Will Poulter: ‘I have a lot of pinch-myself moments’

1 year ago 120

The histrion Will Poulter arrives for our luncheon day alone, 15 minutes aboriginal and, possibly counter-intuitively, carrying a container of his ain food. He explains that he’s connected a strict fare for a movie role, but can’t archer maine what the portion is. He buys a foodstuff from the café that I’m not definite helium really wants, and suggests we beryllium outside, which is beauteous damp and acold if I’m honest, due to the fact that helium thinks it would beryllium taking the piss somewhat to inhabit a array wrong erstwhile he’s lone bought a drink. Poulter’s thoughtful similar that. He past unwraps what looks similar a cocoa Rice Krispie square, but tastes overmuch little amusive apparently, and apologises that I person to ticker him chomp his mode done it. “I’m speaking fluent cake,” helium says, chewing dutifully. He has conscionable travel from a workout and it’s wide that his pandemic acquisition has included much than conscionable the occasional Joe Wicks session. He wears a achromatic Nike compression shirt, mercifully little figure-hugging shorts and, though it’s not precise 2021 to enactment this, the feline is shredded.

The whole, somewhat unusual country makes a batch much consciousness a mates of weeks aboriginal erstwhile the crushed for Poulter’s carb-loading and gym-bunnying is revealed. The gig helium couldn’t speech astir is that helium has been formed successful Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 arsenic Adam Warlock. Even if you’re not that invested successful the superhero beingness this, successful Hollywood powerfulness terms, is a large deal. It’s rumoured that beauteous good each 20-something histrion present and successful the US and beyond wanted the role. It is simply a immense coup for Poulter and the 28-year-old from westbound London is taking the translation into Warlock, a quality genetically created by scientists to beryllium the perfect, invincible human, seriously. And if that means eating bland, protein-packed oat snacks, truthful beryllium it.

“I’m inherently greedy truthful it could beryllium worse,” says Poulter. “And there’s thing much boring than proceeding actors talking astir however they’re struggling to devour a batch of nutrient that has been sent to their doorway for free.”

Will Poulter wears jumper and trousers some  by Ermenegildo Zegna (zegna.com) and boots by russellandbromley.co.uk.
Will Poulter wears jumper and trousers some by Ermenegildo Zegna (zegna.com) and boots by russellandbromley.co.uk. Photograph: Danny Kasirye/The Observer

A blockbusting Marvel movie is simply a measurement up, astatine slightest successful notoriety, for Poulter successful what has already been a precocious career. He made his debut astatine 13 successful Son of Rambow, Garth Jennings’s charming, effervescent 2007 indie movie astir a brace of schoolboys who recreate Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood with a home-movie camera. While inactive a teenager, Poulter was snogging Jennifer Aniston successful the 2013 drama We’re the Millers. Then followed roles with much melodramatic heft: helium near Leonardo DiCaprio for dormant successful the Oscar-winning The Revenant, was a racist bull successful Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and gave america nightmares successful the Swedish fearfulness flick Midsommar.

Poulter intelligibly has an receptor for accents, but directors person noticed that helium truly excels astatine playing characters you can’t instantly get the measurement of. He’s handsome nary doubt, but helium tin power betwixt saccharine and boyish successful 1 country to downright menacing the next. “I’m alert I’m benignant of alternative-looking,” says Poulter, picking his words. “Just not classical or, I don’t know, extracurricular the norm. I’ve ever been told I’m rather expressive.”

When you Google Poulter’s name, 1 of the predicted searches is: “Who is the histrion with the eyebrows?” He intelligibly has mixed feelings astir the notoriety of his boomerang ’brows. “It’s comic erstwhile radical remark connected my eyebrows, it’s arsenic if they don’t realise that’s thing I’m utilized to,” helium says. “They’re connected my look and they are straight supra my eyes truthful I’ve seen them. Sometimes radical remark connected them similar they conscionable landed connected my forehead. But yeah, that has go a happening and I can’t flight it really. If I shaved them off, I’d person little of an affectional range, truthful I conscionable decided to support them.”

We volition person to hold until astatine slightest May 2023 for the 3rd instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy, but earlier past – and this Poulter tin speech astir – helium has logged different nebulous, hard-to-read show successful a gripping eight-part play connected Disney+ called Dopesick. The bid tracks an American municipality that unravels during the opioid epidemic, which gathered velocity with the instauration of OxyContin, a “non-addictive” wonderment cause made by Purdue Pharma, successful the mid-90s. Opioids were liable for the fatal overdoses of astir 500,000 Americans betwixt 1999 and 2019, and the life-crushing addiction of millions more. Dopesick is simply a heavyweight production, with Michael Keaton arsenic a household doc and Poulter arsenic Billy, the slick Purdue income rep who convinces him to prescribe the painkiller.

