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Luke Evans on love, friendship and self-acceptance: ‘Am I a romantic? Yeah, no s**t’

EXCLUSIVE: To celebrate his new album and BBC Christmas special, the movie star caught up with Attitude to talk Charlotte Church and Nicole Kidman, Wales and Qatar - and where he and his boyfriend are spending Christmas 2022

Luke Evans (Image: provided)

The piercing eyes. The jet black hair. The Greek sculpture-ready body. Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans is, you’ve probably noticed, a tad attractive. Sort of beauty and beast. (In a good way.) But brace yourselves: the 43-year-old Welshman wasn’t always such an object of desire.

“Growing up, I didn’t like myself,” the Dracula Untold actor tells Attitude. “I was constantly trying to change the way I looked to be in the gang, the gay group I wasn’t involved in, wasn’t accepted in. I never was, by the way. Never cool on the gay scene. Never in the group I wanted to be part of – the really sexy guys. I realised: you have to accept who you are. And when you’re happy with who you are, good things happen. You attract good people.”

Following the release of his loved-up second album, A Song for You, and ahead of his TV Christmas special for the BBC, we caught up with the movie star to discuss the road to self-acceptance and his upcoming projects with Pose‘s Billy Porter and Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy.

Tell us about Luke Evan’s Showtime

It’s a one-off show, full of music and incredible guests, who I still can’t believe all said yes. Beverley Knight, who I absolutely love; the sex bomb Olly Murs. He brings so much joy to every stage he stands on. LeAnn Rimes did my show! We sang a duet of one of her most famous songs, which she’s never duetted in the song’s history. Extraordinary. The icing on the cake, or the fairy on the tree, was Nicole Scherzinger. Who I’m a huge fan of. Her voice is incredible. And we sing some of my favourite songs. A magical night and an incredible audience. We shot it in Wales, which was glorious.

Nicole Kidman is on the album. What’s she like?

She’s the real deal. They say you should never meet your idols. She’s the opposite of that. She delivered on all levels when we met. Firstly, she’s a huge star and an incredible actor. Working opposite her was special because she never does the same thing twice. I was constantly learning from her ability as an actor. And she’s a true Aussie girl. She’s never lost that. I don’t say that lightly. The life she’s led, the experiences she’s had, she could easily have lost that realism that Australians have.

She’s a good representative of her country, like you with Wales.

Well, that’s very nice to say. Thank you.

What’s your favourite Nicole film? Mine is The Hours.

Mine’s Dead Calm. I love that. I love her hair in it as much as I love her!

You’ve been friends with Charlotte Church since you were teens. Were you out to her back then?

Oh, yeah. I mean, I was out then. Yeah, totally. 

Have you and Charlotte been on nights out in Cardiff?

We’ve had more nights out in London than Cardiff. But I was very close to her during the first Voice of an Angel experience, which was bizarre for all of us, and incredible. Then I was in college, started musical theatre, and was working. She sort of took some time off, had a cheeky Vimto moment. And then we started to reconnect, and she became a pop star. I was around for all that, which was special, and very, very fun.

You know, it’s a hard thing being a child star. I cannot imagine what it must be like. It’s hard enough as an adult. When you’re that young, it can really damage you, if you’re not strong of character. She really is. She survived and come out the other side shining and strong and loving and warm and full of dreams and ambitions. I’m very proud of her.

I’m guessing from the mood of your album A Song For You that you’re a romantic.

Yeah, no shit.

One of the self-written lyrics is ‘in that moment we were chosen, and we knew’. Are you a fatalist, or even a spiritualist, when it comes to love?

I’m not a spiritualist. But fatalistic – fate? – yes. I feel sometimes there are things beyond our comprehension. Love is a very powerful thing. When you meet that person or you have that moment with someone, something else takes over. And I love the idea of it. As much as it feels like: “Woo, I’m not in control!” Love really is almost indescribable. And so the point of that line that I wrote, ‘I was chosen to fall in love with you’… Like, it wasn’t in my control. Something bigger than me connected us both. And I love that sentiment. And I think that’s what it feels like to fall in love, as far as I’m concerned.

