TRUE BRIT. Aaron Taylor-Johnson joins the wave of British actors making it big in Hollywood. Ronald Liem talks To The rising star about his latest flick and his life as a headliner
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Like many “traditional” British actors, Aaron Taylor-Johnson began acting at a young age; starting with theater, then moving on to TV and film. He got a taste of Hollywood as a teenager, taking on minor roles in several films, but eventually made his mark in the independent movie scene. This is where he first moved onto starring roles, such as in the biopic film “Nowhere Boy” as well as the “Kick Ass” dilogy. But, Hollywood beckoned once more, with even bigger roles in bigger projects. Last year he emerged as the protagonist in the new “Godzilla,” and this May we will see him joining the ranks of Marvel’s leading men in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” His journey as an actor, however, is just beginning.
Ronald Liem: Hi Aaron, obviously, we’re very excited about your upcoming appearance in the new Avengers movie. So, tell me, have you started campaigning for the movie?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yes, we are soon going to jump all over the place, like Singapore, New York, London, and Canada. With all of us together. It’s kind of crazy and there’s such a mad energy about it. But, mainly, it’s a lot of fun because people had been anticipating a sequel for a long time now.
RL: How did you end up getting casted as a member of the Avengers? How did your journey begin with this franchise?
ATJ: As for how the Avengers came about … before I started filming “Godzilla,” Joss Whedon got in touch and we sat down and had lunch and he proposed this new role that he wanted to bring into the sequel and we just talked about it. I was, of course, flattered that he approached me. We have all these established fantastic actors and really fantastic superhero characters, and it got me thinking: What can I actually bring to this sequel? The most important thing for me is the character and how can I make it feel grounded and substantial in front all these major roles that everybody has already experienced and fallen in love with. And then I got in touch with the guys from Marvel and Kevin Feige [president of Marvel Studios] and we talked pretty much for most of that year, until it became real and I signed up. I am really happy to be part of this team, and happy that I and Elizabeth Olsen were embraced into this new family without any kind of judgment.
RL: So, the process of getting into the movie took a whole year?
ATJ: I found out about it even before there was even a script. But at that point it didn’t really matter what was on the script. There was such a huge body of work for Marvel, already.
RL: You mentioned about all of these established talents working in the franchise, like Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., and so on. A lot of A-list stars there. What was it like filming with your co-stars?
ATJ: My initial thought was that it’s very overwhelming, and also that you have to feel slightly inadequate. But all of that that goes pretty much the moment you’re in the ring with everybody. It’s such a friendly environment, and they’re very humble. They just become your friends and it becomes very close-knit. Then you feel your nerves calm down a bit.
RL: What is it like playing a superhero in such a huge blockbuster franchise?
ATJ: My character is super-powered, and he runs at half the speed of sound. So, my character is pretty much a blur throughout the whole movie [laughs], and my entry and exit out of a scene is pretty much skidding in or flying out. Most of my stunts and whatever I do involves actually a lot running, which is kind of ironic because I don’t actually really like running at all. In a lot of the fight sequences , you’re always surrounded by your stunt crew and team. It’s quite surreal and kind of fun.
“If I feel It In my gut, instinctively, and I think It’s the right thing to do, then I try not to have any regrets”
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“The most important thing for me is the character [I’m playing] and how can I make it feel grounded and substantial”
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RL: Are you familiar with the comic books your character is based on? And why do you think this franchise is so successful?
ATJ: I spend a lot of time diving into those characters— Pietro Maximoff and his sister [Wanda Maximoff, played by his “Godzilla” co-star, Elizabeth Olsen], and the relationship those two have throughout the comic book history. But why do I think Marvel is so successful? Well, I think they’re giving us the sort of entertainment that gives you escapism and fantasy, and they’re also humorous and, of course, cool. I can’t think of one bad movie in the franchise, from Iron Man to Captain America and Thor. You can be a fan of any one of those and when it comes to the Avengers, to have them all in the same movie, which is such a huge spec tacle.
RL: You started your career playing in independent movies with small budgets and now you’re moving on to big-budgeted blockbusters. Do you have a preference between these two?
ATJ: I don’t really have a preference per se. My real preference is all about interesting characters and genres. I didn’t plan on staying with big, commercial-type movies. It simply rolled out that way. “Godzilla” came about, and then the Avengers movie came around the same time. These are such wonderful opportunities, and they were handed to me on a plate. And I think: Who would be stupid enough to turn it down? The funny thing is, I had such a wonderful time doing both of those movies—environment-wise, that is. Working with the film crews, and the other actors, and the directors … this is such a wonderful luxury to have. In independent movies, it’s hard to plot out everything. I read a lot of material, and sometimes it just doesn’t really take my fancy. But I’m very selective about stuff. You know, the last thing I did was in August last year. So, I had plenty of time and opportunity to read about several movies in that time.
RL: So, this past season, there’s a new trend going on in Hollywood. It’s what we could call the invasion of British talent. And here you are as well. So, what do you think about this “British invasion” phenomenon?
ATJ: Well, we had a very strong year, what with Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, and Jack O’Connell, of course. I think that with this generation we have now, you might see a lot of versatility in younger actors. I think they’re fearless, and that they aren’t afraid to take challenges. Take Eddie Redmayne, for instance. I don’t think anybody else could portray that role [Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”] the way he did, up to manipulating the muscles of his face. With JackO’Connell, I think he is has such raw talent that draws upon instinct. And Jack just seems to grow and grow. I love watching his performances, especially “Starred Up,” which was something he did beautifully and in a way that was also heartbreaking.
RL: In an interview you did in the past, you mentioned how acting is your life and passion. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
ATJ: Well, there’s nothing else I really now. I was really lucky and fortunate that I was able to become successful in this world. It is just something that I enjoy, something I’m passionate about and it just so happens to I can make a living out of it. Although I usually do just one thing a year, because I’m a dad. So, I’m often at home with my kids, and I do all sorts of activities with them, sometimes I take them out and I also cook at home. I have a little garden as well—a little vegetable garden—where I grow organic vegetables. I simply like cooking and being outdoors.
RL: Looking at the movies you’ve done so far, you’ve made quirky independent movies–which I’ve seen— and, of course, big blockbusters. I’m quite curious now about what projects you’re going to do next and whether you’re going back to your independent roots?
ATJ: I love to do something with really interesting directors, up-and-coming names. I’m desperate to find a script, and it could take me about a year to find something that when I read it, I will go “F—–g hell, this is amazing. This is something I really want to be a part of.” I haven’t had one of those in a long, long time. But usually, those are the ones that are worth fighting for.
RL: Do you have a motto in life?
ATJ: [Laughs] I don’t really know any little anecdotes or mottos. But I like to stick to my gut. If I feel it in my gut, instinctively, and I think it’s the right thing to do, then I try not to have any regrets. If I don’t feel it, then I don’t feel it.
“I didn’t plan on staying with big, commercial type movies. It simply rolled out that way”
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