Coming off a career best performance as serial killer Ray Marcus in Nocturnal Animals, The Wall actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson has cemented himself as one of the industry’s top young talents. Still only 26 years old, the English actor has balanced blockbuster roles in Godzilla and Avengers: Age of Ultron with versatile work in Joe Wright’s period romance Anna Karenina and Oliver Stone’s gritty crime drama Savages. No stranger to comic book films, the actor rose to stardom playing the titular hero Dave Lizewski in the Kick-Ass films.
In The Wall, Taylor-Johnson stars as Isaac alongside WWE superstar and recent comedy film standout John Cena as two soldiers in a deadly encounter with an Iraqi sniper. Trapped behind a crumbling stone wall, Isaac must battle wits and marksmanship in a deadly cat and mouse game of survival.
We caught up with Aaron Taylor-Johnson during the press day for The Wall in New York City last week and got into the challenges of playing this gruelling role, working with Doug Liman, a possible return to the Kick-Ass world and lots more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
I like how precisely focused the world of The Wall is. After your experiences working on big budget blockbusters like Godzilla and Avengers, how nice was it to work on something that’s way more contained?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: It was really refreshing. It just ignited all of what filmmaking should be like. It was a very guerilla-type shoot, super independent, very low-budget fourteen day shoot. It was an experiment and a challenge. We were on our toes. It was extraordinary.
How did you work around the challenge of not having a physical person present to work off of for many of your scenes?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yeah, that was the ultimate intrigue into taking on that challenge. Sometimes there wasn’t anybody at the other end of that radio signal. Sometimes it was just Doug or sometimes it was just me responding to myself. It was interesting not to have another scene partner to turn around on. We had another ten days where it was just me and the wall and the equipment I had so it was very vulnerable and exposing. Everything you’re doing is being captured and documented.
Your face or voice appears in almost every single frame of this movie. That’s got to be a daunting task, as well?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yeah, I can’t explain it other than I put my trust in Doug’s hands. The safety was knowing that there was a great filmmaker with a vision and who was very decisive. Doug is an extraordinary filmmaker. He’s adept and naturally instinctive. He can improvise with the environment around him and it chops and changes and we take a whole different direction and we go with it. We don’t say, “oh, we’ve got scripts and because of this repercussion further down the line, now we can’t do this.” We go, “well, that’s kind of better because it makes it harder.” So we were making decisions as we were going along and sticking to them and being brave and bold. He’s that kind of filmmaker. He’s brilliant.
And your theater acting experience must have also helped with this kind of role, right? I feel like The Wall could make an easy transition to a stage production.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Oh, absolutely. The first script was very much a play. It absolutely could be a play because we’re just on one side of that wall. We rarely ever see the other side of it and you never see the enemy just like you wouldn’t if you were actually on that mission. These guys aren’t ever going to get that close to the enemy. They’re taking shots from a mile off. There were times where there was about 13 pages of dialogue rolled into one and we were doing that before lunch. But I guess when people shoot TV they’re doing that sort of stuff a day. So, it’s high speed.
I’m a huge fan of Nocturnal Animals. I thought you were brilliant in that film and I know you worked really hard to stay in character. Did you do have to do anything similar to hold on to your role as Isaac in The Wall?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. I spent a lot of time with the guys in the military. I went off to sniper school for a couple days. Spent some time at the base at Fort Chaffe in Arkansas and went on the shooting range with those guys. We had a great consultant who was The Reaper. Nicholas Irving was our technical advisor for anything military. So you know, the habits that these guys have. They chew tobacco…and I’d kind of stay in the mindset. There was never really a moment when we were ever breaking.
Kick-Ass was that film that really bolstered your name to a wider audience. Is there a desire to return to that role, one that you maybe feel a particular loyalty towards?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I do have a sense of loyalty to Matthew Vaughn and we keep in touch. He’s always got really interesting projects and we talk a lot about doing things together but I don’t know, it depends. If it presents itself in the right way then maybe but I don’t know.
What’s next for you?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I’m writing something with my wife. We’re trying to get something off the ground and that’s our main focus and goal right now. I’m not taking anything else on and I haven’t shot anything since The Wall so it’s probably going to go pretty quiet for the next year or so. I’ll be laying low.
What’s the genre of this new project you’re working on?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Oh, I’d love to tell you but I can’t. It’s all very top secret stuff, I guess. [laughs]
That concludes our interview, but many thanks to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for his time. Be sure to check out The Wall as it’s now playing in theatres.