Paul Mescal: Facts About The Oscar Nominee (& Why That Angelina Rumor Is False)

When Paul Mescal's name was read out as part of the Best Actor nominations category of the 2023 Oscars, some bewildered netizens had some questions. On Twitter, one perplexed user asked, "Who is this Paul Mescal boy?" Another wrote, "I still don't know who Paul Mescal is and I've never seen him act." Thankfully, there were plenty of fans on hand to educate on exactly why this actor was such a big deal. While he'd only been famous for a few years at the time of his first Oscar nomination, the work he'd delivered within that time was nothing short of exceptional, receiving acclaim from critics and fans alike. As one fan clarified on Twitter, "Imagine getting an Emmy nomination for your first performance in a TV show and an Oscar nomination for your first lead performance in a film." Or as GQ put it, "We're witnessing the emergence of a generational talent."

Even though he's been famous for less time than we've all known the word "Coronavirus," Mescal has always had lofty ambitions. The star of films like "Aftersun" and "The Lost Daughter" once told The Irish Times that he had one particular hope as his career continues to grow, proclaiming, "I'd love to be thought of almost universally as a good actor." Read on for 14 facts about Paul Mescal, including why that Angelina Jolie rumor is false.

He was born and raised in Ireland

Paul Mescal was born and raised in Maynooth, Ireland to a policewoman and a schoolteacher. He claims to have been unhappy as a teenager, describing the time as hellish while speaking with The Guardian. "You're going through puberty, spotty," he remembered. "I felt my hands were too big for my body. Normal stuff, but I found those years particularly difficult." He did find a passion while he was young, and he was involved in sports throughout his life. "That was the main focus for me through my youth and teens and early twenties," he told the He went on to play for an Under-21 Gaelic football team in County Kildare.

If Mescal hadn't been involved in sports, he may never have found his passion for acting. He revealed to The Guardian that his first-ever experience was being forced to audition for the school musical — an opportunity he initially resisted. "I know for a fact I probably wouldn't have auditioned because of the masculinity that I'd been prescribed by being on a sports team," he said. However, as a student at Maynooth Post Primary School, he won the lead in a production of "The Phantom of the Opera." While 16-year-old Mescal found performing to be intimidating, he also loved the nightly buzz of it all. "I've never felt an adrenaline rush like it," he remembered. The rest, as they say, was history.

He acted onstage after college

Acting in "The Phantom of the Opera" at 16 made Paul Mescal re-evaluate some things. "The week of doing that show, your identity shifts because you fall in love with doing something else and you fall in love with it quickly," he recalled in The Independent about that formative experience. "...That's a feeling that you chase a bit." Soon after, he decided to chase it all the way to The Lir Academy, a theatre school in Dublin.

While in college, Mescal acted in numerous shows. According to his page on the school's official website, his experiences included roles in plays like "Much Ado About Nothing," and he was proudly proficient in dances such as the Tango, Foxtrot, and Cha-Cha. He was even certified in stage combat with both rapiers and daggers.

As his graduation date approached, Mescal won a role that seemed too good to be true. He made his professional stage debut in a production of "The Great Gatsby," and although he was barely in his twenties, he starred in the lead role of Jay Gatsby. "When I found out I'd gotten the job, I was in the middle of Pearse Station, bawling crying," he reminisced with The Irish Times. He was happy to find himself unaffected by nerves. "I thought I'd be so nervous for the actual play, but I wasn't any less nervous compared to doing shows in college," he said. That mindset would soon serve him well.

His big breakout came with Normal People

Paul Mescal's big break came in 2020 when he starred in "Normal People," a miniseries adaptation of the popular Sally Rooney novel of the same name. The actor played Connell, a young man who strikes up an on-again, off-again relationship with a girl named Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) while they were teenagers. Connell, a fan-favorite, made Mescal a bit nervous before he dove into the part. He told the that before the show came out he feared disappointing fans of the book, admitting, "That's the biggest source of anxiety. There is nothing you can do to fix that. The version of Connell people are going to see is in the editing room now, and it's my version." Still, he was confident that he had done the character justice. 

But Mescal need not have worried. The show premiered to rave reviews, garnering a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The budding superstar was nominated for an Emmy for his role on the show, and he won a BAFTA for the part. While accepting the award, he beamed, "I want to dedicate this to Daisy, who is the best scene partner and one of the best people I know. I'm probably forgetting people and I'm incredibly nervous, so ... my mom and dad at home, I love you."

