We chat with the Cirque Du Freak star about his new film ‘Red Dawn’..
So you have some great projects coming up, can you tell us a bit about them?
Yeah, for sure, I just got done shooting a big action movie called “Red Dawn,” and that finished filming just before the holidays and that’ll be coming out this year just before Thanksgiving, I think and it’s a remake of a 1980s movie with Patrick Swayze in it and basically the Chinese invade the U.S. and a group of teenagers kind of start fighting back and launching attacks. It’s a really cool concept. Tons of action, guns, explosions all that good stuff. So I did that and also last year, I shot a film called “The Kids Are All Right,” with Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo. And that just went to Sundance and got bought by Focus Features, so that’s pretty exciting and it did really well at the festival and everything like that so that’s what’s going on.
So “Red Dawn” is pretty much an action thriller, what it your first really big stunt filled explosion type film?
Yeah it was, I’ve done a couple of other action movies, but they weren’t quite as extreme as “Red Dawn” was.
Awesome. So what’s your character like?
My character’s name is Robert and he kind of starts off as this sort of quieter, almost borderline tech guy, almost like a nerd, and then by the end after all the Chinese has invaded he just sort of loses it and starts like really just kicking ass. So it’s pretty awesome.
So that sounds like a total transformation.
Yeah definitely; it was fun to play for sure.
Are transformations hard to play because developing a character is difficult by itself, so when a character goes under a change you have to go under a change and it’s sort of complicated? Is it difficult?
It is, but it’s also like one of my favorite things to do in a film, taking a character from A to B and there be a nice arc and everything. I definitely enjoy it, but it does pose a challenge of making that transition seem realistic, especially for the audience.
Definitely; and also you have to explore a lot of emotions, how in general do that? Do you have a special sort of “box,” should I say, where you keep your emotions and sort of access them?
I really think it’s different for every character. And not even just sad or happy or those emotions, but I like the character to feel them at a more deep level, be a more intricate emotion than just sad. So I think for every character you just kind of find it and just really live through the character and when you do that you can feel the emotions that the character would feel.
Wow. That sounds a bit complicated.
It really just sounds like a bigger process than it is. It’s not that bad.
Oh, well I’m sure you’ve had a lot of practice; you’ve been doing this for quite a while. So, out of the whole movie which is your favorite scene?
There’s a scene where the “Wolverines,” that’s our group of all the teenagers, we’re attacking this security checkpoint and everybody gets like penned down, like the Chinese are kind of fighting back and we’re all kind of struggling and can’t get anywhere, so my character hops up and runs across a rooftop, while getting shot at and takes down a whole bunch of people. It’s really a big hero action moment.
The sort of thing everyone dreams of doing.
So did you do the stunts by yourself?
Yeah, I actually got to do almost all of them; there were just a couple that was a little close to the explosion so they had to use a stunt double, but other than that I got to fire all the guns, so all the combat stuff, training and everything.
Wait, so there real explosions?
Yeah, there were a lot of real explosions, it pretty intense actually.
Wow. I never knew that, I thought it was all sort of made on the computer.
They do some of them like that, but they do a lot of it through real live, scare the s*** out of you, explosions.
That is not something you would like to be next to.
Yeah. I loved it. I wanted to get as close as I possibly could, but of course being safe. It was like a giant fireworks show.
Are you a pyromaniac?
A…little bit, yeah, pretty much. I’d have to say yes.
Confessions… It’s all good, as long as you’re safe its alright.
So do you have any embarrassing funny moments or memories from set?
There was one time where we had AK47s, our main weapon throughout the entire film, and we had blank rounds put in, so it’s the main amount of power as a bullet, but there’s no actually projectile coming out. So I have my gun, I have the magazine loaded in, with the bullets in it and everything and so we’re bout ready to go and they say “action.” I go to pull the trigger and I completely forgot to take the safety off, so the safety is still on, and I’m like “gosh, it’s broken. I can’t get.” And they’re like “you got turn the safety off buddy.” And it’s like “yeah, okay thanks.” So that was pretty embarrassing.
So acting involves a lot of rejection, how have you learned to deal with that?
For me, I wish I could say I’ve never gotten rejected, but that’s definitely a lie. It’s definitely hard, for me, I guess what I’ve always done since I was little was, just sort of let go of it pretty easily and sort of always looking forward to the next project. And I had a thinking that everything happens for a reason, so if I didn’t get one project, it’s because in the long run it may not have been best for me, or something like that. It’s probably just delusional, and I didn’t get the part because I wasn’t good enough for it or I wasn’t right for it, but I don’t tell myself that, so I definitely try to keep my chin up.
You’re an optimist.
That’s a good thing; it helps you in the future. So you’ve been acting for a while now, how do you think you’ve evolved as an actor?
When I was younger, if I had to do like a crying scene or a really sad scene I would just sort of like think of something sad in my life that had happen, nothing but sad thoughts and that would kind of like make me emotional and then I’d just say the lines. But now, as I was saying earlier, I really like to get more into the character, I can show more depth and make it even more realistic, where it’s just not being sad and the I’m saying lines, it’s like a really deep sadness that you can clearly see why I’m sad, you can like see it in my eyes. That’s sort of my style now, versus when I was younger.
Gosh you sound so professional. How old are you again?
So have you been getting recognized more often now that you’ve been in so many projects?
