For his starring role in the world-conquering rom-com Crazy Rich Asians, former presenter of The Travel Show Henry Golding seemed to come out of nowhere, lighting up the screen and breaking hearts. In Last Christmas, a winning slushfest co-starring Emilia Clarke and soundtracked by George Michael’s back catalogue, he’s about to do it all over again – this time as Clarke’s mysterious new crush.
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Were you already a George Michael fan before this movie?
Massive. The majority of my childhood was in Surrey – I arrived [from Malaysia] in 1996 – and George was the king of pop stars. My go-to karaoke song is Faith. I grew up singing it whenever possible.
Are you good at it?
I'm terrible at it, of course! As good karaoke [singers] should be.
You're rarely seen in this film without rocking a dance twirl. Was that in the script?
It wasn't. It came from a discussion with [director] Paul Feig, [screenwriter] Emma Thompson and myself. Tom as a character is high on life. He lives in his own little world and isn't afraid to make a fool of himself. I wanted to integrate that more into his character, so I asked Paul for a movement coach.
What were you going for?
I wanted to infuse [Tom’s] character with a little bit of Gene Kelly. That Frank Sinatra feel.
That’s interesting because in this and Crazy Rich Asians, there's something traditional about your performances – like that from the golden age of Hollywood.
The golden age of Hollywood was where the leading man's actions spoke for themselves. It wasn't necessary for them to over-establish themselves as males. And with these two characters, Nick and Tom, there's charm more than anything. There's nothing wrong with being the guy-next-door who’s also a very approachable leading man. These silver screen actors were pretty much living out their own persona, and part of me wants that in my movies.
Photo: Universal Pictures
In a couple of years, Last Christmas will be a Christmas classic, which makes sense as you're like a matinée idol in the film.
Ah man. Every year I'll be like, “What else is on?! Let’s watch Love Actually instead.” But you know, I think that's what we're in the movies for – to create timeless classics.
You’ve lived in London for years. Do you think what we see in the film is a good representation of the city?
I think it is. We filmed in Covent Garden, Embankment, along the Strand, Regent Street. It shows how multicultural the city is, and it tackles homelessness too. Perhaps it’ll make people think twice about those who are less fortunate – who are spending Christmas on the streets.
Crazy Rich Asians was celebrated for its Asian cast. With this one, you're the co-lead but your heritage is irrelevant. That feels just as important.
Massively. It’s normalising. My character and Michelle Yeoh’s character [in Last Christmas] aren't related. When people see two Asian faces in a movie, they're like, “Ah, mother and son.” Isn’t that weird? Is every white person related?
There are Bond rumours swirling around you. Are we at the point where it’s just accepted that the character could be half-Malaysian, as you are?
There will always be your naysayers and your supporters. At the end of the day, the story has to remain king. Who you use or how you portray is important, but it’s not the end-all. If it’s a bad script, whichever actor gets chosen is gonna get destroyed.
What’s it like to be the subject of these rumours?
It’s an honour. I’m a massive fan of the movies. Growing up, [James Bond] was the guy you wanted to be. If I’m able to be part of something that has some kid roaming a playground with his hand pistol in the air, living in a world of fantasy? Those are the types of films I want to be a part of.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Apparently, Emilia Clarke said that when she saw Crazy Rich Asians, she thought you were the most attractive man she’d ever seen.
Hahaha! She's a charmer.
So are you getting used to the compliments now?
Um... I take them with a pinch of salt. You’re making me embarrassed now, dude! Look, the best compliments for me are if I remind people of old Hollywood. Because that [was] a time when men didn’t have to be toxic to be the leading man. Everything else makes me blush.
Last Christmas hits cinemas on November 28.