I think being present is the thing of nature that I’m most fond of.
Photography by Reto Sterchi
Styling by Regina Doland
Grooming by Jordan Hurst
Buckle up—it’s Aries season. Love them or hate them, these fire signs are impossible to ignore. It’s no surprise that these astrological “babies” are the first sign of the zodiac: they aspire to be number one in everything they do. Bold and impulsive, they will dive into things headfirst, asking questions later. They are adventurous. Their self-confidence is something to be admired. They excel in many different arenas. Multi-hyphenate David Alexander Flinn is as Aries as they come.
An accomplished artist whose canvas spans sculpture, photography and filmmaking, Flinn is also a hugely successful model, having graced the fashion campaigns of such juggernaut brands as Prada, Saint Laurent, Chloé, Bulgari, DKNY, Coach, Diesel, Zara, Rag & Bone, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Jimmy Choo and H&M, among others. Now he’s adding actor to a mantle that’s in constant flux.
This month, Flinn stars alongside Katie Holmes in her third directorial effort. An adaptation of Kathleen Tessaro’s novel of the same name, Rare Objects follows Benita (Julia Mayorga), a young woman who forms an unlikely bond with a troubled socialite, Diana (Holmes), inside a psychiatric facility. Upon leaving, they cross paths in New York City and reignite the friendship that might just save them both. Flinn plays Jimmy, Diana’s loyal brother and Benita’s sweet-natured love interest.
Anthem recently caught up with Flinn for an in-depth conversation and exclusive photoshoot.
Rare Objects hits select theaters and On Demand on April 14 via IFC Films.
Hi, David. How is everything in your world?
Good, good. I’m back in New York. I was in LA for a little bit, as you know, and I was traveling around the world. Now I get to settle for four to five weeks.
I’m glad we were able to grab you while you were in LA. What were you doing out there?
It all worked out. I just shot a new thriller-horror. And all these other things happened so it was a very serendipitous trip. I kind of decided that I’m gonna venture over to LA and re-set up camp out there in the fall and spend some time out there. I lived out there for five years, off and on, in my 20s and things are really picking up in that world right now so I just need to commit.
Tell me about this thriller-horror you just shot.
It’s called Open House and I play the husband of the lead. David Charbonier and Justin Powell are a directing duo that specializes in horror. And it has horror elements, but it’s a psychological thriller and more ethereal. I’d actually asked my agent, probably three weeks prior, “Man, I really love drama and drama’s cool, but I really would like to do a thriller, a horror.” And boom.
Fantastic. It was also your birthday this week. Happy birthday, David.
Thank you, thank you.
An Aries… I know you’re pretty big into astrology. When did that all start for you?
I’ve always been very into the ethereal, but also numerology and the alchemical. That’s always played a really big part, not only in how I look at life, but also in how things are important to me. I’m very much into being outdoors and connecting to the nature of the planet. It always felt like I do have spiritual beliefs and they don’t really fall within any one specific line of belief system. It’s a mix of everything. I’m kind of a history nerd, especially when it comes to religion, and I’ve read all the texts. I really got into numerology after I studied Dante’s Inferno. I went to SVA and took this amazing course called The Anatomy of Hell. The professor was very much into myths and the cosmos. From there came this understanding and analysis of the moon pulling the ocean. So much of us is water so how can we not be affected by gravitational pulls? It influences our lives. From there came this scientific, borderline health and chemical, belief system of mine. I was never super into astrology before that. I just always had girlfriends or besties that were like, “You’re such a Pisces man.” [laughs] I was like, “What does that mean?” They’re like, “You’re super emotional.” I’m like, “Yeah, okay, that’s pretty much on point.” I just started seeing a lot of correlations.
You obviously found a lot of truth in it and what it says about you. Let’s take your multi-hyphenate status. You dabble in everything. Does that square with an Aries personality?
