“I’ve definitely been in the local paper a couple of times, which isn’t bad…” Something of an understatement, rising Australian actor Nicholas Hamilton’s achievements stretch much further than the New South Wales local paper.
Having first introduced himself in Matt Ross’ whimsical 2016 success Captain Fantastic, Hamilton has gone on to star in Strangerland – a rural thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes – and sci-fi epic The Dark Tower alongside Idris Elba. Yet Hamilton’s modesty is genuine, stemming from a deep-rooted love of cinema – and a set of friends who keep him level-headed.
On the opposite end of the personality spectrum, Hamilton’s most recent role saw him cast in last year’s remake of Stephen King’s cult classic, It, playing a psychotic school bully who not only has the audience momentarily pitying the psycho, but also incites a fair amount of mullet envy. Now with more notches in his filmography and awards on his mantle, Hamilton has his ambitious eyes set on LA. But first, he needs to get through high school.
Kaya Strehler: You’re back home right now aren’t you?
Nicholas Hamilton: Yeah, I’ve been home for about two months. I’ve got two days left of school and then six weeks holiday so I’m looking forward to that. School is a massive thing for me right now. Then I can finally move over to LA and start doing the whole cliché chasing the dream sort of thing that I’ve wanted to do since I was fourteen.
KS: A few of my cousins are about to finish and are ecstatic, and they didn’t even have the added stress of simultaneously filming a blockbuster hit in LA. How did you even manage that?
NH: My school has become pretty casual with it which is awesome – they’re very lenient. Basically they un-enrol me for however many months I want to be away and when I return I enrol again and it’s just back to normal life.
KS: Normal life? Surely you’re a local hero now.
NH: That’s a bit of a stretch, but I’ve definitely been in the local paper a couple of times, which isn’t bad. I love having this community when I come back home. I finish a job and come back here to a town of 3,000, where everyone knows each other – it’s very chill and I need that. It keeps my head small and feet on the ground.
KS: I suppose your mates are responsible for keeping your head small?
NH: Oh yeah, of course. I’ve got like a massive group of mates and we’ve all known each other for about three years now. I’ve been mates with them before Captain Fantastic, so they’ve seen me grow a career basically. So of course they take the piss, they’re mates like that for a reason, especially Australian mates – I think they do that more. But they’re good guys, they’d always have my back no matter what.
KS: Good mates to deflate any potential ego?
NH: Of course, which is what I need, especially in this industry. I can be in LA for a month and when I get back I realise that my ego is inflated. So I need to come back here and be ridiculed for about a month or so to get my feet back on the ground.
KS: But then what’s going to happen when you move to LA? Who’s gonna take the piss out of you then?
NH: I’ve got plenty of mates over there who are the same. Half of the It cast now live in LA and they do the same, but I think that’s the hope; that I learn from what I am here. Ego is a massive thing. I’ve met so many actors who are just incredibly up themselves and they don’t realise it. That’s the ultimate nightmare for me, to go over there in five years and then come back for holidays or something and have people be like, “Wow, you’ve changed. You’re so egotistical now.” It’s definitely my dream to be recognised as not necessarily the most popular person, but one of the humblest and nicest.
KS: Surely being humble and respectful can’t be easy in such a competitive industry?
NH: It’s a nightmare for every actor to think that you could lose your career just simply because you’re too nice. It’s a massive thing and every actor in the industry has to juggle that.
KS: Back to your career, Sundance, Tropfest and now a blockbuster. Preference?
NH: I just like working in general. It was definitely a different experience compared to Captain Fantastic and Strangerland. It’s much higher profile and a lot more pressure on your shoulders, especially with a remake of something so special to so many people, let alone the novel. I don’t know. I just really love working so I love anything that keeps me on my toes, whether it’s a blockbuster or an indie film, and gives me experience and helps me learn more about this crazy industry.
KS: Ok, you’ve now been in two Stephen King film adaptations. I kind of expect you to be a fan of his work?
