[“S]orry I’m rambling, but this is actually something that I’ve got a lot to say about for a change!” says Nicholas Hoult, as he animatedly discusses his upcoming role in Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s excited, and so he should be; with no less than six films on the horizon, it looks like 2014 will be his year.
Nicholas first appeared on our screens as the awkward, floppy-haired Marcus in About a Boy, before transforming into philandering bad boy Tony Stonem in teen phenomenon Skins. He then took on roles in Tom Ford’s award-winning A Single Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men reboot, and picked up the odd fashion campaign for Tom Ford along the way. Ahead of a year that looks set to turn him into a Hollywood heavyweight, we catch up with the friendliest man in film at his parents’ house in Berkshire to talk fantasy, fame and the perils of modern camping.
HUNGER: YOU’VE SAID BEFORE THAT YOU HATE INTERVIEWS. DO THEY GET EASIER WITH EACH NEW ROLE?
Nicholas Hoult: It kind of gets easier. I’m generally not much of a big talker anyway, so it worries me to have to sit there and be entertaining and interesting. The journalist’s perception of me might alter what hundreds of other people think. Also, a lot of the time I’m just walking around thinking about what I have to do that day, and then I get thrown a curveball of a question that throws me. I have to think about the grand scheme of things and sum up my life in an answer.
YOU’VE ALSO SAID BEFORE THAT YOU LIE IN INTERVIEWS TO GET THROUGH THEM. WHAT’S THE BEST ONE PEOPLE BELIEVED?
They’ve probably believed all sorts of random stuff. I never really followed up to see what was believed and what was not! I just enjoyed watching people’s reactions when I was saying very weird things and they were taking me seriously.
YOU’VE GOT SIX FILMS OUT THIS YEAR. WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ROLES?
Well, I’d played the Beast [in X-Men] before and he’s someone who’s very conflicted about his mutant superpowers and not very confident, even though he has an unbelievable power and strength inside of him that he’s trying to control. That makes him an interesting character to play, and I really enjoyed the new script. Plus it was a nice cast reunion. Maybe the most interesting role, though, was the Mad Max one, as you don’t know that much about it before you audition. I had to go to a lawyer’s office in LA to read the script, and I wasn’t allowed a copy of it. In the audition I had to do a scene from five different movies, one was Erin Brockovich, another was Network, and then I had to tell a funny or sad story about my life.
WHAT DID YOU TELL?
I actually did lie in that one. It was a made-up story! I told a funny story about a wedding in Ireland that an actor had told me. It was this disastrous wedding where someone ended up getting carried out on a stretcher, face down, because he’d slipped and fallen down the toilet, trying to smoke his pipe. It got some good laughs, and I got the part. Working with George [Miller, the director] and the cast was incredible. Being in the desert for seven months with Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and a load of cars and bikes is every boy’s dream. I regularly got chills because I couldn’t believe my luck.
YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET. IS THAT NERVE-WRACKING AFTER SO MUCH WORK HAS GONE IN TO IT?
It’s exciting and scary at the same time. It’s like when you have been naughty at school and you’re waiting for the letter to get home, but you don’t know if it’s actually going to come, so you’re just walking on eggshells until that point. But it’s also exciting. Particularly when the film turns out to be good! You never know when you’re making it, but when it turns out to be good and you’re proud of it, that’s one of the best feelings ever.
YOU’VE GOT A FEW MORE FILMS OUT TOO.
Yeah, there’s this really interesting little film called Young Ones, which is set in a near apocalyptic future. It’s very original and different to anything I’ve seen for a while. Then there’s Dark Places, which is a real story based on a novel by Gillian Flynn. Originally the character I play in it, Lyle, was on offer to someone else. I’d worked with Charlize Theron before on Mad Max though, and we’d got along very well, so when she heard I was in the mix, she was supportive of me playing the role, which was nice. A lot of the time you get along well with people when you’re making a film, but you don’t know if they actually rate you as an actor, whether they actually like you, or whether they’re just making the best of the situation. So her support was a big compliment.
YOU’RE OFTEN IN THE PRESS FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH X-MEN CO-STAR JENNIFER LAWRENCE. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT HAVING PEOPLE LOOK INTO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WHEN YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO GET ON WITH YOUR JOB?
Any couple who work in the same environment don’t behave like a couple when they’re at work, and it’s like that on set. I always find it odd when people look into my personal life. I’m pretty private. The more people know about you and your personal life, or see you out and about, getting a photograph taken, the more difficult it is for them to imagine you playing a character. I don’t want people to just associate my work with my personal life.
DO YOU THINK THAT FAME IS THE DOWNSIDE OF ACTING?
It’s got its pros and cons. I’m sure people don’t complain when they can ring up a restaurant and get a nice table, and I like it when people come up to me on the street to say they enjoyed a film. And fame is something you gain from being successful, and success is something that actors want, so the two go hand in hand.
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD?
Yeah, exactly. Sometimes you feel like Big Brother is watching you. There are days you go out and you get recognised by everyone, and you’re like “Oh blimey, this is a bit overwhelming and a bit scary,” and other days you’ll go out and not a single person will bat an eye, and you just go about your normal life. I don’t think fame is anything you can really complain about.
YOU’VE PLAYED A FEW FANTASY ROLES RECENTLY, X-MEN, WARM BODIES, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER. DO YOU PREFER THESE ROLES TO A REAL LIFE ROLE?
No, it just happened that I ended up doing a load of fantasy films. Everyone now thinks that I love fantasy films, and that that’s what I want to be doing forever, but it’s not the case. I really enjoyed going back to doing films like Young Ones and Dark Places just because there were more interesting dialogue scenes. A lot of the time on the bigger films you don’t really get scenes in the same way, there’s a lot of running around, reacting to stuff that’s happening on a green screen. You’ll be running around with things blowing up beside you, it’s like what I did in the garden when I was a kid!
X-Men is released on May 22
Read more of our interview with Nicholas in issue six of Hunger, out now.