Nicholas Hoult, the British actor most of us first saw as the young lad opposite Hugh Grant in “About a Boy,” has, to put it mildly, changed. Make that has kept changing. Over the past decade, he’s been in prominent roles in “A Single Man” (he plays the young American who befriends the grieving Colin Firth) and in “X-Men: First Class” (as Hank, who turns into Beast). In about a month he’ll have the title role in “Jack the Giant Killer,” and next year, he’ll play a buddy of Tom Hardy in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Hoult, 23, recently spoke about his new film “Warm Bodies,” in which he has the unenviable task of playing a zombie who can hardly speak, and tries to start up a romance with a normal human (Teresa Palmer).
How familiar with the book before you got the part of R in the film?
I read the book after getting the role. I read the script first and really enjoyed it, then I thought I’ll read the book just to see if I could find any bits of wisdom or nuggets of gold, and there were a lot of interesting things about him there. I have the copy of the book at home, and there’s lots of underlining and circling, which helped.
You spend a good part of the film doing a lurching zombie walk. Was that difficult to get down?
It’s one of those things where you have to a hundred percent believe it, then go for it, and then hope for the best. For a few weeks I would just try to get it consistent, so it was something I could do exactly every day, and then kind of develop it as the character starts to change.
How does one actually prepare to play a zombie?
[Director] Jonathan Levine and I would sit around and watch a lot of zombie films, from the ’80s up to the modern ones, like “Shaun of the Dead,” to see how things had been done before, and what might work. “Return of the Living Dead” was my favorite one, where the zombies overrun the town and get on the radios in the cars saying, “Send more cops!”
Did you realize there was some great chemistry between you and Teresa while you were filming?
I don’t know. I’ve seen films where I’ve heard people hated each other, but when you watch it, the people look liked they love each other. So you never know. But we really got along and had fun. She made me laugh and I enjoyed watching her act. It was very easy for me to be opposite her. But you never know how it’ll cut together, or if it’ll translate onto film. Luckily I think it worked out on this one.
Page 2 of 2 - Had you done much acting before “About a Boy?”
I did a play when I was 3, and my first professional job was when I was 5, in a film called ‘Intimate Relations,’ which not a lot of people saw.
Did you always want to be an actor?
No. I did it as a bit of a hobby. Rather than playing for a sports team, I acted, and I carried on doing it, and I thought, “Hmm, this is working out well.” So I carried on, and I enjoyed it. And now I’m making a living out of it.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for GateHouse Media.