How cool is the name Taron? It means thunder in Welsh (not really, actually: the correct word is ‘taran’) but it evokes a fascinating mix of Druids and Norse mythology all at the same time. Total Sturm und Drang. Yet Taron Egerton, the man, is thunderous in name only: in fact, he almost amazes you with his grace, modesty, and measure. Taron Egerton the actor, on the other hand, is storm-like. He channelled this in his most important role so far, that of Elton John in Rocketman, a masterful interpretation that rightfully earned him a Golden Globe and could have earned him an Oscar if a certain Bohemian Rhapsody hadn’t come out shortly before.
But that was yesterday: today, or rather back on March 31st, the retromaniac Tetris began streaming on Apple TV, a “biopic” dedicated to the Soviet game, constructivist in every sense, which for decades has been massaging the synapses of billions of people. A kind of digital Rubik’s Cube. Egerton plays Henk Rogers, a vivacious Dutch entrepreneur whose obsession with the game ends up taking him to the USSR during the end of the Cold War to try to secure distribution rights. What follows is exciting para-espionist intrigues against the backdrop of the eternal struggle between capital and labour, with obscure English businessman Robert Maxwell and even Michail Gorbachev in the middle. We’ll say no more, except that on the one hand it sheds an almost analogical light on the gamified society – sometimes to the point of cretinism – in which we live. On the other hand it creates an illuminating narrative and historiographical short circuit on all too unfortunate contemporary events.
But does Egerton, a thirty-three year old, play Tetris?
“I’m not a gamer, but I was into it as a child. I was a Gameboy addict. I discovered Tetris when I was 10, about a decade after its release,” says Egerton. “I did [Tetris] because I thought it was a crazy story. And according to Matthew Vaughn, who produced it, it would have been a completely new and fun experience for me. It’s a film that probably would have been very different if we had known what was going to happen after only two years.”
His portrayal of Henk Rogers is one that’s lovable, a character with energy and candor. A placid tuna in a tank of piranhas, in large numbers on both sides of the Curtain (of iron, not d’Ampezzo). “I like his unashamed enthusiasm and lack of cynicism. He’s not a cool character. And what I’m learning about myself as I get older (!) is that I’m not, either. I found an affinity in that. He’s not interested in being liked, he’s just very taken by what he likes.”
Throughout his career, Egerton has been able to demonstrate a remarkable ability to learn new skills in order to dive deeper into roles. He learned to play the piano, sing, archery, ski jump. But when it comes to his free time, he has rediscovered the archetype of physical activity: that of Pheidippides, the marathon runner.
“Yes, I started running again, an activity I did a lot in my late teens. I was awkward and overweight and therefore a little unhappy, I don’t know what resulted from what. In my early 20s I quit, without even knowing why. But I recently picked up. And it was a revelation. I like the meditative aspect of running.”
Egerton is right. Running is a wonderful form of psychological redemption, the endorphins make you feel… forgiven. And then, it opens a hole in ourselves from which we can look at ourselves without filters: in short, it’s perfect for the early midlife crises of those who have to stay young by profession. “At 33 I feel in a period of transition. It’s a strange feeling to be closer to 40 than 20. I’m finally starting to understand who I am, what I want, what I like. And running seems to have coincided with this. I know it’s boring!”
In a historical moment in which the United Kingdom seems busy dividing itself, we cannot fail to ask an Anglo-Welshman like Egerton the question of identity: “My mother is English, but she has lived in Wales for over a quarter of a century.” And I don’t think he considers himself particularly British. “I think it’s a bit like moving from Asia or Africa to the UK as a child: you get a sense of Britishness. I feel that way about Wales. None of my frames of reference, or experiences, come from growing up in England. I have lived in Wales most of my life and I love it. It’s still my home. I want to end my life in Aberystwyth, where I come from. I feel European, yes. We live in a world defined by global trade and the ability to move freely from one continent to another. And I think the notions of fixed identity are antiquated. I’d much rather be a citizen of the world than some fucking island nation. It’s just my idea of the world that comes from a very limited political understanding. But I instinctively feel that nationalism is not healthy.”
Suddenly, we are evidently in the epilogue moment of the interview, the one in which we were considering putting forward our candidacy for president of his Italian fan club. But before leaving, we wanted to ask him a few words about Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, X-Men, etc.) who was on board as producer for Tetris – along with Vaughn’s wife supermodel Claudia Schiffer – with whom Egerton is a friend, colleague and companion (they worked together on two instalments of the Kingsmen films). Only because we had met – interviewed – both Vaughn and Schiffer years ago. “Yes, Matthew has a reputation for being tough. We have known each other for exactly 10 years. I will never forget that meeting. I had an audition with him and during it he never once looked at me! I was furious. Then, after the audition, he says to me: ‘What’s your name, sorry?’. And I, a bit miffed, said ‘My name’s Taron.’
“And there I felt a sudden sense of affinity, that he was going to be a very important figure in my life. And it remained. We made five films together. Sometimes it pisses me off. He’s crazy. But I love him so much. It changed my life. I’d walk on hot coals for him.”
Photography: Gavin Bond
Fashion Stylist: Mark Holmes
Grooming: Sonia Lee
Producer: Michael “Skiny” Power
Photographed at: Lacy Street Studios
Words: Leonardo Clausi
EXPLORE THE FULL FASHION EDITORIAL WITH TARON EGERTON HERE.
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