While many Los Angelenos were getting their first look at veteran thespians Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in "August Osage County" at the TCL Chinese Theater Friday night, Tinseltown's up-and-coming crop of talented actors gathered next door to discuss their approach and introduction to the craft of acting--as well as Twitter tips, Facebook stalking, and YouTube videos the growing stars prefer were already forgotten. Brie Larson ("Short Term 12"), Miles Teller ("The Spectacular Now"), Michael B. Jordan ("Fruitvale Station"), Dane DeHaan ("Kill Your Darlings"), and Greta Gerwig ("Frances Ha") made up AFI Fest's 2013 Young Hollywood Roundtable with Los Angeles Times' entertainment reporter Amy Kaufman moderating. The quick 45-minute discussion touched on a number of topics for the sporadically reticent group to expound upon. These are the highlights:
On their first big Hollywood moment:
Dane DeHaan, who co-starred in the 2012 film "Lawless" before landing choice roles in this year's "Kill Your Darlings" and "The Place Beyond the Pines," said he first felt like a part of Hollywood when his agent bought him a plane ticket to Cannes for the film's premiere. "They were going to take everybody except for me because everyone else was a lot more famous than I was," DeHaan said. "The first night I was there, I slept on a line producer's futon. That night [after the premiere], Jessica Chastain had to go back to shoot 'Zero Dark Thirty,' and she gave me her hotel room for the night. It was, um, palatial."
This was not the last time Ms. Chastain would be mentioned.
On using/resisting social media:
All three men on the panel use Twitter, but both Gerwig and Larson remain exempt from social media. Gerwig described her hesitancy quite clearly. "I'm like an old woman," she said. "I read people's Twitters, but I don't get their feeds. I just read all of them. I like that. I like Jessica Chastain's Facebook page very much. She's so nice, and she's so happy. I stalk people all the time via their things, but I feel like maybe if I was on it then they would know. I just want to be behind a shield."
DeHaan admitted to being somewhat befuddled by social media, a fitting feeling considering his Twitter bio simply reads, "I don't know." "On Halloween, I typed, 'Boobs! I mean, 'Boo!'" And it was my most popular tweet ever," DeHaan said. Michael B. Jordan doesn't tweet very much, and said he prefers to use Instagram. Teller then playfully ribbed him when he claimed he "does it all for them" (his fans).
On the difference between acting in independent films and blockbusters:
While all of these fine young actors have had their taste of the blockbuster studio fare, they keep pumping out indie after indie. Why? Dane DeHaan, who will appear in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" this coming May, said the biggest difference to him is time. "I think that's the main difference. It buys you time. You have six months to make a movie instead of 24 days so you can spend an entire day working on two pages. You can explore everything, rather than having to do it two or three times and then move on, hoping that you got it."
Teller, who just finished shooting the franchise-starter "Divergent" with "The Spectacular Now" co-star Shailene Woodley, said he likes the involvement provided by independent films. "[Shooting smaller films], to me, it feels more like a student film. Obviously I'm not trying to take away from the quality of work they're doing. The directors that I've worked with on smaller films are much more collaborative. You really feel like a big part of it. On the bigger films that I've worked on, for certain things it's more of a visual presentation. I like staying active. I like being on the go. I like the feeling that you and everybody else are making the same thing."
On auditioning for roles:
Some of the earliest advice Teller remembers receiving was from his agent. "I remember when I was first auditioning for stuff, I wasn't booking anything and my agent said, 'Well, you gotta start working out. Or you gotta start doing your hair.'" After giggling over the idea of Teller "doing his hair," Larson recalled receiving similarly superficial advice. "For so many auditions, I get [from casting directors]: 'It's great. It's really great, but could you come back in a mini skirt?'" Then she said to Gerwig, "Did you get that?"
"No," Gerwig deadpanned. "They didn't want to see me in a mini skirt."
On watching themselves on screen:
"Miles doesn't watch his own movies ever," Jordan said to break a lull in the conversation. While he wasn't totally serious, Teller did say he didn't enjoy watching himself act. "I think I'm terrible, and I think everyone else is fantastic." Jordan agreed for the most part. He said he's seen "Fruitvale Station" four times to date, but he found himself "annoying" the first time through.
After recounting a job where she sat in a bathtub playing a trumpet, Gerwig also admitted to being uncomfortable watching herself. "You really understand why Orson Welles ate so much because it's so traumatic."
On living in New York and Los Angeles
Gerwig and Larson share more than just a fear of social media. The two rising stars began their climb in Sacramento, CA, though Gerwig now lives in Manhattan and prefers it to LA. She said the West Coast metropolis makes her "feel like I need to be different than I am." "I loved Woody Allen movies [growing up]," Gerwig said. "By the time I went to LA, I was already doing some weird Woody Allen impression...when I was 12. I decided I was a New Yorker even though I was from Sacramento." Then, in a solid off-the-cuff impression, Gerwig referenced one of the comedian's best jabs at LA: "The only cultural advantage [to Los Angeles over New York] is that you can make an uncontrolled right hand turn.
Jordan, who grew up in Newark, New Jersey, said LA mostly "lives up to the hype," but "you need a corps group of friends" to get through.
On embarrassing YouTube videos (with links!)
Did you know Brie Larson was signed to be a songwriter at the age of 12? Did you know she plays guitar and sings for more than a handful of music videos? Did you know they're all available on YouTube? Enjoy.
Miles Teller seemed the most uneasy about his amateur work available online (though he did mention them early and often). "When something goes online, it's permanent," Teller said before name-dropping a short film he made in high school. Take a look for yourself at the 18-min short, "Moonlighters," below.