Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Life In The Spotlight And Why His Marriage Is So Divisive

British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson has made his way through the Hollywood ranks and into the hearts of millions of fans with a series of ruggedly charming roles. From his breakout appearance as John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy," to his quippy Quicksilver in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the actor has made his mark on multiple genres. "The work is what I enjoy," he shared with Vanity Fair. "That's the creative part of me. That's the thing that I get the endorphins and the high from—being around great actors, working with directors, digging deep into characters where you're really feeling vulnerable and on a path. It feels therapeutic." 

Though he has faced his fair share of invasive press, particularly when it comes to his age-defying marriage to director Sam Taylor-Johnson, he has maintained his status as a viable, desirable leading man. "There's also an intrusive side of it, I suppose," he said of being an actor in an interview with Clash. "You've got a private life that you want to keep separate." With rumored roles like James Bond on the horizon, it's time to dive deep and discover the links within the actor's layered, impressive career.

He acted with A-listers even before becoming a heartthrob

Aaron Taylor-Johnson started his career as a child actor. His first credited appearance was in the 2001 BBC drama "Armadillo," which also featured future stars Hugh Bonneville and Tom Hiddleston. In 2003's "Shanghai Knights," he played a young Charlie Chaplin opposite Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. "I observed a lot about how you have presence on set and professionalism," he said of the experience on "Larry King Now." "... It was a lot of fun." 

He later starred as the younger version of Edward Norton's protagonist in the 2006 thriller "The Illusionist," and also maintained roles in a series of British dramas and series. One of his most notable "pre-famous" roles was as the romantic lead, Robbie, in the 2008 film "Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging." The movie, an adaptation of the popular young adult novel by the late Louise Rennison, was Taylor-Johnson's first step into stardom, at least according to the film's director (via Screen Daily): "I [told the film studio] 'I really want to cast this guy. I think he's huge. He's going to be a great talent, a big star'. And they were like, 'Well, no one knows who he is'. And I said, 'I know. But trust me, not yet.' And then I cast him."

He broke big as Nowhere Boy (and met his future wife, too)

In 2009, Aaron Taylor-Johnson starred as iconic musician John Lennon in the biopic "Nowhere Boy." The film, directed by Johnson's future wife Sam Taylor-Johnson (née Wood), marked his first major leading role and even earned the approval of Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. "I dived into it pretty naively," he admitted in an interview with Collider. "It made me feel like I had to do as much research as possible, just so I felt comforted enough that when I hit day one of shooting, I could throw it all away, know the boundaries that I could be in and be instinctive as possible." 

Despite the film's buzz at Sundance in 2010, it failed to receive any major accolades, despite being nominated for four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (aka BAFTA) awards. The film also marked the first collaboration between Taylor-Johnson and his wife, who have often been the subject of gossip due to their 23-year age difference. "We weren't together before we started, but I don't think it would have affected anything," Taylor-Johnson shared with Collider. "[Now] we're just used to being in each other's heads and we think the same way. We connect on a whole other level and we're just honest with each other, so in that respect, I feel like we're better when we work together." 

As of 2019, the film was reportedly set to become a stage musical, but only time will tell if the actor would once again lend his voice to Lennon's signature tunes.

He kickstarted his action career with Kick-Ass

Around the same time that "Nowhere Boy" was showing off his dramatic chops, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also flexing his action skills in the 2010 breakout hit "Kick-Ass." He played the titular nerd turned self-made superhero, aka Dave Lizewski, in the R-rated adaptation of Mark Millar's comics that was a hit with audiences. The film also starred Chloe Grace Moretz, Evan Peters, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Nicolas Cage.

