Mr Jason Momoa. “I wanted her parents to like me. And I think I was even more nervous with her mom,” admits Mr Glusman, launching into his “meet the parents” story – one he’d rather forget.
“When I met her for the first time, I was trying to stay out of the sun. I was filming Gypsy and needed to look pale because my character was depressed,” he explains. “I was in Topanga Canyon in long sleeves, sunglasses and this big hat pulled down low. I was all covered up like a freak!
“In hindsight, it’s like, ‘Dude, you are being so weird in front of her mom.’ She says she doesn’t remember, but I think she’s just being kind…” Quite possibly. But then, this is the guy who proposed in sweatpants and a Friends T-shirt. He probably pulled off this look with exactly the same pizzazz.
Devs is streaming now on Hulu