To quote a lyric, Harry Styles and Nick Kroll have kissed in the kitchen like it’s a dance floor. Or, if not a kitchen, a midcentury-decorated living room.
The two actors share a quick peck on the lips in the opening scene of director Olivia Wilde’s thriller Don’t Worry Darling, which is out today (it’s a kiss they replicated on the red carpet at the film’s world premiere at the Venice Film Festival).
But Kroll tells EW the moment wasn’t scripted, or even discussed with Styles before it happened. “We just went for it,” he laughs. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, in this next take, let’s kiss.’ It was spur of the moment. As it was, frankly, in Venice as well. There was no conversation before where it was like, ‘Hey, heads up, let’s kiss in front of the entire world.’ But I definitely think my stock went up with my nieces and nephews. And every teenage girl and boy around the world.”
Kroll describes the environment on the Don’t Worry Darling set as playful and loose, making it conducive to such moments as the kiss happening organically. That scene, although it opens the movie, was shot on the final day of filming, and is the perfect encapsulation of that freedom.
“The opening scene of the film was the last day of production because of COVID and everything going on,” Kroll explains. “That scene is really supposed to be the height of fun, loose Rat Pack energy. Olivia let us play and improvise. That just organically happened. And then they used it in the movie.”
Don’t Worry Darling follows happily married Jack (Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh), whose idyllic life in a cul-de-sac straight out of Mad Men is disrupted when Alice begins to wonder if everything is really as it seems. Kroll takes on a supporting role as Dean, Jack’s neighbor and co-worker, and husband to Wilde’s Bunny.
We called up Kroll to not only get intel on smooching Styles, but to talk about why he’s eager to do more dramas, and the surreal nature of attending the premiere in Venice.
Warner Bros. Pictures
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, you and Harry, engagement announcement coming any day now?
NICK KROLL: [Laughs] Ironically, Harry was the first person to find out I was engaged. Because while we were filming, my wife and I got engaged. And I was talking to the cast, like, “How should I do it?” And I had this long conversation about what to do, and then proposed the next day. Harry happened to text me being like, “Has it happened yet?” And I was like, “Yes, and she said yes.” And then we told our parents, so literally, he’s an active part of my marriage. We’ll see what happens from here.
All of your cast mates except Harry are fairly experienced actors. Tell me more about that working relationship.
You would never know that he has not done a lot of acting. He’s such a natural performer. It was such a stacked cast. Starting with Florence, who is such a masterful actor at such a young age, so in control of her instrument. Chris Pine doesn’t normally get to play a villain. He’s so creepy and good in the movie, and Gemma Chan plays his wife, slightly creepy but elegant.
I’m playing opposite Olivia, who directs the movie. I’m playing her husband. It’s high praise to be cast to play the husband of the director in the movie. Watching her navigate directing and acting at the same time was very impressive. Everyone across the board is very good at what they do. You would never know Harry’s been in, like, two films. When you’re a talented, smart person, it’s not surprising he’s good at acting.
Speaking of playing Olivia’s husband, how did that work with her pulling double duty? Did you have a little more to manage to make sure she could pop in and out of that off-screen role?
She was so collaborative about how things would happen. She wanted people to give input across the board, actors and all of her department heads. She wanted to work in a collaborative fashion. But I also knew that she was going to be busy dealing with a lot of stuff. I took it as a vote of confidence that she was like, “Well, you’re playing my husband, we’re just going to be in the scene. I don’t think I have to worry too much about you.” I felt like it was like, “You know what you’re doing — that’s why you’re here. Go do it. If I need something different, I’ll tell you.” To her credit, when she’s in the scene, she’s tendon the scene. Then when they call cut, you’re like, “Oh, right. You’re also directing everything happening.” That’s a very hard thing to do. And she never made me feel as though she was not present in the scene with me when she was acting.
Did that mean you could throw your weight around a bit, like: Hey guys, I’m the director’s fictional husband?
I’m always trying to throw my weight around. If anyone knows anything about me and show business, I like a lot of power plays. I like playing games with people. It’s definitely how I’ve gotten to where I am. Well, the truth is, it was such fun. It was also in the dead of COVID, pre-vaccine. It was a very weird time to make a movie. The movie is creepy, and it’s a thriller. And underneath, the glossy exterior to this film is a much darker story. While we were shooting all of these glossy, interesting, fun scenes, we were also in the throes of a pandemic in Los Angeles. I think some of that uneasiness and creepiness of COVID is somehow inside of this movie. Even though it’s not directly so.
