Welcome to Nicholas Hoult Web, your source for everything on British actor Nicholas Hoult. You may know Nicholas for his role as Tony Stonem in Channel 4's Skins, Hank McCoy/Beast in X-Men, Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, Jerry Salinger in Rebel in the Rye, or J.R.R. Tolkien in Tolkien. Be sure to bookmark us and check back daily for all the latest updates on Nicholas!

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admin | Apr 26, 2023

‘I’m building a patchwork quilt’: Nicholas Hoult on fame, fatherhood and playing Dracula’s wingman

The star of not one but two hot vampire films talks lockdown, eating caramel cockroaches and why he wants to make a romcom

In Renfield, a comedy slasher about Dracula’s lickspittle victim, Nicholas Hoult eats insects for his super-strength, which is prodigious. He decapitates and disarms with ease, his eyes flash amber as his power grows, but otherwise he plays it with a self-effacing British charm so pure that it’s like watching Hugh Grant rebooted.

In a hotel in central London to talk about the film, he looks – well, first of all, weirdly young. His breakthrough role, in 2002, was Grant’s titular co-star in About a Boy, though he appeared in his first film, Intimate Relations, six years before that, when he was five. So, he has now been in the business for nearly three decades, but, at 33, he has not just the face, but also the self-effacing manners, of someone much younger, as if he’s living his own, personal vampire story and got bitten by a svengali a century ago (or maybe by Grant in About a Boy?).

Renfield is a mischievous, expectation-reversing caper, which I found unbelievably bloody and disgusting. “It is quite gory,” he says, mildly. “Was it too much?” Well, to be fair, while I was hiding in my polo neck and muttering “No, please, make it stop”, everyone else in the audience was laughing. So this is obviously a sensibility thing.

“If I’m watching a film where it’s more realistic, that affects my psyche a lot more. Whereas an arm getting ripped off, blood spurting, a head getting punched off – we’re not living in the real world any more. This is ridiculous. I can see why people would be squeamish, but for me, I don’t have that reaction. I have more of a ‘this is silly’.”

Plus, the bugs he had to eat were mainly sweets. “We had cockroaches made of caramel. They were great. The worms were gummy worms in crushed-up Oreos to look like earth. Only the crickets were real.”

He talks about the project with a detached affection, as if he’s reviewing a theme park for TripAdvisor, but he has thought about its dynamics really hard – what Renfield would really be like, 100 years into his surrender to evil, what’s going on with Nicolas Cage’s Dracula, which is honestly droll, so mannered and self-referential, but also so committed, as if Dracula himself had read about Cage, and thought: “Wow, that guy sounds like a badass, maybe I should be more like him.”

“In the novel and in previous iterations of the film, Renfield is under Dracula’s spell, doing his bidding, crazed in his actions, and his fever, I suppose,” Hoult says. “Whereas we were catching up with them 100 years later; the wooing has worn off. It’s like six months into normal relationships, when the chemicals rebalance, or two years – or however long it takes the chemical balance of lovers …”

So, wait, was he thinking of Renfield and Dracula in a romantic arc? Because he’s also got a love interest, played engagingly and completely idiosyncratically by the rapper and actor Awkwafina. “It’s almost The Devil Wears Prada meets Notting Hill, with a sprinkling of John Wick,” he says.

Wait, there’s one more reference from the left field: “One of the things I loved about [Cage’s] performance is that he brought this element of Anne Bancroft from The Graduate: he brings a lot of hurt and woundedness to it.” This mashup of reference and genre is so wild that, I have to admit, the result is pretty original. “If I’m understanding it right, I think that’s a compliment?” Yup, definitely. Let’s call it a compliment.

Hoult was brought up in Berkshire, by his piano-teacher mother and pilot father – his parents met on a flight to Tel Aviv, when his mother was still a cabin attendant, which he passes on lightly, as if this is a sweet family set-piece story, the time their eyes met over some pretzels, or whatever passed for a plane snack in the 80s. It wasn’t as if they were two thwarted actors themselves, but they did raise four children who have all acted professionally, at some time or other. Hoult is the last one standing – his brother is a forensic chemist; one sister is a teacher, the other an assistant director.

By any conceivable measure, even though he rigorously denies it with words as well as eyebrows, he was a child star. Part of the reason About a Boy worked so well as a film was that there were these full-beam adult performances from Grant and Toni Collette, and if Hoult, who had been working by then since his first stage role when he was three, hadn’t been able to match them, the topsy-turvy premise – grownup manchild gets taught life by wise childman – wouldn’t have stood up.

“I just find it funny,” he says. “I was not really ever a star. I’ve never viewed the success I’ve had as being too much; it was never astronomical, your world flipped upside down, you can’t live a normal life. It was always more like: ‘This is good. Maybe you can continue to do this.’”

Fromthen on, he was the go-to in films that needed an unconventional kid who looked intelligent even when he wasn’t saying anything: The Weather Man, also with Cage – though “I didn’t fully appreciate how iconic he was at that point” – and Wah-Wah, Richard E Grant’s 2005 directorial debut, in which he is sort-of Richard E Grant.