Assuming there’s a subject, or someone you’re addressing in the song – did they take it as a big compliment?

Oh, well, it was… It was sort of slightly autobiographical. And slightly just a universal feeling of what it must feel like. I just tried to put into words what I felt like when I’ve fallen in love. It has happened several times in my life. Love’s an interesting one. Love feels different every time. I don’t think you can love just one person. I think, you know, if it doesn’t work out, love is all-encompassing. It doesn’t disappear because you’ve fallen out of love with somebody. But yeah, I mean, it wasn’t about one specific person. But it definitely was about the feelings I’ve had when I’ve fallen in love.

With acting, you’re once removed from what you’re doing. Whereas singing and songwriting must be quite exposing. Has that been a scary experience? Also – and I hope you appreciate how delicately I’m wording my questions, because I’m not trying to pry – it seems like you’re euphorically in love.

Oh. Yeah. [Laughs.] Yeah. I mean, it is an exposing thing writing music, having an album, singing these love songs, and feeling something. Because it’s fair enough singing a love song if you’re not feeling something that’s authentic, real, visceral, and raw. The song is just a pretty song. But I’m singing these songs feeling something very personal. I’m coming from a gay man’s point of view with these songs. Some of the songs I cover were not written for a gay man to sing. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t mean as much to a gay man in a situation than it does to a straight man. 

In the bio on the album, you said that music is your first love. Would you really choose music over acting?

I mean, the thing about acting is, I need a script and a character. I need a lot of people to do that. You can’t just act in your daily life. Singing, I can do for the rest of my life. I can sing right now to you. I can sing to myself in a shower. And it gives me exactly the same feeling. It’s an instrument I’ve been given, that I have in my throat, and as long as I look after it, I can have it for the rest of my life. It’s something much more personal, something much more connected to who I am. I love acting. It’s a fantastic job. I love telling stories, and moving people in different ways. But singing has been something I’ve always done. I have to be honest, and that’s the honest answer.

Can you recall a song that’s soundtracked your life as a gay man?

I do love Pat Benatar’s ‘We Belong’. If you don’t know it, look it up. It’s phenomenal. Many years ago I was going through a breakup. I was on a film in another country, alone. This song meant something to me. There are amazing lines, like: ‘We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder, […] we belong to the sounds of the world we’ve both fallen under.’ I love that. Relationships can be summery and peaceful, and they can also have thunder, rain, and lightning.

What would be your advice to a younger gay man who’s afraid of the ageing process?

It’s a hard one, isn’t it? Because we, as gay men, we put a lot of emphasis on having a perfect physique, looking handsome, looking as perfect as we possibly can. You only have to go on Instagram to be completely bombarded by perfection. Or what we may think is perfection. But it’s not real life. Real life is about growing old and appreciating the changes that we go through. I’m in the worst industry for that. Like the worst. I remember when I was younger, I looked older. Now I’m sort of reaching the same age that I now look, which is fine. But I remember being younger, being in films and people would comment and say: ‘My God, he looks 40 years old!’ And it would really affect me, you know. I’d get very upset by it.

Then I realised, there’s nothing I can do about this. I don’t want to go through life hating who I am at that precise moment. Of course, there are things you can do to help yourself age well. Train. Eat well. Use a good exfoliator. Moisturise. Go for the odd facial. Some meditation; some good holidays, without drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

But, deeper than all that: find a place where you can be happy with who you are. I feel we’re living through a [great] time, our community. When I say our community, I’m talking about the broad umbrella, which is getting bigger by the day, which is wonderful. People finding their identities, wearing what they want, looking the way they want, finding how they want to be referred to, all that stuff. I’m finding it very refreshing to see acceptance of all kinds of people. And we’re lucky, because we live in the UK. You only have to look at these other countries where gay people are treated horrendously.