Totally. I definitely see a lot of similarities in it all. I took this great intensive program in Majorca over New Year’s and got to work with the phenomenal Giles Foreman, who’s also Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy’s acting coach. He did this thing called Yak Movement, which is a study in movement psychology. His analysis of our person and our persona, just through our everyday mannerisms, was a really good moment in the mirror for me to figure out which patterns of mine in the past I had allowed to repeat themselves. I really go by this statement: devolve or repeat. I realized that so many of these patterns of mine also correlated to identity and the perception of my own identity. I think there are these preset molds we fall into. We’re given these tools, which for us Aries are things like power and passion, but then we need other things to substantiate them, and those things rely on us to be active in the pursuit and setting the stage for them to be implemented. A big thing for me as an Aries is that we lack stability. Even my Chinese medicine doctor, who’s pretty much the only person I see for my health, was like, “You need grounding. All your signs are water, air, and fire. That’s probably why you’re so attracted to plants and nature.” I’m a Pisces Sage so I was always lacking this grounding. So it gives us presets, but it’s up to us to do what we can to either step into whatever is beneficial or step away from what is detrimental to us. Common stereotypes and my experiences in life and even just my interests had led me to become a very, very specific type of character in my life, and I realized I don’t have to conform to that anymore. I can actually harness who I am in the choices I make in my life.
Even just looking at the way your tattoos are mapped on your body, I’m reminded of constellations. There’s a ram emblazoned on your chest. Is that what you were going for?
It’s a little bit of that. I mean, I always tell people that I’m just striving to be a better representation of nature. I think what I constantly try to emulate most from nature is presence and not overthinking the past or the future because those places don’t exist. They don’t really have any interest to me. I think being present is the thing of nature that I’m most fond of.
Of the many things you’ve taken up, filmmaking is one of them. But Rare Objects is the first acting credit to your name. Is this something you always wanted to explore?
Yeah, it’s always been a huge interest of mine. I grew up in downtown New York in the mix of it all. I was kind of a loner as a kid. I wandered the streets a lot, even at a very, very young age. I had groups of friends, but I was always a wanderer. My parents were hardworking people and very busy so I was on my own a lot. I got to experience a lot of very intense things at a really young age. I think there was already a cinematic element to that kind of life, being so little in New York, compared to like a small town somewhere. It was much more grandiose and extreme and dangerous. Everything’s just kind of heightened here. I was always very comfortable talking to people from every walk of life. I had friends from everywhere, and friends from some of the richest families in the world to some of the poorest that I’ve ever met. I was constantly transmuting between characters or adapting to the situations I was in. I found that really special. And because I was alone most of the time when I was home, I would watch TV. My parents always joked that people made fun of me for watching too much TV, or as I would put it, it gives so much and asks for so little. So I had this deep relationship with the screen at a young age. I was always very aware of how people were presenting themselves. As time went on, I got into a million different things, but there was always this stigma of wanting to be an actor: that you shouldn’t wanna be an actor, that you should feel embarrassed. That’s what always kept me far. And I never wanted people to identify me as just being handsome or something. That really pushed me inward and made me go, “I’ll just be a sculptor and make art,” because that’s not about outward appearances.
As much as I love making stuff, it felt like I was speaking to such a small community. Art is an incredible language, but if you’re trying to really connect with people, it’s not entirely possible without some sort of background or education in it. I found art, in general, quite alienating, if you’re looking to connect with other people’s humanity. So I started getting into photography and writing and directing and all of these things. I apprenticed under some photographers. Then I was like, “Static images are kind of boring,” and realized I really love storytelling. At some point, I started writing my first script and pretty much halfway through it, I’m like, “How am I going to communicate this to people to tell them what I want and what I need and how I understand their range? How do I know what to ask and how much I can ask?” It was something I’d always been curious about so I signed up for this ten-day acting intensive with Kelly Kimball in New York. In the first ten minutes of the class, she’s like, “David, get on stage and free improv. Here is your feeling. Stare at that dot on the wall and tell it how you feel.” Something just came outta me. I was yelling, crying. She was like, “You’ve never acted before?” and I was like, “No, this is literally my first class, and I gotta tell you, I’m obsessed. What I just did in three minutes took me six years in therapy, and I resolved so much more in these three minutes than in those six years.”
