Less than 24 hours before the 74th annual Emmy Awards kicked off in Los Angeles, Nicholas Hoult was behind the wheel of a race car, speeding through the Sonoma Raceway in Northern California during the Ferrari Challenge. But on Monday afternoon, the star of The Great, who was nominated for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for the Hulu show, found himself in an altogether different environment: the basement of L.A.’s Soho Warehouse Hotel, where he was preparing for television’s biggest night. (He didn’t stay on the West Coast for long—the next day, he flew back to London to continue filming season three of The Great.)
Despite all the movement, the British actor had a calm, laid-back outlook about the next few hours, which saw him getting ready to hit the red carpet in a ’70s-inspired Dior suit with a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch. “I didn’t even really think about today until yesterday, when I got off the track,” he tells me over the phone, adding that he is an automobile enthusiast. “Then suddenly, I was like, ‘Oh, the Emmys are tomorrow.’ Up until then, I had just been concentrating on the racing and driving.”
As Hoult tells it, finding out the news of his nomination had a similar relaxed vibe—and, incidentally, he was driving at the time, too. “I honestly forgot about it, until my phone started popping off a little bit,” he recalls. “I was like, what’s going on here?” He then called his partner, who revealed to him that he had been nominated. “I was like, ‘Hey! That’s good,’” he says.
After finding out his costar, Elle Fanning, had also snagged a nomination for Lead Actress, he got her on the horn—and ended up breaking the news. “Elle was actually filming that day,” he adds. “Normally, she doesn’t have her phone on her, but for some reason, that day, she did. I was like, A-ha! And I screamed congrats. She was like, ‘Wait, what?’ And I was like, You’re nominated!’ Then we both just screamed down the phone at each other for a second.”
Although Hoult and Fanning did not go home with trophies on Monday evening, there was still plenty to celebrate—especially the former actor’s look for the evening. To go along with the cropped jacket and flared slacks of his Kim Jones-designed suit, Hoult chose the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duoface, a “classic, beautiful, elegant watch to wear with a take on the black tuxedo,” he says. As Hoult tells it, his personal style consists of comfortable basics, with a bit of flair (“At the moment, I’ve been wearing cargo pant-type jeans with an old T-shirt and Jordan 3s. I’m a bit of a trainer junkie at times.”)
“I prefer simple and great craftsmanship and beautiful design,” he says, adding, “What’s the old saying? ‘Wear the suit, don't let the suit wear you’? I feel like that applies to watches, too. If something’s too ostentatious, for me, that’s kind of screaming and it becomes a little bit too showy or distracting.”
The actor says it usually takes less than an hour to get ready for an event like the Emmys. But it’s important to keep an honest stylist around while preparing for the red carpet. When asked what his style was like as a teenager, Hoult simply replies, “Terrible. It was just horrendous. There was no style.
“There was definitely a phase where I had a long fringe and baggy jeans, but then bright T-shirts that were just horrible,” he adds. So the styling duo Wendi and Nicole were on hand “to make sure that teenage me isn’t bouncing back and making some stupid decisions.” Another must while getting ready: music, which Hoult played in his hotel room all afternoon. He felt one song in particular matched the old-school vibe of his look: “Be Thankful for What You Got,” by William DeVaughn, a soul track off a playlist he’s had on repeat lately.
“I can take a moment to reflect on that,” he says of the song’s title with a laugh. “It makes me feel content and grateful.”