It was all about Aaron Taylor-Johnson at Locarno’s opening ceremony, as the actor received the 2022 Excellence Award Davide Campari and introduced “Bullet Train.”

“Sometimes, people ask me what I do. I say: ‘I am a dad and I do acting on the side, part time,” he told the crowd gathered at Piazza Grande before the screening.

“Recently though, I have been feeling a subtle shift. I’ve tried to grow into those shoes where I am proud to celebrate the actor in me. I had to reflect on what brought me to this moment and I would be kidding myself if I thought it was just my own genius. That would be nice, but it’s not the truth. It’s a team effort.”

Supporting that statement, he also found time to praise his supportive co-star, Brad Pitt, calling him a “humble and gracious human being.”

“He is in a new chapter of his life, I think,” he told journalists at the Swiss fest the next day.

“He just wants to bring light and joy into the world and be around people who are there to have a good time. You work with many actors and after a while you start making notes: ‘I am definitely not working with this person ever again.’ Brad has this list too: the ‘good’ list and the shit list.”

Talking about his “absolutely bombastic character” in David Leitch’s actioner, murderous Tangerine to Brian Tyree Henry’s equally lethal Lemon, Taylor-Johnson also looked all the way back to when he first got his start.

“I started acting when I was six years old. My first everything was ‘An Inspector Calls,’ a West End play by Stephen Daldry. I guess my parents just wanted me out of the house – I was too active, always performing and dancing.”

He scored his first movie role only three years later, playing twins in Esmé Lammers’s “Tom & Thomas.”

“That’s when it changed for me. I thought I was going to be a gymnast and I had to make a decision. It was a big thing for me, because during the casting it came down to me and pairs of actual twins,” he laughed.

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A moment during conversation with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Credit: Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Press

But it was 2009’s Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” directed by his now-wife Sam Taylor-Johnson – followed by box-office hit “Kick-Ass” – that gave him his breakout and really taught him the craft.

“It informed quite a lot of how I try to approach most of my characters now,” he said.

“It was a huge feat, stepping into the shoes of John Lennon. That was the only part of his life that wasn’t documented, but there is impersonation and then there is embodying the spirit of the character.”

“Young Lennon obviously wasn’t singing the songs by The Beatles, so who were his influences? Who was he listening to? Daniel Day-Lewis said that in order to find your characters you have to sniff around. You have to find their scent.”

He did “overprepare” for his role in “Nocturnal Animals,” however, going down the serial killers’ rabbit hole in order to understand his troubled, terrifying character which ultimately scored him a BAFTA nod and a Golden Globe.

“I couldn’t tell you why Tom Ford thought I would be the right person to play this psychopathic rapist,” he said.

“I did know him before making this movie, we had a few dinners, and the story goes that during one of these dinners I told him some weird story. I was probably a bit more like Tangerine that night.”

The part scared him, he said.

“Tom kept saying he wanted this guy to be unpredictable, intimidating, charismatic. I stayed in a motel out in a desert and lived on a toxic diet of cigarettes and booze. I wanted to feel filthy and dirty on the inside.”

“One thing I noticed was that all [these infamous psychopaths] had this charm or swagger about them that was appealing, and that look in their eyes – that weird stare showing a complete lack of empathy. They just didn’t care about their victims at all. I wanted to bring it into this character.”

“We thought that [awarding] such a multifaceted artist would be the best way to celebrate the future that still awaits us – also as a festival,” said artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro on Wednesday. Suggesting that in the case of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the best might be still to come.

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Excellence Awardee Aaron Taylor-Johnson during the opening night of the 75th Locarno Film Festival Credit: Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Pres