Prior to flying to Toronto to promote his new wilderness revenge thriller The Revenant, Will Poulter walked the streets of New York City, hoping people would mistake him for rapper Eminem.
“It’s a mission,” the British actor tweeted, perhaps only partly in jest. He does resemble the Detroit hip-hop star and he has the acting chops required for an Eminem biopic. Most important, he has a strong desire to play him.
“That would be my dream role, I think,” says Poulter, 22, during a Toronto Star interview. “I guess I should start rehearsing now, so at least I can attempt to audition!”
Getting the rapping right might take some work. But if Poulter can handle months in snow and ice opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy for The Revenant, he can do anything. Eminem would be made in the shade — make that Slim Shady.
Poulter has been on critics’ radars, and dealing in tough-guy archetypes, since his 2007 screen debut as a Sylvester Stallone wannabe in the indie coming-of-ager Son of Rambow. He’s also been popular with audiences, in the comedy We’re the Millers and the sci-fi adventure The Maze Runner.
Shooting The Revenant in the extreme wilderness of B.C. and Argentina was his toughest role to date in a career that’s headed to stardom:
We’ve been hearing for months that The Revenant was a brutal shoot, and that director Alejandro González Iñárritu pushed everybody to the breaking point. Did it feel that way to you?
It was incredibly intense, from a physical and emotional perspective. It was a very, very difficult thing to shoot. I think all of us felt as though it was probably the hardest thing we’ve ever done. It’s so massively gratifying when you speak to audiences and they say they felt the full visceral force of it by watching the film.
Did you read the source novel by Michael Punke? It would have given you an idea of what you were in for, although Iñárritu changed a few things.
No, I haven’t read the book. I think it’s because the book was only a small part of the skeleton that made up the body of work that this is. I felt as though it would almost be confusing to read the book.
I feel character description from a book can mislead you, and actually make you fall off course when you’re representing a character using a script.
Your character, Jim Bridger, is situated between the two film’s two main antagonists, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. How was it interacting with these two strong personalities?
Initially it was very, very intimidating, the notion of being opposite Leo and Tom, just because they’re so experienced and so talented. But the challenge of this film was such that there wasn’t really space for fear. There was no place for my anxieties to operate, and if there were anxieties or fear, they kind of played into the scene. So I had a wonderful experience and a very educational experience working with them both.
Jim Bridger brings elements of civility to a highly uncivilized situation. Did you view him in this light while you were filming?
I was more aware of the confusion and inner turmoil he was experiencing. I was also very aware of the fact that I was a boy and trying to become a man in this difficult scenario. It paralleled what was really going on in my life: I was a boy trying to shoot this film at a time that was quite difficult for me personally.
I would have found this a lot easier with a few more credits under my belt and a few more years’ experience but I was doing it at this point. So there were a lot of parallels that surprised me. Actually, some of them are only really emerging now that I think about it and I look back.
Leonardo’s Hugh Glass is alone in the bear attack scene that everybody is talking about, but were you on set when it was filmed?
I was, but I didn’t see them shooting it, and it’s a mystery to me as well as everybody else how they achieved something so realistic. It’s one of the very few moments in the film where there’s CGI.
It’s rare you watch a film where you’re able to experience things like that and feel as though they are so real and have the kind of emotional response your average cinemagoer would have. I have never experienced that before.
This interview was edited and condensed.