In the last few years, Nicholas Hoult has appeared in "X-Men: First Class," "Clash of the Titans," "A Single Man" and the television series "Skins," but most fans probably know him for starring opposite Hugh Grant in 2002's "About A Boy."
"You know what? I sat down and watched it maybe last year," Hoult, now 23, told HuffPost Entertainment about the Nick Hornby adaptation from directors Chris and Paul Weitz. "I hadn't seen it since I was 12. It was kind of a trip down memory lane, but also like watching a completely different person. I enjoyed it. It brought back a lot of good memories."
Memories play a large part in Hoult's newest film, "Warm Bodies." The zombie rom-com focuses on R (Hoult), a zombie in the midst of an existential crisis. As R struggles to remember what made him human -- his thoughts passed on to the audience via Hoult's deadpan voice over -- he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), one of the last humans on Earth. It's their budding relationship that could save R, as well as the fate of mankind.
Hoult spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about "Warm Bodies," why director Jonathan Levine thought he would be up to playing the lead role and why he's excited about playing Beast once again in "X-Men: Days of Future Past."
How difficult was it to make an undead character so personable?
That was the main thing that I would think about. The physical thing and the vocalization of his grunts would just kind of happen. I would kind of wing it and hope for the best. But the main thought was that thing of him being trapped and wanting to feel something and connect with someone. He wants to feel alive. When he meets Julie, he has a chance for that -- which is a great thing that happens and is rare to happen in life for anyone. So, for an undead zombie it must be something else.
How many zombie movies did you and Jonathan watch to prepare?
We watched quite a few. "Night of the Living Dead," "Evil Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," 28 Days Later, "Shaun of the Dead" ...
A lot of "dead" in there.
A lot of dead going on in there, yeah. We watched them and took things from them that we enjoyed or didn't enjoy. The zombies have transformed a little bit, but it's nice that this is the first time the story is being told from a zombie's point of view.
You have a lot of voice over in the film; that's notoriously tricky for an actor and a film to pull off. How much work went into perfecting that?
That was the second or third voice over. It morphed quite a fair bit. For this film, it's particularly important since R is a character who struggles to communicate. It's important to have a little insight into his mind just to see what he's thinking and the person he was -- what he wants to get back to being. It was very well-written. Funny and quite witty. It had a dry sense of humor.
What changed with the voice over?
Re-writing. We recorded a whole different version of the voice over. It's just in the editing process -- seeing what works and what the film needs. It's a good tool for after shooting, because you can add that and fine tune it to a point. As you said, voice over can be detrimental to a film, with characters telling you what's happening. You feel like you're being spoken to like a child; you don't need a running commentary of what's happening, you can figure it out for yourself. For this, it's a nice insight to the character.
You play a brain-eating zombie, so what were the brains?
It was like a cold, wet sponge thing that's kind of a grapefruit. It wasn't very nice. It was pretty, pretty rough. It was kind of a twisted tart. I guess it was the closest I would ever get to brains.
Well, some people eat brains. At least they did in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
Actually, my grandparents -- now we're much more picky about our food -- but they ate brains on toast growing up. Rationing during the war, you ate what you got, basically, and that was considered a delicacy.
Did you have to struggle for people to take you seriously as an adult actor?
It's hard to find anyone to take me seriously as an actor at all. There's definitely pressure to being a lead in a film. I've been fortunate before to have worked with great actors and great directors, but I haven't been a lead role in quite a few years. You can kind of hide in the shadows and just turn up, do a few good scenes and everyone likes you -- if it goes well. With this, there's much more to it; trying to create a grounded story and an arc to the character.
Was it hard to get this lead role in "Warm Bodies"?
I met up with Jonathan and we got along well and had a good chat. He had obviously met with quite a few actors and stuff. I think he felt -- the way he described it to me, and hopefully I'm not putting words in his mouth -- that I was the one actor who wasn't scared of it a little bit. It's a bit of a risk doing this in some ways, but I didn't see it as that. I saw it as a good opportunity. I think he saw a few of R's qualities in me, perhaps.
Do you have any actors you look up to?
There's loads of people. Luckily I've been fortunate enough to work with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy. These great actors who I look up. I also love Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Christian Bale. There's just so many great performances and great actors, but no one's career that I'm particularly trying to emulate. I'm just trying to go with the flow, see what happens and hope for the best.
You mentioned McAvoy and Fassbender, what can you say about "X-Men: Days of Future Past"?
I'm really looking forward to playing that role again. I think it's a fun role and great bunch of people and it'll be nice. Bryan Singer is directing as well, and we did a film together last year ["Jack the Giant Slayer"]. It'll be nice to work with him again.