In the new biopic Rebel in the Rye, Nicholas Hoult plays reclusive author JD Salinger. It was a tricky role to play because Salinger, most famous for his 1951 novel 'The Catcher in the Rye', was such an enigmatic figure, and it required a lot of research to get into the right mindset.

Nicholas Hoult and Sarah Paulson star in 'Rebel in the Rye'Nicholas Hoult and Sarah Paulson star in 'Rebel in the Rye'

"It was so intimidating," Hoult says. "And the more I learnt about him, the more I felt I needed to really do the man justice. He had such an intense but remarkable life. And how he came to create his masterpieces is such an incredible story. It's a great one to tell and hopefully something that people will want to see."

Playing a real-life person is one thing, but with Salinger there are very few photographs and almost no film or video, even though he only died in 2010. So Hoult had to do some extra research to get the character right for the film. "It's not like doing an impression, even though he was a real person," he says. "You're not trying to imitate a speech pattern or anything like that, so you sort of look at where they grew up and try an develop an accent around that. And then I read a lot of his novels alongside reading biographies, then tried to kind of piece those together and capture the essence of the man and what he stood for. And he was just so unrelenting in his quest for truth and dedicated to his art. It was really inspiring!"

He was also fascinated to discover the darker sides of the author's life. "He suffered PTSD after the war and that was a huge part of his writing," Hoult says. "He really goes into it. All those things were parts of his life I knew nothing about before reading the script and then researching the film. It was very interesting to learn about him."

Over recent years, Hoult has worked to create a varied filmography, playing all kinds of characters in movies as different as Mad Max, X-Men, Kill Your Friends and Warm Bodies. "It's quite a random bunch, isn't it?" he laughs. "I like it that way. That's certainly not a game-plan, but I don't see the point in doing things that are similar in terms of genre or storyline or character."

More: Nicholas Hoult also stars in Netflix's 'Sand Castle'

He goes on to explain, "There are two tactics aren't there? The get-rich-quick approach, burn as brightly as you can but then fade. Or try and plod along and do good stuff under the radar. So I think I'm plodding along nicely."