Mr Aaron Taylor-Johnson Talks Nocturnal Animals
Mr Jake Gyllenhaal and Mr Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. Photograph by Mr Merrick Morton/Focus Features. Below: Mr Aaron Taylor-Johnson at the Nocturnal Animals premiere, 60th BFI London Film Festival, 14 Oct 2016. Photograph by Mr Jonathan Hordle/REX Shutterstock
The actor shares his experiences of working with fashion-designer-turned-film-director Mr Tom Ford on the new psychological thriller movie.
Mr Aaron Taylor-Johnson was 19, making his first big blockbuster film, when he became a star. He was the lead role in Nowhere Boy (a film in which he played Mr John Lennon), and, after marrying the director Ms Sam Taylor-Wood (now Taylor-Johnson, too), they quickly became one of the most photographed, fashionable couples on the London circuit. From there came Kick-Ass, the Mr Matthew Vaughn, comic book-inspired, bubble-gum action film that took his name global. A series of increasingly serious, independent projects with named directors followed – such as, most notably, Mr Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina. After the birth of two baby girls, and a stretch of time out of the limelight, Mr Aaron Taylor-Johnson has returned with what may be his most memorable, accomplished role yet. He plays Ray Marcus, a young, smooth-talking, jokingly charismatic rapist and murderer in Nocturnal Animals, the returning film of fashion icon Mr Tom Ford.
In the film’s stunning opening act, we watch Mr Taylor-Johnson’s Ray abduct the family of Tony Hastings (Mr Jake Gyllenhaal) on a deserted highway in West Texas. It sets the tone for his performance throughout the film, which is coiled and malignant. You can’t take your eyes off him. We asked Mr Taylor-Johnson what it took for him to play the part, and how he prepares for all those red carpets.
Mr Aaron Taylor-Johnson
What was Mr Tom Ford like to work with?
He gave us a lot of time, and it’s a beautiful thing to have. There are actors that go from one project to the next. I used to do that, but I can’t anymore. I couldn’t think of anything worse, to be honest. When you have time to process you who you are dealing with, it makes a huge difference to your performance.
What were your first impressions of the character?
Ray was someone I couldn’t connect to straight away. It’s a disturbing, demanding role. I spent about three months researching serial killers and psychopaths. In that time, I grew out my hair and my beard and fingernails, and started to feel more like the part.
Were there any particular killers you focused on?
The whole abduction event takes place on a highway, so I was looking at serial killers who used the road. Ted Bundy was one – he came with a lot of charisma and charm and sex appeal. He had a lot of followers. I was trying to look into his eyes, and think about the lack of empathy he had, and play around with that myself.
How did that kind of engagement impact you?
I had sleepless nights for the duration. I became a creature of the night. I have two small children as well, so it was intense. I felt this very dark energy sometimes, it felt very toxic.
How did the character’s clothes help your performance?
We decided he has a 1970s rock ’n’ roll thing going on. A grime-laden guitarist from West Texas; a redneck. But what was important were the details: Tom wanted him to wear a pinky ring, with a plastic heart on it – the kind of thing you would get from a kid’s magazine. It was a trinket from a previous victim, because a lot of serial killers take a souvenir from their victim. Tom dug out these old green cowboy boots, which you need a certain arrogance to wear. He told me they were my Friday night boots. I wanted to take them for myself, but I think Tom still has them. Clothes like that said a lot about who he is; they display Ray’s arrogance.
How do you dress in your downtime?
I’ve got big thighs from when I used to be a ballet dancer. I wear RRL. It’s a Ralph Lauren vintage-inspired boutique, with boots and jackets, but they also have in-house denim.
How do you like to dress for a premiere?
Never wear a light suit, that’s a bad mistake. It doesn’t photograph well. They always say you look great in plaid, but then you look back and think: “That’s terrible. That’s a bad mistake.” Wear a dark suit, that’s the number one rule.
What would your style advice be?
You should stick to one or two brands, and follow their design. There are people like Hedi Slimane, who has worked for Dior and Saint Laurent, but I can’t fit into his clothing because I’m too broad. That’s a hard lesson – clothes might look amazing on someone else, but you have to dress to match your shape, your body.
Nocturnal Animals is released on November 4