When Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Giò was first released in 1996, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was only six years old. Twenty-seven years later, the English actor is putting a new spin on the iconic fragrance as the new face of Acqua di Giò Parfum: a bolder, more intense take on the classic marine scent.

“It’s a fragrance that has been iconic for so long and I very much remember Acqua di Giò, so it feels quite amazing to be a part of it,” he tells me as I sit across from him at the ritzy Santo Mauro hotel in Madrid, Spain. The Bullet Train actor is in town to promote the new fragrance, and he’s all smiles. “I feel very much embraced by the Armani family and the L’Oréal team, and to be the face of this new campaign is honestly a huge privilege. I think I don’t take that lightly.”

Taylor-Johnson trained intensely for the campaign advertisement, which includes a pivotal moment where he dives into the Mediterranean sea. “It was fantastic. For three days we shot in this beautiful, magical location with gorgeous jagged rocks that were crashing against the waves,” he says. “We find this man on the edge of a cliff who is trying to let go, to be inspired in search of something new. It’s about embracing that liberating, free feeling.”

Here, the actor talks filming the campaign, spending time in nature and his favourite way to wear a fragrance.

Giorgio Armani

Acqua di Giò was the very first marine fragrance. What comes to mind when you think of a marine scent?

“[Acqua di Giò] was inspired by Mr.Armani’s vacations in Pantelleria, and I think it definitely evokes that. [The fragrance] transports you back to that Mediterranean sea. The saltiness, the minerals…it feels very rejuvenating and cleansing. It takes me straight to the Amalfi Coast and the Aeolian Islands. It transports me to those moments of joy.”

What new energy are you bringing to the scent?

“To give a fragrance that’s been around for 25 years a fresh take and look but also embrace its heritage is a unique situation, but it’s also an opportunity to show its strength and simplicity. [Acqua di Giò] has that elusive quality of being able to [evoke] masculinity and sensitivity. I wanted to express that sensitive side and vulnerability and show it in the performance. There’s a moment where the character takes a huge leap of faith and swan dives off a 16-foot cliff. It’s something I trained to do because it felt very symbolic to my partnership with this brand. To embrace that moment of breaking the mould and jumping into the unknown, you [experience] this feeling of evolution and change.”

Fragrance campaigns can be so iconic and memorable. How did it feel to star in one?

“I wanted to embrace what the Acqua di Giò man was, and I felt very connected [to that]. That feeling of man’s connection with nature is something that I really relate to, and especially the ocean in particular. After a swim, I feel renewed. I feel rejuvenated and cleansed. I wanted to embody that spirit. This campaign is something I’m very proud of because I invested so much time and physicality into it.”

Giorgio Armani

What’s your favourite way to spend time in nature?

“I have a farm out in the countryside and we have animals. I’m someone who’s outdoors all the time. I garden, I love to cook. There’s nothing more grounding than being out in nature and inspired by your surroundings and your environment.”

Between acting and living on a farm, there’s certainly a sense of duality in your life.

“I grew up with this sort of fantastical life, and then a grounded, humble, nurturing side, which is the most precious, really. I need the balance and stability of something quite real and earthy.”

How often do you go back home?

“When you take on a film, it might be three months of filming, a month and a half of pre-prep, and in between that there’s promotion. At one point, I was only doing one project a year because my girls were babies. They’re now teenagers, and they’re at school a lot more and have their activities. I tend not to go back-to-back because I value my time with my kids and my family. I’m home quite a lot, I’d say. And I enjoy that. I’m a pretty hands-on dad.”

What’s your fragrance application technique?

“I step out of a shower and it’s just a couple of spritzes on my neck. And not on my clothes, it has to be on my skin—I’m more subtle. I don’t think fragrance is something that’s overpowering, which is why I like [Acqua di Giò]. The Eau de Toilette feels fresh and light. The parfum is something I would wear in the evening for sure. It’s like putting on a jacket or a change of clothes for going out.”

acqua di gio

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò Parfum, $152 for 100 ml