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Nicholas Hoult goes nuts

"X-Men" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" star Nicholas Hoult talks heavy makeup, acting crazy and going shirtless in the desert.

Nicholas Hoult is no stranger to excessive makeup. He's played a pale-skinned, lovelorn zombie in "Warm Bodies," a blue-furred Beast in the "X-Men" films, even a blonde, sun-kissed coed in "A Single Man." But with "Mad Max: Fury Road," Hoult learned a whole new aspect of appearance-altering makeup: Sometimes it can be quite tasty.

This is probably the loudest movie I've seen in a while.
It was kind of like that on set as well because there was all these big engines surrounding you. You're sitting in a tin can of a car and they'd start up these huge V8s or whatever and you'd be like, "Boom, here we go."

It also looked like it didn't necessarily smell very nice, that set.
Depends on what you appreciate to smell. The smell of, like, burning gasoline, dry desert — and for me glue and prosthetic makeup — is quite enjoyable. And flames and burning explosions. It's all quite visceral, adrenaline-pumping stuff.

To be fair, you character, Nux, doesn't have a lot of quiet moments.
No, I really don't. Normally I play characters that are quite reserved, quite quiet. In real life I'm pretty chilled and calm.

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So how do you sort of get yourself worked up for something like this?
You know what? I went on a yoga retreat. (laughs) No, first of all it's about understanding the world that George [Miller] has created. George was great in the sense that he basically told me my character's life story from conception up until the moment you meet him in the film. So knowing these things, how would the character react? It's kind of a strange thing because it's counterintuitive to what I'd be like in most of those situations. So it’s like, all right, if I’m caught in a toxic dust storm in this car, trying to blow myself up and kill somebody and blah blah, I'd be absolutely terrified and probably ask if we can turn back and that I've changed my mind. But this character is so committed and also positive in the strangest of environments. It's so otherworldly to me.

You haven't experienced much like this in ordinary life?
Surprisingly, no. (laughs) The thing that makes it easy is that you have this makeup on and you have these costumes and you're surrounded by these vehicles and very vivid sets and you're on location with the dust and the sand and desert, and it kind of feels all very natural and real and you get swept along by the moment. And then it becomes kind of second nature.

You don’t get a lot of shirts in this movie either.
Running low on shirts, my character. I do get to wear the original Mad Max jacket at one point. I only have one boot for a lot of the film, so I’m running around all wonky. And then I’ve got this chain. At one point I’m chained to Tom, which is a nightmare for the rest of the film. It keeps getting tangled up in things and stuff.

This is more of a cosmetic question, but did you actually shave your head for this?
Yeah, that’s your job. And to be honest with you, transformation like that makes your job a lot easier. Partly because you feel different and also partly because people respond to you differently. In real life I’m not a very scary presence.

I'm sure if you wanted to be, you could. You're tall, so that helps.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I could be scary. Thank you, I really appreciate that. But yeah, shave my head, make me look kind of death­like, cover me in scars, but you’ve still got to keep some sort of soul and tenderness for this character because he’s just a kid being brought up believing something that isn’t true.

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The chapped lips almost looked like skeleton teeth.
They were quite fun because, you know when you have dry lips and you enjoy, like, chewing on them and biting them? I essentially had an endless supply of that throughout the day. And the makeup guy is like, "Mate, we gotta stick that back down, add a new piece now because you’ve been nibbling on it all morning." We went over budget because I couldn’t stop nibbling on my fake lips. (laughs)

How did this makeup process compare to doing Beast for "X-Men"?
Shorter — two hours instead of three. And it’s a lot more comfortable. It's low-profile stuff, whereas with Beast I’m in a muscle suit and full mask and wigs and everything, and that gets quite hot. This, once it’s on, you kind of forget about it in many ways. I also saved a lot of money on shampoo.

Did you make pitches for any razor sponsorships?
I didn’t, but now that you mention it, oh, I should. I’m already doing the cars with Jaguar, so I’ve got that covered.

Do you get a Jaguar with that gig?
They loaned me one, yeah. They loaned me an F­Type. It’s really cool. It’s damn cool, cool car. I like it a lot. I’m always kind of weary about those things, but then I watched the original commercial they did with people I look up to like Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Strong and those guys, directed by Tom Hooper, it’s a cool British brand, kind of a little Bond-esque in it’s tone, and I was like, “Oh, that’s fun.”

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick

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