At 25, English actor Nicholas Hoult has streaked across the pond, pouring gas on a promising ignition [he starred opposite Hugh Grant in 2002’s About A Boy…], blazing past his prepubescent “pudgy-face” phase [HuffPo highlighted his marked transformation while covering 2009’s A Single Man], burning through enviable social fiber [he amicably parted ways with former girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence], finally harnessing his 6’3 Adonis physique [he deftly portrays Young Hank McCoy/Beast in the latest X-Men trilogy and Nux, the frenzied War Boy, in Mad Max: Fury Road] only to blister through the incestuous stratosphere of celebrity/nepotism towards rare, exalted terrain, that of true Hollywood star [he’s starring in six major films this year, including George Miller’s new masterpiece]. Yet, arcing across this elevated trajectory, Hoult’s decidedly humble, even comfortably awkward over sandwiches and coffee.
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT – LUNCHTIME
“Do you think we can move to another table?”
Nicholas Hoult is wearing a t-shirt, windbreaker, ball cap and casual tennis shoes. He’s not sure about this cramped table deep in the patio. I’m not sure if this is a Hollywood star who’s too tall for the ride, or a man lost partway between Dave and Buster’s and the mall. Hoult’s a buck though, swiftly owning our situation. “What about that one?” Hoult points. It’s unoccupied.
An irony surfaces: I’m the one gathering evidence for the court of public opinion. Shouldn’t he be concerned about me?
Hoult deliberates the situation and we’re moved to the other table. We introduce ourselves with a quick, firm handshake. It’s like we’re members of a populous fraternity, where it’s unreasonable to know everyone by first name.
When the waitress appears, Hoult asks if I want to eat. “Yeah, let’s do food.”
“Can I get the grilled chicken avocado sandwich please?” he requests.
I order the Caesar salad. I forget to skip the anchovies.
“I always like those interviews where people go out and do things.” Hoult remarks.
For me, the Chateau Marmont is like a dream come true. Not everyone gets to come in here and eat. I’ve lied about having a reservation just so I could enjoy the peace and quiet. They never let me in.
Hoult seems less interested in the place,“To be honest with you, one of the main reasons that I stay here—this seems like a really odd reason, maybe not to anyone else who stays here—but in the gym here they have a boxing bag and a speed ball, and I really love doing that… Of course, I’m not that good, so I don’t want to walk into a wild card gym or something and be like, ‘Hey guys, can I hit the bag for a minute?’”
Not every 10-year-old who lands a major role manages a career [feet on solid ground isn’t guaranteed either; see: Macaulay Culkin]. Now, after seven years of steady film and television work, Hoult’s list of world-class co-stars is exponentiating: Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Kristen Stewart—and direction from visionary filmmakers: George Miller, Drake Doremus.
Director Chris Weitz told the Guardian in 2010 that Hoult has “a well-developed sense of the absurd which keeps him from believing his hype.” Despite the sharpening focus of the public eye, Hoult hasn’t strayed from this description—at least in the press’ company. There’s not a glint of self-importance. Hoult wisely adapted to the vulturous tendencies of the media, offering smooth observation and polite conversation, plotting a course safely distanced from two unbecoming poles: irksome disinterest and tiresome self-aggrandizing.
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT – CONTINUOUS
Hunched over the table, Hoult is chatty, if a tad distant. His English is casual, not refined (high-class Brits make each syllable feel like a bayonet pressed to my larynx). But is this really a silver screen supernova? A man who’ll appear in enough films this year to warrant a small film festival? Hoult exudes neither palpable radiance, nor off-putting egotism. I’d sooner believe he was an un-esteemed collegiate water polo player, than a “who’s-who” Hollywood elite.
“It’s weird” he says, “because there’s different people that overstep. I’m not suffering from it directly, but people… follow [me] trying to get pictures.”
INT. WEST LONDON STUDIO — FLASHBACK (DEC. 2009)
Nicholas Hoult, dressed to the nines for a photoshoot, positioned on a couch. Across from him sits Alice Fisher of the Guardian. “I’ve [realized] why I don’t tell the truth in interviews. It’s because they’re printed months later, and you change so quickly—you have new thoughts, new everything—so people are reading an old version of you. As an actor, without sounding like a knob, everything’s very self-obsessed. Everyone always talks to you about what you’re doing and you’re thinking about how to be someone else [a character], and you feel like you’re in a bubble.”
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT — CONTINUOUS
Hoult takes his time, nibbling more than biting into his chicken avocado sandwich. I pick at my salad with lazy jabs of my fork. For unknown reasons, I eat the anchovies.
Hoult continues his unabashed love for George Miller: “The main thing about George is… he’s remarkable. I was doing interviews yesterday with him in Toronto. Just listening to this guy talk—with each interview he’s bringing up quotes from John Lennon about life being what happens to you when you’re making other plans, and he was saying how much cinema changed since he made the first Mad Max. I think in the first Mad Max there were like 1,200 cuts and this one has like 2,700. He worked as a doctor to help pay and finance the first Mad Max, worked in the emergency room. And he’s aware that people… have their phones out today, they’re Instagramming at the same time. It’s such a barrage of information. You’ve got to keep people’s attention. [Miller’s] been thinking about that film since ’99. He’s got such an attention to detail. He sent me Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. He sent me books all about society’s breakdown… A real wealth of knowledge—not a real wealth of knowledge—but like enough, where there’s a grasp of what’s in his brain.”
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT – LATER
We’ve had enough of our food. Conversation carries smoothly, no hiccups. Then out of nowhere, Hoult wants to know if I have siblings. He teases me about having all the defining characteristics of an only child.
