It’s not often a young actor finds himself shooting scenes with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston or Michael Keaton. But such has been the meteoric career of Will Poulter. He talks to Tim Lewis about boomerang eyebrows, acting and activism – and his sneaker obsession

The actor Will Poulter arrives for our lunch date alone, 15 minutes early and, perhaps counter-intuitively, carrying a bag of his own food. He explains that he’s on a strict diet for a film role, but can’t tell me what the part is. He buys a juice from the café that I’m not sure he actually wants, and suggests we sit outside, which is pretty damp and cold if I’m honest, because he thinks it would be taking the piss somewhat to occupy a table inside when he’s only bought a drink. Poulter’s thoughtful like that. He then unwraps what looks like a chocolate Rice Krispie square, but tastes much less fun apparently, and apologises that I have to watch him chomp his way through it. “I’m speaking fluent cake,” he says, chewing dutifully. He has just come from a workout and it’s clear that his pandemic experience has included more than just the occasional Joe Wicks session. He wears a black Nike compression shirt, mercifully less figure-hugging shorts and, though it’s not very 2021 to note this, the guy is shredded.

The whole, slightly strange scene makes a lot more sense a couple of weeks later when the reason for Poulter’s carb-loading and gym-bunnying is revealed. The gig he couldn’t talk about is that he has been cast in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 as Adam Warlock. Even if you’re not that invested in the superhero universe this, in Hollywood power terms, is a big deal. It’s rumoured that pretty well every 20-something actor here and in the US and beyond wanted the role. It is a huge coup for Poulter and the 28-year-old from west London is taking the transformation into Warlock, a character genetically created by scientists to be the perfect, invincible human, seriously. And if that means eating bland, protein-packed oat snacks, so be it.

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