As far as much of the world was concerned, Paul Mescal had arrived. 

He's an avid photographer (with a secret Instagram)

Paul Mescal has made a career in front of the camera, but that's not the only place he likes to be. The actor is a big fan of photography, too, and he told GQ that he couldn't live without his Nikon. "I like to take photographs of people that I love and care about," he explained. "It's a way of kind of scrapbooking, or documenting my life."

Though the "Normal People" star deleted the majority of his social media accounts when the Hulu miniseries skyrocketed him to superstardom, he has kept an Instagram account where he shares his photography. "It's the way I was using social media before I hated it," he reflected to GQ. "Because it's not pressurized with a million plus followers, it's just photos of my friends." His low-profile photography Instagram includes photos of his "Aftersun" co-star Frankie Corio, "Normal People" star Daisy Edgar-Jones, and numerous snapshots of his (alleged) former paramour, Phoebe Bridgers. "... If people find [the Instagram account] ... great," he said. 

He and Phoebe went down in the DMs

Like many people, Phoebe Bridgers watched "Normal People" when it dropped on Hulu at the height of the pandemic. She also took to Twitter to tweet about how the show made her feel. Keeping her thoughts very on-brand for her music, she quipped, "Finished 'Normal People' and now I'm sad and horny oh wait." Mescal replied, "I'm officially dead," to which the "Savior Complex" singer responded, "Nooo, don't die, [you're] so talented aha." The Twitter-fueled flirtationship was on, and it soon developed into a real-life relationship.

At first, they tried to keep things quiet. However, speculation ran amok online that Bridgers had flown to Ireland in the middle of the pandemic to hook up with the actor. Speculation was confirmed when the café where they got brunch tweeted about the pair, thanking the couple for stopping in. So much for secrecy! Mescal later told GQ that they struggled with whether to post about each other online. "That was the anxiety of like, 'Oh, f***, does that mean that we are public property?'" he reflected. Ultimately, they decided it was fine. "... I think it's like, no, that's what couples choose to do," he added.

There was no question that they were together by the time Mescal lent his acting talent to one of Bridgers' music videos. He appeared in the clip for "Savior Complex," which was directed by another famous Phoebe — Phoebe Waller-Bridge. He even joined Bridgers on tour in 2022, and documented the experience on his photography Instagram.

He made his feature film debut in 2021

Paul Mescal began his acting career on stage and quickly moved to television. Shortly after he graduated from college, he spoke with The Irish Times about all of the places his career might go. "[Being a movie star] would intimidate me a bit," he said. "If ever it came up, it's something I'd have to adjust to, I suppose. Or disappear from."

After the success of "Normal People," Hollywood came calling. Mescal made his feature debut in Maggie Gyllenhaal's acclaimed 2021 directorial debut, "The Lost Daughter." The Netflix thriller featured Olivia Colman as a woman who takes herself on vacation to Greece, only to become involved with a family with ties to organized crime. Mescal played Will, a hunky man who works at a bar on the beach.

Speaking with On Demand Entertainment, the actor reflected on finally making the jump to film. By all accounts, he seemed to have enjoyed it. Giving a shoutout to the talented cast and crew he worked with on the Oscar-nominated flick, he shared, "I'm in good company ... I feel like I'm in the best company for a first film. I'm pretty pleased with myself." Seeming bashful, he added, "... I feel great." 

He's uncomfortable with being a sex symbol

"Normal People" made Paul Mescal a household name, but it had another effect too — it made him a sex symbol. The show featured a not-insignificant amount of nudity, with the actor often appearing nude on screen save for a suggestive gold chain around his neck. When the miniseries aired on the Irish channel, RTÉ, it prompted outrage and complaints across the country. Mescal thought the response was disproportionate. "Just relax," he told GQ. "Can we just f***ing ... worry about the price that people are paying for rent ...That's what we should be focusing on and not the fact we're showing willies on the TV."

Unfortunately, this aspect of his stardom has also led to people approaching Mescal in public as though they know him, considering they've seen more of his body than the average stranger. He told the magazine that a fan once came up to him and mentioned having taken a photo of his genitals when the show aired on television. "I remember that was the first time that I was really angry," he recalled. "I was like, 'That's f***ing rude!' It's embarrassing for you, it's embarrassing for me, it's embarrassing for my friends.'"

