In the December issue of InStyle, on newsstands and available for digital download now, actor Garrett Hedlund opens up about pliés, working with Angelina Jolie, the trouble with birthday parties, and all the ways girlfriend Kirsten Dunst has helped hone his laid-back style. The following is an excerpt from his Man of Style feature.
"It's too early for jazz hands, right?" says Garrett Hedlund, the rugged actor one might not associate with razzle-dazzle. It's 10 o'clock on a brilliant L.A. morning, and Hedlund, who grew up on a cattle farm, is recounting the first day of a jazz-dance class he took at age 16. His manager at the time had recommended that he get in touch with his 6-foot-2-inch trapezoidal frame. The former high school football player was the only male, surrounded by a bevy of bemused cheerleaders. "One minute we were stretching, and then suddenly," he says, wincing, "I had to pirouette across the room all by myself and do a split in the air."
Those awkward jetés paid off. Within a few years the determined actor landed his first big-screen role as the loyal warrior Patroclus in Troy (2004), and he has been racking up worthy and varied credits as rebellious son Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy (2010), crooner Beau Hutton in Country Strong (2010), heartthrob miscreant Dean Moriarty in On the Road (2012), and, last year, taciturn valet Johnny Five in Inside Llewyn Davis. Happily, a decade spent in Hollywood hasn't sapped his small-town sincerity. He makes and maintains eye contact and has a firm grip on handshakes and reality. "Knowing how to knot a bow tie is less important to me than opening a door for someone or just being polite," says Hedlund. Rooney Mara, who co-stars with him in the upcoming Pan, was charmed by his thoughtfulness: "Garrett is really crafty. He wove this kind of strap for me out of leather so I could walk both of my dogs on one leash."
This month, the gentleman plays an officer who's been captured in Unbroken (in theaters Dec. 25), a WWII-era drama based on the New York Times best-seller by Laura Hillenbrand. "I loved the story so much that I told Angie I literally would be the caterer's assistant to work on it," says Hedlund.
Was it intimidating to work with Angelina Jolie in her role as director?
No. She's very nurturing. She was open to any sort of improvisational story we could offer that might enhance the character. And she knows how to guide a ship beautifully. We had almost 200 extras as POWs on set every day. She kept everything perfectly afloat.
You seem to maintain a get-the- job-done-quietly ethic. So many actors tweet or post on Facebook, but not you.
I just can't describe my life in a hashtag. That's not my style. I've always felt more of a longing for the timeless things in life. I would rather read a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Sir Walter Scott. When I'm traveling I write things down in long form in yellow notebooks—I've been doing that ever since I was in high school.
Do you ever read old entries and cringe with embarrassment?
No, but some of it is so sad. There's something more fulfilling about moving someone to tears than creating a happy moment—you know, the way sad song lyrics strike the heart chords.
So let's move on to a lighter subject—like how you'd describe your personal style.
I'm much happier in just jeans, a T-shirt, and boots than in a suit. But I also have a tendency to get overdressed, like wearing a tuxedo to a casual cocktail party
What do you like to see on a woman?
I have always liked the clothing in period pieces—those old-fashioned styles.
Are we talking about a corset and a hoopskirt on a dinner date?
Oh, no! Though I appreciate the intricacy of those clothes whenever I work on a period film. Honestly, I can't say I have a preference about what a woman wears to dinner. Whatever makes her feel most like herself is probably the best choice.
You're the face of YSL's cologne La Nuit de l'Homme. Your girlfriend, Kirsten Dunst, is no slouch either in the style department. Who shops for whom?
Well, she doesn't really shop for me. But her style and everything else about her never cease to amaze me. For my 28th birthday she bought me a Rolex from 1957, which is the same year that Jack Kerouac's book On the Road came out. Let's just say that it looked like someone squirted lemon juice in my eyes, I was so moved.
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