Every so often, you cross paths with a young man destined for greatness in his chosen field. Such is the case with Callan McAuliffe. A dynamic young actor, McAuliffe has spent the past several years carving out an impressive body of work. 2013 marks his most prolific year to date as he finds himself shooting his first UK production, the lead role– Sean Flynn, in the Jon Wright (Grabbers) directed, sci-fi drama OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS alongside Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson. In addition, he recently wrapped a strong support role opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the highly anticipated, live-action remake of the Japanese anime film KITE. In addition to these feature films, Callan will also be seen in a leading role in Aron Gaudet’s (Emmy award winner for documentary ‘We Get By’) new film, “Beneath The Harvest Sky,” which will be premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival this Fall.
This past winter, he was awarded the GQ Magazine “Breakthrough of the Year Award 2012” and is the youngest winner internationally (ever). He was also in a special feature for Harper’s Bazaar Australia where he was featured as one of six Young Hollywood actors to watch. In the past Callan was hand-picked by director Rob Reiner for his romantic lead in the award winning film ‘Flipped’ in 2010. In 2011, Steven Speilberg, Michael Bay and DJ Caruso featured Callan in a lead role in Dreamworks “I Am Number Four”. This year, Baz Lurhman chose Callan to play the Young Jay Gatsby to Leonardo Di Caprio’s titular lead role as the adult Jay Gatsby in the highly anticipated remake of “The Great Gatsby” also starring Carey Milligan, Tobey McGuire, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.
Callan McAuliffe’s hard work and dedication to his beloved craft have garnered much praise from his peers, filmmakers and critics, allowing him to quickly emerge as one of Hollywood’s most sought after young actors. Having already been named the one to watch in Australian industry magazines Inside Film and Encore in both 2011 and 2012. He was also named as one of the top Australian actors to watch in the consumer magazine GRAZIA early in 2012. At the tender age of 18, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what lies in store for this multi-faceted young man! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Callan McAuliffe to discuss his blossoming career, his upcoming roles, evolution as a young actor and much more!
Thanks for taking time out to talk with me today, Callan. You have so many exciting things going on in your career right now, we are excited to get an inside look!
No worries! I appreciate that!
Take us back to the beginning, if you would. What made you focus on acting as a profession?
It is an interesting story, somewhat interesting, I suppose! [laughs] I always wanted to by a dog and I didn’t have any money, so I joined a talent agency in Australia, where I am from. It really kicked off from there! I never envisioned myself becoming an actor, it didn’t seem like a plausible career from where I was in Australia. Nevertheless, I had some great opportunities and got quite lucky! I figured I might as well ride the bus until the wheels fall of and pursue it as much as I could. I really developed a passion for it and now it is my main focus but it was never initially what I planned to strive for.
Who would you cite as you biggest influences as a young actor?
It is always the people who I see in movies and on TV. If they are well respected, they have done a good job as great actors. Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp, of course, are the big names. Geoffrey Rush and Hugh Jackman are two great actors, when it comes to other Australians. Those are just a few people I look to for inspiration and it is always a pleasure to watch their stuff. You can definitely learn a lot from their work.
You have several awesome projects on the horizon. It has to be a very exciting time for you. The first one, which we are really excited about, is “Our Robot Overlords.” You get to work alongside Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson. How did you initially get involved with the project?
I was coming back from the set of a film I did in South Africa. I went through London for a week to do some media and auditions. One of the auditions I did was for this “Our Robot Overlords” film. I was lucky enough to land the part, so I went for it!
Was there something in particular that attracted you to the role?
Certainly, Sir Ben Kingsley being involved was a big positive. To be honest, when it comes to choosing roles, I am not at the stage where I am having people throw scripts at my desk and I just do the film. I still have to do auditions and things like that. So, I auditioned for this film and was very glad to have the opportunity! When they said that they wanted me for the part, I was more than happy to be a part of the project. Taking this role meant traveling to Ireland and working with some truly great people. To me, that is what it is all about!
Is there a particular way you go about preparing for a role when you take on a new project?
In terms of “Our Robot Overlords,” I don’t have a very Australian accent, even though I am from Australia but there are still Australianisms in there that I wanted to clean up because it was a UK film and I had to do a British accent. I made myself sound a bit more British. In terms of full-on preparation, the main preparation I do is reading the script and knowing my character. You can really branch out from there and perform the scenes as they were meant to be or if the director ever needs you to improvise or expand than you can.
Tell us a little bit about your time on the set on this project. Where they any surprises and what did you take away from the experience?
I have to tell you, working with Ben Kingsley is something many actors spend years striving for, so I was honored to be there. He was fantastic. It is interesting; no one really sits you down and gives you advice. I think it could be taken as pretentious if an actor was to sit another actor down and try to educate him on the art. I think what really happens is you learn through osmosis and experience. Working with him is a great example of that; where you know you are taking in various parts of his performance and will no doubt use what you have learned at some point in the future. It is a subconscious education. You watch people and you learn from them, you don’t necessarily know what you have learned from them immediately, you just absorb it. That goes for all of the actors I have worked with. On this set, Ben Kingsley was a joy to watch and is a master actor. Absolutely fantastic! He was also, not only to me, but to the other cast and crew, a phenomenal person, a very nice guy. That was a surprise for me because sometimes you hear things about certain people or you build it up in your mind and you don’t know what to expect. However, when you get on set, you see how they really are and it is always good when a well respected person deserves that respect.
