Nicholas Galitzine & ‘The Idea of You’ Music Producers on August Moon

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses plot elements from “The Idea of You,” which is now streaming on Prime Video.

“Don’t you miss those bombastic, blown out pop choruses of the 2010s?” asks Savan Kotecha, the executive producer behind the music of August Moon — the fictional boy band at the center of “The Idea of You,” a new romance film on Prime Video based on a novel by Robinne Lee.

Nicholas Galitzine plays Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of August Moon, who falls in love with an older woman and single mother Solène (Anne Hathaway) after she brings her daughter to the group’s meet-and-greet at Coachella. 

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Galitzine first showed signs of vocal prowess when he played Prince Charming opposite Camila Cabello in the 2021 movie musical remake of “Cinderella.” But on “The Idea of You,” Galitzine pushes his boundaries, undergoing boy band bootcamp: lessons from Eric Vetro, vocal coach to Ariana Grande, John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Rosalía; a three-day studio session in Sweden with hit songwriter Kotecha and study sessions with South Korean boy band BTS as the subject.

“I’ve witnessed the evolution of a boy band member plenty of times and I tried, to the best of my ability, to share some of those intimate experiences with [director Michael Showalter] and [producer Cathy Schulman],” Kotecha tells Variety. “They were really focused on making this story feel as authentic as possible and making [Hayes] feel real. He has this sort of integrity, which was really helpful, I think, in the progression of the movie in general, but also weirdly, in writing the music.”

Kotecha spearheaded the film’s 11-song soundtrack, bringing decades of knowledge from studio sessions with One Direction, whom he helped build as a coach on the “X Factor,” as well as Grande, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, among numerous others. Frankie Pine (“Daisy Jones & The Six,” “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”) served as the music supervisor for film, providing insight on the film’s non-August Moon songs including standouts from “aggressively talented singer-songwriters” like St. Vincent, Fiona Apple, Minnie Riperton and Mae Stephens, to name a few.

“We didn’t want to isolate our audience in any way,” adds Pine. “We didn’t want only people that are older going to go see this movie, and only people that are younger are going to see this movie, we really wanted it to feel like it was a movie for everyone, because it is a true love story. I was super excited to have St. Vincent be included in this — she was really excited about it too — that was a name that we came up with thinking ‘Who would be at Coachella?’”

Similarly, Coachella was the touchstone that helped Kotecha build the August Moon catalog. “We have to believe that this band was big enough to earn a spot at Coachella,” he says. “That’s kind of where the structure began to manifest in a sense. ‘What would have been their very first single?’ That very young teeny bopper song that was on the radio? That was ‘I Got You’ — that’s like a throwback, August Moon song. ‘Taste’ is like their second big hit and both those are catchy pop songs that I could see a label handing off to a manufactured boyband. After that, the band gains a bit more control — the lyrics have more meaning, the sound is a bit edgier — that’s ‘Guard Down.’”

Striving to make the most genuine story, Kotecha thought to reach into his own vault of unreleased songs and picked out “I Got You,” a collaboration between him, Ilya (who he’d worked with on Grande’s music) and his “personal hero,” Babyface. “There really no one at the time that it fit and that’s what made it perfect for this project because, in this story, this song would be the song that was pitched by a professional songwriter,” says Kotecha.

Though Galitzine is the main vocalist for August Moon, the actor is the first to admit he lacked in other departments, namely the dancing. His fellow boy band members — Jaiden Anthony as Adrian, Raymond Cham Jr as Oliver, Viktor White as Simon and Dakota Adan as Rory — are all professional dancers off-camera. “I was really thrown in the deep end, and learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of,” Galitzine says.

“In a way, that contributed to our goal with August Moon,” explains Pine. “We wanted to make this band feel approachable. We purposefully didn’t dress them in flashy clothes. We looked at the way One Direction, NSYNC, BTS presented themselves at different points of their careers to create a conglomeration of all of these legendary boybands.”

Galitzine says that “watching how BTS commands a space as a group helped me in establishing a simpatico between myself and the four lads, how we interact with each other on stage,” citing the “nonchalance” of the K-pop megastars’ choreography as a particular inspiration. Laughing, he adds, “But they’re incredible artists… to be fair, I had three weeks before starting, so there was no way I was going to get to BTS level.”

From Galitzine’s perspective, the challenge was finding Hayes’ personality in these references. “For example, Yebba is one of my favorite vocalists because you know when you’re listening to a Yebba song — that’s Yebba,” he says. “Those songs become anthems in a way. They have a popular, unique appeal. So, with the help of Savan, it was really interesting for me to fall into the science of it all.”

In the film, Hayes, like many boy band members before him, embarks on a journey of finding his own sound, and later fulfills his goal of a solo career. “He wanted to understand his position and how lucky he was, and he wanted to earn it,” says Kotecha of the character. “That’s a quality that Nick has as an actor. Someone else might have played that part in a different way but — you’ll hear me use this word over and over again — it’s that authenticity that was the key to the rollout of this film, the music, everything.”

The initial script had Hayes leaving the band within the movie, but the final cut fast-forwards a five year gap in the lead up to the couple reuniting. All throughout the film, Hayes is seen working on “Dance Before We Walk,” a song about embarking on a solo career, with lyrics like “It took a lot of time to say / I think I need a new direction lately / And if I’m making a mistake / I think I know how we’re gonna face it.”

“At first, people took that line ‘a new direction lately,’ as a nod to One Direction, but it’s not that at all. It all starts to make sense with the narrative of the film,” says Kotecha. “When I sit down to write, I always start with ‘OK, what’s not happening right now?’ Even when we did One Direction, what was going on at the time was that Chris Brown, Rihanna sort of dance synth pop. And it was like, ‘Well, then we should do the exact opposite.’ When New Kids on the Block came, it was same thing, it sounded like nothing on the radio. One of my rules with boybands is that when the music is done right, it feels and sounds like it came out of nowhere.”

Keeping a balance of nostalgia and modern-day boy bands, the “Idea of You” soundtrack celebrates romance, of course, but simultaneously pulls back the curtain on the mechanics of a manufactured group.

“Watching the evolution of an artist from start to finish, especially in the realm of boy bands, can be bittersweet because you want them to win but you’re also nostalgic for some of the earlier moments,” says Kotecha. “I’m so proud, and so honored, to say I’ve been at the beginning of a lot of these careers. It’s an unexplainable, overwhelming feeling.”

It’s a sentiment Galitzine can also relate to as an actor. “It’s always been, ‘Does this move the needle in the direction that we want to go?’ I got such a high off of being on stage — because that sort of immediacy that you get as a musician, you don’t quite get as an actor, I mean, certainly in film and TV less so in theater. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a musician, but [working on this film] has made me hopeful for the future and makes the things that I have in the works now, so much more exciting.”