Why Nicholas Hoult is best when he’s not the main character

Success as a child star is certainly not a guarantee of a longer film career, but for a while it seemed like it Nicholas Hoult would be one of the few young actors who would jump into the fame of the film. Hoult was critically acclaimed at the age of 12 About a boywhich would be helpful if he navigated his teenage years on the hugely popular British series Skins.

Hoult could easily have gotten a recurring role on a YA franchise and likely earned a sizeable paycheck. His clumsy charisma makes him well-suited as a romantic lead, and at a time when most of the most iconic young actors of his generation have signed up for franchises, Hoult is not currently playing a recurring role in any major saga X-Men Series is restarted. At 31, Hoult has a lot of options ahead of him, but if his career has shown something so far, he’s a lot more interesting as a performer when he’s experimenting with something weird.


Hoult is soon seen as a trained assassin in Taylor Sheridanis the newest neo-western The ones who want me dead. Whether Hoult made a conscious decision to take on supporting roles and unusual projects is unclear, but he had more freedom if he was not typified as a hero with tight strings. Even if those who wish me death are more of a philanthropic throwback to the 90s thriller, Sheridan’s quirks in filmmaking will at least make Hoult’s role distinguishable.

The most enlightening role in Hoult’s career to date has been Nux in Mad Max: Anger Street. It would certainly be a challenge for any actor to turn down the chance to work with them George Miller, but in a movie where almost everyone is swinging at the fences, Hoult’s savage performance as a fanatical war boy forced to question his blind devotion to Immortan Joe could easily have fallen in the face. Nux had to be radicalized to a comically absurd extent, both terrifying and personable. He also had to sell the doomed romance with Capable (Riley Keough), as both characters relate to the other’s empathy with childlike intimacy.


Image via Warner Bros.

Fury Road is a miracle in many ways, and it was a sign for Hoult that when he was working with a great director he didn’t need to be privy to the lead role. After Fury Road, Hoult signed up to play another eccentric character for an idiosyncratic writer Yorgos Lanthimos‘s The favourite. The raunchy costume-drama satire understandably deserved the most praise for their trio of leads, but Hoult’s Robert Harley became an unexpected scene stealer during the film’s ever-changing power dynamic.

RELATED: This iconic ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ character was almost cut out of the film

Harley made it his business to get the viewer into the subversive mood of The Favorite early on, but his recruitment from Emma Stone‘s Abigail is more than just an exposure dump. While Harley’s role is mostly about moving characters like chess pieces, it also provides the setup for some of the best jokes in the film. Watch out Olivia ColmanQueen Anne’s breakdown during an important session of Parliament during the war only works as well as after Hoult’s comically exaggerated monologue praising Anne’s virtues, and it’s not the only case Hoult has to put a punch line in order to make one the leads are fulfilled. It’s a challenging task, and those who watch The Favorite again may want to know how important Hoult is in the context of the film.


Image via Hulu

At the same time that Hoult was getting dynamic roles in two nominations for best picture, he was also reviewing the types of projects a potential movie star would want on their résumé. He starred in a major fantasy franchise (Jack the giant killer) he starred in one of the worst action films of the decade (Collide), he was allowed to play the main role in an Iraq war drama (Sand castle) he tried two doomed romantic dramas (Equal and novelty), and he got no love awards for two author biopics (Rebel in the rye and Tolkien).

It wasn’t even the fact that these were all leading roles that made this period of Hoult’s career less interesting; supportive twists and turns in historical dramas The current war and The banker also cast him as serious, well-intentioned characters who are just as memorable as the films they’re in. Hoult isn’t bad in either of these roles, but they did show that sticking to one lead wasn’t as rewarding as his riskier endeavors.


Working with a filmmaker of George Miller or Yorgos Lanthimos’ caliber makes experimentation a little easier, of course, but Hoult has also stepped up genre-bending projects that don’t have the same prestige flair. Jonathan LevineThe name may not have the same weight as Miller or Lanthimos, however Warm bodies presented Hoult with a unique challenge – to play a personable zombie. This interesting bridge between a romantic lead and a weird undead idiot showed that Hoult could play to both strengths and gave the film a touching sincerity that exploited the film’s clever premise for a zom-rom-com.

The forgotten dark comedy Kill your friends is another example of Hoult’s accomplishment pushing the boundaries of the material. The film is essentially less revealing American psycho Clone in the world of the UK’s 90s record label industry, but Hoult’s cruelly immoral imitation of Patrick Bateman is worth the watch. For someone who could instill sympathy for a character as strange as Nux, it may have been a challenge to be completely unlikely.


Image via TIFF

The same sympathetic quality made Hoult so convincing in his most famous role as Beast in the X-Men saga. It’s a role that has been made surprisingly human. Hank McCoy plays with Hoult’s youthful palpitations as a gentle but socially isolated outsider who feels uncomfortable about himself, and seeing Hank accept his own identity is one of the show’s most powerful messages. The fact that he’s a big furry mutant is almost irrelevant.

Getting recurring roles that have more depth than they initially seem is the direction of Hoult’s career. He currently plays the dogmatic Russian Emperor Peter III. To Hulus The greatthat comes from the favorite screenwriter Tony McNamara and fits a similar model of a sexually charged, historical costume satire. This time around, Hoult can chew the scenery as the embodiment of rich abundance and see it being manipulated Elle FanningCatherine the Great allowed Hoult to flex his comedic muscles more than he has ever tried before. It is one thing to take on a smaller role in an ensemble piece, but quite another challenge to keep a devious aristocrat interesting during the course of an extended series.

Hoult is the kind of actor who can easily inspire sympathy, and as a result, it’s exciting to see him take on roles that are flawed, subversive, eccentric and, in the case of those who want me dead, downright vicious. It’s no problem for him to say that it is more exciting to see him plunge into the unexpected, no matter how big the role may be.

READ ON: Nicholas Hoult & Elle Fanning Discuss Early Influences, On-Screen Premieres, And The Chaos Of ‘The Great’

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Liam Gaughan
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