Jon Wright is the director on “Our Robot Overlords”. What did he bring to the project and what did you take away from your time under his direction?
Working with him was a unique experience, in terms of working with directors, as was my experience with the director of “Beneath the Harvest Sky.” Both directors were not opposed to improvisation, which is something I was not to familiar with. I am primarily a screen actor and I haven’t done a lot of theater. In screen acting, often times, they stick to the script. It was a challenge for me to be on a set where people were happy for me to improvise and not throw away the script but have it as a guide which can be expanded on. That was an alien concept for me. Working with these directors was a great learning process because it gave me a feel for a different kind of set.
You mentioned “Beneath the Harvest Sky.” It is a film on a smaller scale but is certainly no less challenging.
Oh, definitely! We shot the film in northern Maine, which is near the border of Canada. It was an incredible experience because of how small the project well. It really had a family atmosphere. There were only about 30 people involved in the project and we all stayed in the same building. We would go to work and come home every day and we developed this family! For me, it was a learning experience in terms of having so few people around you; you feel like you are part of the crew. On some larger project, the actors sometimes have the tendency to feel elevated above the rest of the crew because you are treated so well; mostly because of insurance, so you don’t run away and injury yourself! [laughs] On such a small film, like “Beneath the Harvest Sky,” it is a reality check because you realize you are part of a cumulative process, it is a work done by many people and everyone puts just as much effort in. I find it very inspiring.
I totally agree. It is exciting to watch you as your momentum builds as an actor and you land these unique projects. A great example of that is your role in “Kite” which is a live-action version of the Japanese anime film. What brought you to the project?
“Kite” is definitely another interesting one. That was the film I mentioned shooting in South Africa. That film, of course, had Samuel L. Jackson in it. Believe me, that was a drawing point for me! Again, I went in for the audition and was offered the role. It was exciting because it was a really cool character, an assassin, and was set in an imaginative world with a nice post-apocalyptic atmosphere and aesthetic. It was a really cool project to be a part of, especially with Sam Jackson being involved.
At this point, you are still coming into your own and thriving as an actor. However, I am curious, do you have any aspirations to one day explore the world behind the camera?
Yeah, certainly. I am in love with the trade and process of filmmaking. I love to read, write and all of these different things, so I suppose if the time came, I might write a movie and if I was consider sound of mind enough to direct a film, I would certainly go ahead and direct it! [laughs] But yeah, if the opportunity ever presents itself, I would be more than happy to!
You seem observant and reflective. Looking back on your career so far, how do you feel you have evolved as an actor over the past few years?
I can’t really say I have evolved greatly. It has only been in the last year or so that I have started to branch out and play characters that are different from myself. Up until then, I had basically been doing Americans and I was doing an American accent and it was the only real difficulty for me. It has been a real learning process over the past year and a half with the projects we have discussed today. I am really looking forward to branch out even further in the future.
If there a particular type of role or genre you are anxious to tackle and what do you look for in scripts these days?
These days, when I read a script, I generally don’t mind what genre it is as long as I am engrossed in the story when I read it. I want to be entertained by it because think that is one of the most important factors in any project. As long as you aren’t entertained by how bad it is, then it has potential to be a good film. I want to be involved in projects that keep me entertained, which is one of my goals.
Do you feel there are any misconceptions about yourself?
The biggest misconception about me? I think a lot of people think I am British when they see me interviewed. [laughs] I think it is common knowledge that I am Australian. In my first film, I had blonde hair, so I think a lot of people may think I have naturally blonde hair, when it is actually brown. So, there you go! [laughs]
Those are definitely minor misconceptions, so that is a positive!
Yes, definitely! [laughs]
What are some of your interests outside the world of filmmaking?
I love the outdoors! I absolutely love camping, hiking, wildlife and nature. In fact, that was my first love! Before I became I became an actor, I wanted to work in wildlife conservation. Considering I know live in Los Angeles, you kinda have to go out of your way to go camping and that sort of thing, so I generally spend my time reading, drawing and playing video games, which is fine by me! If I am content, then I am content! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to aspiring actors looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I always tell people to stay away from the acting world because I have been very lucky and I didn’t really want to become an actor until I became one, as I said, I developed a love for it. The industry can be tough, venomous and quite not very pleasant, so I always try to tell people to have it as a backup but maintain an education, have a good foundation and have your family close. Have a second option available to you. If you want to be an actor, go for it. Working is really the only way to achieve things really; by working for it. If that is your dream, have it on the side but also have a second option; a backup plan.
Having a higher profile through acting puts you in a great position to give back through philanthropic work. I know you are involved with an organization called The Wolf Connection. What can you tell us about it?
The Wolf Connection is a wonderful charity I have been involved with for quite some time. It involves the rescuing of poorly treated wolfdogs and the simultaneous rescue of at risk teenagers, who might have had the best start in life or an unfriendly home life. The Wolf Connection blends those two together. It has been particularly fun being a part of that by creating awareness. Having a voice is a voice has been terrific in being able to promote the cause. Hopefully, in the future I will be able to promote some areas similar to this one. You can learn more about their work at www.wolfconnection.org.
Thank you so much for your time today, Callan. We are very excited to see your body of work continue to expand and look forward to talking with you again very soon!
Perfect, mate! I really appreciate it! Thanks so much!
“Beneath the Harvest Sky’ is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival. Check out the trailer below and the official website for the film at www.beneaththeharvestsky.com. For events surrounding the film, follow it on Facebook and Twitter, and visit the TIFF website.