Nicholas Hoult Talks the Challenges of 3D, Bringing a Fairy Tale to Life, the Success of X-MEN, and More on the Set of JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

     January 31, 2013


While some may remember Nicholas Hoult as the kid in About a Boy, over the past few years he’s proven that he’s definitely capable of playing adult roles in such films as A Single Man, X-Men: First Class, and Clash of the Titans.  However, while he might have been playing more mature roles, he hasn’t been the lead in any of these films.

That all changes in 2013.

With leading roles in Warm Bodies and Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, Hoult is starting a new chapter in his career, and based on what I saw while visiting the set of Jack back in 2011, I think he’s going to easily make the jump.  During a group interview on the set, Hoult talked about bringing the fairy tale to life, the 3D, what his version of Jack is like, and so much more.  Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.

Before getting to the interview, if you haven’t seen the trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer, I’d watch that first:

If you’d like to listen to this interview, click here.  Otherwise the full transcript is below.

nicholas-houltWe should probably start with the most important thing – horse injuries?  Horse stepping on feet?

Nicholas Hoult:  You guys saw that?  [Laughs] I can’t remember what I said, so apologies.  It was pretty painful.

You took it pretty well, actually.

Hoult:  Did I?

I think you were surprised.

Hoult:  [Laughs] It was a bit of a shock.  There’s been a few little injuries along the way.

Can you talk a little about getting involved in this project?  This is one of those films where there’s a lot of talk about who was going to land this role.  Were you aware of all the names circling this project or were you just sort of keeping your head down?

Hoult:  The first time I heard about it was a real long time ago, I think it was when we were doing press for A Single Man.  I met Roger [Mussenden], the casting director back then, and then it went really quiet for a fair while.  I think Bryan [Singer] went to work a lot on previz and all that sort of stuff.  So nothing really happened and then I got cast in Mad Max and then that got delayed and then went on to X-Men and met Bryan.  He mentioned he was doing this and that he was prepping it all basically while we were filming X-Men.  But at the time, Mad Max was going to be shooting again while this was filming, so I wasn’t really in the running for it and then that got delayed again.  I think I missed the first set of screen tests because we were filming up in Georgia for the final battle sequence of X-Men and then came in and did a few screen tests the beginning of this year and it worked out.  It was very lucky.

What’s your Jack like?

Hoult:  What’s my Jack like?  He’s a dreamer.  He’s a young farmer.  He hasn’t had an easy upbringing and then he’s kind of catapulted onto this epic mission and falls in love with a princess.  He’s an average hero, an average guy who becomes a hero.  He’s a good guy, which is nice, playing a good guy for once, but he’s fairly laid back, understanding of the princess’s situation and wants to become a Guardian and protect her.  He has to overcome quite a few of his fears of heights and thunder and all these sorts of things along the way.  But, yeah, he’s just an average guy.

nicholas-hoult-jack-the-giant-slayerWhat sort of training did you have to do for this role?  We heard there was some rock climbing and stuff like that.

Hoult:  Yeah, we did rock climbing, which was lots of fun actually.  I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the beanstalk stuff, but we spent a lot of time climbing on beanstalks with the rain effects on and the wind machines battering us.  So we did a fair bit of climbing, a bit of horse riding.  Not that I’ve actually done that much riding.  I’ve done a lot of standing with horses.  That was mainly the training, that sort of stuff.

Any combat training?

Hoult:  No, we did a bit of fitness training just because there’s a lot of running around and jumping and all that sort of stuff, but apart from the giants Jack doesn’t actually fight any humans.

What about Jack’s princess?  Is she a damsel in distress at all?  How does that romance start?

Hoult:  No, she’s a headstrong, fiery young princess who isn’t too happy being cooped up in the castle and she goes on these little escapes occasionally.  The first encounter they have, there’s actually a pantomime going on of Jack and the Giant Killer and they’re both watching in the audience and he sees her getting accosted by some drunks and tries to do the heroic thing, the good thing, as we all hope he would, and step in to try to help, but that doesn’t quite go to plan and he gets knocked out.  [Laughs] So that’s their first encounter is him trying to help her and later on she turns up at his house.  He’s a bit surprised basically.  She gets caught out in a storm, ends up there and then this whole adventure begins.