The famously tricky segue to adult actor came via Channel 4’s semi-cultish, semi-soapy Skins – “the most disruptive, life-wise”, he says. “For a moment it was a different level of fame – it was a bit scary. I didn’t like it. It just makes you feel like you can’t mooch around.” Whatever the discomforts, it put him on his way to being a trusted lieutenant in the blockbuster machine, with a meaty supporting role in Clash of the Titans (2010), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and the classic speccy-with-hidden-strength part, Dr Hank McCoy (“Beast”) in the X-Men film franchise.

You can’t really see a through-line; indeed, he would encourage you not to: “I’m not building on a body of work because each work is singular. In my mind, I’m building a patchwork quilt, I suppose. Trying to make each square very different. I’m not building one big duvet.”

Even in films and TV shows that are superficially similar, or at least both period dramas – The Favourite, in which he played Harley, The Great, in which he really seems to be enjoying himself, as the bewigged and callous emperor Peter – he somehow resisted slipping comfortably into being the kind of actor who does that kind of thing.

He’s always made time for smaller, independent films – Dark Places, Equals, and the adaptation of the zesty John Niven novel, Kill Your Friends (all 2015) – and they’ve never done that well. He is rarely cast as a romantic lead, unless he’s also a zombie.

“I would like to go do a romcom,” he says, tentatively, “though maybe not as a romantic lead: it sounds like there’s slightly less to explore with those characters. But maybe people just don’t think of me like that, maybe I don’t get sent the good ones. I’d love to pretend it’s all my doing, but it’s more about when things align and when directors cast you.” He makes a face as if to say: “Don’t look at me, I just work here.”

However much intention and will there is in his decisions, underneath all that, he’s been in more or less constant work since forever: the pandemic was his longest ever fallow period. “I think I was shut down for seven months. It was the longest I’ve ever spent not working.”

Did he have an identity crisis? “No.” Why not? “Well, did you have an identity crisis?” No, but I didn’t have to stop working, I only had to stop going to pubs. “I think because I was just home being dad, which was nice.” (He has a five-year-old and a seven-month-old with the model Bryana Holly). “And it’s easy in this industry to get Fomo – like this person’s doing this, and that’s coming out, and it’s all happening for them. You want to be in the mix. But nothing was shooting, so it was actually quite peaceful.”

It sounds, in other words, like a career blighted by nothing, very little rejection and few untenanted hours. But no, he insists he had three quite big disappointments in a row, before 2020. “I screen-tested for Batman and didn’t get it. Screen-tested for Top Gun, didn’t get it. Then I got the call from Tom Cruise: ‘Hey, how about Mission Impossible?’ OK. Got it. Then I had to drop out because I was already attached to do some more of The Great.” There’s a lot of Cruise in this arc, and I can really imagine Cruise looking at Hoult and seeing a younger, taller version of himself. “Well, he never mentioned that,” Hoult says, archly.

He’s currently shooting Nosferatu, directed by Robert Eggers, which, yes, he accepts, is essentially Dracula by another name, but “it could not be further removed from Renfield if it tried”. I think, contrary to his quite passive self-fashioning, he actually does follow his nose about which roles to do, and I got a hint of his decision-making process, when he said he finds it much more comfortable to watch himself, the more disguised he is. The heavier the makeup, the greater the superpower, the thicker the accent – as an actor, he wants to disappear, and as a result, or maybe unrelatedly, he’s been almost constantly visible, almost all his life. [Source]






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THE GREAT - SEASON 3
Nicholas as Peter
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A royal woman living in rural Russia during the 18th century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor.

RENFIELD
Nicholas as Renfield
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Renfield, Dracula's henchman and inmate at the lunatic asylum for decades, longs for a life away from the Count, his various demands, and all of the bloodshed that comes with them.

NOSFERATU
Nicholas as Thomas Hutter
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A gothic tale of obsession between a haunted young woman in 19th century Germany and the ancient Transylvanian vampire who stalks her, bringing untold horror with him.

THE ORDER
Nicholas as Unknown
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In 1983, a series of increasingly violent bank robberies, counterfeiting operations and armored car heists frightened communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. As baffled law enforcement agents scrambled for answers, a lone FBI agent (Law), stationed in the sleepy, picturesque town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, came to believe the crimes were not the work of traditional, financially motivated criminals but a group of dangerous domestic terrorists, inspired by a radical, charismatic leader (Hoult), plotting a devastating war against the federal government of the United States.

SUPERMAN: LEGACY
Nicholas as Lex Luthor
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Follows the titular superhero as he reconciles his heritage with his human upbringing. He is the embodiment of truth, justice and a brighter tomorrow in a world that views kindness as old-fashioned.

JUROR #2
Nicholas as Justin Kemp
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Family man Justin Kemp who, while serving as a juror in a high profile murder trial, finds himself struggling with a serious moral dilemma...one he could use to sway the jury verdict and potentially convict-or free-the wrong killer.

THE ONE
Nicholas as Mason
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Taylor makes a last-ditch effort to find love by becoming a contestant on a reality dating show. But she begins to feel the artifice of the show fade, and the game becomes terrifyingly real. Rivalry turns into treachery.
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