Guest of Honor

Sex, Drugs, and Fanny Packs with Nicholas Hoult

The "Kill Your Friends" star explains the difficulties of snorting fake cocaine and offers a little sweaty trivia.

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(Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

Back in the early aughts, Nicholas Hoult played the “boy” in the beloved romantic comedy “About a Boy.” Hugh Grant played his irascible surrogate dad. Hoult and his career have grown since then. He plays Beast in the “X-Men” movies and last year he played the warboy Nux in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

In his new film “Kill Your Friends,” Hoult plays Steven — a venal player in the hypercompetitive British record industry of the late ’90s. The plot involves lots of sex, bloodshed and drugs.

Below, Hoult talks to Brendan about preparing for the sociopathic, drug-fueled role, what Steven would say about “About a Boy,” and more.

Interview highlights:

On cocaine movie magic

Nicholas Hoult: They use glucose powder. You have to inhale it. It’s actually very difficult because obviously, Stelfox — the character I play in this film — is meant to be quite the stud at taking cocaine, and… my lung capacity isn’t that great.

They would rack up these fake, sugary lines of cocaine, and I would look at it, I’d see it during the beginning of the take, and I’d be like, “Damn! I’ve got to try and inhale that now midway through this and try and do it” and normally fail.

Once I remember then coughing and blowing all the rest of the cocaine over James Corden.

James Corden (without fake cocaine on his face) in a scene from "Kill Your Friends." (Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment)
James Corden (without fake cocaine on his face) in a scene from “Kill Your Friends.” (Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment)

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s a fake cocaine party foul right there.

Nicholas Hoult: It was. We were on sugar highs constantly.

The toughest fake cocaine snorting in this movie was… there’s a scene where it’s one shot kind of over my back, and I have to snort this line and then lay down on the floor. And I’m kind of really messed up at this point, and then pretend to throw up.

So as well as having to snort the cocaine, I was also throughout the scene having to hold the fake sick in my mouth. Which is like… those are things that no one ever teaches you in life. You get there on the day, and the next play you have to do it. And you’re like, “Wow! OK, I wish I had been training for this somehow.”

On the challenges he had playing the sociopathic ’90s A&R manager Steven Stelfox

Brendan Francis Newnam: There’s no comeuppance. There’s no redemption. You don’t even really get a window into why he is the way he is. As anti-hero as it gets. Is that hard to kind of show nuance over the course of the two hours, when there’s just one?

Nicholas Hoult: Well you could probably tell me [laughs]. You could probably tell me that.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well I think you succeed, but were you preparing in any particular way, or?

Nicholas Hoult: No, that is tricky. That’s something that I think Owen Harris and John Niven, the writers, were very brave about. Because obviously, yeah, as an actor, you’re like, “Well how do I condone this?” Or “What’s the thinking? What’s the idea behind it?” And there really isn’t that much of one.

There isn’t a comeuppance, and occasionally I would, I’d be like, “Yeah, but maybe we could have a scene where, you know, there’s, there’s a little bit. A little break.” And there is a moment-

Brendan Francis Newnam: He holds the door open for an old lady.

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah, there’s one, there’s kind of one moment in the film when it’s his lowest and you think, “Maybe this is his turning point. Maybe he’s about to switch things around.” So yeah, that’s a difficult character to play. I think the relish from this character would be, I think, to really enjoy about him would be that nasty eloquence he has.

On what Stelfox would say about Hoult’s debut film, “About a Boy”

Nicholas Hoult: I mean, to be perfectly honest, if you even suggested the idea of him going to the cinema to watch a film, he’d probably be utterly mortified. He’d be like, “Hell no! I’m not sitting through that! I’m gonna go to the bar. I’m gonna…” you know-

Brendan Francis Newnam: Go to a strip club or something as opposed that.

Nicholas Hoult as Steven Stelfox in "Kill Your Friends." (Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment)
Nicholas Hoult as Steven Stelfox in “Kill Your Friends.” (Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment)

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because theoretically, he could have overlapped with young you. Because there’s only four years out.

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah, maybe there’s a way of doing some strange edit where we put him into scenes, little me with that me.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m sure. Maybe Reddit will be on that.

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah.

On being part of a new wave of British actors taking over Hollywood

Brendan Francis Newnam: You know, you are among this pack of actors, like Michael Fassbender*, James McAvoy, Matthew Goode, Eddie Redmayne, who we’ve had on this show, these Brits who’ve just like taken over Hollywood.

Do you guys ever talk amongst yourselves about, “Man, we’ve really cracked the code!” Like, “We know how to get casting agents to say, ‘Yes.”

Nicholas Hoult: Well, yeah, oh. Ok, well that’s interesting. That list is brilliant. That’s very flattering of you to include me in that list because those are all people that I look up to. What’s the trick with the American… I think there are a couple of tricks.

One is that kind of a lot of the time in American casting, they believe that you’re classically trained [laughs] if you’re British, even if you’re not.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So they assume you can deliver a line. They assume that you kind of approach a script maybe more rigorously-

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah, which I know all those guys really do, and I try to as well. So there is a work ethic I think. There’s certainly a work ethic that the Brits have, not saying that there’s not with American actors.

But you know what the strange thing is? There’s kind of this movement nowadays where people want to be famous. But if you kind of ask what they want to be famous for all the time, people wouldn’t even know what they want to be famous for. It’s like a given right to be famous in Instagram or whatever it might be. I think the key thing for any actor is being in it for the right reason. That’s trying to do good work, I guess.

Nicholas tells us a sweaty piece of trivia we didn’t know and talks high-tech fanny packs

Nicholas Hoult: OK, this is something that I didn’t know that I just found out the other day. I’ve been taking yoga classes as part of prep for this film coming up, and I get very sweaty. So I get all like the, I get wrinkly. You know, the wrinkliness?

And then I found out that I thought that was like because so much liquid leaving or entering your body through osmosis, but apparently it’s an old thing of evolution whereby when you get wrinkly fingers, that’s so that you can grip better underwater.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So when we sweat, our bodies think we’re going underwater, and so that’s…

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah, this is just because I have, there’s such a high quantity of sweat.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Really?

Nicholas Hoult: It sounds disgusting.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Is that tough when, when you were in “X-Men,” it would take you like four hours to become Beast or something, right?

Nicholas Hoult: Yeah. On the last film, the guys got it down to like two hours for the face prosthetics and wig and everything. And then half an hour to get into that costume-

Brendan Francis Newnam: And they’re putting like sheet pelts on you and stuff, or goat fur.

Nicholas Hoult as Beast and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in "X-Men: Days of Future Past." (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
Nicholas Hoult as Beast and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Nicholas Hoult: This one’s more lightweight, yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: How was the sweating scene there? I mean, were you?

Nicholas Hoult: It was pretty high again. But you know what, there was a great invention that the guys had for me this time round, which was… it was basically like… I think you guys call it a fanny pack?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, yeah, that’s been around for a little bit.

Nicholas Hoult: Well, no, but this is high-tech, where you have a t-shirt on that has like piping around it. And then you have this fanny pack that has ice-cold water in. There’s a little battery. Switch it on and it pumps cold water around your t-shirt.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s amazing. Yeah, I could use that in the subway in the summer.

Nicholas Hoult: You definitely could. There you go.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What color was the fanny pack?

Nicholas Hoult: It was just black. It was, you know, cool.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, it was a cool fanny pack. Really? Really, Nick?

Nicholas Hoult: It was very cool. I mean, when the Beast’s wearing it.

(*Correction: Michael Fassbender is of German and Irish descent, not British.)

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