Eighteen years after his breakout role in About a Boy, Nicholas Hoult is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. But you’re more likely to find him knitting than at an A-list party.
It’s hard to look at Nicholas Hoult and not see that 12-year-old boy with the pudding-bowl haircut wailing along to Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” on his school’s stage in front of a jeering audience. It’s hard because despite the blue-eyed boy growing into a strapping 1.9m Hollywood hero, a mere flash of his cheeky, dimpled smile transports him back to Marcus, the hippy geek in his breakthrough role in About a Boy.
While it’s been 18 years since the movie, the truth is, Marcus will never truly leave Hoult. But then how could he, when the character became the catalyst to a rare anthesis of the usual tragic child star story? Avoiding the pitfalls of fame, Hoult has successfully and seemingly smoothly transitioned into one of the industry’s most coveted actors. He’s part of the X-Men alumni, played the lead in the biopic blockbuster Tolkien, and is busy filming Mission: Impossible 7. Rumor has it he’s also a frontrunner to be the next James Bond. Along with his star power, the 30-year-old has impeccable style and a penchant for Armani, Dior, and Burberry. All in all, it’s an impressive performance from the son of a piano teacher and pilot from the sleepy market town of Wokingham, England.
“I’m hoping to be mayor of Wokingham, someday soon,” he once quipped, in his well-spoken and deep English accent. “I’m going to have a big roller disco if I do. I’ll go around waking people up with a big bell.” That’s the thing about Hoult. Despite his numerous accolades, he is still down to earth, with a dry sense of humor – it’s often hard to tell whether he is joking or being serious.
Hoult is yet to fall into the narcissistic side of Hollywood, and has thus far shunned the classic golden LA tan, big tablet teeth, and perfectly coiffed hair. In fact, it seems his Vulcan eyebrows, porcelain skin, and gangly frame have worked in his favor, helping him attain roles. Devoid of ego, when questioned about his superstar status, Hoult retreats, admitting he never takes any project for granted. “I don’t think acting is ever guaranteed so I am grateful for each job and each experience,” he says. “It wasn’t easy to transition into working as an adult and being able to select the right roles to ensure I can continue doing what I love.”
One of the things he loves the most is being a father – the actor welcomed his first son with American model Bryana Holly Bezlaj in April 2018. On the subject of his middle name, Caradoc, which is Welsh for “beloved,” Hoult, who fiercely guards his private life, offers a rare glimpse: “My relationship with my son is the most beloved thing in my life.” A family man at heart, the proudest moment of his career so far isn’t fame or award nominations – it was “being able to bring my parents to a film premiere and have them enjoy the experience with me.”
Hoult’s inclination for living a “normal” life follows him on set. During the filming of Mad Max: Fury Road in 2012, he knitted to pass time between takes, saying, “I knitted hats and scarves but quit as I got orders on set and had to make two in a day and it took 10 hours straight. So I went cold turkey after that as it took the joy out of knitting.” Throughout filming Rebel in the Rye he wrote short stories, and during Tolkien he dabbled in watercolors.
The actor’s innocence paints a rare picture for a former child star. He hasn’t been involved in any scandals and in spite of a successful, high-profile trajectory, which includes dating fellow Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence for five years, he’s managed to avoid the typical tabloid frenzy. Perhaps it’s down to a classic example of the British stiff upper lip, or perhaps it’s a tough mental attitude. Either way, Hoult is nothing short of charming, while proving himself adept at dodging questions that might reveal a little too much. Having once admitted to finding fame “a bit of a disaster,” he’s retreating even more into suburban living, spending his downtime with his family and friends, and exploring his many hobbies. “I’m interested in racing cars, motorbikes, learning jiujitsu, and I love to cook,” he shares. “If acting doesn’t work out, I’d like to be a racing driver.”
Here’s another reveal. Every industry insider knows you haven’t truly made it until the luxury brands want you. In 2015, Jaeger-LeCoultre secured that status for Hoult by making him its ambassador. “I love their dedication to restoring films,” he explains about his relationship with the brand, which is tightly connected to cinema. Jaeger-LeCoultre has a history of supporting art and film-making. As well as being an official partner of the Shanghai film festival since 2011, hosting gala dinners to support restoration in China, the watchmaker also supports the Venice film festival, awarding its classic Reverso watch – with a unique engraving – to the winner of the Golden Lion award for best film and Coppa Volpi awards for best actor and actress. “It’s so important for cinema but also speaks of its commitment to heritage while always looking to the future,” Hoult says. “I’ve always been a fan of watches and what they represent. Getting to collaborate with an innovative yet timeless brand is an honor to me.”
For his next role, Hoult will transform into Tsar Peter III of Russia, husband of Catherine the Great (played by Elle Fanning) for the TV series The Great. Airing on Hulu this May, it’s already tipped for big things. “Working with Elle has been rewarding,” says Hoult about his co-star. “To see her transform into Catherine the Great and give such a nuanced performance is incredible.” With roles in period dramas and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, what era would Hoult prefer to explore? “I would go 100 years into the future,” he says. “There have been so many major developments in the last century that I can only imagine what humanity will do in the next.”
But while he can’t quite predict the future, one thing’s for sure: despite the big roles and the major fame, Nicholas Hoult has a lot more left in the tank, and the journey will be on his own terms. “You have to trust your instinct both on set and in life,” he says. It’s what he did as a child star and it’s what he does now. The man’s not for changing.
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Vogue Man Arabia