Hammer & Tongs's Garth Jennings picks schoolboy turned rising star Will Poulter
Taken from the September issue of Dazed & Confused:
Hammer & Tongs’ Garth Jennings: “We’d been casting Son of Rambow for five months when in walked this little fellow who had clearly been sent to us by the movie gods. Will’s instincts were nearly always better than any advice I could give so I just made sure the camera was rolling and counted my lucky stars.”
Rising British actor Will Poulter was a frustrated schoolkid, saddled with both dyspraxia and dyslexia – in his own words, “destined not to achieve” – when he joined his school’s drama club, School of Comedy, in which the kids played adult roles (think Bugsy Malone meets The Fast Show). The troupe’s reputation spread until both the Edinburgh Fringe and, ultimately, Channel 4 came calling. “That Friday-morning drama-lesson was the reason I got out of bed every day, the best hour of my week,” he says. “It was about encouraging confidence. When I found the thing I really connected with, it was elating.”
That’s definitely an intention, to try and stretch myself. Versatility is a fantastic quality. A lot of my heroes are actors who can do drama and comedy – Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Matt Damon
His drama teacher – “really, I owe her my career” – put him up to audition for what became his film debut, cult 2007 comedy Son of Rambow, in which he played a young rebel out to make a DIY version of 1982 Stallone flick First Blood. Poulter’s feisty yet fragile mini-auteur character was memorable but happily didn’t typecast him: he followed it up with turns in international fantasy-adventure movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and as a scrappy, self-sufficient teen in underrated Brit indie Wild Bill. “That’s definitely an intention, to try and stretch myself,” he affirms. “Versatility is a fantastic quality. A lot of my heroes are actors who can do drama and comedy – Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Matt Damon.”
A few short years on from school-drama lessons and there’s every chance Poulter, still only 20, is making the transition to adulthood and Hollywood. Coming up next is big-budget comedy We’re the Millers with Jennifer Aniston (Poulter’s virginal doofus steals the trailer by rapping to TLC’s “Waterfalls”), and when Dazed speaks to him he’s in Louisiana shooting post-apocalyptic young-adult franchise-in-waiting The Maze Runner. Poulter plays a memory-wiped teen negotiating a violent alternate reality. He’s relishing the fight scenes: “Only last night me and Dylan (O’Brien) filmed our wrestling scene together. We both left with sprained ankles, both of us cut our lip, Dyl threw his back out, I fractured my thumb,” he laughs. “Your main priority is not to hurt the other person, but you want to make it as authentic as possible...” For Poulter, every day right now is Friday-morning drama-class.