Kraven Power: From Bullet Train to Marvel villain and on to Bond? Aaron Taylor-Johnson remains surprisingly grounded

By Joseff Musa
Jun 17, 2024

Aaron Taylor-Johnson has captivated audiences worldwide with his versatile acting and magnetic on-screen presence. The British talent, who turns 34 this month, has carved out an impressive career, transitioning seamlessly from independent films to big-budget blockbusters, and industry spies suggest he might take on the biggest action role out there – a certain Bond, James Bond.

Born in 1990 in High Wycombe, England, Taylor-Johnson’s passion for the arts blossomed at a young age. He recalls: “As a kid, I was always putting on little shows and performances for my family. I knew early on that acting was my calling.” His breakthrough role came in 2009 when he starred (under his birth name, Aaron Johnson) in the critically acclaimed film Nowhere Boy, portraying the teenage John Lennon. The performance earned him a trio of British film award nominations and showcased his remarkable talent. “I wanted to do justice to Lennon’s story and capture the complexity of his character,” the actor reflects.

Following this breakout success, he continued to impress, taking on diverse roles that showcased his impressive range. In 2010, he headlined the action-packed Kick-Ass, playing a high-school student who becomes a superhero. “I loved the opportunity to explore the duality of the character – the shy teenager and the fearless masked avenger,” he says.

Taylor-Johnson’s range was further demonstrated in films like Anna Karenina (2012), Godzilla (2014) and Nocturnal Animals (2016), for which he earned critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor trophy. “I’m drawn to characters that challenge me and allow me to step outside of my comfort zone,” the actor reveals.

Age is More Than a Number

In life and work, Taylor-Johnson has advanced quickly. In addition to acting from the age of six, he married his Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Wood in 2012 at just 22 and had children at a young age. His wife is 24 years his senior, and the couple adopted a shared surname of Taylor-Johnson.

When he was 13, he starred in the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson vehicle, Shanghai Knights, and at the youthful age of 15, he dropped out of school. He gained knowledge by working on movie sets instead of attending drama school. “You work with good and bad actors, divas and non-divas. You learn how not to behave. You get skilled at misbehaving,” he claims.

Reflecting on (as it turned out) a well-spent youth, he recalls his travels with his mother to London from their Wycombe home – a 60-mile round trip – to attend countless auditions. “It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I’d audition twice a day five days a week, up and down London. My mum would take me to Amersham.”

Quite the Character

Taylor-Johnson has consistently sought out diverse and challenging roles, a strategy that has played a pivotal role in shaping his versatile on-screen persona. “I’m not interested in playing the same type of character over and over again,” he has said. “I want to constantly challenge myself and explore new avenues of storytelling.”

Each performance has showcased his remarkable ability to inhabit vastly different characters and bring them to life with authenticity and depth. “As an actor, I’m constantly searching for roles that will push me to grow and expand my abilities,” he explains. “I’m not afraid to take risks or step outside of my comfort zone if it means I can deliver a powerful and memorable performance.”

This dedication to exploring new creative horizons has earned the actor critical acclaim and a reputation as one of the most versatile performers of his generation. “I’m driven by a desire to tell stories that matter, to create characters that resonate with people on an emotional level,” he shares. “That’s what keeps me motivated and excited about my craft.”

2024, Beyond and Bond?

Fast-forward to 2024, and Taylor-Johnson still seems to be moving at a faster pace than many of his peers. He will appear in Robert Eggers’ remake of the 1922 F.W. Murnau silent horror masterpiece Nosferatu with Bill Skarsgård, who plays the titular vampire. On the horizon too is the lead role in the Marvel superhero instalment Kraven the Hunter. Next year there will be Fuze, a heist thriller from Hell or High Water director David Mackenzie, and 28 Years Later, Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic sequel.

More flamboyant, mainstream roles have been inserted in between. He recently starred in David Leitch’s charming action film The Fall Guy, portraying an arrogant A-lister whose stuntman happens to be Ryan Gosling. Huge action scenes abound in the movie, which is basically Barbie’s Ken amplified to the maximum.

At time of writing, Taylor-Johnson neither confirms nor denies the Bond rumour. “I don’t feel like I need to have a future drawn out for me,” he says. “It’s the best when you sometimes lose all inhibitions completely, and you feel like you’re dangling there, and the director has sort of got one finger on the back of your shirt, so you don’t fall. It’s all about chasing that feeling. There’s nothing so exhilarating as that.”

This analogy is nearly exactly in line with the vibrancy and physical elegance that define his on-screen persona. Whether he’s fighting Brad Pitt on a Bullet Train or tearing through the African savannah with a knife in the Kraven the Hunter trailer, Taylor-Johnson has shown that he is an incredibly physical actor for whom the tough demands of the part are intrinsic to the character’s transformation. He explains: “I grew up dancing; I work with movement coaches.”

As Taylor-Johnson continues to impress audiences and critics alike with his diverse filmography, it is clear that his impact on the industry will be felt for years to come. By challenging preconceptions and demonstrating the power of versatility and emotional depth, the actor has set a new standard for what it means to be a celebrity.

Wondering what’s next for Hollywood’s most grounded new leading man has occupied many column inches in the entertainment media. Will he really step into Daniel Craig’s shoes? Well, it’s certainly no time for dreams to die.