You play this businessman who’s a bit of a jerk. What was it like inhabiting that space, from the clothes to the architecture — are you shopping a Mad Men reboot now?
I’m still waiting for Jon Hamm to sign off on me. As a fan of Mad Men and the era, it’s so beautiful to look at. We shot in the Kaufmann House, which is one of the first mid-century modern architectural pieces. I don’t think a movie had ever been shot there. It’s the scene where Chris Pine is giving his big speech at his and Gemma Chan’s house. Pine is wearing these beautiful midcentury clothes, and you’re looking at this symbol of midcentury modern architecture beneath these very rugged Palm Springs mountains as the sun is setting. The colors are unbelievable. The juxtaposition of these very sleek, modern lines and these beautiful craggy mountains — everything about it was so aesthetically pleasing. Underneath that, though, is this really creepy underbelly that is always just beneath the surface. That push and pull was really fun to exist in.
With that push and pull, did the entire cast know the full picture of what the story was? Or did Olivia divvy things up among the cast? Who knew what when?
We were all on the same page. Olivia works in a way that she trusts the people who are working on this movie [enough] to give them as much information as she has: Let them help me figure out the best way to do it. I’m not saying any of us were directing the movie, but I really like that sense of: I want to trust that if I give people information, that it will help them build the world. There were no secrets to who knew what in how this world works.
Chris Pine is doing something a little different playing this sinister guy, and you’re doing something a little different doing a thriller. Did you both come in with a new energy? What was it like playing off off each other inhabiting this new space for both of you?
It was fun. Whenever people get to do things that they don’t always get to do, it’s fresh and it feels exciting. Olivia populated the movie with Asif [Ali] and me and Kate Berlant, who are all comedy people. Then you’ve got Harry, who hasn’t done a ton of film acting, and Chris playing a different kind of character. Olivia wanted everybody to play stuff that was within their range that she knew they could do, but that people don’t always expect. It means everybody’s excited to be there and be doing something that they don’t always get to do.
The film premiered in Venice, from which you generated some very amusing social content. What was that experience like?
In this particular year, whether it was real or not, it felt like the world was watching. You’re, like, watching Timothée Chalamet wearing a backless shirt walking the red carpet. And it seems like everyone knows that for some reason. And then it’s like, Alright, I guess I’m going to head right into that. I am in a place where I can’t believe that I get to do this and be a part of this thing that I’m both very excited about, but also, frankly, amused by all of it. I get to put on a fancy electric blue tuxedo and and get photographed in front of the entire world and then get kissed by Harry Styles. It’s a total trip.
When you’re a little kid and you think, What does it mean to be in the movies, it’s some version of going to the Venice Film Festival and getting on water taxis and showing up at a fancy party and wearing fun clothes and seeing and meeting people. I met Steve Buscemi at this festival and became friendly with him. And I was like, I can’t believe I’m at the Venice Film Festival chumming around with Steve Buscemi and Martin McDonagh and Phoebe Waller Bridge, and all these people whose work I’ve respected for a long time.
As much as we all love you making us laugh, do you want more dramas?
Oh, of course. I’ve done a few films not like this. Weirdly, I’ve played a lot of 1960s characters — in Loving and Operation Finale. I haven’t been in a thriller before. That is what I feel so fortunate with in my career that I get to do all different kinds of roles and all different kinds of mediums. The fact that this movie is coming out on the 23rd, and my stand-up special, Little Big Boy is coming out on Netflix four days later. And it’s much more personal, much more vulnerable than anything I’ve done on stage before. It’s not about being a douche or playing a character. It is very much me and my experience as my life has changed from having a Peter Pan complex to getting married and having a child. It’s very different than even people who are fans of my comedy have seen. The juxtaposition of those two projects at the same time is really interesting, and I feel so fortunate that I get to do these incredibly different kinds of projects that are equally gratifying in their own way.
Was there something that was the key for you in terms of figuring out how to toe that line between the surface level of the beauty of this world and the sense of something unsettling underneath?
When Olivia talked to me about it, my character’s name is Dean. And she’s like, “I want him to have a Rat Pack vibe and feel on the surface, like Dean Martin. You’re the guy keeping the party going. Everyone has fun with Dean. And I want you to have that camaraderie with the guys and have that fun vibe.” That was really helpful. But then underneath that, you’re basically in a cult. And it was right when all of the NXIVM, all of those cult stories, were coming out. It was a perfect time to be infused with that obedience to this grander, sinister underbelly in what seems like a utopia. It was very fun for me and Olivia to play — just under the surface — a couple of cuckoo birds.