ONE ON ONE WITH BRENTON THWAITES
Joining the prestigious likes of fellow homegrown talents Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Chris Hemsworth who graduated from small screen soap operas to silver screen dominance, Queensland born Brenton Thwaites made the move from ‘Home and Away’s Summer Bay to claim his own place amongst such Hollywood heavyweights as Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie as he forges a thriving international career. Hitting his home state to promote his latest film ‘The Giver’, an adaptation of the acclaimed young adult novel, entertainment reporter Peter Gray sat down with the up-and-comer to discuss his rise to fame and how it was working on his latest project.
So is it good to be back in Queensland? Brisbane more specifically.
So good I can’t even put words to it! Every street here I’m like “Oh that’s where I worked”, “That’s where I worked in a bar”…you know it’s wild to come back here and do publicity on such a cool movie.
And you studied at QUT (Queensland University of Technology) did you have a little trek round there?
I did, I went there and saw a friend of mine from Cairns who’s just about to graduate, so it’s cool to see another “Cairnsy” (laughs) doing the same course I’m doing, acting in the same way that I was back at QUT. And I caught up with my mentor, my acting teacher from QUT, and he’s doing well.
So from the time you graduated, how long did it take you to get your first role?
I got my first role…my first paid gig while I was still in college. It was a smaller movie called ‘Charge Over You’, it was produced and directed by Brisbane guys…and it was a very small movie but it was a great experience. And later on in the year I got ‘Sea Patrol’ and then the day I graduated I moved all my stuff down to Sydney, was looking for a place to live, and we did our showcase and the next day I flew back up here (Brisbane)to audition for ‘Slide’ and I got it! So I had to move back up to Brisbane (laughs) so I was so lucky that the next day I had a job on a great TV series.
It really is one of those dream things that happens to very few actors. So did you have to move back down there for ‘Home and Away’?
Yeah I drove down and did that for a couple of months, about 3-4 months and then moved to America.
And moving to America was that always the plan to move there and try?
Always! Since I was quite young.
Did you move there knowing you had work secured or was it purely “I’m going to move there and find something”?
I moved there in hope. In hope and faith. I didn’t have anything over there.
And then ‘Maleficent’ was the first major role? How did that all come about?
Yeah ‘Maleficent’ was the first big one. I was filming ‘Blue Lagoon’ in Hawaii and I put myself on tape and after that I went to L.A. and auditioned for the casting director at Disney, and met Elle Fanning…and got the job a couple days after and then I was off to London a couple days after that, it was really crazy.
So how long was there between ‘Maleficent’ and ‘The Giver’?
About 2 years. Huge amount of time, you know the last 3 years I’ve been working and just this year everything has come out. It’s an interesting post-production world, you know some movies they really try and push it out for a certain time, some movies they wait and sit on it and wait for the right time to release it so it just so happened that a lot of my movies came out this year.
So you’ve kind of just exploded at once!
Yeah, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m just going to ride the wave as it comes.
Had you read ‘The Giver’ before you got the role?
I read it in prep for the audition, just to find a little bit more back story to my character, searching for ideas which the book is full of…so it was kind of challenging and easy at the same time to create this character.
Because in the novel the character you play (Jonas) is much younger.
Yeah it’s suggested that his character turns 13 over the year of been giving the memories, however they decided to age it up and for my own mind you know a 12 to me was grade 12 so 17-years-old and just play it like I’m graduating high-school and entering the crossroads we all experience when we finish school.
Because this was Jeff Bridges’ passion project, did you feel any pressure knowing how badly he wanted the film made?
There was a lot of pressure but I felt just as passionate as Jeff about the movie and so I think we shared that. I came on (to the film) very late and you get sent to all crazy places in the world to shoot…and that’s the actor’s dream. The producer’s journey is a little different, it takes a lot of time, a lot of fighting, a lot of conversations going through writers, directors, producers, studios…I can’t even imagine how tough this must’ve been to get this made.
This was about a 20-year trek to get this made.
Yeah it was but Jeff really stuck with it. They lost the rights, they re-bought the rights, and I have to say that Nikki Silver (one of the producers) was on that train too and really stuck with it. Casting is huge, and casting me…you know for a movie that you think about for 20 years in your mind? The perception of a 12-year old boy being the lead and then all of a sudden having someone say “we’re going to do it with an older kid” was a lot for them to think about. So I entered an environment where they potentially didn’t want such an old guy playing this part. But they were really supportive and I was so passionate about the movie, and I think Jeff knew I was sharing that with him.
And you worked so closely with Jeff Bridges; did you get a little star-struck by him? Or was it easier cause of your working relationship?
I was completely star-struck before I met him but once you meet him…he’s just so cool, he’s just like any other guy. And I got to know him throughout shooting, what he’s like as a person and he is someone that a lot of young actors look up to. What he does in the world and on camera, they’re both just as great as each other and I would love to be someone like Jeff one day – my own version of Jeff.
The last half of this movie is essentially you working with a baby, what were the challenges there?
So many obstacles (laughs) I don’t have children but I got a taste of what it was like. I have to say those babies were pro’s, somehow they knew what we were trying to get them to do. They really performed, they stole the whole movie.
I did notice there were some scenes where they had really good reactions
Yeah, they were very responsive to my face. There’s a scene in the film where I’m trying to get the baby to laugh, which I thought was funny because there was nothing in the bassinet just a camera filming my face. And I even laughed when I saw it! Because I thought am I doing that to the baby? No I’m doing that to the camera. It’s crazy how they shoot all these things. But the babies were so responsive to me. I mean at the start they would cry (laughs) but eventually we learnt how to work together.
They made a series of sequels to the original book, has there been any talk of continuing this story on?
The producers are the one to ask there. I don’t know how Lois (Lowry, the author) feels about that. I’m sure she’d be excited if they made her other books into movies however I haven’t read the other books and I believe they’re only loosely based on the journey of Jonas and it jumps in time and goes back and forth with him becoming an adult, so I can’t really say.
And you worked with Helen Hunt on her latest directorial effort ‘Ride’, how was that experience?
She likes to explore the thought of how do humans move on from such a terrible occurrence, how do we learn to be happy again. Her writing is very loaded and very thought provoking so it was such an opportunity to learn from her. And she’s so kind and so intelligent, and as an actor-director I learnt things from Helen that I have never learnt from anyone else before. She switches from actor to director…you know wearing so many hats, just this plethora of challenges. I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
Well it’s good to have you back in Brisbane, I know the response to the film has been very enthusiastic.
Thank you so much.
‘The Giver’ is currently screening in cinemas across Australia.