Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Nicholas Hoult, actor

'On set, I have my own tutor'

Jonathan Sale
Thursday 12 January 2006 01:00
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Nicholas Hoult, 16, appeared at the age of five in the film Intimate Relations with Julie Walters, starred alongside Hugh Grant in About a Boy in 2002, and was in The Weather Man with Nicolas Cage last year. He plays the part of the young Richard E Grant in the actor's forthcoming autobiographical film Wah-Wah. He has just launched the NSPCC/ Channel 4 project Raw Cuts, a film competition for teenagers on the theme of vulnerability (the winning stories will be turned into scripts and broadcast; see www.channel4.com/rawcuts).

One second, someone's chasing me with a gun, the next I'm learning about Macbeth. On a film set, you have to fit in three hours of tuition a day. You have to stop filming, and it can be difficult. Some days, the teaching is in a big block, but usually it's in bits. If it's half-term at home, you don't have to be taught on set. As it's one-to-one tuition, there's no one to distract you, and you don't have to wait for the rest of the class. The longest period I had away from school was when I was in Chicago for The Weather Man and then in Swaziland for Wah-Wah - five months in all.

I went to a really good infants school, the Coombes in Arborfield, Berkshire. We learnt lots of different things, from weaving to wiring a plug. On "amphibian day", they would get snakes in and you could handle them.

Arborfield Church of England Junior School was on the same site, just across the playground. I remember doing my SATs on a film set; you had to complete the tests in a certain time and, obviously, you couldn't be interrupted. I think I did pretty well; it wasn't too difficult.

I applied to go to Ranelagh, the secondary school in Bracknell where my older sister and brother went, but they didn't accept me. But they did accept me at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where we had three days of academic work and two days of vocational work a week: singing, dancing and acting. It was good because the academic lessons were so focused, you got on with it - and then there were the fun days, doing what you really wanted to do.

If you went to the Sylvia Young school, you had to be with the agency, too. I left halfway through the year because I changed agents. I spoke to Ranelagh school again and this time they let me in. I was away filming and joined at the beginning of the school year. It took time for me to find my way around, but after a couple of weeks I settled in.

I take my GCSEs next summer: three science, two English, maths and RE (it's a C of E school, so you have to do RE). You can choose four more subjects - mine are drama, PE, French and resistant materials (textiles). I always look forward to English lessons. Which will I do best in? Probably drama; it would be embarrassing if I didn't! I've been in the school play every year. Last year, I was Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, which was fun: my first Shakespeare.

My elder brother always wanted to be an actor but my parents wouldn't let him - they thought it was a silly idea - until, at 18, he went off to East 15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex to do a three-year BA in acting. It was easier for me because by then my parents had got used to the idea.

When you're 16, you don't have to study on film sets any more, but I'm probably going to carry on as I think I'm going to need A-levels. I think my A-levels will be English literature, philosophy and business studies.

Unlike Marcus in About a Boy, I've never been bullied; I've been pretty lucky, as I've enjoyed most of my time at school - so far.

jonty@jonathansale.com

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