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SYFY WIRE Alex Garland

Rory Kinnear explains how he birthed all the men in Alex Garland's 'Men'

The character actor, who plays all the malicious men in the new film, explains what went into the process of playing all of them — and filming that crazy ending. 

By James Grebey
A still from A24's Men (2022)

In Alex Garland’s new movie Men, a woman named Harper (Jessie Buckley) rents a house in the English countryside in the wake of a tragedy. It’s supposed to be a healing retreat, but the male residents of the town seem to have ominous and supernatural plans otherwise. Rory Kinnear, wearing various wigs and levels of prosthetics, plays every one of these malevolent men, ranging from Geoffry the awkward and somewhat smarmy landlord to a naked, twig-covered man lurking in the woods. It’s deliberately unclear if all men are the same and Harper just can’t see it, or if that’s simply how she perceives them. The truth is never remarked upon or explained, and while Kinnear does have his own interpretation of what it all means, he tells SYFY WIRE that his goal while filming Men wasn’t to have all the answers but to simply play, well, men. 

“There’s no real use for me to play a theme. That’s not what human beings do and that’s what I was trying to create with all the different characters. I was trying to flesh out some credible human beings,” he explains ahead of the film’s release.

“I have my understanding of what the film means to me and how I see it,” Kinnear continues. “I’ve realized that continues to change, and hopefully, that will be the case for other audiences as well. There is a multiplicity of responses. It’s so rich and dense and imagistic that there’s nothing didactic about the film, so it will provoke a feeling and a response according to the individual.”

Men will indeed provoke a feeling and a response in the audience — especially its final, gruesome, and intentionally baffling scene. Kinnear spoke with SYFY WIRE about playing all these men and what it was like to film the birthing sequence.

Warning: This interview contains spoilers for Men.


The character of Geoffry is simultaneously charming and off putting. How did you get that balance? Or, do I just find him more charming because, as an American, all British accents are inherently somewhat charming to us?

No, I think it’s certainly on the page and the way we talked about him. He definitely was the most benign human presence. Particularly, to begin with, his transgressions or microaggressions to Harper as a man feel maladroit rather than intentional or with an active malevolence behind it. He’s just an awkward man who doesn’t really know how to be around women, and there are quite a few of those in Britain, particularly of the sort of background and ilk as Geoffry. He was a British archetype, so I had to make sure that I understood and knew him as well as all of the others. 

There’s such a range in how overtly threatening the various men are at different times in the movie. The subtle things that you did with the vicar’s body language in the churchyard scene were as scary — if not more, as the aggressive naked man trying to barge in. Was it a challenge to capture all these different ways that men can be scary?

Yeah, in the sense that they’re all coming from me and I’m not a particularly aggressive guy. Finding that in one's self, albeit kind of within the brain of another, was a challenge to summon. But, again, for these guys, Harper is not a hugely significant part of their life. I had to make sure I knew what the significant parts of their life were to understand why they might emote or behave in this way.

Did it ever feel gross? I know acting is just that, acting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were just able to compartmentalize it as only a role, since that’s what it was. But did anything you did leave you feeling shuddery?

The vicar in the bathroom with the lobster claw around the neck. That felt pretty gross. Luckily Jessie and I have a pretty similar sense of humor and enjoyment of the darker side of life, so we were about to laugh about anything that got too disgusting. We usually found it funny. We used laughter as an escape valve throughout the shoot. 

In the end credits, you’re only listed as Geoffry. Do you have any insight into why that is?

I don’t. He is the only named character. I created names for the others but an audience wouldn’t know who they were. I guess it leans into something that the final sequence is sort of aiming at, that they’re all typical versions of the same thing. I was interested to see how they would approach it because I didn’t know. And, I also think that listing all the characters with my name next to each one lends itself to a bit comedic at a time of the film when that would have been a distraction. 

A still from A24's Men (2022)

My wife and I had our first baby four months ago—

Oh, congratulations. That must have been a wonderful memory that was summoned up.

Thank you. Yeah, seeing the finale of Men was a weird, twisted, flashback. What was filming that end sequence like? How much of that was special effects and how much of that was you with a ballooning belly or writhing around all covered in goo?

Yeah, that was a thing that happened — and, let’s not forget, outside, in the middle of the night, in a very cold spring. It was quite a distinctive sequence that we were shooting. There were times when I didn’t necessarily understand how it was going to look. There was a set of legs that were built for the body of the boy to come through, and then there was a big belly for me to emerge as the vicar. They dug basically a little grave on the lawn and I had to be hidden in that and then emerge from this big belly. They built a little slide for me to come out through this, I don’t know what it was supposed to be — my nape? There was a slide that I would sort of slither down. I just had to keep the faith and keep committing to it at all times. 

The more people are nice to you, the more you realize how uncomfortable the experience is, not only for yourself but for everyone else. By day five, people were bending over backward. The snacks I was being offered were more and more luxurious. And I realized, “Oh god, yes, this has been quite a challenge, hasn’t it?” as I was once again unpeeling a foil blanket from my back to do another take. 

Originally, in the script, the ending was just described as mutations. Were you not expecting it to get as strange and graphic as it got?

I don’t know a great deal about horror, but I know there’s usually a big finish where a horror director needs to deliver. I thought Men was doing it in a way that was completely connected to the themes we were pursuing with the rest of it. We knew we were doing something that was absolutely going to linger in people’s minds, and that it was kind of opaque enough that it would impact people. I imagine that as a recent father you’re going to have a completely different take on that sequence than a woman in their 20s or a man in their 70s, depending on their lived experience at that time. 

Luckily, I’m a father to a daughter instead of a beloved adult character actor. 

You didn’t have an elderly man? [Laughs.]

No, not this time. But, maybe we’ll have another. 

Men is now in theaters.