'The Kid Who Would Be King' Star Tom Taylor on Fighting CGI Trees

Credit: Jack Alexander
Tom Taylor

Fox releases Joe Cornish's contemporary retelling of the Arthurian legend in the U.S. on Friday.

To many Brits, Tom Taylor will be recognized as the embattled son at the emotional heart of a violent marital breakdown in the gripping BBC drama Doctor Foster, which concluded in 2017 after two seasons.

By then, however, the teen had already had his taste of Hollywood, starring alongside Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey in the long-gestating adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Now 17, Taylor has embarked on another mythical adventure for the big screen. In The Kid Who Would Be King, Joe Cornish’s contemporary retelling of the sword in the stone legend, he plays Lance, a school bully turned Arthurian-knight who battles demonic baddies — including Rebecca Ferguson — next to Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy Serkis) in the lead role.

With The Kid Who Must Be King released in the U.S. on Friday, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Taylor about sword fights with trees, choosing between the roles of Lance and Merlin and accidentally falling into acting, as you do.

The Kid Who Must Be King looked like a whole lot of fun to shoot. Was it?

Yeah, it was. I was actually really surprised because when I first got the job I thought that it was an amazing role, but was going to be with a load of kids and would be really cringey. But I got on the set and on the first day we were all getting along and having a laugh. Joe made the environment really homely and friendly.

How heavy was it on the CGI-front and what was that like to work with?

In terms of CGI, for the last battle sequence at the school they built a whole rooftop in Leavesden, but we weren’t actually on a rooftop because of health and safety. The CGI was really cool, because they had these huge green screens and we’d be on harnesses and they’d just send us around and shoot us into ceilings.

There’s a great scene where you’re practicing sword fighting against animated trees. What were you actually fighting?

We were fighting these men with Star Wars-like karate poles, and we had this choreographed, almost-dance routine, and were dancing to them. When I was doing it, I just saw these men in suits, but to see that on the screen as trees was incredible.

Did they even look like trees when you were fighting them?

No, not at all. They just had these little funny hats on.

Did you know much about Joe Cornish before? Had you seen Attack the Block?

I remember when I first found out that Joe Cornish was directing it, I told my brother, because he was massively into Attack the Block, and he was like "Joe Cornish? I loved his film!" And then I watched it again to see his directing style.

Obviously Attack the Block was the film debut for a young John Boyega, which must be nice to know ...

Yeah, exactly! I mean, if I’m in the next Star Wars then I can’t complain.

What was the casting like for the film?

I remember being approached for the role and given the script, but they asked if I wanted to read Merlin or Lancelot. And I remember getting there and saying, “I’m definitely Lancelot.” Because Lance is basically me, to be honest. But it was quite cool to be given the choice. And I remember meeting Merlin — Angus Imrie — and as soon as I met him I was like, this guy is definitely Merlin, everything about him is Merlin.

Did Andy Serkis come on set?

His mum was there a lot, and Andy came a couple of times. He was actually very friendly. You expect a movie star like him to be movie starry, and he was just a really nice guy.

How did acting kick off for you?

I accidentally fell into it and am now going along with it, because I might as well!

I went to drama club on Saturdays with all my siblings, about five of us because my mum was kicking us out of the house. But then I left the school and about five months later an agent came to see all the kids and one of the dance teachers said I should come and audition. I was like, "nah, I’m not doing that," and my mum said, "do it!" So I came out and had tears in my eyes because it was so embarrassing. It was this cheddar cheese script!

So I thought I couldn’t do it, but they were actually really interested, and from then I got a few jobs, later moved to a different agency and since then it’s just been non-stop auditions for four years.