Photography by Spencer Ostrander
Written & Styled by Derek Anderson
A story about Jack Huston usually begins with the mention of the illustrious Hollywood family that he was born into—he’s the grandson of the legendary director John Huston and nephew of Academy Award–winning actress Anjelica Huston. The story would proceed to crown him Hollywood royalty, and then follow the other branch of his family tree. Not quite royal, but certainly aristocratic. Huston, you see, is son of Lady Margot Lavinia and nephew to David Cholmondeley, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley. It’s easy, in Huston’s case, to assume that his success was born overnight, or that somehow he had to do less to achieve more.
Huston and I have been friends for over a decade, and I’ve watched him work harder than most, venture greater risks—with their attendant ups and downs—and do it all with a grace and kindness that few people I know possess.
We recently got together to chat about his most recent movie, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the remake of Ben-Hur, in which he takes on the role that Charlton Heston made famous. Along the way we digress a lot, reminisce, and look to the future.
Derek Anderson: How long have we known each other?
Jack Huston: God, I want to say over ten years.
That’s hard to believe, in a way.
I remember when I first met you, we were in LA, actually, and we were meeting about a movie that you were thinking about doing—about a guy who ate a car.
It was about this guy who actually ate an entire car, and we met in that place on Sunset, that Moroc- can-style place, and ended up hanging out, getting in the car, and going to some party afterwards.
Yeah, I remember. That feels like a long time ago. That was the beginning!
I mean, really, it’s nuts how time flies, isn’t it? A blink of an eye, you lose a decade. I guess in that decade we’ve both done so much.
Yes, we have. One of things I wanted to talk about is how so many people perceive that you were an overnight success with Boardwalk Empire.
It’s funny; people always perceive that your success starts the moment you attain “success.” They don’t realize everything that lead up to it. Luckily, you knew me on that very steep climb I was undertaking and saw me through the moments where I was feeling rather discouraged. You were always very encouraging in saying, “Stick with it, there’s something on the horizon, I know it.” It takes friends like you to give that little bit of encouragement that keeps you on track and, if you’re lucky enough, when it finally comes together.
You did stick with it. And that thing on the horizon was playing Richard Harrow on Boardwalk. To me, it couldn’t have been more perfect for your breakout to happen playing this role. It showed your depth as an actor and avoided any hint of nepotism. Clearly, you had the talent to bring this compelling and complex character to life.
I think that if I had been given a role where I played the leading man who was a pretty boy or whatever, people would have dismissed it a lot quicker.
And since then, you’ve been in a string of pretty amazing films, including American Hustle and Kill Your Darlings, among others. Do you now have this level of confidence, like, “Okay, I have finally made it. I will be working actor the rest of my life”?
I think as soon as you think, Oh, this is it, that’s the sure thing, you’re dead. I feel like that would be a sure-fire way to never work again, or at least to make the wrong decisions. What I’m being particularly careful about is choosing the right roles. A lot of it comes down to people, as well. I want to work with people I respect and whose company I enjoy—not to mention their creative process. At this point, I don’t particularly feel like I want to go and work just for the sake of it. I have a family and a life outside of acting. I’m also branching out into writing and producing, which always leave me feeling like I have my finger in several pies.
So much of life is about who you surround yourself with. Of course, who we have around us, I think, has a lot to do with who we are. One of the things I always hear from the people I’ve introduced you to is, “Wow! He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” And it’s really true. In fact, I’ve actually seen you grow up in a way that a lot of my friends never do.
I see the incredible relationship that you have with your girlfriend, Shannan, not to mention how you’ve grown into fatherhood. You’re very similar. You’re one of those people who give. And I always believe in that; if you give love, you get it back. And it should extend to friends, family, strangers, anyone. That’s probably why we’re friends.
Speaking of family, I remember being on your first date with Shannan!
Yeah, I remember, you were totally there. I remember saying to you, “I’m going on a date with a girl I think I really like. Would you mind being there for the beginning to make sure everything goes okay?” Remember, at that time, I hadn’t gone on a date in years!
You were having a “light” meltdown. At one point, I remember saying, “Dude, are you sure you want me to go on your first date?” You were like, “Yes, you have to come.”
I think within eight minutes I turned to you said and something to the effect of, “I am madly in love with Shannan.”
And now the circle of family and friends continues to grow. After so many years of friendship, we will soon be able to call one another colleagues as well.
It does seem perfect that we’ll be making my brother Matthew’s film Hunting and Gathering together.
The stars aligned on this one. Matthew’s script is remarkable, and that role is made for you. But in addition to our film, this is really a big year for you. You have two significant films coming out, the first being Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
I mean, you can’t give much more away than the title: it’s Pride and Prejudice, but with zombies. It’s fun, it’s cool, it’s badass. Austen was a serious feminist, and it’s that times ten because the women are the ones who kick all the ass in the film. The guys sort of stand back and watch.
That is amazing and timely, particularly as people begin to speak up about inequity between men and women in Hollywood. Even though I am a man, I consider myself a feminist, and I think you are too, really.
Oh, we should all be feminists, absolutely! Absolutely! It’s so funny when you watch a film like this and it’s five girls leading the charge. You realize it’s so much more exciting, because we’ve seen five guys do this over and over again, and actually, why the hell not? It just sort of reverberates around the whole of Hollywood. Everything is so open and accepting, generally; it’s bizarre that there are still these crazy disparities between men and women within the business.
Well, from feminism we go to your reprising one of the greatest roles in history, originally portrayed by alpha male and icon Charlton Heston. Man, you’re playing Ben-Hur! How does that feel?
Yeah, that’s a wild one. I’m going to have big shoes to fill. I think we’ve done it; I saw the movie the other day and I think it’s just a great film, a wonderful movie. It’s a beautiful, sprawling epic, but at the same time, at its heart, it’s a character piece that you really can fall in love with and enjoy.
One last question: When it’s all over and done with, how would you like people to remember Jack Huston?
I think that if my children could say a few nice words about me when I was gone and people could agree, I feel like that would be an amazing thing. And if I’d kept a lovely relationship with them and made them happy and they in turn became good people as adults, that would be incredible. And, in work, if I didn’t embarrass myself too many times that would be good.
So far, you’ve only embarrassed yourself about half as many times as I have.
A good coating of embarrassment here and there isn’t necessarily bad.