In Dope, last summer’s sleeper hit comedy, the supporting actors steal the show: Quincy Brown as the slick rich kid who desperately wants to be hood, Blake Anderson as the hippie white hacker, A$AP Rocky as the (sort of) articulate bad boy, Kiersey Clemons as tomboy Diggy, and Tony Revolori as the smart-ass Jib.
Now 19, Revolori has been acting since he was a baby. The Anaheim, California-native thinks his first job might have been a Gerber ad, but he was too young to remember. He does, however, recall appearing in a commercial with NBA player Baron Davis and his older brother Mario (“My brother and I played elves,” he says, “it was a fun little thing”). As an 11-year-old, he had a small part in an episode of Entourage (he wasn’t allowed to watch the show at the time, but has seen it since and doesn’t think much of his performance), followed by guest spots on a few other popular television shows during his pre- and early teen years.
Then Revolori beat out his brother for a leading role in Wes Anderson’s Oscar-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel. He traveled to Saxony, Germany, and joined a cast that included Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Léa Seydoux, and Jason Schwartzman. Revolori played Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy of the titular hotel and protégé of Ralph Fiennes’s theatrical concierge M. Gustave. Dressed in his purple cap, matching uniform, and penciled-on mustache, Revolori provided just the right balance of earnest charm.
Over the phone, Revolori is endearingly polite and self-deprecating. He still lives at home with his family, though he jokes that he “prefers to think of it as they live with me.” When asked about his favorite actors, he skips the usual De Niro and DiCaprio and instead cites the late British actor Richard Harris—particularly his roles in Abraham, 1993 (“My dad loved all of those biblical-type movies, so we would watch that constantly”) and The Count of Monte Cristo, 2002 (“It wasn’t the hugest part, but I still feel like the best part of the film was him”). “I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good as Richard Harris, but I sure would like to try,” he says.
Next year, Revolori will appear in The 5th Wave, a sci-fi film with Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, and Maika Monroe, and the Duplass brothers-penned Table 19 with Anna Kendrick and Stephen Merchant.
EMMA BROWN: What’s your earliest memory?
TONY REVOLORI: In pre-school, my dad pulled me out of school because of something—I can’t remember what it was. My teacher got mad and we went across the street and my dad had a stern talk with her. It was the first time I realized my dad was a badass and I loved him for it. But it’s very fuzzy. He doesn’t remember it at all.
BROWN: I know you were home-schooled. When did you leave conventional school?
REVOLORI: I went to regular school up to third grade. All of my teachers told my parents the same thing: that I was a smart-ass, should skip a grade, and was being kind of a dick in school. My parents decided to homeschool me, which was better for acting, and I was able to learn at a quicker rate. I loved homeschool; I thought it was great. As such, I was able, very fortunately, to graduate at 15.
BROWN: Did you ever consider going to university?
REVOLORI: I did. I entertained the thought for a little bit. But I don’t think I would ever go to college; I just don’t believe in it solely for the fact that I’m already doing what I love. I feel like if I go to college, it would have to be for something completely unrelated to acting, and that’s not something I want to focus on right now. But maybe in the future.
BROWN: How often do you get recognized for Grand Budapest? Do people call out, “Lobby Boy!” in the street?
REVOLORI: I get “Lobby Boy,” I get “Zero,” and I get, surprisingly, “mustache.” That was an afterthought that Wes and I came up with—Wes, mostly—where he was like, “What if you draw on a mustache?!” “Yeah, that’d be fun!” And that’s one of the most memorable parts of the film. It’s just funny how things like that happen. I also get “Dope.” They just call me “Dope.” I never know what to do in those situations. I’m mostly nervous because I don’t know what to say; I’m a very awkward guy. It’s kind of bad. I also have a terrible fear of public speaking. I presented at the [American Society Of] Cinematographers Annual Awards show. I’m dyslexic, so when they wrote the answer down, they wrote it in cursive and I couldn’t read it. When I was up on stage, I literally stood there for about 45 seconds to a minute trying to read this name, looking like an idiot. I was dying of embarrassment. I could not get out of there quicker.
BROWN: Were you ever in a school play or anything like that?
REVOLORI: I actually did a play, but the problem is not being in front of people, the problem is being in front of people as myself. I did a play recently called Mercury Fur at the Pershing Square Signature Theater [in New York], and that was fine because I was able to play a character. Whatever they were seeing was a character and not me, and that’s simple for me. But if I’m playing myself…
BROWN: What about television interviews?
REVOLORI: Same thing. I still get nervous and I try to hide it—not very well, but I try.
BROWN: With Grand Budapest, at what stage in the audition process did you meet Wes?
REVOLORI: Basically the third audition. I had the first one—my brother and I both went to the audition. Then, about two weeks later, they called us back telling us it was just down to him and I. Four days after that second audition, I was told that Wes wanted to fly me out to Paris to meet him. And I did fly out and I did meet him in a very spectacular manner. It was my first time in Europe and I was the first family member to ever go to Europe, so it was kind of crazy. I didn’t know what to do at all. I hadn’t even read the script yet, so I didn’t know what was going to happen. [When] I arrived in Paris, I read the script and I thought, “This is amazing!” At the time I didn’t know I had the project, so I was just like, “Please, god, do not let me mess anything up. I’m going to stay as quiet as I possibly can. I’m not going to say a word unless spoken to.” I really wanted it. It was a fantastic script. Then when I met Wes, he was such a sweet, nice guy I relaxed. We went out to dinner with his two other producers and it was just fun. We talked and we got to know each other both better.