You got hooked.
I got hooked. But I still had a bit of shame because people are always telling me I’m doing too much. I’m here and there, I’m this and that. They say, “I don’t even know what you do.” I am who I am. The most important thing to me about the interests I pursue is that they help me be a better version and a more aware version of who I am and in what I do. For two, three years, I started taking all these acting courses secretly, not telling a soul. And I was kind of stuck on my second script. I was like, “Maybe it’s not for me.” Then, randomly, out of the blue, I get this opportunity to photograph Katie Holmes, who I had met prior because I had worked on a small project with her.
Was that in fashion?
We met through our mutual friend Zac Posen. He was like, “David, you should meet Katie.” So we met, it was cool, then nothing. I didn’t talk to her again for four or five years. Then a magazine approached me: “We really wanna photograph someone and we want you to shoot that cover.” And I run into Katie on the street ‘cause she had just moved back to New York. I tell them, “I think I have someone. Let me check if she’d be into it.” I text Katie and she says, “I’d love to.” So we shoot the cover and the magazine says, “We would really love for you to interview her.” I said, “I love to write so let’s do it.” Midway through the interview, she stops and says, “Have you ever thought about acting?” I was like, “Funny you mention that.” [laughs] I told her I’d been taking these courses secretly and had been shamed into thinking like I shouldn’t do it, like I would be diluting myself even more and whatnot. She was like, “Well, I don’t think you should feel that way. I respect that. That’s really cool that you’re taking classes.” Then nothing. That was the end of that. Four months later, a script got sent to my talent agency. They’re like, “Hey, you wanna read for this?” I made my way to the second round, got a callback, and then I booked it.
The stars really aligned for you. How was it working with Katie?
Katie was such an amazing director and, as you know, also a co-star in it. She was just so supportive. Her nurturing gave us so much freedom to explore. On the second day, she was like, “David, improv this guy. This is your scene. Here’s guidance, but just go.” We had such a fun time. She just really gave me a lot of courage and a lot of support. Then the dailies come and they get a first little cut of it. She was showing it to her agent and he was like, “Who is this guy? Is he represented by anybody?” So he reached out to me: “I’ve been watching the dailies and it looks really good. I think you’ve got something and I really want to help you grow this. If you’re interested, do you wanna join our team?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” From there, I kind of strapped up my boots like, “I’m gonna do this full-time and commit to this.” It’s been a year of tons of auditions and booking some stuff. I don’t really have a reel because all my stuff is still coming out. This is a very exciting time for me. It’s how we got here.
What’s great about your journey—obviously, everyone takes a different path— is that the puzzle pieces fell into place without so much arm-twisting or agony on your part. You worked on your craft privately and just let things flow, and embraced opportunity when it arrived.
Totally. I think you gotta do that with life ‘cause there’s infinite truths out there that are happening all at the same exact time. If I’m so stuck in my truth that I’m unable to process or even allow space for other truths to occur, I’m gonna live a really limited life. It goes back to being present and having this faith in the universe. What’s meant to be is meant to be. I’m not much of a talker—I’m more of a doer. I have this thing, my most precious thing that’s just for me, but you keep investing in it and, like you said, at some point, things will pay off. If you’re in the present, you’re also able to maneuver so much better because you’re here. When people say that person’s so lucky or this person’s so lucky, I’m like, “No. There was preparation for the opportunity.” If you’re living in six months from now, a year from now, ten years from now, worrying about how you’re gonna pay the mortgage, when opportunities arise, you’re not even gonna see them, and you’re definitely not gonna know how to monetize it or just create the best opportunity out of that. Even the thriller-horror I just did could only happen really last minute. I was in Italy at the time and I was like, “Okay, cool, I’m in. I’ll hop on the plane tomorrow and I’ll be in LA.”
