Though he had a dorky start as that-kid-with-the-eyebrows in About A Boy, British actor Nicholas Hoult turned himself into a teen heart throb in Skins and one of our finest acting exports in fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut A Single Man. His next transformation may be his biggest yet — the mysterious Nux in the forthcoming Mad Max update. We caught up with him at our Brilliant Brits shoot for our July issue.
ESQUIRE: We enjoyed your recent cameo in The Midnight Beast's pop video. How did that come about?
NICHOLAS HOULT: They're mates from school. They were bored one day and decided to do a spoof of that Ke$ha son, "Tick-Tock". It did really well, got millions of views on YouTube. They do lots of parodies but also some of their own songs. They asked if I wanted to do a cameo and I said, "Why not?"
ESQ: Did your appearance boost record sales?
NH: I doubt it, but it was a good laugh.
ESQ: Are you up on your music generally?
NH: I try to be, but I'm not well educated. I'm not one of those people who sits around knowing all bands and going to gigs all the time. I'm through a Guns N' Roses phase at the moment. That and Mumford & Sons — when it's nice weather and you're drinking cider it seems like the right type of music to listen to.
ESQ: As a local boy, we know you're a regular attendee of the Reading Festival. Will you get there this year?
NH: I try to go whenever I can, but this year unfortunately I'm going to be in Australia.
ESQ: So it's all going ahead as planned on the new Mad Max film, Fury Road?
NH: Yeah I spoke to [director] George Miller this morning. It's a seven-month shoot, all in Austalia, in the Outback, where I'm sure I'm going to get attacked by lots of spiders. You can never count your eggs before you're actually on set doing it, but I'm starting training.
ESQ: What kind of training?
NH: I'm not too sure, but he's going to make it very character-driven. The Mad Max world is so insane that it's going to take a lot just to understand it and become part of it. I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say, but I'm playing a character called Nux, who's an interesting guy. I can't say what he does, but the look's going to be quite mental — he's covered in tattoos.
ESQ: Do you think you'll develop a taste for action films?
NH: The action stuff is only good if you get the character stuff in there as well. Sometimes that get lost in amongst all the trying to make stuff blow up. There's a lot of time where — luckily I haven't experienced this too much — but where the stunt guys do all the cool stuff, and then you get left with the terrible dialogue. When people go to see the movie you're the one [about whom] they go, "What a loser! He can't even act!"
ESQ: How do you feel about acting fame?
NH: Until I was 16 or 17 [my home life and career were] two separate worlds, which was nice. After Skins I became mildly famous, which was a bit of a disaster. When you're on TV and in people's houses — it's great that anybody watches anything you've done, but you feel as though you're being watched by Big Brother sometimes. Even if people have no idea who you are, you get the feeling you're being watched.
ESQ: What did A Single Man reveal to you about Hollywood film-making?
NH: I think A Single Man was a very different project from a lot of American films. It was an underdog story in many ways because a lot of people didn't believe Tom Ford could make a brilliant film. But he adapted the screenplay and funded the movie himself — which fortunately he was in a position to do — and then made an incredible film. A lot of people weren't expecting him to do such a great job, or hoping he wouldn't because he was so successful in other industries — it was an elitist club in a way.
ESQ: Have you stayed in contact with Tom Ford?
NH: I saw him the other day. He asked me to do the eyewear [campaign] again. It's cool, because I wouldn't really do the modelling thing otherwise. I think I'd get the mick taken out of me by my mates. They love a good piss-taking session.
Fury Road is due to be released in 2012