Nicholas Hoult’s breakthrough role came in the 2002 comedy-drama film About a Boy before transitioning to adult roles with the drama film A Single Man and the classical fantasy Clash of the Titans. He was cast as the mutant Hank McCoy in Matthew Vaughn’s superhero film X-Men: First Class, a role he has reprised in later instalments of the series, including the recent X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Other recent roles include Jack the Giant Slayer, Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road, Kill Your Friends, The Rebel in the Rye, Sand Castle and The Favourite, among others. In Tolkien, he shares the screen with Lily Collins co-starring as the writer’s muse, Edith Brat.
Who is Tolkien to you?
I didn’t know the man, to be honest with you, before reading this script. I knew his work so he was someone who sparked my imagination and gave me a wonderful world to escape to and be part of. But then reading this story I was suddenly opened up to a whole new thing; I had disappeared into his world for years but suddenly became aware of the man behind the mythology that I love. And his story is remarkable, incredible, and one that stands alone. I thought it had to be told.
Were there any traits you recognised in him?
When Dome [Karukoski, the director] and I would speak about it, we thought he was quite hobbit-like in nature. He likes his comforts but he is very dedicated and loving and caring, obviously very imaginative and creative, and a bit of an outsider in some ways who was looking for a place to be and to escape to. He was also someone who had a serious intellect.
Who did you want to be in the Tolkien books?
I think the reality of my nature, especially as I get older, is that I am more hobbit-like. I appreciate those characters, although thinking about it now just as you were talking I was like, ‘It would be good to be a wizard wouldn’t it?’ I did love Aragorn too, and especially Viggo [Mortensen]’s interpretation of him in the movies. What a hero. What a guy.
Have you learned any Elfish?
I have learnt bits for this film. The languages I speak in this are more the precursors to the things that he then created for The Lord of the Rings. We worked with a professor at Oxford and he would take Norse and Anglo-Saxon elements and combine them into these limericks that I would then learn. Basically, they would send them to me written down and I would look at them and then I’d hear them and I’d think, ‘Well, that doesn’t align. That sounds nothing like what it looks like,’ so I would have to write it out phonetically and learn it and recreate it and then kind of put back in the meaning behind it.
Your character follow their dreams so how important was that for you, to be true to yourself and to follow your dreams?
It is about listening to gut instincts and those things because that’s something that is quite difficult to do and be honest with. It is something I am still learning and trying to get better at. In terms of following dreams, I am lucky that I found something I loved doing at a pretty young age. I still love doing it and it still feels new and fresh to me in many ways. I don’t feel that I have been doing it for a long time. Each job feels like a new challenge. I turn up on day one and I have no idea what I am doing and I really love that. I am very fortunate to pursue that.
Do you ever write diaries or journals?
I wrote The Lord of the Rings (laughs)! My answer is not as impressive as Lily’s! I played a writer a few years ago [J.D. Salinger in The Rebel in the Rye] and to play him and to get an understanding of that process I would write short stories. But apart from that, no, would be the answer. I love reading but I have never felt that was something that I could do.
Would you ever want to publish your short stories?
They are not very good (laughs). Honestly, they are not good. A lot of the time Salinger wrote about kids because he found them innocent. Also, his central characters were more honest and truthful because of that. So I would walk around New York, then go home and write stories about what I saw that day. They were normally just about relationships.
Was there a big difference between your preparation for playing Salinger and for Tolkien?
They are very different people, creatively and everything. There was a similar process in some regard, in terms of learning the facts, but then that film dealt with a much bigger time span. They both had some similar experiences in that that they both fought through war, and we see how that affected them. But they are very different characters. I wrote stories for Salinger, while I practised painting for this film.
Who introduced the Tolkien books to you?
I was given The Hobbit by the directors of About a Boy, Chris and Paul Weitz. It was lovely and I still have that copy of the book and so I went back to it again in the build up to this and it felt very fortuitous, in a way. What better gift could you give to a kid of that age, a gift of that imagination and story? That was probably the thought behind it. I look forward to sharing that and passing it along.
Tolkien is released on digital download on August 26th and Blu-Ray & DVD on September 9th.