Reflecting further on being a sex symbol, Mescal told The Guardian that he's chosen to ignore people's sexualized expectations of him. "I think when it becomes personal, it's just uncomfortable. What I've learned, though, is that I can deal with that," he said. "... It's something I can just choose to not give a s*** about."

Playing a dad in Aftersun was a challenge

In 2022, Paul Mescal's career climbed yet another major rung when he starred in Charlotte Wells' feature debut "Aftersun." Mescal's character, Calum, is a father seemingly and privately dealing with depression as he takes his daughter, Sophie (Frankie Corio), on vacation. It's a poetic, impressionistic film that allows Mescal's performance to speak for itself rather than spelling out its themes, and the actor won considerable critical acclaim for his performance. 

But, prior to production, Mescal wasn't sure if he'd be able to pull it off. After all, in "Normal People" a mere two years earlier, he played someone still in high school. The actor was only in his mid-twenties when he filmed "Aftersun," and he wasn't too sure how to depict a 30-year-old father. "[Calum] loves his daughter, and I don't know what that feeling is, specifically, having an 11-year-old daughter," he told GQ. Luckily, he knew how to swing it. "I know the feeling of caring for somebody, loving somebody," he reasoned. "And I was just hoping that if we transposed it into that, I'd feel confident."

The film is very much a two-hander, which meant Mescal needed to spend almost the entire film acting opposite Corio. It seems that he and his young co-star got along great. He took a photograph of Corio that he shared on his Instagram, captioning the snap, "My pal." He elaborated on their relationship to Deadline, gushing about his pint-sized colleague, "Frankie is wild." Together, they made movie magic.

His sister is a musician

Paul Mescal has starred in a number of stage musicals throughout his career, so it's no surprise that the man can sing. It's also no surprise that he's not the only musically talented one in his family. Like her big brother, Nell Mescal is aiming for a career as an entertainer — specifically as a musician. The budding star has released several singles, including "Homesick," which dropped in January 2023. Since then, she's performed the song on Irish late-night television and racked up festival invites

And yes, Nell is already well aware that some people are interested in her because of who her brother is. She told The Times, "A therapist told me that people were jealous of me because of Paul." Still, she wants to be sure she's making her own way in the business. As she told the outlet, she's been working hard at her craft for far longer than her brother has been famous. "I know it's a cliché but I've been writing songs since I was 12," she insisted.

Speaking with The Evening Standard, she revealed that she made her musical debut opening for Phoebe Bridgers in 2021. When she told the skeleton-suit-wearing superstar that she didn't want the slot just because of who her brother is, Bridgers contended that she really liked Nell's music. "That was a really affirming moment," she added. Having her brother's support also clearly meant a lot to her. "He knows that I'm in my own lane, doing something different," Nell said.

Paul Mescal's Oscar nomination was a joy

On January 24, 2023, Paul Mescal received some of the news that every young actor can only dream of when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in "Aftersun." The star was competing in a category that included such heavyweights as Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser. His sister Nell gave fans a glimpse at his reaction to the news, tweeting a screencap of a group family video call. Mescal is visible in the top left of the image as his family beams with pride — he's seemingly so overcome with joy that his face is blurry from movement.

In a statement published by Digital Spy, the actor publicly shared this state of elation with the world. "To be recognized by the Academy is such an insane honour and I'm so utterly grateful," he said. Paul also made sure to give a shoutout to the "Aftersun" director and his co-star, adding, "I want to dedicate this nomination to my two friends Charlotte [Wells] and Frankie [Corio] who I love dearly! This is bananas, thank you!"

The Daily Mail reported that he marked the occasion with a jubilant night out in London. Publishing photos of the "God's Creatures" star hanging outside a bar smoking, the outlet noted that several of the star's famous friends turned up to help him celebrate. The guest list reportedly included "Fleabag" star Andrew Scott, as well as Alison Oliver, and Fionn O'Shea, who co-starred with him on "Normal People." 

He tried not to perform in Brando's shadow

Before "Normal People" was but a dream in Hulu's eyes, Paul Mescal spoke with The Irish Times about his love of theater. He called out Irish actor Cillian Murphy as someone he would like to model his career after, noting, "What I love about Cillian is how he falls back into theatre, almost as a medicinal thing. It's a really exciting time to be an Irish actor right now, especially in London." While the indie film world went wild for the star's performance in "Aftersun," he made good on his promise to himself and pivoted back. 

