By Gareth Mclean
The hobby has turned into a promising career, although he's only come to regard it that way in the last few years, after his turn in Gore Verbinski's 2005 comedy-drama, The Weather Man, starring Nicolas Cage. 'When you're a kid actor, there's always that fear of not being good enough and becoming one of those washed-up child actors, but I took the plunge, left school, and decided to go for it. I think the fact that my older brother James was an actor grounded me.' It has probably also helped that Hoult has largely stuck to roles concurrent with his age and experience, from About a Boy to the groundbreaking British teen drama, Skins, about a gang of friends negotiating the trials and tribulations of growing up. The series [aired in the U.S. on BBC America] unflinchingly featured sex and drugs in a way that no other teen drama had done before. With a writing team that consisted of teenagers as well as more established scribes, it became a cultural phenomenon and a byword for bold, cheeky, and charming TV drama. (It also spawned the inevitable American remake scheduled for MTV.) Hoult played Tony Stonem, the group's manipulative, mercenary, magnetic alpha male. Though he says he is closer to Tony's hapless sidekick Sid, the role made Hoult a household name in the U.K., not to mention a resounding heartthrob. 'They didn't want to make another O.C. or Gossip Girl. They wanted to make something different and more realistic, but no one expected it to become the phenomenon it was,' he says.
And then there is A Single Man, a phenomenon of a different kind. For who, except perhaps the designer himself, could have expected Tom Ford to get it so right with his debut feature, snapped up by the Weinstein Company in the wake of accolades and glory at the Venice and Toronto film festivals? And what teenage actor would gamble his fledgling career on a tenuous movie adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel about a day in the life of a middle-aged gay college professor? A movie, moreover, that requires him to strip for Colin Firth? But Hoult, who had done nude before (in Skins) and played gay on the London stage (in New Boy), was unfazed. For him the challenge was honoring the novel's depth and profundity. 'A great film can change the way people see the world, and I think A Single Man is one of those films. It's about letting go of the past, not worrying about the future and living in the now. That's what drew me to it.'
And how was working with Firth?
'Colin is a very honest and subtle actor, and you really feel like you're there in the moment with him. I never looked at it as being particularly gay. I looked at it as being intrigued by each other, and by the [psychological] connection they had. When I did New Boy, people asked if I was trying to say something about my own sexuality, but I wasn't. It was just a character that interested me. In Skins, I had to kiss another actor, and that was awkward because we were both 17, and we were nervous. But even then, it wasn't a massive deal.' Hoult pauses and smirks. 'You know, you can play a murderer, as I did in [BBC detective show] Wallander, and no one asks if you've killed anyone. But if you play a gay character, people start questioning your sexuality.'
To see our photo portfolio featuring Nicholas Hoult shot by Tom Ford, click here.