Photography by { John Russo

Written by { Bonnie Davidson

Styling by { Wendi & Nicole

Grooming by { Kumi Craig 

Nicholas Hoult returns to the role of Hank McCoy, whose mutant power sees him transform into the feline-like creature with blue fur, night vision and claws, known as Beast. It’s a character he has played three times before, in First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. This time around, he has settled into his role as a professor at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. But things are about to change for Hank and everyone he knows, as Jean’s power begins to grow. 

What’s going on with Hank in Dark Phoenix? 

At the beginning of the movie, we largely find Hank where we left him at the end of the last one. He still lives at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He’s still a professor there and he’s one of the more senior figures. I’d say he’s slightly more of an equal to Charles now. In the last movie, he’d just begun teaching. The one before that, he was more his carer/enabler. And a student, before that. Simon gave me this beautiful, emotional place to go with the character, to play elements of Hank and Beast that we haven’t seen before.

How was Simon as the director?

He’s been very hands-on in terms of when he’s writing and when he’s producing. He understands storytelling and that’s the most important thing; he’s a great raconteur. To give him the reins, and for us to be able to work with him and see how he’s developed the characters was really wonderful. Simon was very much about getting into that emotional side, working scenes and giving you space to bring them to life. The wonderful thing about Dark Phoenix is, it’s all rooted in very basic human emotions—betrayal, hurt, love, loss, all those things. And it’s watching these people with powers and abilities react and deal with those in these climates.

Has Hank’s style changed?

Hank’s always had his own special style. He’s always looked older than his years, very much the professor look. But his style does slightly change in this one. I didn’t get too many ’90s nods though. He’s no fashionista!

You’re back in the Beast makeup. Does it get easier?

It’s the same makeup as the last time. The team is faster and more talented than ever, and they’re exploring some new designs, in terms of the paint on top of the makeup, but it’s basically the same. 

Did they consider using CG, rather than making you wear all that makeup?

There’s something about the makeup and having the real, tactile character that’s nice. When you see a movie from 10, 15 years ago, CG that was great then doesn’t look so good now. I think that’s what we’d be seeing with this character. If he’d been CG through these movies, you’d look back to, say, First Class and think it looks completely different. The rate of technological development and graphics… Yes, they could do it. But for me playing him, it’s great to have the real weight and movement of the makeup. And for the other people on set, there’s already so much which is imagined that at least when I’m in a scene as Beast, they see me in the makeup and there’s something to react to.

What is the theme of the movie?

It’s about what happens when you try and protect people, hide things from them and take care of them. But then the truth emerges and it’s even more painful because of what happened, and it unleashes things that you can’t even begin to understand or control. It’s very much about a family being broken apart. And then on the other side, you have this element of the X-Men being accepted at the beginning of the movie. They have fans and they are heroes. And how quickly that can change. You see it with everyone. The media seems to love building up a hero and then shooting them down as quickly as possible. We see these stories play out in front of our eyes. 

Was it fun getting back together with the cast? Still like a bunch of school kids?

No BB gun fights! We were very sensible this time, very focused after reading this script and seeing what the movie was about, I feel like people really got their game on and concentrated on what their characters were doing and the story. We still had fun, it was still great to catch up, but it wasn’t quite as chaotic as some of the other films. We were so enthused by what Simon was pitching to us and his commitment to it. 

How was it working with Jessica, the new cast member? 

To be honest, those parts of the movie my character isn’t as involved with. But we’ve been very fortunate in terms of having brilliant cast members—Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Bacon and now Jessica. These characters are built wonderfully and then brought to life by actors who add dimension. To have her as one of the main threats of the movie and bring her talent to it… We’re very lucky.

Is there a scene you’re particularly excited about?

There were certainly scenes that I was excited to play, and therefore, hopefully, they’ll be exciting for people to see! But there’s a lot that we have to imagine on set, so to actually sit in a cinema and see the finished thing is a treat for us. You’re not there every day, you don’t see everything going on and big chunks are green screen, so I’m intrigued to see how it all comes together. But if the scenes that I loved playing turn out as I hope, then they should be great.