Will Poulter on Imposter Syndrome, social media and mental health
Will Poulter is all grown up. He exploded as a child star via Son of Rambow and, at 26, is now one of Britain’s best, via the incredible Detroit, The Revenant and new film Midsommar (from Hereditary wunderkind Ari Aster). He opened up to Balance on his career so far, and his mental health journey after he famously stepped away from Twitter…
Son of Rambow already feels like a classic.
With it being my first film, I didn’t know what to expect. My co-star, Bill Milner, is still a friend of mine. We shot it over eight weeks in a summer holiday, and neither of us had done a film before. We thought it might end up in the Blockbuster bargain bin after nine people watched it – people Bill and I were related to. We could never have imagined it would play internationally and that Paramount would buy it. I remember staring at a Son of Rambow poster in South Korea thinking, “How the hell did this happen?”
Given your early promise, how lovely is it to have fulfilled that potential?
Even though I’ve been doing this for a while, I still pinch myself. That hasn’t gone away. Imposter syndrome sets in. When I’m on set with Kathryn Bigelow I think, “Do I deserve to be here?” Or 5,000ft up a mountain, above sea level, with people I’m a major fan of, and I’m like, “When am I going to get evicted from the set?” I’m grateful for people taking a chance on me. You feel pressure on the outside and then the pressure you put on yourself.
How exciting was it to make Midsommar?
Ari Aster feels like Chris Nolan in that I want to see whatever he makes… I haven’t heard that comparison, but I think that’s very true in that he brings such a strong sense of identity with his work. It’s exceptional in quality and unique. He has plans for things that stretch across all types of genres. If Ari said to me tomorrow, “Will you be in my next film?” I’d say yes. He is so special.
And the Midsommar buzz is strong…
It is truly disturbing. It’s a dread-filled, slightly unnerving film that leaves you with a sickening feeling. The after effects are major. I was messed up for a day and a night after watching it.
How restorative has it been for your mental health after you decided to step away from social media?
It’s been really nice, actually. Social media, like anything, needs to be considered in the context of moderation; you should never engage with any one thing to excess. I tried my best with social media to do something that was in my control. But it’s one of those things that, by its nature, requires you to have conversations you don’t want to take part in.
So the best way for me to relinquish control was to step back and reduce my level of interaction with it. That statement was there to say each to their own. I don’t judge anyone for using it, or not using it. I’m grateful to the support and for the positive experiences I’ve had using social media.
But something had to change?
In the interest of my mental health, I needed to reduce my usage and redesign how I use it. It has been liberating and people’s responses have been really encouraging. It is a relatively new thing in all of our lives and we need to work out how much of a role it will play. We need to think carefully about it in regards to our mental health because sometimes, without realising, it’s having a detrimental effect and it takes stepping away to make you realise you might actually be better off without it.
What else has helped you?
Matt Haig’s books on personal development. I’m a huge fan of his writing; I’ve read three of his books and even bought them for friends and family. I’ve had some of the most life-affirming experiences reading those books, Reasons to Stay Alive in particular. And the Blindboy podcast is something else
I love. Mental health is a regular topic, and it’s funny. I am a big believer in laughter being a great medicine. Not necessarily ‘the best’, but it’s a good medicine. Escapism and finding time to laugh can be very good for us.