ABOVE: BRENTON THWAITES. PHOTOGRAPHY: COLLIN STARK. STYLING: SOPHIA BANKS. GROOMING: DEBBIE ZOLLER/THE MILTON AGENCY.
The film industry has placed an unusual amount of faith in Brenton Thwaites. In 2012, the young Australian actor’s only film credits were a made-for-television sequel to The Blue Lagoon and a local film called Save Your Legs!. He’d appeared as a recurring character in Home and Away, one of Australia’s two most-viewed soap operas, but for every actor whose career the show has launched (Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Ryan Kwanten, Isla Fisher, Guy Pearce, Naomi Watts, Heath Ledger, Jason Clarke…), there are plenty more that have fallen into obscurity. This year, however, Thwaites has over six films slated for international release, including Maleficent, in which he plays Prince Charming opposite Elle Fanning and Angelina Jolie; the film adaptation of The Giver with Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Swift, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes; Son of a Gun with Ewan McGregor; Oculus, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival; The Signal, which premiered last month at Sundance; and Ride with Helen Hunt and Luke Wilson.
We sat down with the friendly and charming Thwaites a few weeks ago at Sundance in Park City, Utah.
HOMETOWN: Cairns, Australia.
EDUCATION: I went to college at QUT: Queensland University of Technology. I studied for a Bachelors in finance and acting. It was a very practical course…
CURRENT LOCATION: Do I still live in Australia? I kind of do. I’ve been traveling around with a base in Sydney and a base in L.A. I’m going back to Sydney in a couple weeks to do a film, Gods of Egypt.
NEIGHBOURS OR HOME AND AWAY? I was on Home and Away for about three or four months. I loved it. I was on a show called SLiDE when I graduated from college, and then that set the premise of my love for acting. It was so much fun. I was on set with my best friends every day. From that, I got Home and Away and it was such a relaxed, friendly environment. Everyone’s so kind and supportive. It’s a huge show in Australia—Home and Away and Neighbours are the two main soaps. I think they’re on five days a week, every night at seven o’clock or something. My sister and my dad were obsessed with Home and Away and Neighbours, so it was a freak when I got this job.
JUST A SKATER BOY: When I was 16 years old, I joined a drama group called North Queensland Academy of Dramatic Art under a woman called Maggie Shephard-King. She inspired me to audition for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. At the time, I was skateboarding and had no interest in acting. But I auditioned thanks to a friend of mine. I was doing multimedia class with my friend—I played guitar so we were editing music videos together, and he just said, “Hey, man, you should come along to this audition.” I don’t know why I did. I’d shot like little short films with my dad and skate movies and stuff like that, but this was a whole new game. I’m glad I went along. I loved performing as Romeo—I had such a great time. I stayed with that group and they taught me Shakespeare and Chekhov and other kinds of plays. I knew from then on that I should audition for college and spend three years learning how to act.
THE AUSTRALIAN FILM INDUSTRY: I think is on the rise after a little slump. We had a lot of films in the ’80s and ’90s because it was financially an advantage to shoot there. But now it’s a little harder to get tax back, so there’s a lot less American productions coming to Australia. That’s why it’s so cool to work on such a big movie like Gods of Egypt in Sydney with Fox Studios. It’s so rare.
I want to go back home and make movies in Australia. There’s so many stories that we haven’t captured yet. In Australia, we cling on to whatever culture we have. We’re such a multicultural country. I think it’s evident in our industry that we find it hard to represent our country in an abundance of different cultures. So I’d like to go back and tell some stories that are different. Every country has their own little culture in cinema, and I think we should mix it around a bit.
MAKING IT IN AMERICA: I think that I’ve had it a little easy because I’m so young and I’m working over here constantly.
ON THE GIVER AND THE ART OF ADAPTATION: Every art form changes with the material, and so I just hope that people understand that The Giver is not like the book. It’s the same story, but it’s changed because we had to change it for the film to make it into an understandable story—first act, second act, third act. I had no idea there were so many different ways they could tell this story.