Have you been splitting your time between New York and Italy pretty evenly?
Last year, I actually lived out there most of the time. I just needed some time off from the city. In New York, you have this really loud noise. It’s people walking outside your house constantly with all their desires, wants—all these things going on. I can’t even hear myself think. So I just went to Europe and walked in the mountains for nine months, alone. I also did some acting programs and writing programs through the New York Film Academy. Then when I was ready, all these things started to come back. Like you were saying, things are very serendipitous when you’re willing to trust and believe in the universe. I’m writing a feature right now, my first psychological thriller. It’s about an adventure between four friends in Ibiza. I’m probably gonna go there in May and spend the whole month there researching, cleaning up the script, and just being there. It’s one of my favorite islands in the world. I don’t even go out at night so it’s the love of being in nature there. It’s so grounding. I think I’ll have that script ready by September and then I’ll move to LA.
You were saying earlier how people will tell you that you do too much, and “I don’t even know what you do.” To me, this is a gift. Doing even one thing is crippling for many people.
Thank you. It is like a gift. At times it can be hard because people look at you like you’re not committed to things. But the reality is that I’m extremely committed to life and living my life. I don’t wanna have gone through life, having gone down one very specific tunnel. There’s so much to learn from so many people. As an actor, a director and writer, that’s the most important tool you have for your craft: experience. All the greatest actors I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting always told me, “Go out there. Go, go, go. Get weird. You want to know how to be a weird guy.” [laughs] “To play that, you gotta meet those guys. You gotta be that guy in real life.” When I heard these things from coaches and actors that were at their respectable levels, that’s when all this stuff that people had been telling me about how I’m thinning myself out was clashing with what I was after. I was actually nurturing this craft, and I didn’t even know yet that acting was gonna be my true love. Like Van Gogh for his paintings, I’ve become a madman for this. I’m head over heels over it. Now I’m just constantly thinking about how to improve and how to question myself more. I feel very blessed to be where I am right now. I feel like I’m on the cusp of something great.
So this is the way forward?
At this point in my life, I’ve come to understand that your 20s are the build-up of experience and your 30s are like, “Now I know what I like and now I can apply myself to it.” I love making art, but really, I’m an actor and director with the soul of a writer. I love storytelling. What I realized with art is that it’s too limiting for me. I’ll always make art ‘cause it’s an urge I have to express myself, but I am one hundred percent committed to acting, directing, and writing.
Does one foreground the others for you?
I don’t even feel that they’re different. Each one informs the other. As I write scripts, I understand how to read them better. As I read scripts better, I understand how to direct them better. As I direct them better, I learn how to act better. It’s a beautiful triangle constantly informing itself. That’s where I’m gonna stay. But, again, I live in the present so you never know. In 10, 15 years, who knows what might happen? Right now, I don’t even know who’s writing my future parts or where they are. But I want them. I want to explore those characters and explore those parts of myself.
This conversation will become a time capsule. When you brought up Michael Fassbender earlier, I was reminded of the time I interviewed him in LA. I was still an intern. It was one of my first-ever interviews. He was new to Hollywood, and he had no idea what was about to happen to him. In plain blue jeans and a white t-shirt, his star quality was still titanic.
That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that. He’s such an idol of mine. Him and Christian Bale. They’re second to none for me, those two guys. I’ve gotten to be around Michael in the past and he’s such a magnetic person. He can blow the doors off a room, but in an earnest way. It’s like life rules and you can tell that there’s a passion for living. I think that’s the most consistent thing I see in the kind of role models I have in that world: they’re so committed to living. As for myself, I just try to keep things as simple as possible because I want to be able to move through layers of society and its adventures without constraint. It’s been a few years of stripping away all those layers of ego. It has landed me in a place where I’m very happy with myself and with what I’m doing.