 "... 'Kick-Ass' is about ...seeing people in another light and pushing boundaries," the actor shared with Day & Night (via The Independent). "It's about being original and new. I fell in love with the idea of it ... I can really take the piss out of myself and have a laugh, and not be so conscious of what I'm doing." The film was so beloved that it garnered a sequel, "Kick-Ass 2," that was released in 2013. "It's bizarre repeating something you've already done, so I felt like I needed to step it up a few levels [in the sequel]," Taylor-Johnson told Digital Spy

"...I usually just go from one thing to the next and very different things...It's really hard for me because I go to a character and then I erase it and I just jump to something else...But to go back to something and then try to make it feel like the same person is actually a lot harder than it seems, I feel." Rumors of a third "Kick-Ass" made its way around the interweb in 2019, but so far, nothing concrete has been confirmed.

He action-packed his resume with a slew of butt-kicking roles

After the success of "Kick-Ass," Aaron Taylor-Johnson filled his resume with roles in a number of action flicks. In 2014, he teamed up with Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen for "Godzilla," where he played an American military man faced with stopping the titular monster. "You have to create a different voice to the character to sense his insecurities, hesitance and nervousness in his voice and speech," Johnson told Collider. "In this [film] I'm a leader, I'm a lieutenant. I give orders. It's a different kind of tone and posture and way of talking." 

He's also appeared in films like 2020's "Tenet" and 2021's "The King's Men," the latter of which saw him reunite with original "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn. He joined Brad Pitt in the action-comedy "Bullet Train" in 2022, playing a rough-and-tumble hitman alongside his "brother," Brian Tyree Henry. "...The banter between [our] two [characters] just gave us ... so much material to play with," Taylor-Johnson told Complex. "So me and Brian, we just ran around with it and just kept on every day, we pushed it and improvised, a lot of ad-libbing. And it was just really joyous to do that." 

Taylor-Johnson seems to like to pair up with directors he likes; he's set to re-team with "Bullet Train" director David Leitch in a film adaptation of the television series "The Fall Guy" alongside Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt.

He made the move to Marvel - twice

Aaron Taylor-Johnson's career skyrocketed when he was cast as Pietro "Quicksilver" Maximoff in 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He played the fast-moving twin of his "Godzilla" co-star Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda "Scarlet Witch" Maximoff, both of whom join the Avengers to fight off the titular villain. "Stepping onto the set, it's such a big ensemble, [and] it seemed kind of daunting," Taylor-Johnson admitted to Whiskey + Sunshine. "To step on with Lizzie, [where] we already had that kind of work relationship, made it feel a lot more comfortable." 

Despite Quicksilver's fate at the end of the film (SPOILER: he doesn't make it), Taylor-Johnson praised the film's creative leadership for their flexibility during filming. "Marvel was really open to suggestions and ideas and wanted to do those characters justice, so it felt very collaborative very early on," he shared with Whiskey + Sunshine. But the fast-moving mutant wasn't the only Marvel role the actor was destined to play. 

He took a villainous turn as Kraven the Hunter, a known enemy of Spider-Man, in the upcoming R-rated film. "There's a lot that really excited me about the character of Kraven," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "...You have to truly believe in the character. You're going to be in that skin for a while, and you have to believe in what you're saying. So there was a lot about Kraven that I really loved, and I'm excited to share it ..."

He has a penchant for the dramatic (film, that is)

It's not all action that Aaron Taylor-Johnson can show off on screen. He's flexed his dramatic acting skills in numerous films over the course of his career thus far. In 2012 alone, he starred in the Oliver Stone crime drama "Savages" alongside Blake Lively and Benicio del Toro, as well as the historical classic "Anna Karenina" opposite Keira Knightley. In the adaptation of the latter, a literary classic by Leo Tolstoy, Taylor-Johnson played the dashing lover Count Vronsky – a role that he claimed he could "relate to" when finding his character. "He's loyal and there's a sense of you've got to be brave in society and not be affected by that," he shared with the Evening Standard. "[There are] all kinds of challenges that I've come across."

