Dean-Charles Chapman stars alongside George MacKay in the award-winning film, 1917, which is up for Best Picture at Sunday's Oscars

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Dean-Charles Chapman took inspiration from an old World War I photograph in order to get into character for his latest film, 1917.

In a conversation with PEOPLE, Chapman says he saw a reference photo in the costume department on set that featured three soldiers during the war. Two of the men in the shot looked like “your average World War I soldier,” Chapman recalls, but one stood out.

“There was one man in the middle that had his coat undone, his shirt was all twisted and he was leaning against the truck,” he says. “There was something that just reminded me about [his character] Blake with that soldier. Even though they’re in the middle of a warzone he just seemed so warm and charming and I liked that.”

Upon closer inspection, Chapman noticed that the unknown man was wearing two rings — one on his middle finger and one on his pinky finger — and decided to take inspiration from him and put rings on his character, an ambitious and lovable soldier named Blake.

Dean-Charles Chapman
Dean-Charles Chapman in 1917

“Every time I looked at [my hand] it made me think of that photo,” he adds.

In addition to the rings, Chapman, 22, says he read diary entries from World War I soldiers “to understand the headspace of a soldier back then” and worked with a military advisor to better portray his character.

The young actor, whose previous roles include playing Tom Baratheon in Game of Thrones, stars in 1917 alongside George MacKay. The pair both play young British soldiers who are tasked with embarking on a mission to deliver a life-or-death message to their fellow troops.

Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Duburcq, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong and Richard Madden also appear in the film, which was written and directed by Sam Mendes and inspired by Mendes’ grandfather, who fought on the Belgian front.

1917 received the best motion picture, drama award at the Golden Globe Awards and Mendes won best director. The film is also nominated for 10 Academy Awards Sunday, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

The 92nd Annual Academy Awards will air live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.