Aaron Taylor-Johnson says that he “probably” felt uncomfortable while working on Hollywood projects with more adult material as a young actor, and that for much of his career, he took smaller or more obscure roles because he “smelt the bullshit” of those interested in making him into a star.
As part of an Esquire cover story promoting his upcoming film Kraven the Hunter, the actor opened up about his early career, including wanting to avoid Los Angeles culture, as well as getting married to and starting a family at a younger age with director Sam Taylor-Johnson, whom he married in 2012.
According to reporter Alex Pappademas, he felt “overwhelmed” as a young performer with the culture of the L.A.-based industry amid his early success, and at one point told his parents that he “didn’t want to be the thing these L.A. people wanted him to be.” It was something that he carried for years, particularly as a young father who “didn’t want to be taken away from” his two kids with Sam and two from her previous marriage.
“I think I smelt the bullshit. You felt like you were being sold. I went, ‘This ain’t for me. This is smoke up my ass,’” he recalled. “I would say I was probably not ready to be in that position anyway — it was too early. But yeah, I also slightly didn’t give a fuck.”
But even as he was selective with his roles, Taylor-Johnson says he ran into situations as an actor as young as 8 years old that would have made anyone his age uncomfortable. That included his West End role in Macbeth opposite Rufus Sewell, where he was “bullock naked” in a bathtub onstage three nights a week. “We’re not talking wearing swimming trunks — I was fully naked,” he recalled. It’s something that the actor has “already unpacked” privately, before declining to discuss further as the interview “isn’t therapy,” according to Pappademas.
“Listen, I think in hindsight you have to unpack a lot from what my childhood was, in an adult industry, in a time like —” Taylor-Johnson said, before pausing and continuing. “Did I feel uncomfortable? Yeah, I probably did.”
Part of that early career saw him working with his wife, with the duo having reunited on projects since their initial 2009 film Nowhere Boy, during which Aaron was still a teen and portrayed a pre-Beatles John Lennon. When asked about whether their personal chemistry is “rooted in creative partnership,” as described by the Esquire writer, Taylor-Johnson pushes back.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think that’s accurate. Yeah, we worked — I met Sam as actor and director. I think we’re really great at collaborating. But that’s not why I fell in love with her.”
Instead, he says, his feelings for Sam — in a relationship that has since its early days been controversial due to the age gap when they were first together at 19 and 41 — were a gut instinct. As was their family, with the Kraven the Hunter star sharing that he knew by the age of 10 or 11, “I was going to have a big family.”
“I knew I was going to be a young father. I knew I was going to have many kids,” he adds, before winding down on the topic. “I’m trying to be as honest as possible. I’ve probably talked to you more about my kids and Sam than I have with anybody. I’ve got really nothing to hide, and I’m secure in what we have. But I’m not going to unlock things that are actually precious to me.”
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