Nicholas Hoult reaches new depths with his uncompromising turn in Kill Your Friends. He talks to Susan Griffin about bringing one of fiction’s most despicable characters to the big screen.
Nicholas Hoult’s handsome face was enough to get Chris Evans in a flap when he popped along to TFI Friday and became the focus of an impromptu photo shoot, much to the actor’s embarrassment.
Even mere mention of his model good looks clearly embarrasses the 25-year-old.
“You don’t really think about that,” he says, when asked whether his photogenic features have ever meant he’s been overlooked for a role.
“In terms of character, it’s that thing of trying to disappear into it and make it feel real and honest. If you do that, that’s half the battle - and then make-up people and costumes and all those things help.”
His latest role marks a dark departure for Hoult, who famously played the angelic-looking but socially awkward Marcus Brewer in 2002’s About A Boy, opposite Hugh Grant.
In Kill Your Friends, an adaptation of John Niven’s satirical 2008 novel, he plays Steven Stelfox, a 27-year-old A&R man who’s willing to do anything to get to the top.
“He’s basically scared of being normal and being a member of the general public. He sees himself as being elite and at the top of life,” explains Hoult, who was born in Berkshire and first appeared on screen in 1996, in comedy-drama Intimate Relations and a small part in TV’s Casualty.
“He’s a very odd character but John Niven’s writing is very twisted and dark. And I thought it was funny. The script made me laugh and I enjoyed this little foray into the music industry.”
The story’s inspired by Niven’s own experiences in the music business, where the writer saw “incredible greed and terrible behaviour” - he’s remarked that the movie’s been 20 years in the making (“Ten years living the life described, then five years between writing the novel and getting it published, and then five years between the screenplay and development hell”).
This hard slog is doubtless due to the content being deemed too controversial, its characters without remorse or the comeuppance typically demanded by the audience or reader.
The action’s set in London, 1997. Britpop, Blur, Oasis and Radiohead rule the airwaves and Cool Britannia is in full-swing. Against this backdrop, Stelfox - fuelled by greed, ambition and drugs - is searching for his next hit record. Sexist, racist, or as one of the film’s producers Will Clarke, puts it, “one of the most despicable characters to grace our screens”, Hoult confesses he initially found the script jaw-dropping.
“There are a lot of lines I couldn’t repeat,” the actor admits. “And he’s got a way of stringing together sentences and describing things where you just sit there and go, ‘Woah!’
“It’s a bit shocking, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable, because it’s such a strange speech pattern that this guy has.”