X-Men First Class Interview: Nicholas Hoult On Beast, With Updates On Jack The Giant Killer And Mad Max

Jens Altmann reports for Bleeding Cool:

Question: Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: are you a comic book reader?

Nicholas Hoult: I’ve read a couple of them before starting work on this (film). But since then I’ve read a lot, a little bit of X-Men and Avengers and things like that, to get a grasp of the character. I was a fan of the films and grew up watching the cartoons. There is a great lot of history and information in there.

Q: Did Beast become your favourite X-Men, if only by default, or did you prefer another one?

Hoult: (laughs) Someone asked me which power I would like most if I could get any of them. I think that either telepathy ir teleporting would be my favourite powers to have. As a character, I find Beast is fantastic, he is my favourite in a way. There’s this inner tension, because he’s a scientist, and a careful man, and a worldly man, and he has this crazy exterior. He’s scary.

Q: The blue-furred guy.

Hoult: Yeah. I hope the fans will like this version as much (as the original).

Q: I suppose he’ll be pretty much like in the comic books? Upbeat, exuberant, witty, charming…

Hoult: Yeah, well, in this film it’s more, he’s a young scientist. He’s very intelligent, obviously, and creates great inventions. But there’s also this side of him where you have this conflict of wanting to be normal and wanting to fit in. That’s going on. And then there’s also the side, once he becomes the Beast. There’s a Jeckyll and Hyde aspect, where he’s scared of what he’s capable of.

Q: This role is essentially the very opposite of Tony Stonem, isn’t he? As far as I know, Tony Stonem was created to be unlikeable.

Hoult: (laughs)

Q: Beast, on the other hand, is very likeable. So, did you in part take Beast as a sort of antidote to becoming typecast as a Tony Stonem-type?

Hoult: No, it wasn’t an antidote to that tool. I’ve played a variety of types, and Tony was very interesting, and something you don’t see very often. Anyway, I wouldn’t call it an antidote, but it’s great to play a reckless character. It’s kind of a release, yeah.

Q: Considering that Beast is one of the most visually distinctive characters, to put it mildly, how much effort was put into the make-up, and how much of that was make-up and prosthetics, as opposed to CGI?

Hoult: Before the transformation, when I’m just Hank, that’s me and there’s some CGI on the feet and toes. And then, once the transformation to Beast takes place, that’s four hours of make-up and prosthetics with a full mask and wigs and fur and a big rubber muscle suit. That’s quite a transformation.

Q: How did you prepare to become a mutant superhero and super-genius? How did you prepare and train… You already mentioned that you used comics for research.

Hoult: Yeah, comics, I watched Frasier, I watched the X-Men films. And then training was physically, athletics. I gained a little bit of weight and still managed to fit into my muscle suit (laughs). We lifted weights, did some boxing. It was also in part so that we stayed energized. That worked out pretty well.

Q: You just mentioned Frasier. I think this is the first time that I ever heard Frasier mentioned in a superhero context. You probably meant, because of Kelsey Grammer, who played the role in the third movie, right?

Hoult: Yeah, it was so that I could get Kelsey Grammer’s accent correctly.

Q: And how much did Kelsey Grammer’s depiction of the character influence you?

Hoult: I feel they were very different characters. In the other film, Beast was a politician, and he’s been in this place for a long time. In this one he’s young and he’s a scientist. And when he changes, that comes with quite a bit of anger and embarrassment.

Q: How did things go with the cast? Did you all play well off each other?

Hoult: Yeah, everyone got on very well. There was a great mix of people who got on board and performed. Different age groups, different walks of life. Everyone got along very well, and we had fun.

Q: How was Matthew Vaughn as a director? I suppose he came in knowing what he wanted, considering that he had experience in making superhero movies.

Hoult: Yeah, exactly. Matthew’s a big jerk during the film because, well, it has a stellar cast, and he has worked before on Kick-Ass and Layer Cake. Both are great, enjoyable films. He understands what it means, to make a film work. So he gets going, and he’s right. He’s a very clever man. He knows the meaning of every line written. He knows what makes them work. These are just interesting stories, you know, epic in scale and massive backdrops, but at the heart of them they are quite human stories.

Q: This is your first big effects movie, right? You usually do character pieces. How did you like the difference?

Hoult: It’s interesting. I may try to see the end product, because it’s sometimes difficult to imagine what you’re seeing or what’s going on, so once it’s all cut together, there might be the occasional surprise waiting.

