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A new era of heartthrob is here, and Nicholas Galitzine is its poster boy

Caralynn Matassa   

A new era of heartthrob is here, and Nicholas Galitzine is its poster boy
  • Nicholas Galitzine, star of "The Idea of You," is the ascending heartthrob actor of the moment.
  • He's distinct in that he's known for playing both gay and straight roles.

At first, I thought it was the sun.

Perhaps its rays, which dipped sneakily in and out of cloud cover on a breezy March day in Austin, were distracting Nicholas Galitzine, who kept looking away from me distractedly as we stood on the red carpet at the SXSW Festival premiere of his film "The Idea of You."

Instead, Galitzine's own star power had caught the attention of dozens of excited fans, who were wailing his name just a few feet away.

"Sorry, I'm really trying to concentrate on you, but people are shouting," he apologized, fittingly midway through an answer about the sex scenes in "The Idea of You" as shrieks of Niiiiiiick! rang out behind me.

Did you not expect this? I asked.

"Kind of no," he replied, laughing.

Galitzine's bashfulness — and his genuine-seeming surprise in seeing the swarm of fans who'd flocked to Congress Street to catch a glimpse of him — is another intriguing layer to what makes him the most interesting rising star heartthrob in Hollywood today.

The 29-year-old actor has been working steadily since 2014, when he landed his first film role in the music comedy-drama "The Beat Beneath My Feet" opposite Luke Perry. But it was only when he starred as Prince Robert in the 2021 Camila Cabello-led "Cinderella" that his star really began to rise.

His more recent projects, including the 2023 queer romcom "Red, White, and Royal Blue," the historical drama "Mary & George," and the Anne Hathaway romantic dramedy "The Idea of You" have sent the internet into a thirst-fueled meltdown.

In the case of "The Idea of You," that thirst has been lucrative for Amazon: Julie Rapaport, the head of film production and development at Amazon MGM studios, said the film broke the studio's viewing record for a rom-com, with over 50 million views in the first two weeks since the film debuted on the service.

Galitzine is only getting started.

Galitzine is delightful (and extremely hot) as Anne Hathaway's co-lead in 'The Idea of You'

In "The Idea of You," out now on Prime Video, Galitzine plays Hayes Campbell, the 24-year-old singer in a world-famous boy band. Hayes is captivated by and relentlessly pursues Hathaway's Solène, a 40-year-old recently divorced single mom, after their meet-cute at Coachella. (Just roll with it.)

The movie works almost exclusively because of the crackling chemistry between Galitzine and Hathaway, from their characters' first kiss, when Hayes assures Solène she's not too old for him and then pulls her in again for a makeout (the moment elicited actual screams from the audience at the SXSW premiere), to their first time having sex, which is followed by a surprisingly realistic afterglow montage of the two goofing around. It says a lot that Galitzine is at his most effortlessly appealing in scenes opposite an Oscar-winner.

For director and co-writer Michael Showalter, it was obvious that Galitzine was the guy for the role.

"The night before Nick came in and read, I had a Zoom call with him. And I was like, oh, it's this guy, isn't it?" Showalter told Business Insider in a recent interview for our Director's Chair series. "I was texting with Cathy Schulman, the producer, as I was having this Zoom with Nick, sort of going, oh boy, I think this is the guy."

The filmmaker summed up Galitzine's appeal: "He's confident but also vulnerable. He's funny. He's obviously great looking. He can do the dramatic acting. He's an incredible musician. He's believable as a star, but there's a humility and a real-person quality to him."

But the English actor is far from the only Gen Z rising star to capture the collective internet's interest. So what makes him different from his fellow babygirls like Timothee Chalamet and Jacob Elordi?

Galitzine's filmography spans gay, straight, and bisexual roles, and he's oozing charisma in all of them

Hayes in "The Idea of You" is a pretty traditional romcom character, albeit unique in his pursuit of an older woman — May-December romances of that sort are still a relative rarity in major releases. But Hayes isn't the first fan-favorite role Galitzine has stepped into.

Before he was a boybander, Galitzine played a closeted British prince secretly in love with the son of the American president in "Red, White, and Royal Blue." He's also playing the seductive (and queer) George Villiers, a real historical courtier who seduced his way into King James I's court in Starz's orgy-filled historical drama "Mary & George."

Galitzine's sexuality-spanning filmography is unique in that it's been pretty evenly split between gay and straight roles. While Chalamet famously broke hearts as a lovelorn teen who falls for Armie Hammer in "Call Me By Your Name" (it earned him the title the Straight Prince of Twinks), he's not as well known for other gay roles. Galitzine, meanwhile, has previously played a bisexual teen bully in "The Craft: Legacy" and a closeted gay rugby player in "Handsome Devil," among others.

It makes a lot of sense why this balancing act has boosted Galitzine's ascendancy. Gen Z is the queerest generation yet, and by positioning himself as both a gay and straight heartthrob, he's effectively broadened his appeal and widened the pool of people thirsting after him.

Anecdotally, the shrieking fans in Austin did seem, upon a quick glance, to be a pretty even mix of male- and female-presenting people.

Galitzine's focus on multi-dimensional characters makes him the heartthrob Gen Z wants and needs

It's remarkable that Galitzine has effectively built his career playing a number of commercial gay roles when it used to be true that "playing gay" could destroy an actor's career.

On the flip side, there's a certain amount of discomfort with Galitzine, who has said he identifies as straight, playing queer roles. The actor recently admitted that he feels some "guilt" for taking those parts that could be played by actually gay actors instead.

But it's clear he'll still keep playing roles across the spectrum of sexuality. Prime Video just announced a sequel to "Red, White, and Royal Blue." He's also already campaigning to star in an adaptation of "A Little Life," which The Atlantic literally called the Great Gay Novel.

Galitzine's fans, too, are eager to see him in pretty much anything he wants to do next. His costar Hathaway might have put it best when she said Galitzine could have chemistry with a lamp.

After a 90-second interaction with him on a red carpet, I have to agree.

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