Jack Huston

FLAUNT Issue 113

Nursing a Glenfiddich, while sharing on his love of classic movies, the 28-year-old actor Jack Huston pauses to brush dark tresses from his eyes, when a guy suddenly shouts across the room: “Hey Jackie, don’t ever change!”

It’s a friend of Huston’s, and he’s joking, of course, but the comment couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Huston entered the cultural conversation this year with a set of breakout roles: as the suave villain in the blockbuster Twilight: Eclipse and on the smash-hit HBO drama Boardwalk Empire, where he steals scenes as Richard Harrow, a disfigured WWI vet-turned-hitman who hides his mangled face behind a tin mask. Despite the veiled role, Huston was recognized on the street for the first time.

When Boardwalk came around, Huston had just finished something that he “couldn’t bear, acting-wise,” and planned to take some time off to write and paint. His agent convinced him to audition, as agents so often do. So, he stuffed his mouth with cotton balls and out came Harrow’s garbled voice. “It’s one of those fun things where you get artistic license to go all the way,” he says. “And I remember I was like, ‘Fuck, I’m either going to fall flat on my face and they’re going to laugh at me, or it could work.’ So, I took the risk.”

In the get-famous-or-die-trying world of TMZ, Huston harkens back to another Hollywood era. He’s more interested in developing character than celebrity and prefers painting to traveling the party circuit. A wild night out means a gallery opening or catching his friend Al (as in Pacino) on Broadway.

“I’d prefer to be broke, living on soup in a cold house than being paid a bunch of money for doing things that [I] don’t really want to do,” he elaborates, and even though that scenario is highly unlikely—he was born into the Huston clan of Hollywood royalty, and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, his mother’s ancestral home looks straight out of a Jane Austen novel—he makes a convincing case. Though Aunt Anjelica, grandfather John, and great-grandfather Walter have made Academy Awards something of a Huston birthright, young Jack is still paying his dues. He started on the London stage, before hitting the Los Angeles audition circuit six years ago. Since then, he’s landed small roles in Factory Girl opposite Sienna Miller and Shrink with Kevin Spacey.

This winter, two long-awaited projects hit theaters. First up, Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, in which he plays an avatar of Hemingway himself, the author caught in a decadent European love affair. Then there’s Wilde Salome, Al Pacino’s meta-movie about the life of the playwright Oscar Wilde and Pacino’s own experience starring in the controversial play Salome. Two years ago, Pacino called Huston up and offered him the role of Wilde’s flamboyant aristocratic lover. They spent 10 days at Pacino’s place, reading the scene over and over before grabbing the crew for a daylong shoot.

Up next, Huston stars as an unwitting uranium thief in the British caper flick The Hot Potato, and as a rock star in an upcoming film about a band’s coming-of-age, directed by The Sopranos creator David Chase. He fought hard for that role, learning how to play the six-string, and today his fingers are calloused from band practice. But that’s the part of the job he loves.

He pulls once more off his scotch. “The old movie stars like Bogart, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, they weren’t this gorgeous, striking six-foot man who’s rippled with muscles,” Huston imparts. “They just really had character in their face and they drank and they smoked and I love that shit. These were the real actors. They really lived, and you could see the lines on their faces, the lines of the years that they lived. You just believed them. I loved that.”

PHOTOGRAPHED BY: Christophe Kutner