VMAN26

ARTICLE THEO H. JOURDAIN

PHOTOGRAPHY SAM TAYLOR-WOOD

CREDITS ARTICLE CONTENTS

EARNING THEIR STRIPES

NEW SHAPES

THE SAVAGE AND THE SERENE

EXTRA CREDITS

GROOMING MATT MUHULL (STREETERS, LONDON)  PHOTO ASSISTANTS JON CARDWELL AND RYAN O’TOOLE  STYLIST ASSISTANT JENNY KENNEDY  EQUIPMENT RENTAL SOLA LIGHTING  FILM PROCESSING AND RETOUCHING ARTFUL DODGERS IMAGING  LOCATION HAMPSTEAD HEATH, LONDON  SPECIAL THANKS BRYAN O’LEARY

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THE SAVAGE AND THE SERENE

PHOTOGRAPHY SAM TAYLOR-WOOD
TEXT THEO H. JOURDAIN

AARON JOHNSON FINDS HEAVENLY RESPITE WITH HIS WIFE, SAM TAYLOR-WOOD, IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE WHILE SUMMER MOVIEGOERS WATCH HIM LIVE THROUGH HELL IN OLIVER STONE'S SAVAGES

Not long ago—under the direction of Oliver Stone—Aaron Johnson was facing penile laceration at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. This afternoon, however—at the direc- tion of the ladies in his life—the actor is nuzzling newborn lambs on a Somerset farm. It’s a beautiful range. It’s a beautiful day. “It’s lovely, the buds on the trees and the flowers, it’s a whole new cycle,” he says over the phone, referring to those first few days when Britain is jostled from its winter coma by a near naked citizenry in its public parks. “I’m not the sort of person who has a theory about the spring, but I can definitely tell you it makes you feel great.”

Reluctant to espouse theories on humanity’s temporal phases, Johnson is anything but shy about his deep affinity for the simple life, particularly in light of a soaring career, which commenced 15 years ago at age six, with appearances on stage, then television, then film. He’s here on the farm with his wife (who snapped the photos herein and whom Johnson met on the set of 2009’s Nowhere Boy, in which he played John Lennon) and their four daughters. Johnson’s happy as can be, basking in an idyllic spring light with the people he loves, while all his grueling work for Stone’sSavages—which features a world far, far away from the rolling hills and birthing sheep of Somerset—is making its way into the minds of moviegoers. “I saw it last night and it was awesome,” he says of the film, which hits theaters in July. “I’m still processing it. It goes on this kind of mad roller coaster, a thrill ride with all sorts of blood, gore, and violence—it’s kind of insane. And it’s really dark. But it’s pieced together in a way that you enjoy it. I mean, well, it’s an Oliver Stone film. And he’s really going back to his roots—and doing so with Benicio [Del Toro] and [John] Travolta, who’re fantastic.” The film, a story of two L.A. lads who develop a dynamite and seriously profitable weed strain to the chagrin of a vicious drug cartel, also includes appearances by Uma Thurman, Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Salma Hayek, and others.

At the moment, intense contrasts seem to be Johnson’s raison d’être, but there are consistencies. For one, he’s enjoying life, on the farm and on set, among dynamic casts young and old. While shooting Savages, the actor was hopping planes back to Europe for a role in Anna Karenina alongside Keira Knightley and Jude Law. He claims time con- straints have allowed him to enjoy only “chunks” of the Tolstoy masterpiece, but he’s nevertheless passionate about the decisions made by its screenwriter Tom Stoppard. “It’s such a beautiful adaptation,” he says, “condensed down to something that is rela- tive, and you can go on this journey, this struggle for love. It’s like poetry, like a dance. And with Jude and Keira and Matthew McFayden [the film also stars Emily Watson and Olivia Williams], it felt like I was stepping into this sort of thing where they were all bud- dies—but it was lovely, and they were all very welcoming.”
Johnson likes this word, lovely. But not in some overly quipping, watered-down English way. Rather, his employment of the word carries with it a kind of proof of its right to a place at the table, an understanding distilled perhaps from the contrasts in ques- tion. The subject matter of Savages, for instance, is far from lovely. Johnson describes the research the cast undertook for the film, including meetings with the DEA, and how Stone’s signature direction did not shy from the graphic nature of the borderland drug- trafficking epidemic. “Oliver can’t help but be brutal when exploring these things,” he says, “because that’s how they are. They’re brutal. I mean there’s rape, and whole fami- lies killed. It’s not funny. It’s not some fucking game.”

A game, however, is what one of Johnson’s daughters is after: he’s momentarily dis- tracted, the sound of a young girl’s voice becomes audible as she tries to climb onto his lap perhaps or maybe snag the phone to field some interview questions herself. He gently hushes her and then remarks on the challenges of interviews, of making statements about one’s work. “I haven’t talked about projects in about two years,” he says. “Not since Kick Ass. I’m a bit rusty. I get really nervous, and when I meet people it’s quite difficult. The acting work itself, that’s something I’m quite comfortable in, but this side of the job—the promo- tion—is a whole other art in and of itself. That’s why you’ve got to have a piece of reality, like a family, and stay grounded—an actual life where you can get away.”

EXTRA CREDITS

GROOMING MATT MUHULL (STREETERS, LONDON)  PHOTO ASSISTANTS JON CARDWELL AND RYAN O’TOOLE  STYLIST ASSISTANT JENNY KENNEDY  EQUIPMENT RENTAL SOLA LIGHTING  FILM PROCESSING AND RETOUCHING ARTFUL DODGERS IMAGING  LOCATION HAMPSTEAD HEATH, LONDON  SPECIAL THANKS BRYAN O’LEARY

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HOLIDAY MOVIES YOU DON\'T WANT TO MISS #NYFF REVIEW: THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY KTZ IN LA CHRYSTA BELL - FRIDAY NIGHT FLY
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