From director Joachim Rønning, the fantasy epic Maleficent: Mistress of Evil delves deeper into the bond between the dark fae Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her human goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning), as the complex family ties that bind them are tested. And while the impending nuptials between Aurora and Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) are a cause for celebration and a uniting of two worlds, they also lead to new enemies and unexpected allies.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actor Harris Dickinson about what made him want to play a Disney prince, getting to explore his character’s own family drama, what the first day on set was like, and the most memorable scene he shot. He also talked about being a part of The King’s Man, a prequel in the Kingsman franchise, and getting to be a part of the action.
Collider: It seems like it would just be so much fun to do a movie like this, but what specifically made you want to do this?
HARRIS DICKINSON: That’s hard. I can’t nail down one thing. It was the prospect of working with Angelina [Jolie], Michelle [Pfeiffer] and Elle [Fanning], in that capacity. I think if I told myself, when I was at 10 years old, that I was going to be playing a prince in a Disney film, I probably would have laughed. I was a little chubby kid. I wasn’t a cool kid. That wasn’t me. So, to be a prince is pretty wild, and I loved it.
Was it also fun that this was a prince who has his own story, and is not just there to fall in love in the fairy tale?
DICKINSON: Yeah, for sure. That was part of the appeal of it, as well. There is a journey. He’s supporting the story of [Aurora] and [Maleficent], but he’s fleshed out and he’s got his own struggles that he’s dealing with. That was a massive appeal, to be able to explore those things, as well.
Having also recently done the FX series Trust, about the Getty family, have you noticed the running theme of dysfunctional families, in your work?
DICKINSON: It’s that thing of wanting to just get away from your weird family. And I don’t have that. My family is so lovely. I had to dig deep for that. I had to explore some other worlds for that.
What was the first day on this set like? What was the first scene you shot?
DICKINSON: Elle and Angie had already been filming for a week or so, and then I came in and one of my first scenes was me having to propose. I walked into the studio and there were trees and a real lake. I was not expecting that level of set design. Obviously, I knew it was going to be large in scale, but I walked in and it was just this massive studio. Elle was there, looking incredible, and we’d only rehearsed a few times together. I was there in this costume and wig that I was still getting used to, and I was trying to stand up straight and remember my character. It was a lot. It was a lot on the senses. I just had to jump into it, but it was fun because everyone was lovely.
Did you have a day when you came to set and felt like you really knew who Prince Philip was?
DICKINSON: Yeah. I was lucky that I had a lot of time with Joachim [Rønning], our director, beforehand. He was really generous with what he shared and how much information he was able to give about Prince Phillip, the family, and their relationship. So, maybe the point where I started walking with Michelle, I started to figure out where it was come from and what he was fighting against.
Was there a day on set that was most memorable?
DICKINSON: There was a scene, towards the end of the film, and I won’t give it away, but I make a speech. There were maybe 400 people, all looking at me, and I just blocked what that pressure might be, until I got there, in that very moment and was about to do it. It was like, “3, 2, 1 . . . Action!” And I looked around, and everyone was silent and looking at me, waiting for me to deliver my lines, including Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. So, that was a pretty big moment that I had to get through, but it was fine. It wasn’t even just a nerve-wracking moment. It was a special moment. I was like, “Wow, this is pretty cool. I’m doing this.” And then, I started to enjoy it and probably got a little bit too much like, “I’m gonna tell you what to do!”
At any point, were you ever disappointed that you were playing a human prince, while you were surrounded by fairies and people with horns and wings?
DICKINSON: That’s the thing, I’d bump into Ed [Skrein] on set, and he’d have been through four or five hours of make-up, and maybe more. He was so graceful about it. He’d never complain, but he was getting up at two in the morning. And it was the same with Angelina. I enjoyed my time in bed, even if it was a 5am wake up. I had an hour for the wig. They looked cool, but I was rested.
You went from Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to The King’s Man. How different did that feel?
DICKINSON: It was probably a little more hands on with the action stuff in that, and a lot more physical. It was a great bunch of people with a great director (Matthew Vaughn). It was a really great experience with great material to get stuck into. It’s a period piece, and I got to explore that world and research that era, which was fun.
It seems like a cool way to join a story like that, where you have the other Kingsman films to look at, but this is its own thing.
DICKINSON: Yeah, there’s no pressure. It’s not like the pressure of a sequel, necessarily, where you’ve got to come in and continue the story. What Matthew has done with this is that he’s gone back to the origins of it. That gives you more creative license with what you can do, as well, because you’re not living up to the legacy of another character. That was fun.
Did you enjoy getting to do the more physical action work for that?
DICKINSON: Yeah, it’s fun. There are definitely moments where you pinch yourself and think, “This is my job.” There were moments on set, where I just looked around and was like, “Guys, we’re working right now.” Some of the things we got to do were so cool. It was tough. I remember feeling sorry for myself, a few times, and then being like, “Okay, don’t complain. You’ve got no right to complain.” I remember going home to my girlfriend and she’d be like, “Are all right?” And I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just a little bit beaten up.” But, I enjoyed it.
You’ve certainly been doing some really interesting roles, in very different kinds of projects. Do you feel like you’ve just been lucky, in that sense, or has any of that been intentional?
DICKINSON: I definitely know what I like, and I definitely know what I want to do, and the sort of things that I want to work on and unpack. I’ve been very lucky. I’ll hold my hands up and say that. I feel fortunate, in that sense. I’m just going with the flow and trying to appreciate it.
Is there a type of project or a kind of character, or something from some other kind of source material that you’d love the chance to do?
DICKINSON: There’s nothing specific that comes to mind. I just think characters and stories that push the envelope a little bit, and challenge perspectives, and force me to learn with the role, is the main appeal, really. I want to entertain and do something that people enjoy.
Now that you’ve played a Disney prince, do you want to play a really evil villain?
DICKINSON: I’ve got this film coming out, called County Lines, and I play the villain in that. I’m a drug dealer in it, and I got to do that right after I filmed Maleficent, which was fun. I got to go and do something completely different and a little more dangerous, in that sense. That was fun.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is now playing in theaters.