Cover Story: Dacre Montgomery
By Grant Legan | Words by Alithea Castillo
Clad in a white linen shirt and a pair of jeans, Dacre Montgomery leaned into the white couches of the Edition. As the room filled with the gentle light of the August afternoon sun, it was like camouflage. If he was anyone else, if you blink you’d miss him.
But the 23-year-old Perth native was hardly “just anyone else”.
Onto Stranger Things
Catapulted into the public eye in 2017 with the silver screen remake of the 90s classic, Power Rangers, Montgomery’s rising star burned even brighter when he was cast as Billy Hargrove, the newest human antagonist on Stranger Things.
Reminiscent of Montgomery’s sudden rise to fame with Power Rangers, Billy Hargrove was thrust at us and we couldn’t keep our eyes off him. Revving his blue ‘79 Camaro into the Hawkins High School parking lot, Hargrove locked in the archetypal 80s high school villain with a jean jacket, a mullet, and a cigarette flick. To top it off, the 50 second introduction of the character was scored with “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by The Scorpions. It was perfection.
Just like the hairsprayed high schoolers in that parking lot, we knew nothing about him but we were hooked. After all 15 million of us binged the addictive miniseries, everyone had Dacre Montgomery on their minds.
I was expecting the same kind of super-charged intensity that afternoon. Instead, I was met with a warm calmness that ran deep. Had he not come straight from a photoshoot that required him to walk barefoot in the streets of midtown New York, he was a quietly unassuming figure.
A meteoric rise grounded in art
We started the interview on the topic of his bare feet, of course. In particular, it was a tattoo with intricate black motifs on his toes that piqued my interest.
Asked about what it symbolized, Montgomery chuckled. “Oh, nothing.”
“But, Liv and I both have this one,” he added pointing to a winged tip design on his toe that was identical to one that his girlfriend, Australian model Liv Pollock, had.
“If [the tattoos] meant something I’m sure it would just change for me,” he explained. "You kind of have to do it last minute and just go with it since it's going to be in your body for a while."
This persistence of meaningful evolutions and stories was a constant in Montgomery’s life.
Born to parents who worked behind the scenes in the Australian film industry, Montgomery grew up with a deep love and appreciation for all things film. Before even hitting puberty, he told his mom that he wanted to act. After a decade of acting school and auditions, Montgomery finally booked his first acting gig in Hollywood in 2017.
When asked about what it was that kept him hellbent on pursuing this career, he talks about his love for the art and escapism that film provides.
“It’s a combination of all visual art. It’s the set decoration, the cinematographer, the costumes—it’s so much art combined.” He continues, “I want to give people an opportunity to escape in characters they could get lost in. I just want to portray meaningful stories.”
“You crave stories.”
Listing Into the Wild and Luc Besson’s cult classic The Big Blue, as some of his cinematic inspirations, weaving and telling stories that evolve meaningfully matters to Montgomery. This much is evident in his first two major acting roles in the US.
“We were able to do big action spectacles on [Powers Rangers]. It was an incredible time,” recalls Montgomery. “But then you crave stories. Stranger Things gave me that completely different experience to work with.”
Indeed, his bad boy Billy Hargrove character was the antithesis to his Jason Scott Lee character, a modern-day jock who was liked by everyone. With each evolution, Montgomery lends a little bit of himself. The jock was humanized by Montgomery’s inherent sensitivity. For the bad boy, he called upon personal experiences of being bullied as a sensitive, overweight kid.
Painfully aware of how stereotypes don’t move stories forward, Montgomery stresses that “Human character isn’t just one thing. It’s not just good or bad.”
He felt so strongly about not playing a one-dimensional bad guy that it prompted him to have a discussion with the Duffer brothers.
“It was episode 5 and I said ‘There’s nothing for the audience here. This guy is just bad. Why? What’s the reason?” recalls Montgomery. “When they wrote the scene [about the abusive father], I was so happy. It gave so much depth to the character.”
In pursuit of curiosity and creativity
If there is one thing Montgomery will leave you with, it’s an amazement for his insatiable curiosity and unending creativity. Every moment is an opportunity for him to think, to question, to learn, and to create.
Montgomery talks about being hit with epiphanies from the moment he wakes up. As he goes about his daily routine, he’s invigorated by the things his mind focuses on and discovers between tasks.
On working on set, he says “Every single crew member on the set has a different job. I try to learn about it. I look at the continuity of the scene, each nuance of a plate moving, a curtain shifting, and all these different things. I try to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can.”
“[You must have] Curiosity for everyone, everything. Every experience is so important to an evolving human. Not just to artists or people in the arts—to all human beings.”
It’s his thirst for learning that pushes Montgomery to pursue his other great love—interior design. A passion that deepened after an internship with interior designer Adam Hunter, the creative hopes to open restaurants and design houses in the future.
On Instagram, he follows only one account, DKMH, one of the actor’s personal projects that he says he’s not ready to discuss yet. Despite the absence of any information about the project, the account has over 21,000 followers on its empty account. The Perth native assures us that when more details about the mysterious project are revealed in mid-2019, “everybody will be happy.”
At home in the predictable and unpredictable
For all his mysteriousness and hunger for new experiences, there is one constant in his life: Perth.
“Being in Perth makes me feel like when I was a child,” he says, fondly. “It’s just me living my life, being as driven and as passionate and wanting it as much.”
“I really want to base myself at home. It’s important for the soul,” he adds, firmly.
His love for Perth runs deep because this is where his family and closest friends are. Montgomery mentions feeling lucky that he has both because not all young actors in Hollywood have the support system he has.
The coastal city has also heavily influenced the star’s personal style who says that he prefers “linens. lots of linen.” in white, beige, and black.
“I’m very big on the open collar. In the states whenever I’m here it’s ‘Do up your top button. Do up one more button.’ Well, in Australia, we’re very casual,” he explains.
Montgomery even briefly drops the shroud of mystery around DKMH by revealing that “how linen is as a fabric and how it breathes” is a huge part of what is coming with his passion project.
Despite his need to set down deep roots in his hometown, Montgomery falls into familiar habits of constantly needing new stimuli, this time by traveling to places that “aren’t predictable.”
“It’s places that aren’t like anywhere I’ve been. I’m craving places with different terrains: deserts, jungles, oceans. I’m craving new experiences.”
True to form, when asked about what’s next for the actor, he expresses an attraction to the still unwritten stories in the blank pages of the book that is Dacre Montgomery.
“I don’t know what’s next. It’s a turn in another direction to discover something new. To be bold and create. I don’t know what form it’s going to come in yet. But I’m constantly curious, I’m constantly ambitious.”