Alex Lawther on new movie ‘Ghost Stories’, loving Blur and ‘The End Of The F***ing World’ Season 2

'The ending was almost too perfect. I don't think James and Alyssa would stand for it'

Alex Lawther is fast becoming the best young actor of his generation. From upstaging Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game to freaking out the nation in Black Mirror, his performances just get better and better. If you had to pick one new talent destined for the big time, you’d probably choose him.

Lawther’s new film, psychological horror Ghost Stories, hits cinemas today. It’s an unsettling, dread-filled creep-fest about arch-sceptic Professor Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman), who embarks on a terrifying journey to solve three inexplicable cases of supernatural hauntings, a portmanteau horror recalling classic British horrors of the ’70s. Alex plays Simon Rifkind — a young man driving home alone at night who encounters something awful in the woods. Goodman seeks him out and tries to get to the bottom of it.

We caught up with the rising star to pick his brains on UFOs, Saoirse Ronan and The End Of The F***ing World Season 2.

Are you a big horror fan?

“I love being scared and I always have done. When I was younger, I was always reading books about the paranormal, UFOs and crop circles. I liked the idea of people seeing faces in walls and twins that could communicate with each other telepathically. I really believed it too!”

What’s the scariest thing you’ve seen in real life?

“It’s not what you mean, but generally, I find human actions can be quite scary. I work with a company called Good Chance who help refugees in Europe and I recently spent some time in a camp in Calais. That was frightening.”

Were you shocked by the conditions?

“The conditions in Calais were awful, you can read that anywhere — middle class, white people talking about terrible conditions – and of course they are. But at the same time, there are Sunni and Shia Muslims sharing a tent or building a cafe together — really beautiful human beings being really human to each other. That was really confusing because the place is horrible but there is such humanity on display.”

You’ve starred mainly in British productions so far — is that purposeful?

“Not purposeful. I find that we have such great writers and storytellers in the UK — Ghost Stories has Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, The End Of The F***ing World has Charlie Covell — that I’m satisfied. I love that British sense of humour.”

What do you mean?

“The sarcasm, the undercutting, the deadpan humour. I just shot a film in France and they all described it as very British. The French also have sarcasm but there is something about the morbidity of the English I enjoy. Actually, the French production team were very interesting. They take their food very seriously…”

Can you elaborate?

“Well, at lunch there are three courses and a bottle of wine. It’s written into the contracts of French technicians that there must be wine available at lunch. It’s part of their union rules! It’s crazy but also lovely and it just wouldn’t be possible on a British set. We’d all be plastered.”

I know someone who puts Blu Tack over their webcam partly because of the Black Mirror episode you were in — is that something you do?

“I don’t know if it’s a consequence of Black Mirror, but I am slowly becoming more and more technophobic. Technology really helps our daily lives, but things like location services are actually quite creepy. For example, sending an email to a friend about looking for a new house plant means you’ll be getting adverts on Gmail about plants all the time. It’s supposed to be “constantly helpful” but it’s like a surveillance tool in your pocket. [Laughs] I sound like Timothée Chalamet in Lady Bird!”

What did you think of Lady Bird?

“I thought it was brilliant. Saoirse Ronan is just remarkable. I was once in the same room as her and she was being very cool, laid back and Irish. I think she’s dead charming.”

Is there going to be a second season of The End Of The F***ing World?

“Oh I hope so but I’m the last person that hears about these things. Where would it go though? Me and Charlie Covell chat all the time so I’m sure she’d come up with something brilliant. But ultimately, it’s up to whoever is the decider. I’m not really sure who that person is… If anyone has their phone number, they should call them and tell them it’s a good idea!”

The end is very open-ended, do you think James dies?

“You’re right, what we are left with is very open-ended. It’s just that gun shot and then fade to black. A part of me thinks it’s almost too perfect, too Romeo and Juliet if he died. I don’t think James and Allysa would stand for that. They’d think they were more complicated than that. They’re not hopeless romantics and life isn’t like that. Life is not a Shakespearean tragedy, there’s more mundanity. Given the tone of the series, it might be interesting if they actually had to deal with the consequences of their actions.”

Was the ending always the same?

“Originally, we shot a very different version to what was cut together for the series. The other version left it more unlikely that James was alive. There was some ambiguity but in the version that was used it’s very ambiguous. I really like that because it means we can do a second season.”

Graham Coxon wrote the soundtrack — did you get to meet him?

“I haven’t met him and I’m so disappointed. I’m a massive Blur fan, but maybe it’s better this way because they say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I’d probably say something really embarrassing. I know that he’s releasing the soundtrack on vinyl though and I’ve asked if he can send me a copy. I’m really excited.”

Ghost Stories is in cinemas now