Photography by Mr AJ Numan | Styling by Ms Tanja Martin
Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler
The first thing that strikes us when we meet Mr Cullen in a West London photographic studio is his resemblance to Sir Sean Connery, circa his 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. The 26-year-old actor has a sophisticated look and manner that belies his age. Perhaps that's because, having started acting school in his native Wales at a relatively late 22, he has some life experience beyond the glittery confines of the stage
He highly impressed critics with his breakthrough performance in Mr Andrew Haigh's independent film Weekend. The New York Times called the movie, which portrays a life-changing affair between two men in post-Industrial Nottingham, "one of the most satisfying love stories you are likely to see on screen this year". Mr Cullen has already won a Best Actor award at the Nashville Film Festival for his performance, and has been cast in World Without End, the sequel to the multi-Emmy-nominated Channel 4 drama The Pillars of the Earth.
Watching the film, Mr Cullen appears strikingly more rugged and seasoned than so many of his groomed contemporaries - a man in his mid-twenties rather than a guy waxing, exercising or dieting away the evidence that he's a grown man in order to pander to Hollywood's obsession with youth. The fashion world has taken notice of his old-school masculinity - legendary photographer Mr Bruce Weber shot him for Italian Vogue.
Mr Cullen's Connery-like suavity is emphasised by the sumptuous burgundy turtleneck and midnight blue lounge suit he's been dressed in for the shoot - and by the glass of Scotch he's louchely gripping (and sipping between shots). By the time he sits down to talk about style and cinematic romance, he's changed into his own clothes - plum chinos and a navy pea coat over a V-neck T-shirt. His clothes may be more casual, but his stance is still as elegant - proving that style is as much about attitude as formal attire.
Weekend is your first major film role - how did you start acting?
I haven't been acting very long. I started doing a lot of DJing when I was 12 years old and used to run a night with a friend of mine. I then went to drama school quite late. I always wanted to be an actor but I didn't realise I actually could do it. I put it off for a while, but then I realised I wasn't fulfilled in what I was doing with my life, so I woke up one day and applied for drama school.
Would you say you're defined by your career as an actor?
Yes, I think it helps define who I am. But ultimately I think I'm defined by the relationships that I have and the choices I make.
Which actor's style do you admire, both professionally and sartorially?
I think Javier Bardem is a fantastic actor. When I was 15, I saw him in a film called Before Night Falls, in which he also plays a gay character. That film made me want to be an actor. There's an endless depth to Bardem's acting, and he pulls off so many contradictions in a character. He makes it look effortless, which is admirable. His style seems effortless, too.
There are some quite graphic sex scenes in Weekend. Not being gay, was it a challenge to make them convincing?
I find it quite frustrating how people concentrate on the gay element of the story. I'm an actor, and love is love. Love for a woman or a man is exactly the same thing - it's the same chemical reaction. When I play Russell and I look at [Russell's lover] Glen, I'm in love with him. The sex scenes weren't awkward because I was Russell, and I was in love, and I wanted to have sex with Glen. Sexual drive doesn't change whatever your sexual preference is. And that is what's great about this film - it's not a "gay" film, but a love story that happens to be about two men. I hope it can transcend between the boundaries of sexuality, as we should be living in a world where those borders fall apart and don't mean anything.
Can you tell me about World Without End, the character you play in it and what drew you to the project?
I'm filming it in Hungary and it's for Ridley Scott's production company. As an actor, I like to stretch myself and so I'm playing something completely different - a salt-of-the-earth farmer who sees everything as black and white, right or wrong. He ends up leading a peasant revolt - I'm always interested in revolution!
What do you think are the five items every man should own in his wardrobe?
I think everyone should have a really good pair of boots. I love motorbikes - and I'm going to treat myself to a nice big bike soon and I'll need good boots for that. I think a fitted jacket and a maroon pair of chinos look good right now. And I think it's good to wear an item that has a story attached to it. I wear my grandfather's flat cap so I always have a piece of him with me.
What are you looking to buy at the moment in terms of clothes?
I tried on a white Givenchy shirt during the shoot and I love that it's so crisp. It makes me feel kind of powerful and sexy. I also like wearing rollnecks, as they make me feel like George Harrison. Other than that, I love the fit of Paul Smith clothes. If I'm going to spend money on a piece of clothing, I think the line is very important - and Paul Smith makes the right cut for my frame.
How do you approach eveningwear?
I like to be understated. I like to wear something smart and mix in something a bit more casual. I'm wearing Dunhill at the moment and I really like E. Tautz's tailoring. I'll get a suit from them and probably wear it with a pair of boots. I love dressing up and looking smart, but I like an undertone of relaxed comfort because I'm not a showy person and it makes me feel more at ease.
Weekend is out now in the UK.