dream date

Not Your Average Heartthrob

Nicholas Galitzine can play himbo, Prince Charming, and Gen-Z queer icon. Now, he’s coming for moms.

Photo: Diego Vourakis
Photo: Diego Vourakis

Nicholas Galitzine used to hate his lips. “I thought they were very girlie,” says the 29-year-old English actor, who has a pair that would be the envy of any Los Angeles dermatologist’s waiting room. “People used to say I looked like a fish.” He hated his under-eye circles, too, which always made people worry he wasn’t sleeping enough. He blushes when I point out he’s objectively handsome. “I have what I call a ‘broken sponge,’” he explains. “I find it impossible to sponge up compliments. But I do like hearing them.” Galitzine lifts his cappuccino and sips. “I think I’ve always tried to detach myself from a self-image because as soon as I landed in L.A., everyone’s so beautiful here,” he says. “I decided the only thing that would nourish me was putting all of my effort and energy into just trying to be a great artist and a great performer.”

It’s two days after Valentine’s Day, and we’re at an outdoor café in Larchmont, the HOLLYWOOD sign visible on the hill to the north. It’s slightly chilly, but he’s doing fine in a fitted Acne Studios black sweater. More than once, I catch other patrons stealing glances at the actor, whose big hazel eyes and lullaby of a British accent make him seem like a time-traveling Jane Austen suitor with an eyebrow slit. Twice, an eager dog hops onto his knee. (Both times, he bends down to pet it affectionately.)

In two projects this spring, Galitzine plays a certified Lust Object so irresistible that falling in bed with him upends entire lives. There’s The Idea of You, the film adaptation of the horny Harry Styles fanfic novel of the same name by Robinne Lee, in which Galitzine portrays a passionate poet type in a teenybopper-bait boy band who falls for a fan’s divorced mom (Anne Hathaway). And in the historical drama Mary & George, a Starz mini-series with Julianne Moore, his character is groomed by his mother to seduce the King of England. (There’s a lingering shot of his bare butt in the pilot.) But it’s his layered performances that are garnering praise. Of his Starz series, Guardian reviewer Lucy Mangan writes, “Everyone is wonderful, including the relative newcomer Galitzine who manages to make real a character no one at all in his world cares about beyond his looks.” Michael Showalter, who directed The Idea of You, says his main draw to Galitzine was the fact he “could do the super-sexy and the comedy.” In last summer’s dark, queer feminist indie comedy Bottoms, starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott, he went all-out goofball as the almost parody of a high-school football quarterback, Jeff. (Please Google “Nicholas Galitzine Bottoms car scene” if you haven’t seen it.)

Acting was never the plan. Galitzine thought he would be an architect or a professional rugby player and remembers his teenage self as “a little shit” with an earring. The piercing remains to this day. He’s reminiscing about his daredevil youth when a motorcycle with a souped-up muffler roars past us, drowning him out. (The perils of outdoor seating in L.A.) “Huge penis that guy’s got,” Galitzine says after the bike clears.

Photo: Diego Vourakis
Photo: Diego Vourakis

In high school, he says, “I thought I was tougher than I was. I was very reckless in some ways, but I think it’s made me so much more straight-edged as an adult.” Galitzine grew up around Hammersmith in West London, less than a mile from where Robert Pattinson, one of his career idols, spent his childhood. He’s not a Hollywood nepo baby — his father is an entrepreneur who worked in London finance, and his mother stayed at home. He didn’t do great at school and ran with the wrong crowd at times. “God, I remember smoking, as a 13-year-old, Marlboro Reds, which were just hanging around my friend’s parents’ house, and just being like, This is disgusting,” he says, “but having to persevere because that’s what I thought teenagers did. Do you know the show Skins? Something akin to that.” Some friends who had studied acting convinced him to audition for an adaptation of Spring Awakening in Edinburgh fresh out of high school. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” he says, so he went for it. Plus, “there was a girl going up to Edinburgh that I really liked.” Galitzine landed a big part and an agent he’s still with today.

