There’s a rather defining scene in 2013’s road-trip comedy film We’re the Millers, that stars seasoned comedic actors Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, and young English actor Will Poulter. It was when the latter’s character had the unfortunate encounter with a tarantula—he got bit in the testicles, suffered from an allergic reaction to it, which then culminated in a hilarious pan of his swollen bits, punctuated by Poulter’s on-the-money acting.
As much as it was difficult to shake off the image (it was a prosthetic, of course), if there was anyone who wasn’t familiar with Poulter before, they sure were after.
Like any true actor, Poulter’s relatively young career—he started off in 2007 with a limited-release film, Son of Rambow—hasn’t been just filled with comedic roles. Talking to me over the phone while waiting to catch a flight from London, Poulter says that it’s never been a conscious decision.
“To be honest with you, I’ve actually tried not to discriminate based on genre. But I’ve always tried to make my decisions based on the quality of the material, the message of the film or the television show, and about the creative involved,” he expresses. “I guess I’m interested in the things that exist between the boxes; the films that take up shelf space that you can’t quite label.”
It’s what led him to writer-director Ari Aster’s latest outing, Midsommar. The film comes right off of Aster’s critically acclaimed Hereditary and centres around a young couple who venture to rural Sweden with a group of friends to take part in a festival that’s held every 90 years. Amongst the smiles and seemingly too-good-to-not-be-freaky environment, horror and chaos ensues.
“I feel like it was funny in parts too. I feel like there’s real dramatic tension between the characters and more importantly, there was a sort of overruling sense of authenticity throughout the script,” Poulter explains.
And by “authenticity”, Poulter means that Midsommar tackles relatable situations. It’s something Poulter feels that Aster is highly adept at—rooting his films with familiar emotions and scenarios, before tweaking them to fit his twisted narratives.
Just before the end of 2018, Poulter returned to television with Netflix’s choose-your-own-adventure episode for alternative reality series Black Mirror. ‘Bandersnatch’ saw Poulter take on the role of Colin Ritman, a gaming genius with a grasp on the complex realities of the fourth wall.
While according to Poulter, “the response for ‘Bandersnatch’ was overwhelmingly positive” and he is grateful for that, it was also followed by him releasing a statement declaring that he was going to rework his relationship with social media.
“I came off Twitter because I felt like it was a place where I found that, all too frequently, I just witnessed and first-hand experienced a lot of people being unkind to one another. And it just wasn’t a good use of my time to be exposed to that,” Poulter explains.
It’s a brave and respectful move. Social media has been so ingrained into our consciousness, especially for celebrities, who have constantly used it to connect better with fans as well as market their own projects. But at times, not without what Poulter calls “irrelevant commentary”—critiques and comments that have nothing to do with his work.
Now, Poulter says: “I’m doing fine. I think better, having readdressed my relationship with social media.”
Opening up to style
“I don’t feel particularly comfortable. But it can be fun, so long as I’m not taking myself too seriously in those instances,” Poulter quips when asked what goes through his head during photo shoots. But he does like fashion and clothes. In fact, that flight that he’s waiting for while doing this interview? That’s a flight to Milan for the spring/summer 2020 edition of Milan Fashion Week Men’s to attend the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX runway show.
“It was music and musicians that impacted how I viewed style. I also remember growing up with the kind of shows in the ’80s and ’90s, having a massive influence on how I even attempt to dress,” Poulter says. But he adds: “I wasn’t wearing cool stuff at that time, but I’m trying to make up for lost time now.”
If Poulter says he feels uncomfortable during photo shoots (not evident at all in this series shot by Charlie Gray), he is comfortable in knowing what looks good. When asked which of his multi-dimensional characters’ wardrobes he’d like to steal, he was quick to disassociate his personal style from that of his Midsommar character, Mark’s. “I mean, Mark has zero idea about how to dress and also he tucks his jeans into his long, white socks,” Poulter reasons.
He does however, commend Colin Ritman of ‘Bandersnatch’ for his colourful coordinates and aviator prescription glasses. And in his own words: “I do appreciate when I see people with their own style and they kind of own it, and they don’t sort of feel the need to live up to expectations.” A sentiment that we can all relate to.