NH: To be honest, I wasn’t. I’m not an avid reader but after being cast in two Stephen King films I researched him a lot, his whole career basically, and I read It before we started filming to get the basis of Henry Bowers. I mean King is the unequivocal master of horror.
KS: Did you get to meet him?
NH: I didn’t. He’s one of the most elusive characters you’ll ever find. He gives the rights to studios for his books and then he sort of just fades into the darkness.
KS: You make him sound like a character from one of his books.
NH: [laughs] That’s probably where he gets his inspiration from.
KS: His fanbase are known to be rather passionate – did that add any pressure?
NH: Oh definitely. If you make a bad movie people are going to tell you that you’ve made a bad movie, but with a film like It that has such a massive following behind it…. When I went to an event in LA I was on the red carpet during the filming time and people were asking me non-stop questions about it before it was even finished. That was the first experience of that for me, people actually caring about what we were doing while we were doing it, before the movie was even out.
KS: It’s kind of like a double whammy. A movie from a book and a remake of a loved horror classic.
NH: That’s true. If you’re a parent of that generation, you grew up with Tim Curry as Pennywise, and you grew up watching that at a sleepover when you were a kid. I mean, it’s a massive thing to uphold and we were never going to shy away from the fact that these two were going to be talked about together. It was inevitable, so we tried to pay homage to the original as well as we could, while making it as different as we could. You can see it with Bill Skarsgård, his Pennywise is leaps and bounds different than Tim Curry’s was and that’s because he didn’t want to emulate it, he didn’t want to make a mockery of the whole deal.
KS: You played a psychopathic bully. How was it making that your own?
NH: It’s definitely a new thing for me. I have a lot of fun playing around with different layers in characters, especially with Henry [Bower]. You see a lot of school bullies in movies who are just there to make the main character feel like shit, then they go home and you never see them again until they’re back as the antagonist. So to see Henry go home and experience abuse from his father and feel vulnerable in front of his friends, it’s a massive thing for a bully character.
KS: Henry is a huge prick but you seem really nice. How was the shift with the other actors when the scenes ended?
NH: [laughs] I mean we’re all just really good mates. I was putting this kid Jeremy [Ray Taylor] in a headlock for two, three hours at a time and then Andy [Muschietti] would yell “Cut” and I would let Jeremy go and he’d just stand around and be like, “Oh yeah, that was good, we should do that again!” If these kids weren’t so professional, I wouldn’t have been able to get further into Henry’s character. For such young child actors it was incredibly beneficial, and that helped me out a lot.
KS: How was it working with such a large cast of young actors?
NH: It was good fun. They’re all sort of different characters in themselves, so like Finn [Wolfhard] and Jack [Dylan Grazer] who play Eddie and Richie, are just like those characters in real life. There are a lot of lines in the movie between those two that are completely improvised, they’re just bouncing off each other.
KS: So they made playing a bully easy on you, what about playing a member of the Cash family in Captain Fantastic? Did any similarities in the Hamilton household help there?
NH: I think the Cash family are so unique and different in their own way that it’d be very difficult to find a family who are similar to them. Actually, Matt, the director, got an email from this family who were living in the forest completely like the Cash family. It was insane how similar they were and that was incredible to see. It was an original script so to see how something so whacky and out of the ordinary could actually be something that has happened in the world, that’s pretty wild.
KS: How did that family even see the film?
NH: I don’t know! I guess they must be connected to society in some way because they have email. I think it’s pretty hard to live that Cash family style nowadays. It’s definitely difficult to be separated. I can’t be separate from my phone for half an hour, let alone a couple of years.
KS: Very now of you. You had a YouTube thing going on for a bit, A Song A Week. What happened? Why did it stop?
NH: Life sort of took over. That was around the time when I started doing year twelve work so my workload increased dramatically, but I definitely want to start getting into it more. I’ve talked to my representatives lately about getting into more music stuff. I love the world of music, I’m one of those guys who just listens to anything and enjoys it. So yeah, I definitely would love to play around with that at some point, whenever the time comes.
Feature originally published in HERO 19.