Both of his parents had the expected “Wait, what?” reaction when he told them he wanted to skip university and try acting right out of high school. “They started out being terrified of my job,” he says. “They’d worked so hard to give me the best chance in life. And then I’m like, ‘Psych! I’m going to go off and become a disheveled artist.’” After Edinburgh, he did a few smaller European films but still had to work other jobs part time. One was at Abercrombie, from which he was fired. “I’m sure I got some sort of lung poisoning from them spraying Fierce into the atmosphere every five minutes,” he says. And one was at a frozen-yogurt shop, from which he probably should have been fired. “I was so shit at doing the swirl,” he remembers. “The amount of times I handed over some yogurt that looked like a really sad poop …”

The first time he stayed in L.A. for an extended period was in 2018 after filming the short-lived Netflix series Chambers with Uma Thurman. (He officially made the city his home only five months ago.) The 2022 YA adaptation Purple Hearts was his first real breakthrough — with American audiences, anyway. It was not a Nicholas Sparks movie but easily could have been: Galitzine is a U.S. Marine who agrees to marry a local waitress (Sofia Carson) so she can receive medical benefits, then … dun-dun-dun, they actually fall in love. Some criticized the movie for being pro-military; one reviewer went so far as to call it MAGA. Galitzine laughs this off: “All the filmmakers and the cast and everyone who made that movie are all very liberal people.” It quickly went to No. 1 on Netflix and earned him a rabid following of very, very online teens. Most of his early films were marketed toward teens and 20-somethings. He followed Purple Hearts with yet another YA adaptation: 2023’s Red, White & Royal Blue. He plays a British prince who falls in love with the American president’s son (Taylor Zakhar Perez) in a sort of update of the popular president’s-daughter films of the ’90s and early aughts for a young queer audience.

His Instagram is still replete with comments like “We are well fed” and “Daddy? Sorry. Daddy? Sorry.” Translation: “I find you attractive and good at your job.” He’s regularly the object of TikTok fan-cams; there are Instagram stan accounts posting compilations of “Nick’s best bits.” He has played a royal on at least three occasions, which has led some fans to connect the dots to an Australian tabloid claim making the rounds online (including, at one point, on his Wikipedia page) that he’s actually Russian royalty. The actor shrugs this off: “Truthfully, I don’t really know so much about this because I think it’s something that dates back a very, very long time. But there is something historical there about the family name.” Besides, he feels more tethered to his mother’s Greek ancestry. “The reason I feel so patriotically Greek is because I grew up with just the largest family,” he says. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a lot of false stereotypes in it, but large families is not one of them.”

Naturally, his fans also obsess over whom he’s dating. He was rumored to have been romantically involved with Camila Cabello for a minute after starring alongside her in the 2021 live-action Cinderella. In reality, Galitzine has been dating his current girlfriend for about six months. “I thought the love affairs of my youth had quashed the hopeless romantic in me, but I think that will always remain,” he says. His girlfriend is a “flower person,” and this Valentine’s Day he realized flowers are “fucking great.” Men should get them, too. “I always see pictures of Jeremy Allen White walking around with a bouquet,” he says. “I think he’s onto something. I’m gonna start buying them.”

Photo: Diego Vourakis
Photo: Diego Vourakis

Serving as a conduit for Gen-Zers’ horniness has been complicated. “There’s this kind of weird paradox that’s happening whereby we supposedly are a less horny generation,” he says. “But then you spend five minutes on Twitter and everything is sexualized. I’m kind of confused about where we are as a society right now.” There aren’t many sections of society that Galitzine hasn’t made horny — he’s played queer (more than once), Disney prince, military cog, sexually fluid. He’s comfortable with it all. I point out that on Instagram, my daughter’s nanny had liked a good number of his sultrier photos. He is thrilled to discover she’s in her 40s. “I fucking love that,” he says. “I feel like I need to relay my thanks in person to her. That is definitely the demographic that I’m trying to get into.”