ON THE SIGNAL: We shot it in May in about two months. It was a super quick shoot. A lot of the shots [writer and director] Will [Eubanks] got were only [with a] 5D. It was something that I couldn’t predict what it would be like on the screen, and so every day it was me trying to figure out what’s happening. My character, Nick, is going through such a confusing time. He doesn’t know where he is for most of the film, or what he’s doing; he’s trying to put the pieces together. That’s how I felt when I was shooting it. I’m really excited to see how the Sundance guys react to it. Have I seen it? I have. It’s one of the first films I’ve seen of my own work. I just sat back in my chair and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was so nervous going into that screening, but I was so happy when I finished.
I first read the script in March, when I was working on a movie called Son of a Gun in Western Australia. I couldn’t put it down. It was so captivating. And [my character] Nick’s story is so unpredictable. I liked the way that at the end of the story, he’s left in this wonderment. That’s all I’ll say before I give it away. [laughs] In so many stories, I’m thinking of The Wizard of Oz— an adventure story—she goes out and she has this crazy adventure and she comes home and kind of closes the book. I like how this is left a little bit open for us to imagine or guess or wonder.
HORROR HISTORY: Do I remember the first movie that scared me? Yes, I do. Thanks to Daniel Lantner. He was a friend of mine. I was 12 or 13, and he made me watch I Know What You Did Last Summer. The prick, man! I was looking behind doors for five years after that. I’m not a huge fan of horror-horror movies. I can’t watch the Paranormal Activity movies. No way. The Signal isn’t a horror movie. It’s more of a thriller-drama. A multi-genre movie, I’d say. But that was my first horror experience. Thanks, Daniel.
FINDING YOUR NEXT FILM: If I read a script and I like it, there’s nothing that will stop me from trying to be in that movie. Like The Signal—I read the script and I loved it, but not everyone was all for the movie. There was no chance that I wasn’t going to do that movie. I skyped with Will and I was like, “Dude, this script is insane! I connect with [my character] Nick; I’d love to be in your movie.” We just connected on Skype, he put me in his movie, and that was that. I think with the most important projects, you can’t be held back from trying to get to the filmmaker or the writer or the producer. It doesn’t always work that way, I must say. You love a script and there’s nothing you can do about it—you’ve got to let it go. But I’m new, so I have this stupid belief where I think that I can do every movie possible.
DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENTS: Have I ever been disappointed? Yeah. Huge, heartbreaking disappointment. One of the best scripts I’ve ever read, I chased it down, I got down to the final two, and I didn’t get it. You think: “This is meant to be, I am this character, I know exactly how I’m going to do this, this is so good,” and you don’t get it and it’s like, “Shit, what do I do now?” I won’t say what the film was—I’m sure people know. I’ll get over it when I see it. The guy who got the role is, I’m sure, amazing. I believe that everything happens for a reason. If I got that film, I wouldn’t have gotten The Giver. If I didn’t get The Giver…In this industry, you can’t play the “If I…” “If it…”, you can’t play the “magic if” because things are just meant to happen how they happen. You read another great script and you move on.
HOW TO READ A SCRIPT: I try to finish every script. If I sit down to read a script I’ll usually finish it in the same sitting. The first read is always the most inquisitive. I try and not read it out loud, but for The Signal I was walking around my house pretending I was Nick, doing these big monologues, acting in the mirror. You can’t help it. If you’re inspired by a script, I think it’s very hard not to get up and read it out loud and act it out right then and there.
Do I ever skip to the end? No, but I do that with books. I did that with Harry Potter Seven. It was horrible. I was reading the epilogue, when they’re at the end, and they’re older, and they’re sending their kids off at the train station. [laughs] I thought, “Why did I do that? That just ruined the whole book for me. I have to read the whole thing.” I learned my lesson.
OCULUS COMES OUT APRIL 11. MALEFICENT COMES OUT MAY 30. THE GIVER COMES OUT AUGUST 15. THE SIGNAL, RIDE, AND SON OF A GUN WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR.