These are some photos of newlyweds Aaron Johnson and Sam Taylor Wood… only now they are Aaron Taylor Johnson and Sam Taylor Johnson. I love it when dudes change their name when they get married! So feminist. Sam and Aaron wlked the red carpet together in London last night for the big premiere of Anna Karenina. Aaron plays Vronsky, Anna’s wanton lover. He’s blonde in the film. As we’ve discussed before, Aaron is a mere 22 years old, and Sam is 45 years old. She has two older daughters from her first marriage and then she and Aaron have two girls together, Wylda Rae (3 years old) and Romy Hero (about eight months old). We’ve discussed the weirdness/fascination of this couple, this family before, but rarely have we really heard from Aaron about what he thinks about the drastic changes his life has gone through over the past five years (because they got together when he was only 18 years old). Aaron had a long interview with The Guardian a few days ago, and he surprised me by being very open and matter-of-fact about… well, everything. You can read the whole piece here, and here are some highlights:
Aaron was filming Anna Karenina and Oliver Stone’s Savages at the same time: “I was filming Savages while I was doing AK, so it was tough at times to adjust,” says Aaron, still sounding a bit shellshocked. AK stands for Anna Karenina, Joe Wright’s highly stylised adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. “I rehearsed AK, then went off to LA to shoot Savages for two and a half months, then came back to London. It was all a bit crazy,” he elaborates.
Dance lessons for AK: “I only had a day or two of dance lessons,” says Aaron, sounding a little peeved. “The rest of them had f–king six weeks.”
Playing Vronsky: “I’m kind of like the typical blond in the movie,” he says endearingly. “It’s a golden age, and I’m this dashing blond young officer in a white uniform. It’s a study in privilege, really. That was all Joe’s vision, and I played around with it a bit, but there wasn’t much of a character arc. It’s her journey. You don’t really need anyone else’s. I’m really there as an actor to serve the director and the script.”
Working with Joe Wright (director of AK) & Oliver Stone: “They are both obsessives in their own way,” he says, having given the question some considerable thought, shifting incessantly in his seat. “Savages, though, was probably the toughest shoot I’ve been on so far. Oliver is smart and he’s edgy. He doesn’t give you a moment to take a breath. I felt I was being challenged every day, and not just me, but Benicio and John (Travolta). He treated everyone the same, but it comes out of passion. In one of the press conferences John said that he was on us like a hawk every day, and that about nails it. He certainly made me think differently about acting.”
The changes in his personal life: “God, yeah,” he says, brushing his hands though his straggly mane of hair. “I was just thinking this morning about all that. I made Kick-Ass just before I started working on Nowhere Boy, and now here I am on Kick-Ass 2 and I’m married and a father. It’s such a major change, but to tell the truth I never think about it much. It just feels natural to me.”
Did he fall in love with Sam on the set of Nowhere Boy? “Well, you know, kind of. Maybe. I mean, it must have helped that we already had a brilliant connection as actor and director.” (Simon Hattenstone of the Guardian visited the set and wrote: “Whenever the rain comes, she runs inside the house, arm in arm with 19-year-old Aaron Johnson, who plays Lennon. They dance and laugh like teenagers in love. I’ve never been on a film set with such a strange atmosphere. While the rest of the cast and crew are welcoming, Taylor-Wood and Johnson seem oblivious to the world.”)
Having a public romance: “It shaped and changed our world quite quickly, because we were both strong and stayed by each other’s side,” he says. “We didn’t listen to publicists who said things like: ‘If you go out to events, make sure you take separate cars. Don’t be seen together.’ All that crap. I won’t mention any names, but further up the line you see bigger actors playing those sorts of games. We never wanted to. We did what we felt was right.”
Working with his wife again: “Right now it’s more about what Sam’s doing next,” he says, refusing to be drawn on specifics. “There is a feature being developed with a lot of more of her imprint on it. You get to a point and you want to try something new. That’s what life is all about: trying new things and having fun.” When I ask if it might not be difficult working with one’s wife: “No. It’s all I want to do, really.”
Being a child actor, never going home: ” At school I’d never talk about my other life. If anyone asked me, I’d just say I was away somewhere. I never felt comfortable talking about that acting, and the kids I was around didn’t give a f–k about that world. All the stuff I was learning on set didn’t apply at school. I haven’t been back there [home] in about six years. I still see it as a place I wanted to escape from. I get on fine with my mum and dad, but if they want to see the grandchildren, they come to me.” Has he stayed in touch with any friends from there? “No, I haven’t got any friends from where I grew up, but that’s not to do with fame. I moved on from there years ago. I have good friends now, both from Sam’s world and my world. We’re a close-knit family with a close-knit circle of friends. That’s the way it is and it’s just fine.”
On his wife calling him an “old soul”: “I guess so. And she’s a young spirit. We complement each other, for sure, both in our work and on an everyday level. She pushes and inspires me, and I hope I do the same for her.”
Her friends have become his friends: “Well, all her good friends have become my friends, but I don’t come from a world where art was a big thing. I never really knew that world until I met her.”
He’s the same age as Kristen Stewart. And Emma Watson. And Taylor Swift. I’m not sure what my point of those comparisons would be… but it’s interesting. Swifty infantilizes herself, Kristen is begging us to infantilize her, and Emma will probably hindered by the public’s collective inability to see her as anything but the young Hermione. And there’s Aaron Johnson, the same age, already a father of two (and stepfather of two), a husband and an in-demand actor with an assortment of artsy friends and colleagues. Can’t there be a happy medium between “too mature for 22” and “22 going on 13”?