Onscreen, it’s a demo he’s been getting into quite literally lately. In Bottoms, his king-of-the-jocks character is revealed to be cheating on his high-school girlfriend with a local hot mom. (He was so enamored with the Bottoms script he called up writer-director Emma Seligman and pitched himself.) It’s a fitting prelude to The Idea of You, in which he falls into bed much more earnestly with another mother. Even if Galitzine hasn’t completely escaped being cast as the heartthrob, there’s something unconventional about the way he plays the archetype. His heartthrobs beguile kings. They’re omnisexual. They rail moms. In Bottoms, they rail moms and parody masculinity. They don’t just stand there to be admired; they’re characters with motives and emotions. It’s a similar career trajectory, he thinks, to his former neighbor Pattinson’s. “He’s made some amazing choices since Twilight,” he says. “And I feel like I’m sort of in the process of doing that now — shifting people’s perception of me or the parts I should play.” Galitzine can stay in the tween-heartthrob lane for as long as he wants, but no one should be surprised if he becomes a director’s actor like Jacob Elordi or Timothée Chalamet. “It’s sort of like he’s falling in love with acting and having a big career simultaneously,” Showalter says. During the pandemic, Galitzine started writing scripts and discovered a desire to produce and direct. He can be more choosy about his projects these days and says he has secured the life rights to some nonfiction stories. “There’s been a lot of saying no to things,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to be in that position now.

Showalter instantly knew Galitzine was the one for The Idea of You when they met on Zoom the night before the actor’s chemistry test with Hathaway. “I could just tell: This is the guy. He’s got the charm, he’s got the looks, he’s funny,” he recalls. “There’s a confidence to him, but it’s a comfortable confidence, not brash or swaggery. It’s someone who’s comfortable with who they are.” Already the trailer has broken the record for most views for that of any original streaming movie. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a lot of Galitzine strutting and singing onstage and a lot of watching his character’s tattooed chest slowly slide down Hathaway’s torso. In Mary & George, his character is a master tease, too, using his boyish innocence to dazzle the literal pants off royalty. But what drew him to both projects was that there’s not just sex for sex’s sake. “Female pleasure is the protagonist” in The Idea of You, he says, and “we don’t get to see that a lot.” In Mary & George, “it’s George’s power. His ability to be fluid and charm people and seduce.”

He aspires to be a singer-songwriter on the side. “I have been sort of flirting with the idea of music for quite a few years now,” Galitzine says. He first picked up a guitar in his last few months of high school, again to impress a girl — this time a musically minded one. “God, I think I’m sensing a pattern here,” he says. (See also: his Instagram, where he has posted “sad boy” acoustic covers of Lana Del Rey and Olivia Rodrigo songs and, as many zealous commenters have noted, kind of sounds like Shawn Mendes.) He’s featured on the soundtrack for a third of the movies he’s starred in — and in The Idea of You, he completes the ultimate pop-star feat by singing onstage at Coachella and doing pretty believable boy-band choreography. The fictional group’s songs are actual bops. (Music for The Idea of You was produced by Savan Kotecha, who has worked with One Direction and Ariana Grande.) “I fulfilled some childhood dreams there that night,” he says of filming the August Moon concert scene. “As long as I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb and fall off the stage, I would have accomplished my mission.”

As we get up to leave, I ask him if he needs a to-go box for his leftover banana bread. He shakes his head “no.” It’s not the classic English pub meal we were originally meant to share when we met up today, but he still managed to eat his loaf like a proper Brit, cutting it up daintily with a knife and fork. He’s had enough. He’s got some top-secret new projects coming up, he says, that he needs to, you know, look good for. “I am excited to age,” he says. “The process of gaining lines — and freckles and expressions — in your old age can only give you more tools in your performance.”

Photo: Diego Vourakis
Nicholas Galitzine Is Not Your Average Heartthrob