It Boy: Shiloh Fernandez Has His Sights Set on Hollywood’s Horizon


It Boy: Shiloh Fernandez Has His Sights Set on Hollywood’s Horizon

Acne Top, G-Star Raw Pants.
American Apparel Top
Topman Top, T by Alexander Wang Pants
3.1 Phillip Lim Shirt and shorts
Vintage Calvin Klein Sweatshirt
Hermès Sweater, T by Alexander Wang Shorts

A meeting between an actor and his agent takes place in Los Angeles. The agent, fluent in Tinsel-speak, tells the actor, “Babe, there’s a prime part in a colossal movie. It’s gonna be fab.” Dollar signs spin in the agent’s eyes—ching, ching, ching—his mouth opens, and coins come pouring out. “Fuck that,” replies the actor. “It’s not going to happen. Not a chance.”

Dangling his legs off a picnic table in a ’90s-slacker look of loose jeans and a T-shirt, the actor, Shiloh Fernandez, recalls with a smirk his initial hesitation to join the cast of the upcoming remake of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Peering out across the hills of Tarzana, a quiet town 30 minutes north of Los Angeles, the 28-year-old heartthrob says, “I’m very conscious about what I put out there and what I spend my time working on. What does a movie like that do for people? Is it a positive or a negative thing?”

Fernandez, whose breakthrough role came in 2010 with the coming-of- age indie Skateland, is no stranger to Hollywood’s fickleness. One false move, and he knows it’s back to Boonville (more on that hole-of-a-town in a moment). Or American Apparel. Or dishwashing. But he agreed to meet with Evil Dead’s director, Fede Alvarez, who eventually convinced him to take the part. “My character and his sister, played by Jane Levy, have an arc that’s actually about being human and learning lessons,” he says of the improbable heart in a film that involves dismemberment, demons, and a display of carnage so artery-gushingly graphic that it would make even Eli Roth blanch. “Ultimately it’s entertainment and, yes, people are going to love it because it’s the most fucked-up movie ever. But there are real, emotional undercurrents that appealed to me and that I tried to hold onto.”

The same night he wrapped production on Mo Ogrodnik’s top-secret film Deep Powder (also due out this year, it features Haley Bennett and John Magaro), Fernandez flew to Auckland, New Zealand, for the 70-day Evil Dead shoot. “We were in one location for nearly three months imagining what it would be like if all of our friends were trying to kill us,” he says. “It was a struggle, but I think that sometimes the worst experiences turn into the best movies.”

Fernandez quickly tired of the stultifying hours spent waiting for resets, hair touch-ups, and the application of gratuitous amounts of homemade hemoglobin. During his days off, he harnessed his energy by co-writing, with his friend Mardana Mayginnes, the script for what would become Mayginnes’ second directorial effort, Amos’ Wake. Fernandez had already agreed to play the drifting title character, but he needed a female antagonist. He called Catherine Hardwicke (who directed him in 2011’s Red Riding Hood) to help reel in Oscar-nominated Kiwi actor Keisha Castle-Hughes. He found the third lead, a non-actor musician named Graham Candy, at a local bar. “I don’t think the Evil Dead guys were very happy about it,” he says of his 91-minute feature. “I told them we were making a short film.”

Since completing Evil Dead and Amos’ Wake, Fernandez hasn’t seen much downtime. He’s currently in talks with author Robert Mailer Anderson to adapt Anderson’s novel Boonville, which centers on the odd inhabitants of an actual town in Northern California 20 minutes from where Fernandez was raised. “I grew up in Redwood Valley, which has a population of about 1,700. Boonville had 1,000. They had their own language called Boontling.” (Indeed, adherents to the spoken jargon urinate in “donaghers,” walk their pet “haireems,” and drive their “japes” to “kingster” for Sunday mass.) “It’s a fascinating town,” Fernandez says. “My mom came to visit me recently, and she was like, ‘What are you working on?’ I said, I’m trying to get the rights to this novel, Boonville. And she was like, ‘I sent you that book! Robert Anderson’s sister, Margaret, dated your uncle Greg!’”

Long before Boonville gets off the ground, Fernandez will share the screen with Brit Marling, Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgård in Zal Batmanglij’s eco-terrorism thriller The East, for which he became a “cross-dressing free spirit ” who has an affair with the leader of an anarchist organization. There’s also his upcoming turn in Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard, in which he appears opposite on-screen love interest Shailene Woodley. Tallying the many recent additions to his resume, Fernandez says laughing, “I’m like a poor man’s Jessica Chastain.”

All joking aside, there’s some truth to the comparison. Like Chastain, whose breakneck career seemed to emerge from the ether, Fernandez finds himself at a tipping point between relative anonymity and widespread acclaim. Considering the very exciting prospect of his future, Fernandez scans the horizon and says, “I’m kind of at a crossroads right now, in terms of my career. I’m just trying to make sure I do what I believe in. And that I do it standing tall.”

Photography by Thomas Giddings. Styling by Djuna Bel.