Few actors can claim to have spent last year getting under the skin of both a superhero vigilante and a superhero musician, but Aaron Johnson has managed it.
The star might be most recognizable as the titular wannabe crime-fighter in "Kick-Ass," but it's the indie cred he's earning as the young John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy" that's really making Hollywood sit up and take notice. The boy can act.
In fact, there are few better suited to a Lennon biopic -- Johnson already has the swagger of a precocious over-achiever and the artistic know-how to boot. But the actor's far too young to play the Beatles-era Lennon, and "Nowhere Boy" really only touches on the beginnings of the Fab Four.
It's a tale of his fractured home life – his mother not around much, the young Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) -- with only a smattering of early Beatles moments, like his first meeting with Paul McCartney.
And while the relationship between Aunt Mimi and her sister, Lennon's mom, is fraught, you get a real sense of the impact these two women had on Lennon's professional career. Mimi is the strict and classical mother-figure who teaches him about art and literature, while his mom Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) is the rock and roller, teaching him to play the banjo and introducing him to the musical revolution he'd lead into the future.
But playing a hero as universally adored as John Lennon is a tall order even for the most experienced actor. Johnson says he'd already jumped straight into the part before the nerves got to him, and it shows -- he doesn't get bogged down in playing Lennon the legend and focuses instead on Lennon the teenager. With all the foolhardy recklessness, this is a side of John Lennon you've never seen before.
Kristen Scott-Thomas's performance as Aunt Mimi is already getting a ton of Oscar buzz and the film has already made waves in its native Britain, where it picked up a BAFTA nomination for Best British Film.
For music fans, though, "Nowhere Boy" is simply a rare glimpse at the early life of a brilliant musician. As a hint at the environment that created the greatest rock and roll band of all time, it's cinematic gold.