If you only know the name Nicholas Hoult from tabloid headlines about his breakup with Jennifer Lawrence, that’s about to change. The former child star (who was adorable as Hugh Grant’s sidekick in About a Boy) and teen dream (the U.K. version of Skins) caught our eye as Colin Firth’s skinny-dipping student in A Single Man and Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Beast, in X-Men: First Class (even if he was blue and furry). Now Hoult’s the lead of a romantic-zombie-comedy (a rom-zom-com?) as a corpse-with-a-crush in Warm Bodies, with tons of big parts tumbling after, including Jack in Jack the Giant Killer, Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, and a reprisal of Beast in X-Men: Days of Future Past. No wonder he says he’s had no time for Twitter until this week. (If you checked out his feed before, it was an impostor.) Hoult chatted with Vulture about social media weirdos, eating brains, and stealing costumes from the set.
So first of all, there was someone on Twitter saying he’s you … and he’s not.
No, he’s not. It’s so weird, because I don’t see how people have so much time to create fake Twitter accounts. It’s kind of frustrating, because he has a lot of followers. It’s not cool. He makes it seem like it’s official. There are actually a lot of people pretending to be me. It’s strange. This isn’t directly related to the issue of people impersonating me, but there are aspects of technology and social media overtaking our lives, if we’re more connected through that way than any other. And that’s the message of Warm Bodies, that sometimes it’s good to turn those things off. Listen to music. Notice what’s around you. Be with the immediate world. If we’re not connecting with people in person, then we’re quite like zombies, anyway.
But you’re not Method like your co-star Rob Corddry. No eating brains on set.
You know [my character] R’s penis falls off in the original story? So I didn’t want to go Method. Rob is pretty hilarious. I did a bit of training with him. We had zombie training school, with a guy from Cirque du Soleil, and it was interesting how everyone has their own ideas of how a zombie moves and what they do. Everyone got really involved, and it was kind of ridiculous to be in this room going, “Okay, now make your body heavy!” So my take on that is to emphasize an injury. The more advanced work is once you start to smell brains, because you get to take on a bit of wildness in hunting for brains. The zombie run is quite tricky. Usually zombies are slow, except in 28 Days Later. You can’t be a super athlete if you’re a corpse or an infected person, and yet there’s a fair bit of running around. So we came up with this kind of uncoordinated wallow, and I had to practice it on the treadmill at my gym. People must have thought I was mad.
Zombie speech must also have been tricky. I think one of the few films to have zombies speak before was The Return of the Living Dead?
Yeah, “Send more cops.” “Send more paramedics.” You have to start with a groan. There were a few different approaches, because R has lost his memory and lost his memory of any words. I once played a character with a subdural hematoma [on the U.K. version of Skins], and so I thought of it like a brain injury, and how he might learn from the muscle memory. And since we eat brains to get the memories, which is a new concept in zombie lore, that made sense to me, why we’re so into the brains. Otherwise, you might think the heart would be the tastiest organ, as a frequently used muscle, right? Our brains were more like a wet, soft, cold peach sponge cake.
You wear the same hoodie throughout the film. You also wore the same angora sweater throughout much of A Single Man. When you have an outfit identified with a role that closely, do you keep it afterwards? What kind of swag have you kept?
There are multiple versions of that hoodie — bullet-hole hoodie, knife-wound hoodie — some slightly cleaner than others. The angora sweater, I gave that to my mum. I didn’t keep the sweater. But I have a few things I’ve kept — a hoodie, a leather jacket I got for Jack the Giant Killer, one of the Mad Max: Fury Road jackets, the original jacket from About a Boy. That one doesn’t fit anymore. Oh, and Beast feet. Beast feet from X-Men: First Class.
How do you feel about the transformation process to be either a mutant or a zombie?
Beast is much more of a transformation. That takes four hours. Both Beast and zombie makeup are fantastic, and I have to wear contact lenses for both — although it’s more helpful for me to get into zombie character to wear contacts. Then I feel like I’m behind a wall and disconnected. And it helped for the not blinking. But the Beast is probably slightly more difficult to work in, more difficult to express emotion. Then again, I might be making it more difficult for myself. There’s a fair bit of makeup for Mad Max, and bit of physical transformation there, too. I shaved my head.
You were in Namibia for about a month or so to shoot that? Zoe Kravitz said when she got back, she was just so happy to be able to go grocery shopping again.
Yeah. The thing that I noticed that I missed, and that I didn’t expect to miss, was all the greenery in England, the green countryside. When I got home, I was like, Wow. Although, it’s winter now, so no picnics out in the countryside for me.
Okay, and how would you fare in the zombie apocalypse?
Because I’ve had a little practice now, I would try to blend in and go undercover zom.