Trudie Styler on choosing Alex Lawther for her leading man in Freak Show

At the BFI Flare Festival, first-time director Trudie Styler sat down for a Q&A after a screening of her movie Freak Show to talk a bit more about the project and the casting of Bette Midler and Alex Lawther.

You can read my review of the movie here, but in a nutshell, it is about Billy Bloom (Lawther), a flamboyant gay kid who likes to wear high-fashion and feminine looks and that doesn’t go down well at his new conservative school.

The movie rests on the shoulders of Lawther, who does some amazing work. If they didn’t cast Billy just right, the movie could have been a complete disaster, so Trudie, who was originally a producer on the film before becoming the director, explained how Lawther’s casting came about:

“The next conundrum was then getting the perfect Billy. During my previous director’s tenure, we looked at about 80 to 90 actors and we saw a lot of really good actors but when I became director, what kept me awake at night was, ‘Gosh, if we don’t get Billy right then we don’t have a movie’ because he’s literally in every scene in the film. It’s such a huge role, with the emotions he goes through, it needs to be so nuanced and textured. So I flew to England, asked our casting director to send me some British actors and into the room comes Alex Lawther, and within 10 minutes I felt so at home with Alex playing Billy that we never looked back after that.

“I think that he’s terrific, I hope you do too, and we got on like a house on fire, which is incredibly important when you’re working in such a focused way that you’re listening to each other. Alex would give me a take of his choosing, and then I’d offer him a texture or a nuance. We couldn’t do any more than three or four takes, there just wasn’t time, but when I looked back on those dailies we have of Alex, he nails in many different ways. He’s a very, very fine actor and I think he’s going to go all the way.” 

Although the role of Billy was important, Trudie had to get a “bankable” star to get the movie funded, so she called upon Bette Midler for the small part of Billy’s mum and thankfully she agreed to do it.

“That was a wonderful thing, and I owe her everything because without Bette we would have had no Freak Show.”

Freak Show has done the film festival rounds and Trudie is working towards a U.K. VOD for later this year.


  1. […] previously shared what Styler had to say about Midler and Lawther (you can read that here), and now it’s time for her to chat about the Little Miss Sunshine […]


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