He's maybe too young to take on the role of Bond quite yet, and is yet to be tapped for a role in the ever-expanding Fast and the Furious film series, but enterprising British actor Nicholas Hoult loves the feeling of his hands gripping a steering wheel around a curve.
"I've always been a bit of a petrol head," says Hoult, who's recently starred in X-Men's First Class series as Hank McCoy, aka Beast. His laundry list of upcoming projects could be considered evidence enough, with high-speed thriller Autobahn and the remake of Mad Max, a post-apocalyptic epic based in a world that kills for gasoline, releasing later this year.
In just a few moments of conversation it's clear that Hoult's affinity for the open road is not just a passing fancy or part-time enchantment having just returned from a long, solo road trip through the English countryside.
Hoult will be in Austin, Texas tonight for the public reveal of Jaguar's XE S sports sedan at The Boffin's Lab during SXSW. But first, the London-based thespian sat down with us to talk about the thrill of racing down a virgin stretch of the Autobahn, and what it's like to have a few hundred horses sitting beneath you when a fan revs their engine at the line.
You've just filmed a couple of projects that involve driving in unconventional circumstances. What's one of the more intense terrains you've encountered?
I've driven both the Jaguar XF and the F5 in Finland, on a frozen lake actually. They handled that very well I can say with authority. I got to get taken out in the F-Type V8 on the Top Gear test track, which was just insane. That thing flies and it sounds incredible.
What were your first reactions when driving?
Driving-wise they give you a lot of confidence. The technology is incredible and they feel well-built. I'm not an expert driver, but you know a smart car when you’re driving one.
When filming Autobahn, did you get to actually drive on the famous roads? Is it truly as great as advertised?
Absolutely. We were lucky because there was a three-mile long stretch of the actual Autobahn that hadn't been opened up yet. Before they opened it up we got to film the movie on it. I got to do a fair bit of driving myself. We had a XF, an F-Type, a Mercedes SLS, a Citroen C5. I remember the stunt guys said, "Alright let's see what you can do." We took a few of the cars out and they were banging them up. I knew immediately it was going to be a fun shoot.
Did you ever feel like just taking off in one?
I was tempted. But you have to be very aware of the film crew around you and make sure you don't want to hurt anyone. But when no one's around, I had an open ride so of course I wanted to have a little fun.
The cars in Autobahn are quite different than what you're driving in Mad Max.
That is true. In Mad Max I have this ridiculous V8 hot rod. I got to drive that around the desert a fair bit. Driving on sand in Namibia, Africa with that kind of power in the engine, it was completely unique. They're not exactly built for that.
So… the F-Type, how’s that work for the ladies?
[Laughs.] Well, I can tell you my friends are always vying for rides. Besides that, pulling up, it's not too showy. It's a classy car, but it's not in your face. Just well designed and well built.
What do you listen in the car?
Honestly, I flip back and forth. I really enjoy audio books. I am listening to Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, but I will play some music in-between. I've been listening to the new Drake album recently; I particularly enjoy "You & The Six".
Ever get caught rapping along by people who pull up next to you?
Of course, but that's what cars are for right?
Ever tempted to give them a race at the stoplight?
When they drive up beside me they do tend to want to have a little competition. They rev their engines. It's never the cars you'd expect, though. I know full well that my Jag is lot quicker. It seems like a waste of gas, just to have them fly off in the distance behind.