It’s the voice that gets you. Narcos (debuting Aug. 28 on Netflix) opens with DEA agent Steve Murphy describing the surreal exploits of ’80s-era cocaine kingpins in a rough, honeyed drawl. It issues from Boyd Holbrook, 33, a strange, seductive hybrid of Appalachian-bred uber-dude and urban auteur. In 2001, he was working as a theatre carpenter in his hometown of Prestonsburg, Ky., but then switched to modelling for Gucci and Marc Jacobs to make more cash for film school. (This summer, however, he did deign to become the new face of Dior Homme: “I know [creative director] Kris Van Assche, and I think they make some wicked suits, so shazam.”) After Holbrook sent Gus Van Sant a screenplay, the director cast him in 2008’s Milk; by 2014, he had four films opening in a single year, playing smouldering love interests in The Skeleton Twins and Very Good Girls, and troubled blue-collar types in Gone Girl and A Walk Among the Tombstones. All this, while squiring his once-fiancée Elizabeth Olsen around town and making short films on the side; Peacock Killer is hitting the festivals soon, and his company has 10 more projects on the go. He also plays a thug menacing Natalie Portman in the western Jane Got a Gun, and will be appearing in Terrence Malick’s mysterious upcoming music-industry epic.
But first: starring as Murphy, the real-life agent who barrelled into South America moustache first to stop Pablo Escobar. To prep, Holbrook visited the FBI facility Quantico, met the actual Murphy and gained 25 pounds via jiu-jitsu and boxing: “You think you’re in shape until you wrestle another man for three or four minutes, and then you understand how in shape you are.” He chose Narcos for its gruelling seven-month shoot in Colombia. He remembers one day where 300 locals surrounded the set, some popping wheelies on bikes. “It’s not like an American production, where everyone’s nice and safe,” Holbrook says. “We were just working, man. What happens, happens. There’s something really interesting about that, where you don’t have control.
It’s just like, ‘F-ck it, let’s go with it, let’s do this.’”