The Verge: Nicholas Hoult
When the 12-year-old Nicholas Hoult first made an impression in 2002's About a Boy, Hugh Grant was playing opposite him as an overgrown adolescent living off his family's residuals -- basically, the nightmare of any child actor. Hoult's own coming-of-age has been the furthest thing from lazy, and after recapturing attention two years ago in the rude UK teen soap Skins, he landed the role of Kenny, who admires and longs for Colin Firth in Tom Ford's A Single Man.
Newly twenty and on the cusp of more adult roles (he'll next be seen in Louis Leterrier's remake of Clash of the Titans), Hoult talked to Movieline about navigating that transition, learning how to swing a sword, and that angora sweater from A Single Man.
When you took daring projects like A Single Man and Skins, were they part of a conscious attempt to break out of an image people had of you a a child actor?
It's more that those were the things that came along that were interesting at that time. Obviously, there's a fear as a child actor of being washed up and failing, and by no means have I gotten out of that. At the same time, if you can do something interesting with good people and great actors, I don't think you have to completely lose who you were as a child. You tend to become a different person from eleven to twenty.
How did you remain a kid when most of the people you're working with and dealing with were adults?
I was very lucky in the sense that I managed to keep a very normal life outside of acting. I went to school and I stayed home and stuff. It's a slightly different setup for child actors in England as opposed to here -- in America, it becomes "a business" very early on. It's very intense and it consumes your whole family, whereas in England it's more laid-back. You don't suddenly become very pivotal in the industry -- you're still a normal kid, and acting is just what you do.
Did you find Tom to be an intimidating presence when you first met him?
I didn't. To be honest, I wasn't aware of his fashion background when I first met him. We had a dinner and sat down and spoke about the script, and I knew this was something so personal and autobiographical to him that it was fantastic to be a part of.
Maybe it's best that you didn't know hm beforehand. I mean, what do you wear to a first meeting with Tom Ford?
Luckily, I didn't know so I didn't overthink it. Even then, people ask, "Did you worry about what you wore to set in the morning?" But not particularly, because if you're waking up at five or six o'clock in the morning, you're not feeling too hot and looking smart on set is the last thing you'd think about. Although, Tom was always immaculate, as you might expect.
Did Tom specifically design the costumes for your character?
We had a great costume designer, Arianne Phillips, and they worked together. Tom is very hands-on in all departments and very specific of what he wants, and Arianne created this look where I pretty much wear white all the time, to represent the angelic side of him as though I'm the guardian angel to Colin's character. Colin's got this very specific neat look with his cuff links and his polished shoes -- it's kind of like his armor.
I'm sure you had an idea of who Kenny was going into the film, but how do those fashion choices -- and I'm specifically thinking of that angora sweater you wear in the classroom scene -- perhaps tweak what you have in mind?
When you create a character, everything gets layered in, and with this character, the appearance really helped in creating him. Once you've got those clothes on and the sixties haircut and California tan, then you start working on the accent, all those things begin to create Kenny from the outside in. Yeah, that angora sweater got a lot of attention, didn't it?
It's a little hard to ignore!
It would frizz up underneath the lights when it got hot, so we would have to hairspray it and stick it down. [Laughs] It got a lot of attention.
This isn't your first time doing an American accent, right?
No, I did it in a film called The Weather Man.
Do you feel like you've got it licked by now, or is is frustrating to sit opposite Colin Firth when he's allowed to use his British accent and you're not?
Yeah, it was! By no means did I walk into set and think, "Yeah, I can do this," because the last thing you want to do when you're an English person playing an American is to mess up the accent. People will come after you pretty hard for that. I wanted to get it specific to the era and more Californian, and I had a fantastic dialect coach who worked on that with me. I remember the first rehearsals sitting opposite Colin, and it's difficult when you hear an English accent to not let it throw you back into your own English accent.
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