Asa Butterfield is ready to expand his career. The young English star, who first rose to prominence with leading roles in emotional heavy-hitters like Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, has been consistently busy with Netflix’s fan-favorite series Sex Education these last few years. But according to Asa Butterfield himself, he’s been ready “to try something else, both in terms of style and scope.” Loyal followers would have surely taken notice by now with his most recent projects, such as the horror film Choose or Die. Moviegoers can now see him in what is perhaps his most idiosyncratic role yet, playing an experimental, punk performance artist in Peter Strickland’s Flux Gourmet.
In honor of Flux Gourmet hitting theaters and video on demand, we were able to sit down with both Asa Butterfield and director-writer Peter Strickland for an exclusive interview. Strickland has perhaps outdone himself with Flux Gourmet, and that’s really saying something coming from the filmmaker behind genre pieces like In Fabric. His latest twisted narrative follows the fly-on-the-wall scenario of an outsider journalist who is tasked to document a trio of “sonic caterers” as they take up a new residency under the watch of a lucrative director, played by none other than Gwendoline Christie. The art of sonic catering involves extracting weird or disturbing noises, feelings, and reactions from food in front of a live-audience, and as our lead reporter follows Asa Butterfield’s Billy and his fellow performers, seeing them yell, cry, and strip naked on stage with food, the more he realizes that he’s becoming a part of the act itself.
Sonic Catering is a very real thing, though perhaps not always as extreme as Flux Gourmet makes it out to be. What’s been heavily marketed as a “midnight movie” or genre piece is actually more of a drama in Peter Strickland’s eyes. “I do you approach it as a drama… it has elements of horror, of course, but if you’re a die-hard horror fan, I think it comes short if we present it as a horror film.” Flux Gourmet very much uses its various tones to tell a conflicted story of artistry, not only with food but with Strickland’s own experiences as a storyteller who has had to struggle with everything from creative freedom to technical limitations. “You should see the ones I haven’t got funded,” he jokingly says when asked how he manages to get such taboo films off the ground in the first place. “We just go lucky… had I written [Flux Gourmet] for a bigger budget? I don’t think anyone would have funded it.” Call it luck or what have you, this was something that Asa Butterfield didn’t think twice about passing out on.
“I didn’t really make sense of it, but I I had seen some of Peter’s films and I knew that he could bring something like this to life,” says Butterfield. “It’s clearly a very personal and specific look into this world.” Butterfield claims that he first read the script while shooting season 3 of Sex Education, and although he’s quite satisfied with how that show has progressed with its growing audience and relevant subject matter, he still had that itch to go out of his comfort zone. “Billy, this character was really funny but in a very different way to any of the other roles that I’ve played.” Out of the main trio of sonic caterers, Billy is the runt and handyman of the group, only really speaking when spoken to and occupied with his jean-on-jean outfits and punk hairstyle when he’s not toying with food on stage. “He’s got this very low level of energy and this sort of indifference to the world around him, which I find really endearing,” Butterfield notes.
Asa Butterfield worked close with the director-writer to make sure he was never overdoing it nor underselling the performance either. Accroding to him, “playing a character who can really say a lot with without really doing anything or saying much, that was an interesting challenge.” Peter Strickland actually cited Andy Warhol superstar Joe D’Alessandro as an inspiration for Billy. “He was just very indifferent. Everyone was attracted to him. Everyone was fascinated by him. But he lived in his own orbit, which I find really fascinating.” Playing it simple and straight isn’t always so easy though, and for Billy, it required a level of nuanced skill that Strickland saw only in Butterfield. “Just because you don’t emote, it doesn’t mean it’s less impactful,” Strickland explains. “I think the whole way [Asa] pulled it off, it’s quite difficult to do… the more subdued it is, the harder it is to be believable sometimes.” However, if there’s one thing Butterfield has proved thus far, it’s that he’s continuously willing to push himself and deliver. He may be currently gearing up for Sex Education Season 4, but he’s already got more unique projects on the horizon.
Audiences can next look forward to seeing Asa Butterfield in the horror film All Fun and Games, which was acquired by the Russo Brothers’ production company AGBO. The studio is already on a roll this year with Everything Everywhere All at Once, a co-partnership with A24, picking up early Oscar talks and with their latest star-studded action flick The Gray Man quickly approaching its Netflix release. All Fun and Games is an original horror from newcomers Ari Costa and Eren Celeboglu that follows a group of siblings who get caught up in a game with a demonic twist. “It’s definitely a new side to me,” Butterfield proclaims. “I don’t want to give away too much but my character goes a bit crazy, which was fun.” And as for the hotly-anticipated next season of Sex Education? Don’t worry because Butterfield confirms that “season four, we start shooting that this summer, going back to Wales.” Looks like eager fans won’t have to wait too long.