While most child stars end up on drugs, reality TV or a therapist’s chaise longue by the time they hit puberty, Nicholas Hoult is taking stardom in his substantial 6ft 3in stride. Having found fame alongside Hugh Grant in 2002’s About A Boy, the 23-year-old has since been seen in A Single Man and X-Men: First Class, and he’s primed for more big roles this year, including one in the hotly anticipated Mad Max reboot. First, though, he’s bloodying up to play an undead romantic in ‘zom-com’ Warm Bodies.
How did you prepare to play a zombie?
It was actually quite research-heavy. For movement, I worked with a guy from Cirque du Soleil. For speech, I looked at people who’d had head trauma injuries. As for my motivation, my character has no memory of how he became a zombie, so I played a bit of it like I had a terrible hangover.
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
I’ve had a few. They seem to get worse with age. My worst was a few years back when my mother saw me in the morning and was genuinely worried for me. That’s when you know you drank too much.
You’ve just finished shooting Mad Max: Fury Road. What can we expect from the film?
I play Nux, a soldier and driver. All the vehicles look terrific. We shot it in the Namibian desert, and once the V8s started throwing up sand, it gave me chills, so the visuals and stunts should look terrific. But I can’t give much more away.
Did you practise an Australian accent for it?
There was lot of Neighbours on in my house when I was growing up, so I’d feel pretty confident mimicking that accent [laughs]. But no, we have such a mixed international cast that everyone has their own version of what the accent of a post-apocalyptic land would sound like, so you won’t think everybody sounds as if they’ve come from Ramsay Street.
Tom Hardy’s playing Max. What was he like to work with?
He’s fantastic. He’s made Max his own. I look up to him because he’ll always do something unexpected during a take. You have to admire the physical lengths he goes to for these roles – you never know; if the right role came along I might bulk up like Bane, too.
You’ve also worked with Michael Fassbender. Would you be comfortable going completely naked like he did in Shame?
I’m not sure about that one yet. When I was on Skins I had to show a little flesh. It wasn’t that difficult, but going to work and taking your clothes off with people standing around looking at you is very odd.
Is modelling ever awkward?
Only when photographers try to make you look insane. When I was young and stupid they’d say, “Jump up and down, flapping your arms,” and thinking that’s how models did it, I followed orders. The pictures looked ridiculous, so I’ve learned not to try to please photographers.
You’ve modelled for Tom Ford, and he directed you in A Single Man. Do you get free suits for life now?
I’ve wangled a few free suits from him [laughs]. His are the best you can get. My advice to any man is just to own one. You slip into a Tom Ford suit and feel like James Bond.
Would you ever want to play 007 yourself?
I grew up watching James Bond films and loved them, so if that opportunity ever came up in five or 10 years I’d love it.
You’ve worked with both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Who’s posher?
Who’s posher? [Laughs] I’ve never been asked that before. They’re so posh I think they cancel each other out. Though I’ve been described as Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s lovechild and, you know what, I’ll take that. They’re so smart and polite, I’d happily be their illegitimate lovechild.
What did you make of Grant’s recent part in the Leveson Inquiry?
I didn’t see it as I was away filming. Seeing him on the news would’ve been strange, but I’m happy for him. I think it’s great that he’s been able to campaign for something he believes in [with campaign group Hacked Off]; maybe not on the celebrity front, but hacking the phones of victims of crime is too much.
What are the benefits of working in the US?
Meeting people you idolise. I was star-struck when I met rapper Kid Cudi. I was babbling like a little girl. Aside from that, I enjoy watching live basketball games. I went to see the Los Angeles Clippers recently and, having played a bit when I was younger [for the Reading Rockets U16s], I try to shoot hoops when I can. Apparently Adam Sandler is really into it and plays with a lot of other actors, so I’ll see if I can get in a game with him.
Have you had to grow up quicker than most?
Not really. Working as a young actor means you spend more time with adults and get used to that environment, but I was always immature. It’s helped that I’ve always tried my best to stay out of the limelight. Actors can work better when the public only know you from your work on screen, as opposed to knowing every detail about what you ate for breakfast.
What other roles do you have coming up?
I’m about to start on an independent film called The Young Ones with Michael Shannon and Elle Fanning. It’s a three-part revenge story, which should be cool.
And any roles that you’d rather forget?
There’s a part I had on TV show Doctors, where I was playing a boy who thought he was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. That wasn’t my finest hour.
Warm Bodies is at cinemas nationwide from 8 February
(Image: Rex Features)