Amid the new British invasion of rising stars (see Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, and the entire cast of Downton Abbey), the strongest candidate for male heartthrob seems to be Nicholas Hoult, an English actor and model who just turned 23, 10 years after co-starring with Hugh Grant in About a Boy.
Born with actorly blood, Hoult is the great-nephew of Anna Neagle, British star and muse to director Herbert Wilcox, whom she wed in the 1940s. Part of Hoult’s appeal is that he carries some of the classic mystique of Neagle’s heyday, his stark features begging to be captured in black and white, and his lean frame designed for chic formal wear. It’s no wonder perfectionist Tom Ford nabbed Hoult for his ’60s-era feature debut, A Single Man, casting the then-20-year-old as Kenny, the studious slice of eye-candy who connects with Colin Firth’s professor. Through Ford’s stylized lens, viewers saw the extent to which Hoult could be an onscreen asset, providing a look both pure and dangerous, nostalgic and new. Few, though, might have expected just how big a star he was on his way to becoming, with multiple blockbusters and, potentially, three franchises on the horizon.