Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nicholas Hoult talks about the transition from child actor (and Skins)

When the 12-year-old Nicholas Hoult first made an impression in 2002’s About a Boy, Hugh Grant was playing opposite him as an overgrown adolescent living off his family’s residuals — basically, the nightmare of any child actor. Hoult’s own coming-of-age has been the furthest thing from lazy, and after recapturing attention two years ago in the rude UK teen soap Skins, he landed the role of Kenny, who admires and longs for Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s A Single Man.
Newly twenty and on the cusp of more adult roles (he’ll next be seen in Louis Leterrier’s remake of Clash of the Titans), Hoult talked to Movieline about navigating that transition, learning how to swing a sword, and that angora sweater from A Single Man.

When you took daring projects like A Single Man and Skins, were they part of a conscious attempt to break out of an image people had of you a a child actor?
It’s more that those were the things that came along that were interesting at that time. Obviously, there’s a fear as a child actor of being washed up and failing, and by no means have I gotten out of that. At the same time, if you can do something interesting with good people and great actors, I don’t think you have to completely lose who you were as a child. You tend to become a different person from eleven to twenty.

How did you remain a kid when most of the people you’re working with and dealing with were adults?
I was very lucky in the sense that I managed to keep a very normal life outside of acting. I went to school and I stayed home and stuff. It’s a slightly different setup for child actors in England as opposed to here — in America, it becomes “a business” very early on. It’s very intense and it consumes your whole family, whereas in England it’s more laid-back. You don’t suddenly become very pivotal in the industry — you’re still a normal kid, and acting is just what you do.

I’m sure you’ve heard that MTV is developing an American version of Skins. What did you think when you heard that announcement?
I think it’s fantastic, it just depends on how it works out. The great thing about Skins is that they got actors who were the right age to play the characters, and there was something fresh and new. Hopefully, that’s something MTV will create with their version of the show, where it doesn’t get sucked into being one of the many young adult dramas that are already on American TV.

The writers for the UK version were exceptionally young, weren’t they?
Some of the writers were as young as 18 writing full episodes, which is fantastic. I think that’s why it worked so well — you have a young team of writers who’ve got their fingers on the pulse and know what’s happening. A lot of the time, I’d be reading the scripts going, “Hang on, what does this word mean? What’s this new trend?” I didn’t try to keep up with what the writers were saying because they were so up to speed on whatever was the cool thing at the time.

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