Life & Culture

Is Anthony Boyle the New De Niro?

After a stellar performance in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Belfast-born chameleon is ready for his next spellbinding adventure

  • TextHynam Kendall
  • PhotographyMarton Perlaki
  • StylingEllie Grace Cumming

Taken from the A/W17 issue of Another Man.

Anthony Boyle is many people. During the course of our meeting, he takes on multiple incarnations. At one point he is Wee Sammy Boyle, his beloved grandfather, as he recounts the first time he ever heard the words of Shakespeare. “I was having my breakfast and suddenly he just goes at it,” Boyle says, his manner suddenly transforming as he launches into The Merchant of Venice: “O my ducats… O my Christian ducats!” He breaks character to laugh. “Wee Sammy Boyle’s got a bad hand from an accident when he was younger, so he wears a glove, and I’ve always said when he dies I’m gonna take that glove and play Richard III with it in his honour! When I go back to Belfast, we always have a joke about when he’s gonna go so I can play Richard!”

Boyle doesn’t so much tell the story as live it; a conversation with him is one-on-one theatre. Such is his transformative power that a casting agent friend said: “Be prepared to meet the new De Niro!”

He is best known for his role as the hero and Hogwarts student Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II, which opened at London’s Palace theatre setting a West End record of 175,000 tickets sold in less than 24 hours. It was a part he got “unexpectedly” whilst still training at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and a piece of theatre “that has changed the game,” he beams. One critic said the title of the play, which is now moving to Broadway, should have been ‘Scorpius Malfoy and the Stolen Show’, so good was Boyle’s performance; he went on to win the Olivier award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Preparing to play the part, he watched countless videos of disabled dogs on YouTube, “because it said the character was from a pure bloodline”, he reasons. “So this idea of inbreeding came through in my mind, and I found myself watching footage of what happens to animals when they’re that type of pure blood.”

He stands to buckle his own two legs to imitate the health problems of thoroughbreds. He also learned a myriad of magic tricks – there were levitating broomsticks, visceral explosions and craning Dementors dancing through the air – but he can’t divulge any of the technical wizardry involved. “And you don’t really want to know either,” he says. “Magic isn’t the trick itself, but the belief, the story behind it. You don’t really want to know how it’s done. The reveal’s not the magic bit.”

Boyle’s ascent continues with a weighty lead in the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence. He’d never read Christie before, but after the first four lines of Sarah Phelps’ script, he called his agent. And then there’s the Amazon/ Channel 4 series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, a project in which each episode is a standalone short story from the science fi ction master’s expansive canon, with a different cast, writer and director for each. “I’m working on projects that I actually want to watch myself,” he says, but admits that it’s theatre that has cast a spell on him. “My dream role is to work on a play by Jez Butterworth, I’d do literally anything he writes – he’s my favourite. Rooster in Jerusalem would be the ideal part if Mark Rylance hadn’t been so perfect in it, making it impossible for anyone else to play it!”

“Theatre is such a mystical process,” he continues. “Not just performing, but being in the audience too: going in, sitting down, the lights go off, no one’s checking their phones, checking Instagram, Love Island, or whatever it’s called… There’s the ritual of it; it feels almost religious. You sit collectively in silence in a dark room with a couple of hundred strangers and you laugh together. You cry together. You’re all watching together, saying, ‘Deceive me!’ It’s just the most magic thing you can experience in real life.”

Hair David Harborow at Streeters; Skincare James O’Riley at Premier Hair and make-up using ELEMIS; Photographic assistants Alexa Horgan, Joe Wilson; Styling assistant Jordan Duddy.