English actor Nicholas Hoult wasn’t too familiar with the era of Catherine the Great and her husband, Peter III. “I obviously knew the name Catherine the Great and I had a rough idea of who she was and what she’d represented in Russian history but I don’t think Peter III was on my radar at all,” Hoult told HFPA journalist Michele Manelis.
Now he is playing Peter the Great’s son, Peter III, on Hulu’s TV show The Great. “He was very much living in the shadow of his father. When we meet him, he’s struggling to live up to his father and also his mother was psychologically dark. He’s someone who’s taken over the country and has been made emperor but is thoroughly underprepared for his new standing.”
Hoult’s previous work in The Favourite helped him to understand how to find the right tone for a historical comedy. “I knew that when we were preparing and rehearsing for that, that the actual history of the characters was something that wasn’t necessarily involved. It was more about getting on a similar rhythm pattern and understanding the pace of the text and that tone of the writing and what Yorgos Lanthimos wanted us to achieve in The Favourite.”
So he knew he didn’t need to delve into history books and try to learn everything he could about Peter III. “I very much looked at what was on the script, what was the tone, and the dynamics between the characters.”
Unromantic sex scenes between Peter III and Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) were also in the script. “They were funny but difficult to do. We were also trying to accomplish so many things, among them intimacy, realism, and conversations like, for example. about duck hunting.”
Peter was very focused on getting an heir. “They called in doctors and try all these strange methods to conceive that nowadays people would find completely ridiculous like icing one’s testicles to make sure that the juice, as they refer to it, is at the optimum temperature.”
Listen to the podcast and hear what surprised him about Elle Fanning; how he got his first film role at age seven; what kind of kid he was; whether he always knew he would become an actor; how was it working with Hugh Grant in About a Boy; what kind of obstacles he overcame in his career; why height was an issue for him; when he started to become more comfortable with fame; how his mother and sisters influenced him; how he spends his Covid-19 quarantine; how was his first meeting with Tom Cruise with whom he is going to work in the new Mission: Impossible; why Angelina Jolie surprised him; what is his favorite movie; whether or not he would encourage his son to be an actor; whether he would have done anything differently in his career; and what he learned from Colin Firth.