He notes, “my mom’s an only child and I can’t quite put a pin on it… It’s just some vibe you’re giving off, not in a bad way at all.”
Hoult still hasn’t touched the second half of his sandwich. This is pure speculation (Perez Hilton: take note), but I do believe an actor of his caliber must be incredibly aware during lunch dates. He’ll go on to finish the whole damn sandwich, like a champ, like the fraternal brother I likened him to earlier. But, for now, he nurses the thing, cautiously, the way you might toy with food while simultaneously playing chess.
“I’m lucky, I was talking to Ben Kingsley, on set with him last year and we sat down and they set up a camera across the field about half an hour away and so we sat there and chatted for a little while. The thing I was most impressed by him was—he just loves acting. He was sitting there saying how lucky he felt to be doing this job and, to still be doing it. And I was like, ‘Wow okay.’ Not…being famous, or any of those things that come along side it. If you are successful, you just love doing it.”
I point out someone I think is famous. We admit defeat.
“I’m not good with celebrities,” said either of us.
The waitress brings us our coffee—an espresso for Hoult and an americano for me. I swirl a thick brown sugar cube into my cup. We’re jacked on caffeine. Hoult speeds through his mandatory spiel. Literally, like an actor doing a breathless speed-through, a known rehearsal technique.
“Okay. I’ll do the ‘what I’ve been working on’ quickly, so I can get that spiel out of the way,” he initiates.
“[I’m] promoting two other movies while I’m doing the Mad Max press tour! I did another film with Charlize [Theron] called Dark Places which Gillian Flynn wrote, which was great, I mean getting an awesome writer. I also got a chance to do something else with Charlize, while we’re not shouting and spitting at each other, that was great. And then last year, I actually did three things. I did a film called Kill Your Friends where I did play, not a psychopath as such, but a product of his environment, based on the book: Kill Your Friends. I’ve got peculiar friends, it’s set in the ’90s music industry, where I’m playing an A&R guy, [he’s] quite smart and switched on but terrified of his past in some ways. So that was a fun, interesting case—like a dark satire comedy. Then I did [a film] called Collide with Ben Kingsley, Felicity Jones, and Anthony Hopkins, and that was kind of an action movie in a way where my character’s trying to save Felicity Jones’ life. He’s a bit of an idiot in some ways. He’s got to get money to get this operation, so he goes to try and steal it from Anthony Hopkins, who’s a big drug lord in Germany. Then I did this [other] film actually—did you ever see Moon? So [Moon’s co-writer] Nathan Parker wrote this sci-fi love story set in a Utopian future [with] myself and Kristen Stewart. And then it’s directed by Drake Doremus. Have you ever seen Like Crazy?”
I answer in the negative.
“Like Crazy and Breathe In are these two beautiful love stories that were directed by Drake. He manages to really draw things out and create an environment to work in that’s intimate and personal, where you feel very safe, and you’re willing to be vulnerable, so hopefully that film turns out well. And X-Men. And then there’s a few things after X-Men that I’m working on. Now we’re about to start Apocalypse.”
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT – LATER
Conversation finishes its sinuous weave, from his fortuitous path to fame [he likens it to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and anchors it to his mother driving him to auditions from a young age, not mentioning his great aunt Dame Anna Neagle, the famed English singer, stage and film actress] to Kristen Stewart and the media’s snowballing of speculation into truth [Hoult says, after filming Equals, Stewart is “a real artist,” inspiring, constantly playing music, just a cool person to be around]. Our waitress asks about parking validation. No lo contesto for Hoult, who’s staying upstairs. I blurt, “I got free parking.”
Hoult makes a face, or I make a face. Let’s just say: we had a moment. Regardless, I joke about Hoult’s face looking how I imagine my face does when I see someone carrying a guitar around [A theory: people who are seen with their guitar are often not the best guitar players; the best players leave an instrument at home, in their studio, stationed where they are likely to play it—and touring musicians generally move the guitar from a car into a venue—if that, haven’t you heard of roadies?—in conclusion, if I see you walking around with the guitar, it’s not a good indicator]. Immediately, Nicholas takes a keen interest in my playing, asking how long I’ve been playing, what music I’ve produced, and in the end, my insipid joke led to an earnest confession.
“I took up acting since I was a kid. I didn’t pick up on other hobbies, because my job was my hobby and then it turned into a job. Well, now I want a hobby. I want to do those things.”
EXT. THE GARDEN AT CHATEAU MARMONT – LATER
I return from the bathroom and am bummed out. Hoult didn’t leave a cryptic message on the recorder. We’re on our second round of caffeine, moving onto playful banter, jokes of improv and timing, only funny if you were there. We call our lunch after ninety minutes. We settle, grab our belongings, and put on our coats.
We head out through the lobby, past the tight rectangular reception desk. Here, we shake hands and bump shoulders. “See you down the road.” Hoult tells me. I echo the sentiment before turning for the lower staircase. When will I see Hoult again? TBD. But no matter how the dice land, chances are rising star Nicholas Hoult will encompass the full spectrum of emotion and circumstance—from furious chases to contemplative eros, ambivalent psychopath to cocksure partner—for as leading roles demand him more frequently, eager fans will be illuminated by his ever-oscillating, ever-sparkling persona.
Well played, sir.
Photographer: Yu Tsai for OpusReps.com
Stylist: Nicolas Klam for JedRoot.com
Prop Stylist: Alex Bain
Groomer: Kara Yoshimoto Bua for StarWorksArtists.com
Producer: Trever Swearingen for 88Phases.com
Digital Tech: Luis Jaime
Photography Assistants: Wilder Marroquin and Graham Dalton
Production Assistant: Todd Touron