Over the weekend at the Hamptons International Film Festival, four of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch – Scott Haze (“Child of God,” “As I Lay Dying”), Brie Larson (“Short Term 12”), David Oyelowo (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Middle of Nowhere”) and Dane DeHaan (“Kill Your Darlings,” “The Place Beyond the Pines”) – stopped by the event to take part in a panel moderated by Variety vice-president and executive editor Steven Gaydos. During the lively one-hour long discussion the four discussed their craft, how they each got their start in the business, and their respective projects responsible for their rise. Below are eight key highlights from the talk.
Oyelowo loves a good challenge.
Oyelowo: “For me, personally, I think intimidation is a good thing for an actor. Another word I would use is ‘terrification.’ The more terrified you are the more of an indicator it is to me that it’s an opportunity to pursue.”
“Confidence is a big asset for an actor. An example for me in the theater was playing Henry VI. I didn’t know there was a set of plays by Shakespeare called Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3. When I was being asked to audition for it I thought, ‘That sounds good.’ And then I saw that there are three of these plays! On Saturday we would do Henry VI, parts 1, 2 and 3 in a day. To play a Shakespearean role for 12 hours from 14 to 62, it’s like ‘Bring it [Christopher] Nolan.’”
Larson’s first gig was a fake commercial on Jay Leno.
Larson: “That was my first job. I was 7-years-old and my parents had gotten divorced and we had moved to Los Angeles on a whim and we all had a lot of ambition and about $700. I kept getting auditions for commercials and I left crying. And I got a call to be in a fake Barbie commercial for ‘Malibu Mudslide Barbie.’ I had gotten turned down so much so it was the first taste of vindication. And I acted the shit out of that thing. So much so that I got asked back about once a week. I did about a dozen of these fake commercials.”
Oyelowo got drawn into acting by a childhood crush.
Oyelowo: “I was obsessed with my pastor’s daughter who would work the overhead projector while we sang the hymns, and for a full year I looked at her cascading hair while we sang the hymns. After a year of obsessing over her she asked me if I wanted to go to the theater with her. But she took me to a theater group where they were low on boys and she was trying to impress the director. Devious woman.”
Larson doesn’t like to relax when acting.
Larson: “I think it’s imperative for our survival to be comfortable with change and to push ourselves forward.”
DeHaan likes how his “Devil’ Knot” director Atom Egoyan lets the audience make up their minds.
DeHaan: “I think what’s interesting about Atom is he directs opera and he directs film which is vastly different, but the way he tells a story is in broad strokes and he tells all the facts. He uses a lot of wide shots and it’s all about telling the story factually and allowing the audience to place judgment on it. He doesn’t guide you in one way or another. I think that’s true in ‘Sweet Hereafter’ and ‘Devil’s Knot.’ It makes me want to work with him but it doesn’t necessarily inform how I work.”
Larson almost gave up on acting.
Larson: “It wasn’t until I hit a moment when I was 17 and my family was broke, I was totally broke, I didn’t think I was going to do it anymore. I had an acting coach who I would pay to do the one-off. He just railed into me and was like ‘Why aren’t you doing this harder?’ I said, ‘To be honest I can’t afford it.’ It was a big moment and he said, ‘Never let money get in the way of this.’ He had me teach the classes. So I would be on the other end, reading, doing cold readings with little kids.”
Haze lived in a cave while shooting James Franco’s “Child of God.”
Haze: “The movie I just did, ‘Child of God,’ I did some crazy stuff. I remember reading stuff about Daniel-Day Lewis not getting out of a chair for 6 months for ‘My Left Foot’ and so I lived in a cave. What I got from acting school was learning about the history of what these actors did, stuff like what athletes do. Kobe Bryant takes an ice bath before and after every game or he’ll go to Germany and work on being the best. Not every role requires you to live in a cave. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”