Monday 23 April 2018

We're so mad about this boy

Nicholas Hoult is very young to have already staged a career comeback. In A Single Man, he plays a college student, Kenny, who both intrigues Colin Firth's character and is, in turn, intrigued by him. Tall, tanned and beautiful, Hoult catches the eye from the moment he appears on screen in -- of all things -- a mohair jumper.

He is all but unrecognisable from the last role that required him to pull off a silly jumper. Nine years ago, he played a nerdy 12-year-old who makes an unwilling surrogate dad of Hugh Grant in About A Boy. Back then, he was all bobble hats and unruly hair. Now he's got ridiculously high cheekbones, a full-lipped pout and a proper Hollywood buzz around him.

"It was odd seeing this film for the first time," he says, "because I'm spray-tanned, have Beatles' 60s-ish hair, and dressed in white head to toe a bit like a guardian angel." Today, dressed to attend the London premiere of A Single Man, the tan has worn off, but he's still very impressive in tailored trousers (Tom Ford, of course), shirt and some very shiny cufflinks.

"I suppose I did things in between that weren't commercially successful and people didn't see me, so it might have looked like I came out of nowhere," he says hesitantly. "I think my change in appearance has been part of the reason -- everyone changes a little bit -- but it was like I was making a comeback."

Hoult, just turned 21, might be the fresh new thing in Hollywood -- his next job is a part in Mad Max 4. But his reincarnation from dorky kid to sex symbol came a little earlier for Irish and British audiences. Four years ago, when Hoult was 17, he headed up the cast of Channel 4's edgy teen drama, Skins. Hoult left school early to play Tony Stonem, the brazenly raunchy lead man of the group, for two years.

"He'd been as manipulative and as much of an arsehole as he could be in the first series and then did the most random things ever, then he got hit by a bus, and came back. So I think they had explored everything possible there!" he laughs.

TV drama's loss looks likely to be the big screen's gain. Hoult has been acting since he was three, even though his parents -- a piano teacher mum, a British Airways pilot dad -- had nothing to do with drama. "My older brother wanted to do acting first, my older sister did a lot of singing and dancing -- she's now on tour with Joseph. My younger sister's still in school, bless her. We've all kind of got into it by following my brother's footsteps," he explains with a shrug.

Despite his youthful blasé, he does admit it would be "the most annoying thing in the world" if he was to be typecast as a pretty boy, especially when he feels his new character Kenny is more than the sum of his perfect smile and bare torso. "He's a complex character trying to understand himself and the world around him, but he's a sweet guy," says Hoult. "He's got a powerful predatory side to him at the same time. I think people will see parts of that and not just see a suntanned kid."

Hoult's mum rings. There's some confusion over a car which is to bring his parents -- with whom he still lives in Berkshire -- to the hotel.

"Sorry, sorry," he blushes as he turns off the phone. Later still, he giggles when he says biology was one of his favourite subjects in school.

There's a bit of The Boy in there yet.

Irish Independent

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