Like many actors, Theo James says he doesn't care much about how he looks — but he certainly cares about what he smells like. The Divergent actor, whose Boss the Scent ads were released today, sat down with the Cut a few months ago to talk about his grooming routine. Below, James tells us about his most poignant scent memories, his love of shaving, and his experience filming the Hugo Boss campaign under the watchful eye of producer Darren Aronofsky.
What was the experience of filming the Boss campaign like?
Being an actor, you have a script and a character as an anchor. Whereas when you’re doing a campaign, it's more kind of “moody” — mood boards, that kind of stuff. It was easy with Darren Aronofsky. Obviously I like his films, and he made it very easy.
But you definitely have to go in a bit of a headspace where your friends would call you a dickhead if they saw you doing it. You have to own it; otherwise you’ll look stupid. The idea with this is a bit different for Boss — that’s why I was interested in doing it in the first place. There’s an element of mystery to the character, and that kind of classic, old-school masculinity.
What’s your first scent memory?
I don’t know, but there are certain ones that bring me back to certain times. For some reason tea reminds me of being a kid in my parents’ house in the kitchen. They would always fill their cupboards with tea. Mediterranean pine leaves from those trees have a certain fragrance when they fall from the tree and they bake in the sun; that reminded me of being in the Mediterranean — holidays and those kinds of trips and adventures.
What is your grooming routine and how do you feel about male makeup?
I don’t have to wear it too much when filming because I’ve got some Greek in me so I have the old Mediterranean tan. When I start, I shave my crotch region ...
But you don’t want to be too wrapped up in how you look. At the same time, if you’re doing something when you’re in front of lots of cameras and people taking pictures, you need to be in a good suit, you need to feel confident, and you need to feel good about yourself because it’s quite revealing, isn’t it — to be doing that kind of thing?
Often when you’re working, you get out of bed, have a shower, go to work, and then someone puts some stuff in your hair. But I like shaving. It’s a good ritual for me. Sometimes I have a beard, and when I don’t, I enjoy the ritual of a good razor, some pre-balm stuff, and aftershave. Doing it right!
You know when you go to a bar and they do the close shave? I’m not a fan of that. Years ago, before I was an actor, I was in Copacabana and they had a close shave, and a barber put lemon on my face after. I remember that — fresh lemon.
This campaign centers on modern seduction. What do you think is seductive these days?
Mystery, in a way. Even though I’m an actor, I don’t love sharing everything about myself. It’s always good to keep a little bit for yourself, or take time to get to know someone. If there’s an element of mystery in getting to know someone, and not laying it out there as soon as you meet them, I think that can be very, very seductive and kind of addictive.
If you wanted to intentionally repel somebody, how would you do that?
Not wear deodorant. No. When I intentionally repel someone, I don’t look approachable. Sometimes looking like you want to hurt someone can work.
Do you do anything to your eyebrows? I’m sure you’ve heard people tell you that your eyebrows are on —
Wait, what’s it called?
Eyebrows on fleek.
What does that mean? I noticed that the trend for women is more natural, but I don’t do anything to my eyebrows, no. I always had a thing about them when I was a kid — I always hated them because I thought they were like two massive slugs on my face. But now I’m okay.
This interview has been edited and condensed.