Warning: Contains major spoilers for Last Christmas.
“I love Christmas,” Henry Golding says over the phone. Of course he does—it’s the time of year when you take a vacation, receive gifts, eat and drink yourself into a stupor...right? Well, not exactly. The Last Christmas star has a much more expansive idea of the holiday: “It’s a time where you’re unselfish. You spend time with your loved ones, your family; you spend your hard-earned cash on other people and get to treat other people. I always believe Christmas is for others.”
Golding’s altruistic vision of the holidays is perfectly suited to Tom, his character in the Emma Thompson–penned romantic comedy. He’s the kindly foil to Emilia Clarke’s Kate, a rollicking mess who seemingly destroys every relationship she has, with a combustible blend of selfishness and a disinclination to look within. When they meet one fateful day, Kate rejects him outright, observing that his all-too-human concern and inquisitiveness is “weird.” And perhaps it is! Or is that a too-cynical point of view? The holidays are nigh; Last Christmas would like you to reconsider that opinion, thank you very much. Golding spoke to Vogue about twinning with costar Clarke, the reason he loves karaoke, and having the twist ending to Last Christmas spoiled by his very own agent.
Last Christmas is delightful, but I have one complaint—your character, Tom, is too nice.
Too nice, is he? He’s definitely nice.
He’s considerate, he does good things for the needy...
He’s got some tough love in him, as well, I think. He’s got some lessons to pass on.
Yes, he’s great with advice. Do people come to you with their problems as well?
Man, you know, I wish I was better. I think we all should be better. One of the greatest points in this movie is that it reminds us to reach out to our loved ones. We often don’t see the struggles that everybody’s going through—so [it’s good] to remind ourselves to check up on them and see if things are going okay. Sometimes you can impart amazing wisdom; sometimes you just need to make them laugh. I think Tom and myself have that in common. I think I have a pretty strong head on my shoulders, and a fair amount of life experience.
There’s a real fairy-tale aspect to him—he literally dances around lamp posts, he’s quite nimble. How was it to perform that? Are you a dancer?
I’m not, you know. When I had my initial meeting with Emma Thompson—Dame Emma Thompson—and Paul Feig, I was like, “Look, I have an idea for the character. I believe he is a breath of fresh air, he should have like a lightness, and I think it’d be great to have a movement coach.” So we got a lady by the name of Jenny White to help me with a few little dance moves and sways and twists and turns, to make it natural. Tom’s the kind of person that believes they’re a better dancer than they actually are—which, we all think we’re better singers than we are, and we still love to karaoke. And I think that’s the same. He doesn’t care what people think. It makes him happy and it makes the person that he’s with laugh and giggle and smile. And that’s the main point of it.
In the movie, Tom says he’s a bad singer. Are you a bad singer too?
Ab-so-lutely terrible singer. You get to see a teeny tiny version of me trying to sing with Emilia, in a very lovely scene, luckily not ruining that magical moment because they cut most of my singing out.
But are you a karaoke guy?
I do karaoke. Because like I said, even if you are terrible at singing, you love singing your heart out, because it feels good. I just don’t do it in public.
So, there’s a big twist at the end of this movie. Did you see it coming?
My agent spoiled it for me. He was like, “Oh God, this script is amazing. There’s this huge reveal and blah blah blah, you’re dead.” I’m like, ah, man, why? But when I read it, it was a very different reveal, which we changed. Originally I wasn’t at the bench with [Kate at the end, after she finds out he’s dead], and [Tom’s] phone lights up, and it’s a message from him, and he says his goodbyes that way. I was like, “Guys, I really think that Tom needs to say a proper goodbye. He needs to be there and he needs to have that moment with Kate.” And that’s what we did.
Did knowing that Tom is no longer alive feed into your performance?
It didn’t, to be honest with you. I think it was more important to create who Tom was as a person and what his role was in Kate’s life. There are moments where you see him feel sorry for himself in a way, and it can’t be helped. He yearns to be with her and he yearns to be real, and that’s not possible, but at least he can impart the importance of being present and thankful for what you have. And that’s what he hopefully drives through to Kate.
I love Tom’s catchphrase, “Look up.” What’s the backstory of that?
Emma Thompson wrote it in, because her and her husband, in research for the movie, went on a tour to see hidden spots in London, rooftops or little statuettes on the corner, stuff that everybody passes but never notices. And it became an [symbol] of being present and looking around at your surroundings, and seeing things rather than passing by.
You and Emilia had a wonderful rapport on this movie.
She’s the best. We were so lucky that every single member of cast and crew was so energetic.
She said the two of you would sing together.
We became sort of in sync. We bought, separately, the same hot flask to keep our hot drinks in. And we had this thing off-camera where we’d dress the same during the press tour. Like today, we’ve both got red on: She’s got a red dress, I’ve got red pants on. We have the same love of music. We were actually in the same year at school. She’s a kindred spirit.
What you would like to get for Christmas this year, and what is your favorite Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
Oh, man, I don’t know. I’m so lucky to have everything that I need...
Aren’t you a watch guy? I thought for sure you’d have one on the list.
Yeah, you’re right. Oh, man. I’d love a vintage Daytona. That’s the last one in the collection that I’m waiting for. I want to spoil my loved ones and take them away for a winter break somewhere. That would be amazing...I always believe that the best gift is yet to come. At least that’s what I tell my wife.
Originally Appeared on Vogue