The actor took a villainous turn as a seedy gang leader in 2016's "Nocturnal Animals" opposite Amy Adams, which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. "This really was an opportunity to explore something very different," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I was grateful for the challenge, even if it was a bit relentless and a pretty dark atmosphere." He's also teamed up with his wife as co-screenwriter with 2018's "A Million Little Pieces," an adaptation of James Frey's novel. "We both put jobs on hold for about 18 months to two years, we sat down, and we just broke up into a three act structure and tried to keep everything integral to the book," he shared with Screen Rant. "...I really love the process of writing; it was just fantastic."

He's as known for his designer style as his acting

Like many of his handsome contemporaries, Aaron Taylor-Johnson has served as the face for several designer fashion brands. In 2017, he was the face of the Gentleman Givenchy fragrance, whose ad campaign was directed by his wife, Sam Taylor-Johnson. "It's a real honor and privilege that I take with pride," the actor said of the experience to GQ. "[Givenchy] is a prestigious House and I am happy to be associated with a product that can reflect the ways of a modern gentleman." 

In 2023, Calvin Klein announced Taylor-Johnson as one of their new faces of their iconic underwear line. The steamy campaign, featuring the actor in nothing but his Calvins, of course, set the internet ablaze. "It was great fun," he said of the campaign to Esquire. "I think there's a level of nerves and expectations when you're going to be photographed in your underwear, but quite honestly, I've only ever worn Calvins, so I just felt honored and thrilled to be part of it."

Even apart from the designer endorsements, Taylor-Johnson has been known for his sense of style. He's even been recognized as one of GQ's best dressed celebrities. ""Aaron has always had a great ability to mix streetwear and classic tailoring...and make it look young and fresh," fashion designer and "Nocturnal Animals" director Tom Ford once said of the actor in GQ. "He also has a great body and wears clothes in a very natural and self-assured way, which is one of the most important factors in looking good."

His marriage has been fraught with divisive online gossip

Ever since working together on 2009's "Nowhere Boy," Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson's romantic relationship has been tabloid fodder due to their significant age difference (Aaron was 19 when they met, while Same was 42). The two were married in 2012 and share two biological daughters together, as well as co-parent Sam's two older daughters from a previous marriage. "I was brought up by my mum and my sister, I've always been around independent women, I like that," he shared with The Huffington Post

"I feel like everyone comes at me with [our age difference] in most interviews and it's interesting ..." Sam shared on "Larry King Now," alongside her husband. "... It makes people feel like they should have something to say ... on it." In another example of the couple breaking from tradition, the pair share a combined surname, Taylor-Johnson, rather than Sam solely taking her husband's name. 

"I just don't see why women need to take the man's name," the actor told The Evening Standard. "I wanted to be a part of her just as much as she wanted to be part of me." The couple have continued to work together on a series of projects and celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in 2022. "Age, to me, doesn't f****** matter at all," the actor told The Huffington Post. "My wife feels younger than I do. Other than being the most wonderful, down-to-earth woman, she's super intelligent, artistic, [and] creative. There are so many things that are attractive about her."

He's a rumored frontrunner to be the next James Bond

Now that Daniel Craig has left his days as 007 behind, the competition to play the next iteration of the legendary cinema spy James Bond has been hotly contested throughout Hollywood. In early 2023, many outlets reported him as a frontrunner for the role, pitting him against the likes of Henry Cavill, Rege-Jean Page, and more. There have even been rumors circulating of Taylor-Johnson meeting with "Bond" producer Barbara Broccoli and filming secret scenes as part of his audition process. 

However, when he addressed said rumors, he has played coy with the press. "It's flattering," the actor said of the rumors to Vanity Fair. "...You just want to stay in your lane, stay grounded, stay around the people that you love and love you back, and stay in that world. Because the moment you start believing the s*** people say about you, you've lost your f****** mind."

Whether or not he slips on the 007 moniker next, there's still plenty of work on the horizon for the actor. He's set to star in David Leitch's "The Fall Guy" and will co-headline the remake of "Nosferatu" from director David Eggers. "I definitely feel like I'm someone who can express myself better in movement than I can in words, which is why I feel more comfortable as a performer," he once told Esquire.