'I haven't been home to see my parents in about six years': The dramatic new life (and slick blond looks) of Aaron Taylor-Johnson
His blond makeover for Anna Karenina remakeMarriage, children and name change with Sam Taylor-Wood
Described by his wife as 'an old soul'Admits he has no friends from where he grew up
Returning to scruffy skateboarder chic for Kick Ass 2: Balls To The Wall
18:23 GMT, 3 September 2012
The man formerly known as Aaron Johnson must be virtually unrecognisable to his school friends these days – both in character and in appearance.
Now known as Aaron Taylor-Johnson – since his marriage this summer to director and artist Sam Taylor-Wood, 45 – the 22-year-old from High Wycombe has, in just three years, become a Hollywood A-lister, a husband, a father of two daughters and a stepfather to two more.
And now, for his role in Joe Wright's updated version of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel Anna Karenina, he has has a physical overhaul of a comparably dramatic nature.
A newly blonde and moustachioed Aaron Taylor-Johnson with his wife Sam Taylor-Wood, collecting her OBE at Buckingham Palace in December
Sam Taylor-Wood and then partner Aaron Johnson at Sir Paul McCartney's wedding to Nancy Shevell in October 2011
In Wright's film Taylor-Johnson plays the brooding, smouldering Count Vronsky opposite Keira Knightley's Karenina.
For the role he had to dye his dark hair blond and grow a long, twirlable moustache.
He told the Observer: 'I'm kind of like the blond in the movie. It's the golden age, and I'm this dashing blond young officer in a white uniform.'
But the look wasn't to everyone's taste.
Bloggers who have seen the film have already referred to him as 'the blonde poodle'.
One wrote: 'I don't care how beautiful this man is, Vronsky should be dark and dangerous, not blond and poodley.'
Another added: 'Bad feeling about the new Anna Karenina film. Is it because Count Vronsky seems to have had his hair and make-up done by the X-Factor team'
A much younger looking Aaron Johnson with his then girlfriend Sam Taylor-Wood when she was pregnant with their first child in 2010
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: 'I made Kick-Ass just before I started working on Nowhere Boy, and now here I am on Kick-Ass 2 and I'm married and a father'
But it is a slick, manicured, poodly look Taylor-Johnson won't be keeping for very long.
He has already begun filming for his new film, the sequel to Matthew Vaughn's action comedy Kick-Ass – Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall – a film requiring him to get grubby and be 'thrown about a lot'.
Taylor-Johnson – who met his future wife on the set of her film Nowhere Boy, in which he played a young John Lennon – admits his life has changed dramatically since he filmed the first installment to Kick-Ass.
Speaking about their two daughters, Wylda and Romy, he said: 'I made Kick-Ass just before I started working on Nowhere Boy, and now here I am on Kick-Ass 2 and I'm married and a father.
'It's such a major change, but to tell the truth I never think about it much. It just feels natural to me.'
Aaron Johnson and Sam Taylor-Wood attending Nowhere Boy screening at the closing night of the 2009 London Film Festival
Aaron Johnson and Georgia Groome in the 2008 teenage romance Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging
Taylor-Johnson got his first real break in acclaimed teenage rom-com Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging – released in 2008, just one year before Nowhere Boy – in which he starred opposite Georgia Groome.
He has been described as 'an old soul' by his wife – to whose eldest daughters, Angelica and Jessie, from her earlier marriage to art dealer Jay Jopling, he is now stepfather.
Indeed, of his own past in High Wycombe he says: 'I haven't been back there in about six years. I still see it as a place I wanted to escape from.
'I get on fine with my mum and dad, but if they want to see the grandchildren, they come to me.'
Of his childhood friends he says: 'I haven't got any friends from where I grew up, but that's not to do with fame.
'I moved on from there years ago, I have good friends now, both from Sam's world and my world. We're a close-knit family with a close-knit circle of friends. That's the way it is and it's just fine.'
Anna Karenina opens in cinemas on Friday
Chanel loaned the film production of Anna Karenina jewellery in 18-carat gold, diamonds and pearls. The most valuable piece, the Camelia Poudr necklace is worth 800,000
Anna Karenina, the heroine of Leo
Tolstoy's 1873 masterpiece, has been played by some of the world's most
iconic actresses: Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid
Now Britain's Keira Knightley joins this roll-call in a production so
lavish it puts her previous costume dramas in the shade.
film is the latest collaboration between the 27-year-old Pirates Of The
Caribbean star and director Joe Wright, a partnership that has resulted
in Baftas and Oscar nominations for Pride & Prejudice and
Original plans were for a period adaptation shot on location in Russia.
Then, just 12 weeks before filming, Wright made an audacious U-turn.
was pretty radical,' says Knightley. 'We were going to St Petersburg
and Moscow. Then all of a sudden I got a call from Joe asking, “Can you
come round here please”
live round the corner from him so he took me into his office and
explained, “There’s been a bit of a change of plan.” He said, “It’s all
set in a theatre now…” And the viewer watches the drama unfold as if
sitting in the stalls.'
Anna Karenina, the story of an
aristocratic wife and mother in 19th-century Russia who embarks on an
all-consuming affair, is a largely British production.
joined by Jude Law (unrecognisable as her elder-statesman husband
Karenin) and Aaron Johnson (her passionate young lover Count Vronsky),
while the film is produced by Tim Bevan of Working Title.
Jude Law's looks had to be disguised for the role of Karenin, while his costume was inspired by Tsar Alexander II
'I've watched Keira mature as an actor,' says Joe Wright
Original plans were for a period adaptation shot on location in Russia. Then, just 12 weeks before filming, Joe Wright made an audacious U-turn
Sir Tom Stoppard was wooed to write the screenplay by the combination of Knightley and Tolstoy.
'You need a clever actress to play Anna Karenina and Keira has very good instincts,' says the 75-year-old playwright.
'And she is extraordinarily beautiful.'
The result is a radical cinematic conceit that may divide critics.
'What's the point of doing a safe adaptation' asks Knightley.
'If you're going out you might as well go out with a bang.'
In one scene, the theatre is transformed into a frozen lake
A key scene is a horse race for which the floor of director Joe Wright's 'magical theatre' is turned into a paddock
Costumes were inspired by Fifties fashion designers such as Dior and Balenciaga. Keira Knightley had 16 different outfits and each dress took 40 hours to create
Trains are a central theme and the Heritage Rail Museum at Didcot doubled as Moscow railway station