Q: One thing that was mentioned in the context of this movie was that Matthew Vaughn was trying to create a James Bond-feel. How did that translate to you?

Hoult: To me, personally, I really wonder why he said that. We were doing a scene of hanking and waving, and Luffy said, do it like James Bond, say the line like James Bond. Well, he actually said, do it like James Bond, and I said, I don’t know if that will come off as cheesy or Bond-like. And he said, do it, and then we’ll decide.

Q: Well, Bond-like is cheesy, so…

Hoult: (laughs)

Q: This movie is set in the 1960s. How did you prepare for the period? I think it’s probably different from a period that, say, your parents wouldn’t recognize, like a western for example.

Hoult: I’d already done that in A Single Man, which was set in that time. So I already had a sort of feeling for the times and the people. I had an understanding of what was going on, coming into the film.

Q: What was the general feel of X-Men First Class? Is it more grim and gritty, or more fun and cheesy, or…? If you had to compare it to another movie…?

Hoult: Whoof… If I compare it to another film…

Q: Would it be more A-Team or Dirty Harry or James Bond?

Hoult: The Bond thing is a good idea. It’s definitely not A-Team. It’s a film that has its background in the great era of the 1960s. There is drama, and there are thriller aspects. It’s character-driven by Magneto and Xavier, because it’s about their relationship. It’s epic, but told with the characters in mind.

Q: And it’s supposed to be a trilogy if it does well, right?

Hoult: Yes, if it does well.

Q: How difficult was it to get a handle on Hank before and after the transformation? Before, when he was this supersmart scientist and after, when he’s this tragic but still upbeat figure – at least in the comics.

Hoult: Well, in this movie, the end of the world is coming, so there’s not that much to be upbeat about. Maybe, if we make another film, we can get into that contradiction, that someone who looks so scary is such a positive person. That’d be great. You know, the film isn’t out yet, and that’s stuff I’m not comfortable talking about at this time.

Q: That’s spoiler territory, then.

Hoult: Yeah, that’s right, spoilers.

Q: This may be a bit tricky and mean, but considering that Bryan Singer is involved in both X-Men First Class and Jack the Giant Killer, did he snatch you from Jack for Beast, or did he give you Jack because of Beast?

Hoult: Originally, that was because I was going to straight to work on Mad Max, but that got delayed, something to do with the special effects. And originally I was going to do Jack, because Mad Max got delayed again, so I went to audition for Jack, and that worked out.

Q: So you had Jack before Beast?

Hoult: No, no, no. We did X-Men, and finished that before I found out I’d gotten the role in Jack, two days ago.

Q: Can you already tell me anything about Max and Jack?

Hoult: Hopefully, Max will be starting next year. George Miller is a fantastic director, so I’m looking forward to getting started on that. And Jack, yeah, we haven’t really started work on it yet, but we’re shooting pretty soon. It’s a kind of reimagied version of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Q: I’ve read that it’s supposed to be darker than the original.

Hoult: Yeah, yeah, definitely so. But it’s still going to be a family film, not restricted to (age) 18.

Q: Considering that you’ve worked with some considerable talents like Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, how do James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender compare?

Hoult: Errr…

Q: And Kevin Bacon.

Hoult: (laughs) It’s always fascinating to see how different they work. Most of the time they’re relaxed and calm, and they help out those around them. They’re just fun to be around, you know. James McAvoy definitely has that, when we gotta work we gotta work, and it’s what we do. And they have fun, and they’re relaxed, and they make you feel part of the team.

Q: So they didn’t try to stay in character all the time.

Hoult: No, definitely not.

Q: I remember that back in 1999, Bryan Singer changed the X-Men’s uniforms because he felt that blue and yellow wouldn’t work on screen. But now you’re all wearing those colours, so, does it work?

Hoult: I think they did a great job in designing the costumes. About why the colours are the way they are, you’ll have to see it in the film, but it’s a nice idea of why they are like that. Yeah, I liked the costumes and the reason behind them in this film. And I think they work, yeah.

Q: One last question…

Hoult: Oh, thank you.

Q: Is there anything you wish I had asked? Any soapbox you want to climb on, or anything you want to say to our readers?

Hoult: I think the X-Men characters and their universe is very important to the people, to their fans. We just hope that you know that we’ve been respectful, that we’ve got something new and interesting to see, and hopefully tell a great story. That’s kind of the main thing.

Q: Thank you.