Will Poulter (centre right) successful  Dopesick.
Will Poulter (centre right) successful Dopesick. Photograph: Antony Platt/HULU

“Working with Michael Keaton was truly 1 of the astir peculiar experiences of my life,” says Poulter. “He’s 1 of those radical who draws things retired of you that you don’t ordinarily have. He’s conscionable stunningly good.”

Beyond an unimprovable formed – which besides includes Kaitlyn Dever, Rosario Dawson and the large Michael Stuhlbarg arsenic Richard Sackler, the caput of the dynasty that owns Purdue – Poulter intelligibly feels the communicative is an important 1 to tell. He comes from a aesculapian family: his parent was a caregiver and his begetter Neil is prof of preventative cardiovascular medicine astatine Imperial College, London; 1 of his sisters runs a Covid vaccination centre and has spent overmuch of the past 18 months moving successful intensive-care units. For bully measure, Poulter’s different sister is simply a teaching adjunct for children with peculiar needs. “What I bash successful comparison,” helium laughs, “feels rather self-obsessed and narcissistic.”

Acting volition ne'er vie with these “far much noble pursuits”, but Poulter believes helium has a duty, wherever possible, to prime projects with a societal conscience. Dopesick is 1 of these. Another was Detroit, Bigelow’s 2017 transgression play inspired by riots successful the metropolis successful 1967 that resulted successful 43 deaths and much than 7,200 arrests. “When you deliberation astir societal movements, beryllium it Black Lives Matter, beryllium it MeToo, fixed the information I’m conscionable a straight, achromatic male, there’s a idiosyncratic work to marque definite I’m contributing to those conversations and those movements positively,” says Poulter. “And that I’m not being a bystander.”

Detroit, successful particular, was an awakening for him, particularly conversations helium had with Ziza Delgado, a prof successful taste studies astatine Berkeley. He has subsequently go progressive successful the UK with the Black Curriculum, a societal endeavor that wants to alteration however achromatic past is taught successful schools. “But astatine the aforesaid time, I don’t privation to kid myself astir what my limitations are,” Poulter goes on. “I’m an actor, not an activist, and I don’t perpetrate my life, nor bash I marque my surviving by being an activist. A task similar Dopesick, which does shed a airy connected injustice, oregon does effort to, I consciousness precise fortunate to beryllium portion of those conversations. But I’m nether nary illusions that, astatine the extremity of the day, I’m an actor, and if I privation to beryllium an activist, past I discontinue acting and go an activist.”

With Billy, his quality successful Dopesick, Poulter created a dense backstory, arsenic helium often does. He work Dale Carnegie’s classical self-improvement text, How to Win Friends and Influence People, due to the fact that that’s the benignant of publication helium thought an ambitious, manipulative income rep would question out. There were a mates of lines successful the publication astir however Billy had high-achieving originative parents, and helium jumped connected those. “Billy’s motivations astir wanting to beryllium a palmy income rep astir apt stemmed from insecurities arsenic a kid,” says Poulter. “And not needfully being a occurrence successful the eyes of his parents. He was the feline astatine schoolhouse who wasn’t fashionable and got overlooked, and was distinctly average…” A wry smile, “Maybe inspired by my ain experiences.”

Poulter doesn’t instantly leap retired arsenic “distinctly average” – helium has built the benignant of varied vocation that kid actors seldom bash – , but helium insists it is the case. He has dyspraxia and struggled to support up academically astatine school. He was bullied. He has had “mental-health issues for arsenic agelong arsenic I tin remember” and these yet led, arsenic a teenager, to being diagnosed with slump and generalised anxiousness disorder. “I ever felt similar I was excessively young to beryllium contemplating the thought of having depression,” helium says. “And it was thing I deliberation performing and play helped maine benignant of purge to a degree, oregon adjacent informally treat. But yeah, it made beingness extracurricular of that quite, rather difficult.”

In the Revenant, 2015.
In The Revenant, 2015. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

School was Harrodian successful Barnes, westbound London, which present has a estimation arsenic a hothouse for young actors and performers. Robert Pattinson went there, truthful did Tom Sturridge and 1917’s George MacKay, on with the superstar YouTubers JacksGap, the twins Jack and Finn Harries. Poulter thinks it is little astir the school, and much astir 2 teachers 1 of whom, Laura Lawson, created an after-school drama nine that took a formed of 13-year-olds – including Poulter – to the Edinburgh Fringe. “I accidental to Laura, she was the crushed I went to school,” says Poulter. “I was getting up and going to schoolhouse for that 1 hr of play connected a Friday. And it was astir conscionable getting to that Friday morning, and past seeing retired the remainder of the time and past determination was the weekend.”

When helium was shooting Son of Rambow, acting became each Poulter could ideate doing. “I came backmost each time saying, ‘This is what I’m going to bash for the remainder of my life!’” helium recalls. “And my parents were a spot like, ‘Chill, chill, chill…’ But past they looked astatine my grades and were like, ‘It’s astir apt a bully happening that Will is going disconnected and doing this alternate summertime camp.’ And I was truthful unhappy astatine school, and truthful blessed whenever doing drama, that I deliberation they were delighted this incredibly uncommon accidental came on and would distract maine for a while.”

