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nicholas hoult is the ultimate bad boy

We catch up with the actor to talk Hyde Park, black humor, and what it’s like to kill your friends.

by Tish Weinstock
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Nov 6 2015, 8:05pm

From the fuzzy-browed, fuddy dud kid in About A Boy to one of Hollywood's hottest heartthrobs, Nicholas Hoult's acting career has gone from strength to strength. But it is his most recent film, Kill Your Friends -- released in worldwide cinemas today -- which sees the actor truly come into his own. Based on John Niven's dark and twisted novel, Hoult plays Steven Stelfox, the bad boy of Britpop -- a greasy A and R guy who will stop at nothing 'til he gets what he wants (even if it means snorting, shagging, and slaying his way to the top).

So, Kill Your Friends, what a cool film. It sort of made me want to go out and take lots of drugs and kill people. Well not the drugs bit, just the killing…
I suppose that was the aim, to allow people to enjoy that twisted little part of their brain.

How did you get involved with it?
I was sitting in Hyde Park -- probably the only time I've ever sat in Hyde Park -- and Gregor Cameron walked up to me and said, 'Hey I have a script.' I was like, 'this mental person has a script, what's going on?' Not that he's mental, it was just an odd approach. I read it and thought it was really interesting, but I felt that I was too young at the time, there was no director attached to it, and I was already working on something else.

What made you feel too young?
The character read older than I was at the time. When I pictured the role in my mind, I couldn't picture myself playing it. That happens quite a lot. You read a script and you go, 'Yeah I love it, but I'm not the right person for this.' Then they came back a year later and Owen Harris was attached to it. I really enjoyed his episode of Black Mirror. It's the best telling of that story, the kind of A.I./human relationship. He's a very smart guy and someone that was right for this, as it could have easily become quite bro-ish. 

What drew you to the script?
John Niven's writing. He has a great sense of the absurd. He creates these characters who are ridiculous. His dialogue is amazing, saying the unsayable in a very astute fashion: observant, but slicing at the same time, and always embellished with a nice turn of phrase.

Did you have a clear idea of how you wanted the character to come across?
Not really. There's no real reason why this character is the way he is. He is in a pressure cooker of an environment, but there's no, 'This is what happened to him when he was younger and now he's a product of that.' And there's no redemptive moment where the antihero has an enlightenment and he realizes the errors of his ways and everyone is really happy, which is think is quite a bold choice. Those things usually get watered down, so kudos to the gang who made it and not taking the easy road out.

Do you enjoy playing a dick?
Yeah, anti-heroes in general are just much more interesting. I've been in a situation a few times where I don't know what's driving the character. They end up in these situations and someone else kind of fixes things for them or gives them a new path to go on and it's all good. As an actor, it's hard to show how that all works. Whereas with characters like Steven, they are much more fascinating, as you can delve into a different side of your psyche and figure stuff out that you wouldn't normally deal with.

Did you learn anything about yourself doing it? Maybe that you enjoyed playing it too much?
Yeah, there are definitely some things I shouldn't admit to. You always learn stuff on the job, especially with this character as he's so sharp. There wasn't much time for rehearsal so I was trying to be on point as much as possible, because this character knows exactly where he's going. That's why things spiral in the film -- when he doesn't have control over events.

Do you find independent films more freeing in terms of creative input?
Yeah, there's certainly less cooks, but time is also a huge element. On an independent movie, you just don't have as much time. People are there for the right reasons, there's no hidden element or second reasoning. It's more of a team effort; everyone bands together.

Do you find it hard to be funny on film, delivering other people's comedic lines?
I think you can see it with people like Jim Carrey, and some of the greatest actors, doing comedy is near impossible. Someone told me ages ago that the simple fact is, 'Don't try and be funny. Because it never works.' I guess you just do what's written and hopefully that's funny. This film is different though because the humor is very twisted. It's someone getting their head bludgeoned in because they didn't know Paul Weller was a songwriter as well as a singer.

You've done a lot of diverse roles. Is this intentional or did it just unfold this way?
Yeah, I try to do different things. I don't want to do the same thing over and over again. It would be boring for me and boring for people watching.

Moving forward, where do you see your career going?
I just want to keep doing that really, playing different roles. Normally the roles get more interesting the older you get, and hopefully you get better, too.

@NicholasHoult