Gazing out the window of his fourth-floor bedroom, over the red-brick London council estate where he grew up, Callum Turner dreamed of something more.
At first he wanted to be a soldier; later he settled his sights on football, longing to play for his beloved Chelsea, whose home ground was just a few miles away.
His mother, Rosemary, a nightclub promoter who brought Callum up single-handedly, couldn’t afford match tickets, so he’d stay in on Saturday afternoons, throw open the windows and listen to the roars echoing across the skyline.
They called his neighbourhood ‘World’s End’, a shabby stretch of the famous King’s Road in Chelsea which used to be a Victorian slum.
Aged 17, Callum’s chiselled good looks caught the attention of a model scout. It seemed an easy escape – but it wasn’t to be.
Callum as a toddler with mother Rosemary, a nightclub promoter who brought Callum up single-handedly
‘Callum hasn’t changed much in that he remains down to earth and easy-going himself. He’s a lovely lad. Rose gave Callum a great gift by keeping his feet on the ground,’ a friend of the family said
By his early 20s, he was back on the estate with his mum, working in a basement shop and smoking cannabis to relieve the boredom.
‘I was like a real addict,’ he later admitted. ‘I definitely missed four years of my life.’
Fast-forward a decade and Callum Turner, now 33, has seriously cleaned up his act.
Despite no formal drama training on his CV, he’s finally hit the big time.
He’s starring in Masters Of The Air, the new, hotly anticipated Apple TV series with Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan, which boasts Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks as executive producers.
You can also see him lighting up the silver screen in The Boys On The Boat, directed by George Clooney, in which he plays a broke, determined young sportsman who grows up without a father figure – a storyline which closely mirrors Callum’s own.
He’s making such waves that he’s even been touted as the next James Bond (those sky-high cheekbones would certainly come in handy).
Rose, now 66, was a ‘New Romantic’, part of the Eighties subculture which celebrated flamboyant fashion and an alternative, hippy lifestyle. Pictured, Rosemary outside London’s Limelight Club in 1987
Callum Turner pictured with Steve Strange. The late singer and co-founder of the Blitz Club, was Callum’s godfather, living with them on-and-off
And it’s not just his acting career which has thrust Callum into the spotlight.
He hit the headlines this month after confirming his romance with singer (and fellow Londoner) Dua Lipa, 28, with the pair spotted kissing on a balcony at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles.
It’s a long way from World’s End, that’s for sure. But those who know Callum say he hasn’t lost touch with his humble roots – and is close to his mother, the strong-willed woman behind his success.
‘Rose raised Callum as a single mum,’ explains Keanan Duffty, a fashion designer and musician who has known the family for 40 years, speaking exclusively to the Mail this week.
‘[She] was both easy-going but level-headed with Callum as a kid. I know she worked hard to keep him away from any bad influences and instilled a strong work ethic.
‘That’s all pretty evident: Callum hasn’t changed much in that he remains down to earth and easy-going himself. He’s a lovely lad. Rose gave Callum a great gift by keeping his feet on the ground.’
Callum Turner hit the headlines this month after confirming his romance with singer (and fellow Londoner) Dua Lipa , 28, with the pair spotted kissing on a balcony at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles
Rose, now 66, was a ‘New Romantic’, part of the Eighties subculture which celebrated flamboyant fashion and an alternative, hippy lifestyle.
World’s End was the beating heart of the movement, frequented by creatives including Vivienne Westwood, who opened her iconic boutique, Sex, here, and musicians such as Joe Strummer and Mick Jagger.
It was here, too, that Rose began her career as a promoter at the legendary Blitz Club in Covent Garden.
‘I used to get in trouble for what I wore in the Eighties. People would throw things and spit at me,’ she explained in 2010, in a piece for The Face magazine about ‘cross-generational clubbing’.
‘But I feel very lucky to be born in a time when there was so much originality. When I went out with pink hair in Kensington High Street, it stopped traffic.’
Keanan, 59, who now lives in New York with his wife, met Rose in 1982 when she was running PX, a New Romantic shop in Covent Garden, and offered him a Saturday job.
At that time Rose was also the door person at Camden Palace [now called Koko], what he describes as ‘the number one nightspot for London’s would-be elites, pop stars and wannabes.
‘Rose’s natural talent for selecting the right mix of people and knowing all the “faces” was evident.
‘Though she was an arbiter of “who’s who” in clubland, she was always down to earth and humble.
‘She would kindly let me into the club for free, so I could mingle with various members of Spandau Ballet, Boy George, milliner Stephen Jones… We [even] saw one of Madonna’s first UK performances there.’
Callum Turner starring in Masters Of The Air, the new, hotly anticipated Apple TV series
The actor will feature alongside Barry Keoghan (centre) and Austin Butler (right) in Masters of The Air
It was into this vibrant world that Callum was born in February 1990.
Rose gave him the middle name ‘Robilliard’ after her friend, poet David Robilliard, who tragically died with HIV in 1988.
Little is known about Callum’s father, who is believed to be an Australian who lives there with Callum’s half-brother and half-sister.
He has described his relationship with his dad as ‘loose’.
Money was tight, with Rose working all hours to support her son. Nevertheless, he recalls a happy childhood: ‘My mum allowed a community of people around me and wasn’t protective of her love for me,’ he said in a 2020 interview. ‘It was almost like a tribe. [My] father figures were a lot of different gay guys, basically.’