Like Qatar. Are you watching the football?

No, I’m not. I mean, I will if Wales starts winning, [I might]. But I’m not. For me, it has definitely tarnished the whole thing. Sadly. I don’t think they deserve that platform. FIFA chickening out makes me very upset. 

But, on a positive note, the LGBTQ community [in the UK] are really being given the freedom and license to be themselves. And, you know, there’s someone for everybody. I think young gay people, you know, if you put too much weight on what you see on social media, you may think you have to be a certain way. But you don’t anymore. 

The point I really want to make is that it’s about a much deeper acceptance and happiness of oneself. It isn’t easy. Growing up, I didn’t like myself. I was constantly trying to change the way I looked, trying to be in the gang, in the gay group that I wasn’t involved in, that I wasn’t accepted in. I never was, by the way – I was never ‘cool’ on the gay scene, never in the group that I wanted to be part of the. The really sexy guys. I was never that person; I was just myself. I quickly realised, you have to accept who you are and be happy with who you are. And when you’re happy with who you are, things happen, good things happen. You attract good people.

The people in my life now, the gay people, and all the other amazing people, they’re happy with who they are. It’s a deeper energy. A spiritual thing, almost. Finding acceptance; not hating yourself, thinking you have to be different to be accepted. Fuck that.

It does come from other gay men, a lot of the time. I don’t always feel accepted by them. Which is annoying.

I had it too. And it’s not nice. I mean, early on, when there were strange, ridiculous concepts about who I was and what I was doing, ‘hiding away’… I’m saying I was open. I was 16. I was gay. Living on my own. Like, give me a fucking break. A lot of that animosity came from the gay community, which was not nice. But you rise above it. You’ve got one life to live. Don’t let it be ruined by anonymous people who don’t know who you are. You know who you are. And as long as you are happy with who you are, living authentically, apologise to no one.

I was thinking about your famous roles. While I’m sure you’ve played gay men, I can’t recall a gay role that stands out as much as Gaston, or Dracula. Would you like an iconic and memorable gay male character in your filmography?

I’ve just shot [two films and one TV show] and played gay in each of them.

Really? Amazing! Wow.

A movie called Our Son, where Billy Porter and myself play husbands going through a divorce. It’s extremely traumatic and painful. We have an eight-year-old son. It’s Kramer vsKramer for the gay community, now. Powerful, beautiful. Did that. I was gay in Nine Perfect Strangers. I just played Dan Levy’s on-screen husband in a beautiful film he’s written called Good Grief. They’re still shooting right now. I’ve wrapped up my part, and loved every second of it. It’s been an absolute joy.

Firstly, to be asked to play these characters, but also to bring an authenticity to the role… Not that I’d been married and gone through a divorce. But I know what breaking up is like, and not wanting to break up. Fighting for that person, and they don’t want to stay. All those painful things. I understood those things. I mean, everybody does. But I understood them as a gay man. So that was nice. I hope one of these films, if not both of them, land well and people enjoy the stories we’re telling.

What else do you have coming up next year? The Gaston series isn’t happening, right?

No, it’s not happening right now. I just shot a movie called Five Pounds of Pressure; a movie about a father and a son struggling to find friendship after the father’s been in prison for 19 years. Scrooge [came out on] 2 December. I’m the voice of Scrooge in the feature-length animation on Netflix, which is epic. Then I’m shooting another movie in January, in Mexico. And who knows, because Echo 3 has just come out, where I’m playing a Delta force special forces soldier.

Cute. Finally, what are your plans for Christmas?

We’re going to my partner’s family for Christmas in Spain. I’ll spend a few days in Madrid, which I love. Madrid is the most amazing city. I love it. See all the lights, buy some Christmas presents. And then we’re gonna to a beautiful Caribbean place for the New Year. Then back to work in early January.

Luke’s new album A Song For You is out now and his TV special Luke Evans Showtime! airs December 22nd on BBC One Wales and BBC Two