We saw some previz of the beanstalk going up.  Can you talk about the challenges of filming that sequence?

jack-the-giant-slayer-bryan-singer.Hoult:  Ah, yeah, that sequence is really cool.  They built Jack’s uncle’s house in the studios and then had it on a rig whereby the whole house would shake and the floorboards would explode.  There was like a ram in the floor.  I would be running to try to get to Ellie and it hit me in the stomach, lift me up and then I get thrown out through the roof.  It was a lot of fun to do all that and there’s a bit of dialogue in that scene as well.  So that was that sequence and then the princess is trapped inside the house with the beanstalk growing and lifting up into the sky, so Jack’s trying to get in to save her and help her.  I think I’m giving away quite a lot of the story.  [Laughs]

We have Warner Bros.  in the room with us.  Don’t mention the vampires.

Hoult:  There’s vampires and some aliens.

This is based on something a lot of people already know.  Isn’t some of what you’ve said so far part of the original myth?

Hoult:  That’s the thing; the really nice thing when I read the script was the ending of the story and how it all ties together, and this is basically not the “Jack and the Beanstalk” you see in pantomimes or the story you know.  It’s based around it obviously, but then it’s basically if this tale’s been retold over many generations through lots of families and ends up becoming the story we know nowadays, so it’s kind of the tale of behind that, and altered into a fairy tale romantic adventure.

Can you talk a little bit about the 3D cameras?  Is this your first time working with them and have there been any challenges doing so as an actor?

Hoult:  As an actor, it slows the pace down, so there’s challenge in that way.  When you’re doing a scene, you kind of build up a momentum sometimes and you get into a rhythm of doing it and that kind of gets knocked down a little bit because it takes longer to set up and arrange.  In particular with this one, the fact that he’s not doing post-converted, Brian and everyone are spending a lot of time making sure that it’s worthwhile seeing it in the 3D, and it’s actually an added effect sort of thing and a part of the experience, so it slows the pace down, but looks fantastic I think.

nicholas-hoult-eleanor-tomlinson-jack-the-giant-slayer.Can you talk about working with Eleanor?  This is kind of her first big, leading role, did you guys have some time before shooting to get to know her and build a rapport?

Hoult:  Yeah, we did on the screen test actually and the thing that I really liked about the fantasy thing was that she instantly had that heroic feistiness to her, she’d take the piss out of me right from the off and I was like, ‘Okay, this is someone I can have fun with for four months,’ and she had that quality to her that the princess has to have.  So we have fun and we have a laugh about it.

How’s it been working with Bryan on this as compared to X-Men?

Hoult:  Well, Bryan on X-Men, he visited a couple of times on set, but he wasn’t around, he was off working on this, so I chatted with him twice, so this is obviously a very different experience.  He’s fun to work with.  He also takes the piss out of me; maybe I’m just an easy target.  [Laughs] You sense that he’s got a very clear vision and is obviously extremely intelligent in how he’s making the film altogether and what he needs to tell the story.  All his films are exciting to watch and entertaining, so there’s that, but then he’s got to be aware of being technical with you when he needs to just to make the shot work or working on the dialogue.  You have to keep on your toes because he adapts a lot throughout while we’re shooting; the script will be changing, the scenes will be changing, the shots will be changing and then you have to keep your wits about you to make sure that you keep up with him.

What do you think you’ve learned on set?

Hoult:  To always be on the ball and listen and be aware of what’s going on around, because you can learn a lot and it helps with what you’re doing to just be aware of everything that’s going on.

jack-the-giant-slayer-nicholas-houltI’m going to ask an X-Men question.  Critics and audiences seem to really dig the movie; were you surprised by the success of it and the enthusiasm, because I know you guys were filming really close to release?