Steve Strange, the late singer and co-founder of the Blitz Club, was Callum’s godfather, living with them on-and-off.
‘Rose’s vast network of friends from the Eighties club scene, and the bohemian personalities that she attracts, along with her openness and charm, played a strong role in shaping Callum’s values and worldview,’ says Keanan.
He soon entered the world his mother loved, honing his DJ skills at night while his friends were studying for their GCSEs.
Despite her laid-back approach, he says that growing up, Rose was ‘the strictest mum on the estate’, imposing a 10pm curfew on school nights.
At school, he was gawky – 6ft by age 13 – and played up in class. ‘I was in all the lowest sets,’ he said, ‘but not because I couldn’t do it – because I didn’t want to do it.’
Football was his passion; he quit education at 16 to play semi-professionally.
It went well, at first, but he soon reached the limit of his talent. ‘I was incredibly dedicated,’ he admits in a recent interview. ‘I just wasn’t a footballer.’
It was a family friend, a stylist who had an in with a model agency, who took Callum in his next direction.
The next few years were a crash course in adulthood, living on a shoestring for a period in Tokyo where, in a bid to lose weight, he would eat just six pieces of tuna for lunch.
Keanan recalls Rose and Callum visiting him in New York around this time, where they attended one of his fashion events.
Dua Lipa and Callum Turner spotted on PDA filled day out in Beverly Hills
He remembers his ‘polite and unpretentious charm’ and says a career in the spotlight ‘seemed so natural’ for the youngster.
Modelling went well for Callum – he worked for Comme des Garçons, Reebok and Next, and fronted two Burberry campaigns – but he hadn’t found his calling.
‘I remember the feeling of frustration, especially when I was 17, 18, 19, even 20,’ he said in a 2017 magazine interview. ‘I had no idea who I was and what I wanted.’
Back in London, living with his mum, he started auditioning for roles on his lunchbreaks – low-budget films at first; later mainstream TV.
In an interview this week, he says he worked three jobs just to stay afloat. ‘I think the thing about being working class and having no money is that you actually have to have another job,’ he explains.
The pair even worked for a time together as promoters. In The Face magazine interview in 2010, Callum, then 20, describes Rose as ‘my best friend’.
‘Mum and I argue all the time… but then we just smile at each other and we’re fine.’
For her part, Rose said: ‘As a mother, you come to the stage where you can give advice and hope that those you love are going to take it.
‘But in no shape or form do I want to tell Callum how to live his life, because I’ve lived mine, I’ve made my own mistakes, and he’s entitled to live his life too.’
To relax, the pair indulged their shared love of films, staying up all night to watch childhood classics like Free Willy. ‘That was our thing,’ Callum recalls.
But despite her support, it was around this time he turned to weed, a habit he didn’t manage to kick until he was 26.
‘I was dealing with a depression or a frustration, and not having the understanding or the tools to deal with how I felt, so I self-medicated for too long,’ he has admitted. ‘I was acting, doing films, and smoking weed every day.’
Eventually clean, he got his first big break in the 2012 ITV series Leaving, playing a young man in a relationship with an older, married woman (Helen McCrory), and soon afterwards starred in Queen And Country, director John Boorman’s 2014 sequel to Oscar-nominated film Hope And Glory.
It was on set that Callum met The Crown actress Vanessa Kirby, 35.
The couple were very private – though Rose proudly shared a picture of Vanessa on her Facebook page – and didn’t go public with their relationship until 2017, when she was linked with Tom Cruise. They eventually split two years later.
Meanwhile, his career was going from strength to strength.
From 2014 E4 series Glue to 2016 romantic comedy Tramps, he then won the role of Theseus Scamander (brother to Newt, played by Eddie Redmayne) in the Harry Potter spin-off films, Fantastic Beasts, in 2018 and 2022.
After his Bafta nomination for BBC One mini-series The Capture, in which he played Lance Corporal Shaun Emery, he earned his period drama stripes, playing Frank Churchill in the 2020 film Emma, requiring the boy from the council estate had to have ‘a week of etiquette lessons’.
It was on set of Queen and Country (pictured) that Callum met The Crown actress Vanessa Kirby. Pictured: The pair together
He also played Theseus Scamander (brother to Newt, played by Eddie Redmayne ) in the Harry Potter spin-off films, Fantastic Beasts, in 2018 and 2022
Now surrounded by the acting elite, many of them from upper-class upbringings, surely there’s a risk Callum might feel somewhat excluded from the clique?
But he insists he doesn’t – yet. ‘I’ve got friends who’ve got loads of money and come from money, and they don’t care, I don’t care.
‘Generally, people are nice… if someone comes with a [negative] energy, I’m not going to reciprocate.’
That said, reports have speculated the actor has earned up to £2.3million to date.
He tries ‘not to play with fame that much, so it doesn’t then play with me’, adding: ‘I don’t go to events and I don’t have Instagram. I have a pretty low-key life and I enjoy that.’
Whenever he can, he returns to World’s End, where he and mates from back in the day still kick a football around the estate.
Rose, who now works as a therapist, is proud of her ‘gorgeous’ boy and what a success he’s made of himself.
As for those Bond rumours? Odds are currently 16/1 for the actor to take on the role.
He blames his mum for the speculation, saying recently: ‘She just puts that out there. So when my odds get higher, it’s all her putting the money on.’
Family friend Keanan says anything is possible. ‘In whatever he does, Callum always shines.’