Aaron Taylor-Johnson is embracing the unknown

Aaron Taylor-Johnson talks big roles and becoming Giorgio Armani's leading man

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a global star. Tap his name into Google and the articles are endless. 66,500,000 results to be precise. What's his workout regime? Who is his wife? Will he be the next Bond? Everybody wants to know about him. The 33-year old actor has been famous for as long as he can remember, becoming a household name thanks to that early start in 2008's Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, which was followed by coming-of-age flicks Nowhere Boy and Kickass.

But being famous – more famous than most of us could even dream of or comprehend being – since he was 13, doesn't mean he's not overcome by everything that is thrown at him. Taylor-Johnson, who grew up in High-Wycombe, is seemingly no Zendaya or Kim Kardashian, who were apparently born to be in front of big crowds, paparazzi lenses and audiences. Tabloid furore has followed him around for longer than most of us have been in our current jobs. He never knows what's happening next week. "This is all a bit overwhelming, I can't lie," the 33-year old British actor, who spends his downtime on a farm in Somerset, tells me over the phone from Madrid, as he prepares to be tackled by fans and press at a launch for the new Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio fragrance, for which he fronts the campaign. "I'm learning. I'm learning all the time to embrace all these wonderful moments."

But you'd never know. Taylor-Johnson is a professional. He's an actor, and that's a skill he's learned to take into his away-from-set existence. He looks like a natural wherever there are flashing lights and big crowds, even if he doesn't feel like it. And embracing the unknown is something that he tells me he is particular good at, now he's 20 years into his career. While he's got plenty coming this year, including Marvel big-hitter Kraven The Hunter, FW Murnau’s silent horror Nosferatu and upcoming comedy The Fall Guy, as well as the potential of an influx of press interest following a rumoured looming announcement that he's the new James Bond, it hasn't always been the case. And he's fine with that. "You never really know what's going on," he explains. "I think, you know, the combination of the pandemic blending into writer's strike and then the actors strike has caused a lot of uncertainty, and you need to be accustomed to that. It's about finishing off projects, and also accepting that all the projects will be coming out at the same time, which you weren't prepared for. A backlog of things being thrown out there, while also that feeling of trying to discover interesting new projects. It's been quite a bizarre time and a shift in the last couple of years. A lot of change has happened subsequently for everybody. So with that comes sort of adapting and evolving and looking at things from a different perspective and also having patience and gratitude."

And a role that he says embodies that uncertainty was his part in the aforementioned Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio campaign. "It was reminiscent of what's going on in the world, especially for an actor, as it's about man jumping into the unknown, and wanting to evolve," he says. "I wanted to bring a spark of freshness and reflect change, fresh beginnings and evolution." In the campaign video, which is set to the TikTok famous song "Daylight" by David Kushner, Taylor-Johnson dives off a cliff into unknown choppy waters. "I wanted to do the swan dive stunt myself and it felt symbolic, because it was taking that leap of faith with the new partnership and this journey I'm now going on with Armani."

I remark that Taylor-Johnson seemingly approaches everything that's chucked at him with positivity. There's a calm, happy-go-lucky energy about him. He agrees, but is adamant that this doesn't come naturally to him. "That's the intention – I always try to reset my intentions," he says. "I wake up, I meditate, I have to clear my mind and set my gratitude and surrender to what may come. I think it's better to have positivity and manifest. To say that comes easily, though, wouldn't be true. And it's all about understanding that there will be down days and the unknown, which enables a better understanding of the good days."

For him, remaining focused and not letting the bad stuff get in the way of things also comes down to the fact that he is a parent. Taylor-Johnson and his wife, director and filmmaker Sam, have two daughters. "Obviously the one underlying thing today is that I'm a father. I have a responsibility on that level, which organically keeps me focused in all aspects of my life." His wife, too, is a major impact. And he explains that she was sort of with him as he cliff dived into the ocean on the Armani set. "The fragrance and the Mediterranean air where we filmed reminded me of the holidays we've shared. Our honeymoon was in the Aeolian Islands 12 years ago. Positive memories in a moment of unknown."

In short though, accepting change and unsettled waters comes down to something that is innate in Taylor-Johnson. "At the core of it all is my mind," he says, reminding me that he also has an amazing team around him. "Just a passion and creativity for what I do. And that's always been there, you know, I was lucky enough to start all of this from a very early age, and it's something that, you know, I've been able to continue to do so. My focus and determination, even in the face of strange times and the world that I am in, is really sort of driven by inspiration and inspired by other artists or filmmakers around me, as well as possibilities and opportunities."

And with that, Taylor-Johnson, with a little trepidation, hangs up and heads off to face the crowds once again.

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Parfum, RRP £120 125ml, available at Harrods

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