Hoult:  It was up to the cusp, yeah.  It was a very quick turnaround and they were definitely under the gun a little bit.  I don’t know, I think for us, with Matthew [Vaughn] directing it and the script, we knew it was a good story and, obviously, with X-Men already having the fan base it has.  It was just great that everyone enjoyed it and I could take my family along, my mates and they all really enjoyed it.  They thought it was fun.

What’d they think of you turning into the Beast, with all that makeup?

Hoult:  They thought it was pretty funny.  [Laughs] I think because my family and friends had known what it was like inside of it, they kind of pitied me a little bit, because they knew how painful it was being inside that thing.  It was very hot and uncomfortable.

How do you think they’ll react to this?

Hoult:  My parents have been along actually and Bryan’s shown them a couple of sequences and they’re very excited about it.  It’s looking great.

You’ve worked with some really prolific older actors.  Have you gotten any really memorable advice from them on sets?

Hoult:  I think to be as prepared as you can and it’s just concentration most of the time.  That’s the thing that you learn from them; you watch and they’ve got concentration and just an awareness of everything going on around and they’re very observant as well.  The best actors I’ve worked with, they’re very giving as well.  When you work with them, they’ll be there and they’ll give as much off camera as when they’re on camera and sometimes that’s not the case with some of them, so that’s all really great to have that.  And they help.  It makes it very easy when you’re acting with actors when it doesn’t feel like acting, it’s just doing.

jack-the-giant-slayer-eleanor-tomlinson-nicholas-hoult.You’re wrapping on this thing in like a week and a half; you looking forward to your vacation or are you jumping right back into something else?

Hoult:  I’m starting – I take about a week or two off and then I’m starting in Montreal on a film called Warm Bodies.  Jonathan Levine’s directing.  I’m playing a zombie.

That’s actually an interesting twist on the zombie thing.  If I’m not mistaken, the zombie can think?

Hoult:  Yeah, he can think.  He’s lost his memory of words a lot, so his speech isn’t grand stuff.  He captures a living girl and for some reason doesn’t eat her brains, [laughs] and kind of falls for her.  Basically, it’s about him regaining his humanity.

You have a week between this and that; are you rehearsing to play a zombie?

Hoult:  No, I’m very tired, so that might help.  [Laughs] But no, I have the week and then we have a few weeks prep on that so I’ll work with Jonathon and try and come up with something.

Are you going to have a voiceover to rely on for that because the majority of that book is all in his head?

Hoult:  Yeah, there is voiceover, which works well because he’s very eloquent and funny and charming in the voiceover, so it shows kind of the person inside that’s trapped basically.

When you were younger, were you a fan of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairytale?  Do you have memories of it being read to you?

Hoult:  My older sister was in the pantomime with Timmy Mallet, I think.  Having grown up over here with pantomime season and all that sort of stuff, yeah, off course I have fond memories of it.  And it’s been nice; on set actually people brought their kids along and the kids are really big fans of the story.  One of our sound guys, his son was playing Jack a few weeks ago in a school production of it, all that sort of stuff.  I asked him for any tips actually.  [Laughs]

jack-the-giant-slayer-ewan-mcgregor-bryan-singer-nicholas-houltYou’ve been filming this for how many months?

Hoult:  I think nearly four.

Is there a big challenge in maintaining the energy over the four months?

Hoult:  It can be on these types of shoots where there’s lots of special effects and stuff, and sometimes the pace is quite slow because of the very technical stuff, like the things they’re doing here with the SimulCam, lining all those things up and making them work.  It can be a bit of an endurance test in some ways whereby you’ve got to make sure that you’re still on point and have the energy when the cameras are rolling.  I don’t want to say too much because then I might not have the energy when the cameras are rolling.  [Laughs] Yeah, it can be a bit of an endurance test.

Someone like David Fincher will do like 90 takes.  What’s typical for Bryan Singer?

Hoult:  Until he gets it right.  We haven’t been anywhere near 90, that’s for sure.  It really just depends on all the technical aspects of it working and the scene working.  Sometimes you can do two or three takes and they’re happy and they got what they need and then other times you can go out and do ten, eleven.

