IGN: Can you tell us about Beast?
Nicholas Hoult: I play Dr. Hank McCoy and he later on becomes Beast. He’s a young scientist – a very clever guy – but a little bit shy and awkward around the girls and just socially awkward around the group. He’s a good guy, but it’s hard work. He’s a great scientist though and he comes up with all of these inventions that sometimes work and sometimes don’t, and then he tries out a serum from Mystique’s DNA to try and stop his feet from appearing apelike and massive, so he can fit in because he’s very self-conscious about it, and unfortunately that goes wrong and he becomes the Beast that we know from the other films and cartoons and comics. He’s very urbane and witty and a shrewd guy. It’s fascinating to see the difference, when he becomes the Beast, from this very animalistic and scary-looking character. The Beast we’ve got is very different to Kelsey Grammar’s Beast. People are quite intimidated by it, and it’s great to have that with the contradiction of the character with somebody who’s not that comfortable with himself.
IGN: What goes into the Beast make-up?
Hoult: The costume is four hours. It’s a mask, which is stuck onto my face with a headpiece, and that takes the majority of the time, getting it to look right with the teeth and contact lenses. They’ve done a fantastic job creating this face that moves with my expressions. I have to make the performance bigger underneath it, but it moves a lot. They give me a muscle suit, obviously, and that’s pretty much the gist of it. Lots of fur, which I eat a lot of by accident.
IGN: How do you feel in the muscle suit?
Hoult: I feel like such a tart when I take it off! At the end of the day the muscle suit comes off and I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘You’re pathetic.’ It’s really quite horrible.
IGN: How did you get the role?
Hoult: It was very last minute. I was over in Australia starting work on Mad Max, and then heard that that got delayed and so rang the agent and said, ‘Quick, I need a job.’ They said, ‘X-Men’s going – get on tape tomorrow.’ I went and auditioned in Australia the next day, and in the middle of the night – about three o’clock in the morning Australian time – I got a phone-call saying, ‘You’ve got to get on a plane and come back and screen-test – they’re moving really quickly.’ So I flew back and auditioned with Matthew [Vaughn, the director] and Jennifer Lawrence who plays Mystique, and I thought it went terribly. Got on a plane back to Australia majorly depressed, but found out a couple of days later that I’d got the role and then it was getting lots of scans and casting of my body to fit all the makeup.
IGN: How much did you know about Beast? Are you an X-Men fan?
Hoult: A fair bit. Obviously I was a fan of the films, but I was a big fan of the cartoons growing up. I saw a lot of those and read some of the comics. I knew a fair bit about Beast. He’s a lot of people’s favourite character and he’s just a very cool character. When I found out that I got the role I texted a mate saying I was going to be playing him and the message back was, ‘Don’t f**k this up or I’ll attach blades to my hands like Wolverine and kill you.’ You kind of realise how much these characters mean to people – well, and to me. You want to do right by everyone if you can.
IGN: Did you start going through back issues of the comics to learn more or was it all in the script?
Hoult: There was a lot in the script for the scenes Hank’s in, but you can never do enough preparation. So I read a lot of the comics again and went over and tried to pick out words that he used a lot to try and build into the performance. The more you learn, the more you could say, ‘No, I don’t think he’d say this,’ and just have more to play with, rather than making it up as you go along. Obviously, this character’s not the same as in some of the comics, where he’s a football player/athlete character and a bit of a jock. He’s different in that sense.
IGN: Are you ready to be an action figure?
Hoult: Yeah, that is something that’s very cool, and that’s something that when I’m in the Beast costume, and I’m boiling hot, and hungry and dehydrated and we’ve been sitting in it for 11 hours, someone says, ‘Nick, it’s alright, you’re going to be an action figure.’ You have to kind of go, ‘Yeah, actually, this is very cool.’ It’s very exciting and next year I’ll have Christmas presents for people!
IGN: It’s a crowded marketplace for superhero movies this summer – what’s going to set this movie apart from the competition?
Hoult: Obviously Matthew Vaughn’s directing style – with films likeKick-Ass and Layer Cake – is going to bring a nice twist to the X-Men realm. And it’s a really great story they’ve come up with. It’s not necessarily true to the word to the comics, but it’s a great tale about how the X-Men came about, and Magneto and Xavier’s relationship. I think, hopefully, all the X-Men fans will really enjoy it. I don’t know what the other films coming out that summer are going to be like, so I can’t tell what will set this apart particularly, but from what I’ve seen there’ll be lots of great action.
IGN: Does Beast get any of that action?
Hoult: I get some very cool action. Azazel and I have a great fight at one point. So far the stunts that I’ve done I’ve been rubbish at. I took a big hit on my head, and a big hit on my foot so far. Spinning around on wires and stuff. There’s definitely some very cool action. I’m in the Beast suit for the final fight, which we’re about to shoot in Georgia, and that’s going to be very tricky negotiating the suit and the heat and everything.
X-Men: First Class is released worldwide at the start of June.