Aaron Taylor Johnson was great as the geeky kid in Kick-Ass but now he’s about to play true hero, John Lennon. In Nowhere Boy, he plays a young Lennon in true story that has never been told.
He talked to Cinematical about tackling such a figure and how he handled the part.
Lennon is a universal icon, but in England, he’s like a saint. That must have been a huge amount of pressure.
I guess there was a certain amount of pressure. To be honest, I didn’t really think about it too much ’cause, like, I just couldn’t. I’d be stopped in my tracks…. But that feeling that gave me those nerves that said, You’ve got to do as much as possible to research as much as you can so you don’t make any mistakes, so you know your boundaries and what you can and cannot do and how to perform this character, and then I could throw it away and not think about it.
Did your own love of the Beatles attract you to this part?
No, the script did. I mean, it was just such a fantastic script. I just believed in and could relate to this person and what he was going through with his auntie and his mother and the relationships drew me so emotionally that I saw it on that level before I found out it was Lennon. Then when it was Lennon, it was like, now I know where I can go from here. Like, I know that character. I’ll study that character and make it work.
So you didn’t know it was about John Lennon at first?
Only until the end of the script, really. And it was like, this is John? This is a true story? I was shocked.
As far as getting for the young Lennon, or even the grown-up Lennon, how much did you research — did you go to the Dakota? Did you go to Liverpool?
We filmed in Liverpool… When you can film in the location where they grew up and what have you — Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, you know — that gives you that sort of energy. That gives you that sort of character and you feel a bit more lost in that person rather than the person you are. And the Dakota, I came to much, much later on, afterwards, but that was quite an emotional thing. The energy around there is spooky. It’s intense and quite upsetting.
You were in the middle of filming ‘Kick-Ass’ while you were preparing to audition for this. That’s a bit of a split personality, accent-wise, personality-wise, everything. How did you even manage that?
God only knows how. I can’t really remember how. It’s a bit of a blur to me, but I remember [during] my lunch breaks when I was filming ‘Kick-Ass’ that I could quickly look up on YouTube footage of Lennon and look through the scenes that I could do at the casting, and I had a day off where I could do the casting, and it was insane. Then I came in [to film ‘Kick-Ass’] and I was just sort of repeating this sentence, this line Lennon said over and over again, you know, quietly out loud to myself, sort of speaking to myself in the corner, and [I] was pretty focused on that, and I didn’t really sort of acknowledge anybody else. I didn’t really kind of engage anybody else too much… and I just kinda went for it. And they called me back, and Sam said, I want you to watch ‘Lennon vs. the US’ [‘The U.S. vs. John Lennon’] and get another aspect of him, and I did, and then we worked on something else, and I think by then — I carried on with learning his accent… There was a progression, and I think she thought, “We’ve got two months. I can get him there.”