That doesn’t seem like that high a number.

Hoult:  No, it’s not.  I mean, I haven’t actually kept track of our highest amount of takes yet.  There’s probably something involved in there going wrong.  

You still have a week and a half, too.

jack-the-giant-slayer-ian-mcshane-ewan-mcgregor-eleanor-tomlinson-nicholas-hoult.Hoult:  Yeah.  [Laughs] But yeah, I don’t think there’s been many scenes that have required a ridiculous amount of takes, from what I can remember.  Probably erased it from my memory.  [Laughs]

What’s your interaction like with the military guys in the film?  Can you talk about working with those actors and also what your character’s up against?

Hoult:  Well, the guardsmen are obviously Ewan McGregor, Eddie Marsan and those guys.  I kind of become, not part of them, but on the mission with them and obviously this is an exciting thing for Jack because they’re the lead soldiers that he looks up to and wanted to be at a young age.  It’s a lot of fun doing those things with those guys.  Eddie’s like one of the funniest people, and Ewan as well.  They’re very relaxed on set and easy to get along with.  We have fun.  There’s some funny scenes between us I think.  Yeah, so it’s lots of fun those days, we’re all climbing the beanstalk.  And then we’ve got Stanley [Tucci] playing Roderick who’s the bad guy we’ve just watched some of his stuff and the look he’s created and the persona is fantastic.

Do you have a lot of scenes with Ian McShane?

Hoult: I’ve got a few scenes with McShane, yeah, generally after I’ve come back down the beanstalk and he’s aware that there’s a slight romantic connection between his daughter and me.  McShane’s funny.  He’s a funny man.  He likes to rip me a little bit.  Yeah, just test out the younger actors a little bit.

Is there an intimidation factor with Ian?  He’s got a presence.

jack-the-giant-slayer-posterHoult:  That’s a tricky one.  Is it rude to say no?  [Laughs] No, I don’t find him too intimidating, but obviously at first, with any actor, like with Ewan and all those guys, when you’re first on set and you’ve seen them in the films and respect their work and look up to them and stuff, there’s always that intimidate thing, but while you’re there they don’t make it feel as though they’re judging you, but obviously part of your brain is going, ‘They’re judging me,’ [laughs] so you want to do a good job and make them like you.

Hypothetically speaking, have you borrowed anything from set?  Because I know you’re barred from taking anything from set legitimately.

Hoult:  Uh, yes.  Yes, I have.  [Laughs] But the people that gave it to me or their departments would get in a lot of trouble if they found out.  But of course, you’ve got to take a few mementos here and there just in case I fall on hard times, I can eBay them.  [Laughs]

But we’ll know where they come from! [Laughs]

Hoult:  Yeah.  No, that really was a warning though.  [Laughs]

Why’s Nick’s sister selling things on eBay?  [Laughs]

Hoult:  I’ve got six tons of beanstalk in my backyard.

jack-the-giant-slayer-poster-feeWe also saw that there was a whole bunch of filming outside London and in different locations; what’s the furthest you’ve traveled for filming on location or have you pretty much been here?

Hoult:  First we went to Wales.  I think we’re gonna be going up to Scotland, Isle Scott.  Isle Scott?  Those are the furthest reaches we’ve been to, Cheddar Gorge we went to for a little bit, Norwich Cathedral.  It’s been nice because we’ve been all over and they’ve built fantastic sets.  It helps a lot when you’re trying to imagine a lot of things and the little stuff isn’t there, the good sets and the things, really to work with it, that helped a lot.

With going to all these places and covering all these different scenes, is there any one thing in terms of your preparation that stays consistent?  Anything you have to do before you hit the set?

Hoult:  Before I get to set?  I would say learn my lines, but the lines change a lot of the time on set as well, [laughs] so, you know, read over the scenes that have happened just before hand and to just make sure that it’s making sense.  Being malleable is quite effective.

Jack the Giant Slayer opens March 1.  Here’s more from my set visit:


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