Poulter did extremity up astatine university, studying play astatine Bristol for a year, but nonrecreational assignments kept rolling in. Most of his grooming has been connected the job, often alongside immoderate of the astir celebrated actors connected the planet. “Generally speaking, I’ve been very, precise fortunate with those people, but don’t get maine wrong, I person a batch of pinch-myself moments oregon times wherever I’m connected my ain successful my edifice country thinking, ‘Did I conscionable bash a fucking country with Leonardo DiCaprio?’ There are decidedly moments wherever I’m conscious of the information determination is simply a fanboy wrong me.”

When helium first started acting, Poulter would propulsion himself into characters, almost, helium thinks now, to the grade of not processing his ain personality. “It felt similar a reprieve from being who I was connected a day-to-day basis,” helium says. He feels helium is successful a amended spot now. Therapy has helped; Matt Haig’s books have, too. He stays disconnected societal media, but to dispersed the connection of campaigns helium believes in, specified arsenic anti- bullying initiatives and World Mental Health Day.

The pandemic was stressful, chiefly due to the fact that helium disquieted astir his family, but Poulter – who lives connected his ain successful eastbound London – feels helium has travel done it beauteous good unscathed. “As an actor, you walk a batch of clip unemployed, truthful lockdown wasn’t wildly antithetic to a batch of the clip that I’ve spent,” helium says. “And I americium a spot of a societal recluse arsenic well, I guess, truthful it wasn’t a immense adaptation for me.”

As for being “unemployed” that’s little of a occupation these days: during the Covid era, successful summation to Dopesick, Poulter besides changeable a musical, The Score, with Johnny Flynn and Naomi Ackie, and wrapped Hugh Laurie’s directorial debut, an Agatha Christie adaptation, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? “I’ve ne'er been that busy,” helium says. “But much than maine being successful demand, I conjecture it’s a reflection of the manufacture picking itself backmost up aft a dormant period.” In lockdown, Poulter besides recorded the audio publication of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: “I don’t deliberation Audible rather realised that they’d asked a dyspraxic kid to work Crime and Punishment until I’d over-recorded by astir 4 days.”

Perhaps Poulter’s biggest merchandise is collecting sneakers. At home, helium has a custom-designed shelving portion for his shoes, which are exclusively Nike and presently fig – helium guesses, though I wonderment if helium skews debased truthful helium doesn’t travel implicit arsenic immoderate Imelda Marcos of streetwear – astir 50 pairs. Generally helium goes for a “stock and stone situation”, which means helium buys 1 brace to wear, and different to support pristine and box-fresh. “I’m conscionable obsessive astir them, it’s a sickness really,” helium admits. “It’s my 1 truly extravagant wont that I request to support a spot of a lid on.”

There’s a communicative that Poulter cleans his shoes with tiny toothbrushes – that isn’t true, is it? “I bash do that,” helium sighs. “Yeah, and I really transportation astir wipes for my shoes successful my container here.”

Will Poulter (left) successful  Son of Rambow, 2007.
Will Poulter (left) successful Son of Rambow, 2007. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Landing the Guardians of the Galaxy gig volition marque Poulter precise celebrated and, portion you interest for his sneaker habit, his motivation compass seems secure. He’s attentive, considerate and humble; the operation “couldn’t hap to a nicer guy” could person been coined for him. If anything, it seems apt Poulter volition usage his personage to bring greater attraction to the causes helium believes successful and enactment connected projects that helium considers important.

By coincidence – without immoderate inkling of the large announcement circular the country – I hap to inquire Poulter however helium would respond if helium were offered a relation successful a large franchise. What would that mean for the message-driven films helium seems drawn to? His effect is revealing. “I deliberation it’s astir balance,” helium replies. “Also, being frank, it’s astir recognising that definite jobs unfastened doors to different things that you would truly similar to beryllium giving attraction to oregon platforming. There’s an statement to beryllium made that you can’t bash 1 without the other. Or that you can, but it’s conscionable harder and sometimes leads to little success, I guess.”

He takes a wound of his oaty-krispie-cakey happening and munches for a fewer seconds successful silence. “So I don’t honestly know, I’m trying to wrestle with that equilibrium myself astatine the moment,” helium continues. “But surely my anticipation is that, connected balance, I tin make a portfolio that does transportation a batch of messaging and meaning that I consciousness arrogant of and I tin basal by.”

He has to go. I inquire if helium wants a java oregon thing for the road. “I’m fine, convey you,” helium replies, patting his bounty of designated nutrient for the day. “I’ve got plentifulness of treats successful the bag.”

Dopesick is connected Disney+ from 12 November