The theatre director’s second feature, which tells a tale of forbidden love and repression in 1950s England, was remarkably easy to cast Harry Styles and Emma Corrin for. “[Styles] was very clear, saying, “I’ve done one film, and I’m just making another, and I know that I would love something like this to be my next film project,”” the theatre director said.
Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh/Parisa Taghizadeh/Prime Video – © Amazon Content Services LLC
Although My Policeman director Michael Grandage had a good idea of Harry Styles’ star power when he first cast him, it wasn’t until rumours of the musician’s participation in the movie went public that it really hit home. My Policeman is Grandage’s sophomore film and is an adaptation of the 2012 romance novel by Bethan Roberts.
“Book sales just shot through the roof as word started to spread. It was absolutely wild, according to the British theatre director who made his debut as a filmmaker in 2016 with the Berlinale-bowing Genius. “This poor, charming author who had been idly going about her job overnight became a best-selling novelist. Oh my God, I see, that’s the power of this, I thought.
My Policeman, which is with Amazon Prime Video and makes its world premiere on September 11 at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a story of forbidden love in 1950s Britain when same-sex relationships were forbidden. Styles plays Tom, a police officer who falls in love with museum curator Patrick (David Dawson). While the two maintain their secret connection, Tom marries Marion, a local schoolteacher (Emma Corrin), whose enmity would have negative effects. The three, who are now in the 1990s and are portrayed by Linus Roache, Rupert Everett, and Gina McKee, respectively, are still wracked with sorrow but work to undo the harm they caused 40 years ago.
It may seem difficult to get Styles’ attention given his successful music career and busy travelling schedule. Grandage acknowledges that they never actually approached the actor, who at the time My Policeman was in development had only appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (although it was known that he would also be appearing in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, which would shoot almost concurrently with My Policeman).
When word of the movie script spread, Styles’ team got in touch, saying he’d enjoyed it and wanted to talk about it more. Shortly after, the director met someone in Grandage’s West End office in London who could not only speak “very, very eloquently” about what he could add to the character of Tom but had studied the script and novel cover to cover. He was extremely explicit when he said, “I’ve done one picture, and I’m just making another, and I know that I would love something like this to be my next film project,” according to Grandage.
It may have been surprisingly easy for Grandage to cast one of the biggest pop stars in the world for his upcoming film, but he also had fantastic luck casting a future princess. Corrin had been mentioned by a producer who claimed to have heard “on the grapevine very good things, and that they were very, very interesting” before it was revealed that they would be playing Diana Spencer in The Crown. With Styles attached, however, Grandage was concerned about finding someone few had heard of before to play My Policeman’s other major part.
Regarding Corrin, he writes, “but the general assumption was that the world would have known of them quite fast, not just with Diana but everything else.” The general consensus was accurate (Corrin also recently landed the lead part in Netflix’s upcoming Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and their already skyrocketing star power appears likely to continue). Then, like with Styles, he met the actor and knew right away. It was clear to me that the person I was with in the room was passionate about playing this part and knew exactly what they wanted to bring to it.
Grandage says he “loved, loved, loved every part of working on” his first feature, which focused on the relationship between author Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins, six years ago. He has been itching to return to the director’s chair ever since. He started working on multiple projects in addition to juggling his theatre obligations (his Michael Grandage Company has performed Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore throughout the years, among other plays). However, producers Greg Berlanti and Robbie Roger introduced him to My Policeman over dinner in New York, and he immediately got to work.
Grandage was particularly intrigued to the “political side” of the subject and the idea of making a movie that has “something to say as part of a wider debate” in today’s culture, and he claims that Styles was too. He also claims that despite the historical setting of My Policeman, it has an unfortunate poignancy because of how much “significant development” has been done since the 1950s.