BROWN: Are you particularly interested in cinematography? I know you’ve done it for a short with your brother.
REVOLORI: I did it a little bit, but it was not good at all. It was horrible, to say the best. I’m very interested in cinematography—I think it’s a fantastic art form—[but] I don’t think I’d ever be good at it.
BROWN: Who is your favorite cinematographer?
REVOLORI: It would have to be between two people: Robert Yeoman, who did Budapest. He’s such an awesome dude to work with and so talented. And/or Rachel Morrison, who did Dope. One of the two. I know it’s completely biased because I worked with both of them, but I really do enjoy their work.
BROWN: Would you ever want to pursue it further?
REVOLORI: I would love to just be a camera guy fetching lenses or whatever, starting from the bottom and working my way up to see how everyone else does it. I wouldn’t want any different treatment, but I would definitely love to work under someone like Rachel Morrison or Bob Yeoman or Petra Korner [the cinematographer of Umrika.]
BROWN: A lot of the actors I talk to who started out when they were children cite one particular project as the first time they felt like professional, adult actors. Was that the case for you?
REVOLORI: I’ve been acting since I was a child, but it was never anything really big or huge. Budapest was my big break, and that’s where it started for me. But I always wanted to be an actor in adult films, more than I did in Disney Channel projects—not to knock them. My dream was to be the youngest person to win an Oscar when I was 12. That obviously didn’t come true, but I always wanted to be part of the adult filmmaking world. That sounds weird, because that sounds like porn, but the more serious acting world.
BROWN: I understand. What’s your new goal?
REVOLORI: To get an EGOT. We’ll see what happens, but it’s a great goal. I think that there’s only 12 people who’ve ever done it, so I could be lucky or unlucky number 13, depending on how you think about it. It’s most of the old time actors, just because back in the day it was easier since you had musical movies, so they could be nominated for both Grammies and Oscars.
BROWN: I’m looking at the Wikipedia list right now; it’s Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg…
REVOLORI: Whoopi Goldberg? Oh, killer.
BROWN: The shortest amount of time it took to complete was 10 years.
REVOLORI: Wow. Well, I guess you gave me a new goal: complete it in five. Or less. Or under 10.
BROWN: Are you good at singing?
REVOLORI: I’m alright. I was very musical as a kid. I sing, I play the guitar, piano, bass, drums, a little bit of the cello, slight violin. So hopefully something will give me that Grammy.
BROWN: That’s an impressive array of instruments. Did you have formal lessons?
REVOLORI: Not for violin or cello, which is strange because you should usually formally train with those two instruments. My grandfather taught himself how to play the violin, which I heard is the most difficult instrument to play, and so I said, “If he can do it, so can I.” So far it hasn’t turned out well, but I’m trying.
BROWN: Are you close with your grandparents?
REVOLORI: I was really close to my grandfather on my father’s side. He was an amazing person. When he passed it was a very sad moment for me. Right before he passed, he told me, “I’m giving you my blessings, and I know something’s going to happen with you very soon, I feel it.” And maybe 10 days after he died, I booked The Grand Budapest Hotel.
BROWN: Was your dad the first person in your family to become an actor?
REVOLORI: Yes. Randomly he was picked off the street to be an extra. He said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do it. I’ll be an extra. I’ll just stand somewhere.” He had no idea what would happen. The director really enjoyed his face and was like, “Come here, I’m going to make you the star of the commercial,” and my dad freaked out and did whatever the director told him. He didn’t tell my mother or any one of his family members, but when his face started showing up in commercials, all of his friends and family said, “There’s a commercial where this guy looks exactly like you. Exactly like you.” And my dad said, “Oh really? I haven’t seen it.” Then he just started doing more and more and more, and when my brother and I were born he put us in it.
BROWN: Did he have a day job before that?
REVOLORI: Yeah, he had his own business. He did accounting for some people and was a notary too at some point. My dad did a lot of things. He was an entrepreneurial mind.
BROWN: Have you ever had a non-acting job?
REVOLORI: Yes, two times. Once was in my dad’s office, my brother and I sold candy to people. We had a little candy stand. We were making a great profit—it was actually really, really good—but we got tired and we decided we wanted to be kids, we didn’t want to be entrepreneurs and make money. We made, like, a 1000-dollar profit for each of us, which was great.
BROWN: Did you save it or spend it?
REVOLORI: Oh we absolutely spent it, but on a lot of ridiculous things. My brother was good at saving his money. I’m horrible at it. I love food—eating out is my favorite thing to do—so I pretty much constantly ate out at this one special Chinese place that was my dad and I’s favorite restaurant, and another place that was my favorite restaurant. Then, my other job was I worked in a hotel for Budapest. It was good. I did the cleaning of rooms—pretty much every job you can think of in a hotel, I did.
BROWN: Would you make a good real-life lobby boy?
REVOLORI: I think so. I really do. I feel like I have the training and the mentality for it, but who knows. I did have to clean this room that had a bunch of sex toys in it. I didn’t know what to do at the time, so I arranged them in an orderly fashion. It was a weird moment in my life. I was 16. I knew what everything was, but I really didn’t want to touch it. It was in Hollywood somewhere. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, but someone showed me this video of Jennifer Lawrence explaining something similar happening to her, and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I very well might have cleaned Jennifer Lawrence’s room.