In Tom Ford's A Single Man, 20-year-old British actor Nicholas Hoult plays the queer student who gets Colin Firth's heart and libido racing againand certainly some of the audience's.
Best known stateside as the child star of 2002 Hugh Grant flick, About a Boy, Hoult went on to play Richard E. Grant's adolescent alter ego in 2005's Wah-Wah, seductive teen Tony in BBC TV hit Skins, and a "useless" soldier in the spring 2010 spectacle, Clash of the Titans.
In A Single Man, he portrays Kenny, a curious student who pursues, bonds and skinny-dips with George, his suicidal professor. Although not gay off-screendespite his tabloid-stirring admission of an abusive homosexual relationship we'll address belowHoult has played queer three times to date ( including a 2009 London play, New Boy ) , and reunited with Ford for November's OUT Magazine cover story/photo shoot.
Lawrence Ferber: What is Kenny's plan, really, when he pursues George? Sex, lovea skinny dip?
Nicholas Hoult: I don't think he does have a plan. That's the thing about Kennyhe's one of those people who are all about the now. I don't think he planned for them to go skinny-dipping. It just happened in the present, in the moment.
LF: What element did you find in Kenny that is completely different or completely like you?
NICHOLAS HOULT: One connection is when Kenny says sometimes he feels people his own age don't understand him and stuff. I'm not saying I feel like some great intellect, but occasionally because of the job I do it's a slightly different world, so I can feel quite estranged by it.
LF: Were you able to draw upon a real-life experience with a guy who might have been like a Kenny to you? A guy who had a crush and tried to get close?
NICHOLAS HOULT: No, I'm very unaware of any crush anyone has ever had on me. I'm not very astute on picking up on those signals.
LF: Was Colin a method actor and behave like a miserable twat between takes?
NICHOLAS HOULT: Colin's not like that at all. He's very relaxed and makes everyone's life very easy for them. He's a very giving actor and helps people out a lot.
LF: Did you and Colin insist that Tom join you while skinny-dipping?
NICHOLAS HOULT: Yeah, that would have been good wouldn't it? That's sometimes the waythe director will join the actors to get them to do something uncomfortable. I think he had been in there with a wetsuit, actually, looking at shots and stuff. A full wetsuit, so it's slightly warmer.
LF: How was Tom as a director? Did he have everything methodically sketched out, or were there a lot of improvised decisions made on set and in collaboration?
NICHOLAS HOULT: He was very precise about everything and prepared - the film was shot in a very short space of time so he needed to be. But at the same time he wasn't so [ to the letter ] that every line had to be said in a certain way and with emphasis on certain words. He let you be free as an actor to create the character and the world around him.
LF: What do you remember most about making A Single Man?
NICHOLAS HOULT: The whole thing was a whirlwind. Working with Colin was fantastic. I think that shows in the film we were having fun while playing the scenes. The whole thing was very enjoyable.
LF: What is it about characters experiencing sexual confusion and impulses that attracts you so strongly?
NICHOLAS HOULT: I have played characters who are similar and people pick up on the one similar thing about the personality and look past the fact the characters are very different past that. The thing is I don't want to get typecast. They're all in very different situations. Kenny is looking for an intellectual connection as well, finding understanding of the world and himself, which is totally different from Tony who is quite manipulative. There's a darker side to what Tony's doing, I think. He's experimenting because he finds life almost too easy and gets everything handed to him on a plate. He's literally messing with people. And the character in 'New Boy' is someone who is very homophobic but at the same time slightly confused about his sexuality as well. So I've done characters who, when you look at them they're all easily summed up in one sentence, but very different as well.
LF: In 2008 you told a British "celebrity gossip" Web site that you had a four-month, abusive gay relationship with Skins co-star Joseph Dempsie, and everyone seemed to take it, and want to take it, seriously despite the fact your claim seemed rather insincere ( see it at www.youtube.com/watch ) . So what's the story behind that fracas, and how did Joseph respond?
NICHOLAS HOULT: I just decided I was bored with doing press, to be honest, so I made things up occasionally. Yeah, I did get a message from Joe saying, "Thanks a lot," because some people believed it. It's quite amusing. There's loads of things that aren't true [ that I said ] that maybe people believe.
LF: I think a lot of people wanted to believe you're gay, though.
NICHOLAS HOULT: Maybe. I don't know. It's very flattering if they do.
LF: I saw your gender-bending appearance in a UK commercial you did advocating social work. Would you like to blur the lines further and play a transsexual or woman sometime?
NICHOLAS HOULT: I don't know. If it's a good script and interesting character who knows what I'll play.