"Only connect," wrote E.M. Forster at the beginning of his masterpiece Howards End, coming up with one of the great summations of humanity, and that exhortation colors every frame of Tom Ford's sensual and poignant debut, A Single Man. Making the jump from a notorious, sexy (and sometimes quite silly) career in fashion, Ford's film is remarkably self-assured, taking the audience into a simple day in the life of college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth), a buttoned-up Englishman lost in America, deep in mourning for his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode), who has died in a car accident. Adapted from Christopher Isherwood's novel, we watch as Falconer moves through his day, meeting with characters such as his lifelong friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and a persistent, curious student, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult).
Americans know Hoult as the twelve-year-old dork tutored in being cool by Hugh Grant in About a Boy. (He also made an impression— in England—on the cult TV show Skins.) All grown up, lit and shot like an Adonis, Kenny's intentions and interest towards Falconer serves as a source of shifting fascination.
I talked to Hoult at the Weinstein Company offices. He just finished shooting Clash of the Titans and is also busy with modeling (where he's the new face of Tom Ford International). Tall (6'3"), handsome, and best of all, interesting looking in person, it's easy to see why his combination of features—lush lips, striking blue eyes, and a slightly Cro-Magnon brow—lead him to appear quite malleable on screen and in photographs, where he's devastating one minute and sort of dorky the next. He had a bright, alert energy, said the word "whereby" all the time, and made me laugh out loud.
Tribeca Film: How did you get to this role?
Nicholas Hoult: This came on very late for me, maybe two weeks or so before they started shooting. There's kind of a lot of different versions of this story, I think. Point is, about two weeks before, I sent a tape over auditioning and I got an email from Tom saying how much he liked my audition and he thought I made a very good Kenny. And they said, "Can you come out and play?" I came out, I met Tom, I had dinner, and then it was like, get a visa, get spray-tanned, cut my hair, work on the American accent: shoot! Go!
Tribeca: There seems to be a lot of careful calibration in your playing of Kenny. I felt like he could've easily have been this eager little puppy of a boy, and I didn't get that from you.
NH: It's always interesting to see people's different opinions on the role, because nobody's come out and understood him fully, yet. Which is a good thing, I think. I think if it was too on the surface with Kenny, I think it would be boring. It would be annoying, as well, in the film, when Colin's doing such a fantastic performance.
The character was written superbly by Tom, and has a lot of Tom within it, and he was very understanding of everything he was feeling and going through. Which helped a lot—yeah, I tried, not to play him as a puppy, a lot of people see him as a predator and stuff—I kind of see him as someone who's very present in the moment, and living life full on, which is an exciting prospect to play a character like that, which is not a live wire in a bad sense. There's a lot of constraints on people in life and [they] kind of subdue themselves and don't want to stand out, or do anything that's perceived as weird. Whereas Kenny's just kind of young, but he's breaking through that.
Tribeca: How do you approach playing such sexually frank roles? Skins was rather notorious in its depictions of teens and sex and drugs and in this case, there's lots of nudity...
NH: Well, I'm very sexually restrained, so it's quite odd.
NH: Why is that odd?
Tribeca: Well, you're British, so, of course.
NH: [He laughs.] They're very different in the way they approach things, Kenny is sort of someone who is looking to understand himself and the world around him, and to find a connection with another human being. Which I think is a fantastic thing in life because there's not enough time and we do rarely connect with people on a different level. Tony in Skins was a character who was malicious and did things because he could—and to create entertainment for himself and to spruce things up—which is a very different approach. Kenny doesn't have that side of things, he's still slightly naive and I think shy in a way. He does this and goes out in a way and puts himself on the line, I think, in the scene I bare all—bare my soul is the way that Tom described it—and there's a beat, and it goes very awkward, and you can see this breakdown and shyness whereby he goes out with women, and he doesn't know what he's doing.
Read the full article at TribecaFilm.com.