Since being nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award in 2014, London-born actor George MacKay’s star has certainly been on the rise. He is currently dominating the big screen in one of the best and most decorated pictures of the year, the Sir Sam Mendes directed, co-written ( with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) and produced WW1 epic, 1917. George plays the lead character, Lance Corporal William Schofield, who along with fellow Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission, to cross no man’s land to deliver a warning to the commanding officer of the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call of an attack that will jeopardise the lives of 1,600 men, including Tom’s brother.
Sir Sam based the screenplay on a ‘fragment’ of a story, told to him as a child by his grandfather Alfred Mendes, a native of Trinidad, who was a messenger for the British on the Western Front. At its core it is “the story of a messenger, who has a message to carry”, said Sir Sam. George’s ‘messenger’ very rarely leaves the screen, because of the decision to film and edit the picture to appear as one take – actually two takes, split with a blackout at the midpoint when he is knocked unconscious – he is almost continuously on screen for the entire two hours of the film. 1917 was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three and nine BAFTAs, winning seven including Best Picture.
It’s not the first war film George has starred in. He was Private Tommo Peaceful in the 2012 adaption of Michael Morpurgo’s PRIVATE PEACEFUL and Lutz, the son of a high-ranking SS officer in Nazi Germany in the rite-of-passage war drama WHERE HANDS TOUCH in 2018. In 2013 he won a Scottish BAFTA for his portrayal of Aaron, an ostracised misfit and sole survivor of a strange fishing accident in FOR THOSE IN PERIL. Other prominent roles included playing Viggo Mortensen’s son, Bodevan Cash in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016), earning a Screen Actors Guild nomination as part of the cast. George won the Trophee Chopard last year at the Cannes Film Festival. His next film role is the outlaw Ned Kelly in Justin Kurzel’s TRUE HISTORY OF THE NED KELLY GANG with Russell Crowe, due for release in the UK at the end of February and the US in April.
He has also walked the boards in the West End, most recently as Mick in the Old Vic’s production of Harold Pinter’s THE CARETAKER (2016), opposite Timothy Spall and Daniel Mays.
George signed my sketch for me at the Corinthia Hotel in London as he was leaving to attend the BAFTA Awards earlier this month.