Will Poulter interview: Millers, inoffensive testicles and inappropriate questions

The star of Son of Rambow and now We're the Millers sits down for an unusual interview with us...

Since he broke through with Son Of Rambow, Will Poulter has built himself quite a career. Now, at the age of 20, he’s found himself one of the four stars of hit comedy We’re The Millers. As the film arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, he spared us some time for a chat…

Can we start with Son Of Rambow? If you’re going to have a breakthrough movie, that’s really not a bad place to start. Is it the film that people talk to you about the most?

You know what, I was so lucky for two reasons. One because the experience was just so lovely. For that to be your first film, spending eight weeks over your summer holiday with zero expectation… Everyone was so lovely. Obviously it was being steered by Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect introduction I suppose. They were so helpful, and they were so guiding during that process. And I also shared it with Bill [Milner], so we were swimming in the deep end together.

The fact that the film… I guess it exceeded expectations. A tiny little movie that we didn’t know what kind of fate it would have, for it to go to Sundance and have the reception that it had, and obviously be seen by so many people. It was totally expectation, and I’m so grateful for that. I never take it for granted how lucky I was to be involved in that film.

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We’re The Millers is at the other end of the spectrum, your first big American film. Had you gone for many before you landed this? What kind of offers do you get off the back of something like Son Of Rambow?

Obviously the transition between Son Of Rambow and We’re The Millers was something I wouldn’t have felt I could have done unless I’d done things in between. It was incredibly daunting for me to go from Son Of Rambow to Narnia, because of the natural jump that there is that is dictated by budget, and the number of people working on it. Even though a lot more people saw Son Of Rambow than we expected, a lot more people were always going to go and see Narnia.

So it felt like a much bigger stage, and that was very helpful in terms of getting the experience I needed to have in order to do We’re The Millers. But in terms of the offers that came through, since Son Of Rambow, I’ve been offered to do a few things without having to audition or read. That has its pros and cons.

A lot of people may misinterpret that once you’ve done a successful film, you don’t have to audition. But there are certain projects, Les Miserables for example, where every person from the smallest cast member to Russell Crowe had to audition for it. So sometimes projects that would appear to contain a cast so established that they don’t need to audition, still do. I’ve always found that I have to audition, but that’s a process that I kind of enjoy. I enjoy the challenge, and We’re The Millers was the same. It was a long audition process that I had to go through, but I enjoyed the challenge of that.

The announcement that you’d been added to the film came through quite late. I think it started shooting in July 2012, and the announcement that you and Emma Roberts had joined the project was that same month.

I can’t necessarily comment on whether that was a tactical decision by the studio. But I suppose, the one thing I was worried about was you look at that poster and you go okay, wow. Jason Sudekis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts… who the hell is that guy? That was one of the fears I’m sure for a lot of people. So I think if they delayed it for any reason, that’s the only kind of reason I can think of. That they wanted to make sure that the established members of the cast were attached before they confirmed the newcomer.

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But presumably you were cast before July then?

Yeah. I think I knew slightly earlier.

How long did you and Emma Roberts get to work together then? For the film to work, that key quartet had to gel. You couldn’t just all turn up on day one and hope for that.

Yeah, well we definitely rehearsed as a four before we shot. We had a week in North Carolina, a read through, spent time with one another. Once we were on set, we were naturally into it. We were confined to the boundaries of the RV for a lot of the time, and the studio. Otherwise, I was seldom in a scene without Emma, Jen or Jason. We naturally found ourselves spending a lot of time with each other on set, because our screen relationship dictated we need to spend time with each other. There was a lot of opportunity to gel and enjoy each other’s company while shooting.

We put a reader screening of this film on over the summer, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber came along and did a very brief introduction. The only thing he told us was that he’d assured you that your genitalia would not make the final cut of the film.

Appreciating you’ve talked elsewhere in the past about the nervousness involved in standing so exposed in front of lots of people, I’m curious just how the introductory conversation with Rawson went?

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It’s funny. On Twitter, I get comments regularly saying that I’ve seen you naked, and that We’re The Millers could have done without seeing your nakedness, but some people don’t realise that none of that was mine! I wasn’t actually born with some sort of genetic defect. That was a three hour prosthetic make-up job. So when Rawson told me that nothing I grew up with would appear on screen, he did keep his promise!

But if you’re going to have your assets prosthetically done, isn’t the trick to take influence from Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights instead?

[Laughs] Honestly, it was one of the most awkward things. Having the make-up person apply it, and then walking onto the set with it! It was really a pretty traumatic experience. I wouldn’t do it again in a hurry!

Paul Verhoeven, I think it was when he was making Starship Troopers, wanted his cast to strip down. And as part of that, he did so himself. Was Rawson similarly willing to put himself on the line?

Interesting. I didn’t ask him that. He did jokingly volunteer to let a spider crawl up his leg.

Big deal! Is that it?! I did read the BBFC Insight information for the film, where they give the extended warning of things that may offend in the film. Your nether regions are about the only thing that aren’t mentioned. So, according to the BBFC, your testicles are not offensive.

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That’s sweet of them!

This might be an odd question, but when you break through as a young actor, you obviously get put up for more and more interviews such as this one. Mara Wilson, earlier in the year, wrote a post about growing up as a young actress in films such as Matilda, and said that she found the questions she was asked by journalists were in some cases inappropriate for her age, or not taking where she was in life into account.

How has that worked for you? And can you put a male and British perspective on that?

It’s interesting, and I genuinely appreciate that question, because I think it’s a question that a lot of people in your position would not actually ask. I appreciate it, I think it’s very honest.

Generally speaking… I don’t quite know how to say this, but generally speaking, the questioning in interviews tends to be fairly straightforward, manageable, and by and large respectful. But I think there is are lot of questions that seek the controversial, and seek answers that make for a more shocking read or whatever.

I think a lot of interviewers look to cultivate an answer that will help differentiate their interview from everybody else’s. And I don’t think you necessarily have to ask inappropriate questions in order to do that. For example, the question that you asked differentiates your interview from 99% of all the others I’ve done, but you’ve asked a respectful question. Sometimes, they’ll ask questions… I’ve been on the red carpet at events, and been asked if I was a virgin.

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My character was a virgin in the film, and I’m stood next to my mother and my sister on the red carpet, while that question was being asked. That does happen. That happened to me three or four times when I was in America.

I have experienced it. Although it happens, those are the kind of questions that I’ve just learned to avoid. You have to do that.

A funny one that I get asked quite a lot now is that people say “how’s Hollywood? What’s it like now you’ve made it in Hollywood? What’s it like being a Hollywood actor?” Because I was in a film where there studio was based in Los Angeles, that doesn’t make me a Hollywood actor. I still live in Chiswick with my mum! It’s kind of funny how, I guess, the interview questions are based on a warped perspective of who they’re interviewing. I think it’s funny.

Will Poulter, thank you very much.

We’re The Millers is on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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