Being made up as a blue and furry X-Man didn’t just bring out the beast in Nicholas Hoult; it brought out the prankster as well.
“There was a great moment when we were filming on Jekyll Island in Georgia and I was in the full Beast costume as we drove by a golf course,” Hoult tells PopcornBiz of his off-camera adventures as Hank McCoy, one of Professor X’s early mutant recruits in “X-Men: First Class.” “I jumped out of the van and ran onto the course and gave some golf tips to the people who were playing while I was dressed in this makeup. It was quite funny – the reactions were a real picture.”
“The chance to play The Beast was something that you can tell your grandkids about one day,” says the actor, 21, who since debuting as a child actor in “About A Boy” has begun carving out a significant adult career with films including “A Single Man” and director Bryan Singer’s upcoming “Jack the Giant Killer.” “Putting on an X-suit is something that I never expected to be able to say, but it's very cool. The script was a great story anyway, the Cuban Missile crisis and set in the '60's – I thought that it was a great idea to make an 'X-Men' film in that era. I was already a fan of the other 'X-Men' films and the cartoon.”
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He did have to do his homework on McCoy’s beastly comic book backstory, and he took several cues from watching the only other actor to sport the blue fur on screen in “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
“I didn't have a vast knowledge of him. I knew bits – I knew he was a cool cat, as he seemed to me when I was growing up watching the cartoons, and obviously there was Kelsey Grammer and how he portrayed him in the third film,” he says. “Research-wise, [director] Matthew Vaughn liked what Kelsey did with the character and wanted me to look at that and draw from that, so I watched a lot of 'Frasier.' And then I read lots of the comics, went back to those and just learned as much about him as possible. Then you take from the way that the script portrays him as well. He hasn't transformed into the Beast yet and not become one with his mutations before that. It's kind of him trying to deal with his Jekyll and Hyde, in some ways.”
Before he mastered freaking out unsuspecting golfers, Hoult had to find his giant-sized footing in the post-transformation makeup. “It's interesting trying to act with a new face, basically, and move with it. It can be quite uncomfortable and hard to wear for a long time, but it's also a lot of fun.” Eventually, he’d occasionally forget just how beastly he looked.
“It's that odd thing where if you're hanging out doing the mundane, normal thing, having a bite of lunch or cleaning up in the trailer and then suddenly you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror,” he chuckles. “It's quite a sight to see, a big, blue scary monster washing up. It's very odd.”
Hoult says despite the retro trappings of “X-Men: First Class,” the film still captures the central undercurrent that made the original comics and the early films so appealing. “Obviously with the X-Men characters, there are so many great and interesting characters that they've got within the universe, but to me it's that kind of thing whereby they all feel quite isolated and like freaks, not fully accepted, and I think that everyone can relate to that feeling at some point in their lives. They've felt that they've been outsiders, and I think that's one of the core things about it.”