In late 2022 and early 2023, Mescal starred in a London stage production of Tennessee Williams' iconic play "A Streetcar Named Desire." He took on the role of Stanley Kowalski, originally made famous by Marlon Brando on stage and screen. He told The Guardian that he definitely felt the pressure of living up to such a well-known role. In fact, he's avoided rewatching Brando's version of the character so that he doesn't subconsciously take anything from the 1950s original. "It comes with a heap of pressure," he confessed. However, he decided to reframe his thinking and pretend that he had never seen another version. "Ultimately, it was a new play at one point, and that's what I'm trying to focus on, to go in there and tear into it," he explained. Naturally, photos of the actor wearing a pair of silk pajamas in the show went predictably viral online.

Paul Mescal and Phoebe Bridgers may be over

Paul Mescal and Phoebe Bridgers' relationship seemed to have been going great as late as November 2022, when The Guardian set the internet ablaze by seeming to confirm their engagement. As Cosmopolitan noted, the outlet then edited the story to soften their language, writing that Bridgers and Mescal were only alleged to have gotten engaged. Curious. Mere weeks later, fans theorized that their relationship may not have been progressing to the next step — and worse still, that the two were actually over. 

Eyebrows were raised at the end of 2022 when The 1975 singer Matt Healy shared an Instagram post depicting him kissing Bridgers, with comedian and filmmaker Bo Burnham seemingly officiating the union. Furthermore, she and Burnham were spotted several times in public together, prompting gossip that the two were dating. Bridgers' subsequent guest verse on SZA's track, "Ghost in the Machine," certainly points toward a split. She even told NME that the song was written just before the December 2022 release of SZA's album. 

When Bridgers' supergroup project boygenius released music in January 2023, she told Rolling Stone that one song, in particular, was originally called "Paul is Dead." Curious, indeed. On an episode of "Chicken Shop Date," she even gave advice for dealing with heartbreak. Mescal himself seemingly confirmed the breakup while on the "Off Menu" podcast. "I'm always like, 'God, I hope something f***ing bad happens, so, I can just start smoking,'" he confessed. "Yes, so, I'm smoking again, read into that what you will."

Coffee with Angelina Jolie sparked rumors

At this point, Paul Mescal makes headlines whenever he steps out in public. (Who can forget those short shorts he wore on a shirtless jog during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns?) In the last few days of 2022, fans furiously devoured every morsel of news about what seemed to be a coffee date. The other party involved was none other than Angelina Jolie, who brought her daughter Shiloh along for a friendly meetup in London that was of course spotted and snapped by onlookers. 

Page Six published a photo of the trio at the café of the theater where Mescal stars in "A Streetcar Named Desire," and fans on Twitter were quick to speculate about what could have caused such an unlikely bond. Even entertainment news outlets were quick to jump on the rumor train, with the Daily Mail ensuring that their headline regarding the news story mentioned that Mescal was "newly single." 

A few days after the coffee chat, Us Weekly revealed that Jolie simply wanted to meet him after she and her daughter saw the actor perform on stage. A source told the outlet, "[It] was a friendly coffee and nothing more than that." They continued by stating, "It wasn't difficult for her to arrange the meeting. She had her people call his people and it was set up right away." We bet lots of fans wish they could do the same.

He joined the cast of The Gladiator sequel

Right now, Paul Mescal is in an interesting phase of his career. He has the accolades, the awards attention, the fans, and the critical acclaim ... so what's next? Mescal's not sure himself, but he does know one thing — fans shouldn't expect to see him as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe any time soon. Not that he's had an offer. "I feel kind of like ridiculous saying no when it hasn't been asked, but it's not something that I am pining to do," he told GQ.

"I'm nervous about the next steps," he admitted to Deadline. "I don't want to make just movies like 'Aftersun' for the rest of my life. I know that will be the bedrock, but I want to have my cake and eat it. There are other things out there I want to do and try and taste." In other words, he likes being in indie films, but Mescal is ready to star in a movie with a big budget.

Luckily for him, he found one. In 2023, Mescal was cast in "Gladiator 2," Ridley Scott's sequel to the Russell Crowe-starring original. The actor was reportedly one of the first potential stars to meet with Scott, and he was apparently the legendary director's first choice throughout the casting process. Considering that the original "Gladiator" won Best Picture and a host of other Oscars, the sequel is sure to be a big hit, launching Mescal's career to those treasured next steps.