It happens sometimes, if I go to the mall or something like that where there is a lot of younger people, I’ll get recognized or at like a theme park. But I look pretty different from like the movies that I’ve done that have been successful, like “Bridge to Terabithia,” or “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” I was thirteen years old when I did those movies so I definitely look a little different now, but I’m guessing now after “Red Dawn,” it’ll happen a little bit more, hopefully, if it’s a big success and everything. But I’m definitely going to just enjoy life as it is right now, because I have some friends right now who are, you know, pretty big actors, and they get recognized all the time and it’s great, because it shows that people see their work and appreciate what they do and all that. But it definitely makes it a little bit more of a challenge to go anywhere, you know. So I can go anywhere I want right now and not really worry about that all.
Enjoy life as a normal teenager. So you sound really busy, do you ever get some time to yourself to just relax?
I do actually. In between movies I just pretty much kick it, you know. I sleep until two in the afternoon, it’s quite lovely, and I just sort of veg around. Of course I’m always reading scripts and reading books, trying to figure out what the next project is going to be. But other than that I just love spending time with my family and friends and hang out with my little brother, which actually I just flew back to Kentucky, where I’m from, and I flew back here for like a week or so to see my little brother, so it’s nice to go home.
That’s nice, some quality time. Okay so don’t kill me, but do people in Kentucky have a southern accent?
Oh yes, big time, pretty much everybody. Like everybody in Kentucky has a southern accent but my family is weird I guess, because none of us has any southern accent. Like my grandparents do and all that, I think like literally if you drive, because I’m in the northern part of Kentucky, kind of really close to Ohio, which is like no southern accent at all, so if you drive like twenty minutes south from where I live, you get like a really thick southern accent and you can’t hardly understand what people are saying. It’s pretty funny. Where are you from?
I’m from Greece.
Oh, wicked. Are you there right now?
Yeah I am actually.
That’s awesome wish I were in Greece.
Feel free to come whenever you want.
I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.
You have an invitation now, but if you come you have to bring some Kentucky fried chicken.
That sounds good, and I can get some Greek food when I’m over there.
What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?
Honestly, I love lying on my floor and listening to music; it’s one of my favorite things, I light incent and candles, that kind of stuff and listen to music and just exist. That’s what I love to do.
Wait, on your floor? You know most people would say on their bed, which is nice and soft.
Yeah I’m a floor dweller; I love lying on the floor.
Oh, gosh. You’re an odd one. What food can you not live without?
I don’t think I could live without chocolate chip cookies. I’m on this really strict diet right now, so I can’t eat them, but if somebody were to like hand me a chocolate cookie and some milk, I cannot resist it.
You’ll be the happiest boy. Why are you on a diet?
I like eating really healthy, and I just got this new personal trainer and I’m doing like stunt training; like kick-boxing, and parkour free running and wire work. So I’m also doing this intense weight training with that; I’m just trying to get in really good shape, so I’m eating nothing but almond butter and chicken. That’s pretty much all I’m eating right now.
That doesn’t sound really fun. If I were you I’d eat a cookie.
I know, it’s hard, especially for me, somebody who loves food so much. To not be able to eat like cheeseburgers and all that other delicious stuff.
I understand, I’m a food person too. You can have it once in a while I’m sure.
Exactly, I don’t have torture myself, I can definitely indulge occasionally.
Which song is on repeat lately?
I just recently started listening to Daft Punk a lot, and I love their song, “Touch It” and I’m really stuck on that song right now, it’s definitely on repeat. But normally I listen to like Jeff Buckley, The Shins, and Coldplay sort of in that realm.
Wow. Like the only band I recognized from that was Coldplay. So teen actors in Hollywood seem to be going wild and getting a bad name, how do you deal with all the drama and the teen actor stereotypes?
A lot of my friends are sort of in that Hollywood scene and I’ve just never been a really big fan of it, and I think it’s because I’m from Kentucky. That may have helped some, it just never really seemed too appealing, that whole drug lifestyle or whatever you want to call it, partying lifestyle. Especially being seventeen, I know some people that are my age and even younger, who have drug and drinking problems and I’m like wait a second, how do you get that problem it’s not even real, I don’t understand how that develops. It’s like I have my whole life ahead of me, especially drinking and stuff like that, I’m going to be 21, I’m not seeing a rush to get there. So I just think people sometimes just want to grow up too fast and they want to be something they’re not and you just need to enjoy what you have while you have it.
Very wise words, you’re on a role today. Describe your perfect day.
I’ll wake up at eleven and I’ll be at a mountain resort and I’ll get up with my friend Ralphie, he’s also my stunt double and we will go up on the mountain and go snowboarding all day and then come back, get massages and lie on the floor and listen to music with candles. But not in a romantic way because that sounded kind of weird with a dude, maybe throw a girl in there somewhere and then we’d have a good day.
So you’re a snowboarder?
I love to snowboard.
Better than skiing?
Who’s your celebrity crush?
I think Zoe Saldana is really pretty. I like her a lot, she was in “Avatar,” but she was also in “Star Trek.” She was awesome in that, and also I like Eva Mendes a lot. That’s my type, like, kind of exotic, that’s where I live in that realm of women.
Not southern girls then?
Southern girls are great, don’t get me wrong, but growing up around them, it’s nice to see something different.
How can your fans contact you? Do you have a twitter, MySpace, facebook?
Yeah, I actually just started twittering again, I’ve had it for like eight months, and in the past eight months, I’ve like twittered twice. But within the last couple of weeks, I’ve been like twittering every day, so that’s definitely a good way to contact.