I remember him from the Fox8 television series Slide (shot here in Brisbane) and since that time, Brenton Thwaites has launched himself in Hollywood with a string of big roles. In the past 12 months he’s worked alongside Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, Laurence Fishburne, Gerard Butler and Geoffrey Rush. I caught up with Brenton while he was recently back in Brisbane to chat about his leading performance in The Giver. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.
Matt: We bat above our average in terms of Aussie actors working in Hollywood. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Brenton: I grew up in Cairns and then I moved down here to Brisbane to study fine arts majoring in acting at QUT.
Matt: A lot of people when they see someone acting on screen go “yeah, look, that’s so easy, I could easily do that.” How much work did you have to put in at QUT to get to the level that you’re at today?
Brenton: After three years of learning how to act, you realise that it’s not about the acting. They teach you how to relax. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a teacher named Charles Allen who taught me for my three years. He also taught me how to find certain emotions within yourself.
All of that training aside, sometimes you don’t know what to do. Shows like Home & Away, Slide and Sea Patrol shoot using a pretty hectic schedule. They’re great because you learn confidence and how to relax in front of a camera.
Matt: I remember the TV series Slide and then your short stint on Home & Away. What happened in between? Next minute I saw you alongside Angelina Jolie in Maleficent and now here in The Giver? Were you doing a lot of auditions? Trying to make it in Hollywood?
Brenton: Yeah, I was. I was putting everything down on tape. I would audition wherever in the world I was. For example, I auditioned from India for a few things such as Blue Lagoon. The tape that I used had this guy wheeling a dog across a park in the background. It was the craziest audition and somehow I got the part.
Matt: You’re working here with Jeff Bridges – a six-time Academy Award nominee. I remember him as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Was there a lot that you could learn from him on set?
Brenton: Yeah, there is. I’ve watched him since I was a kid. I loved The Big Lebowski and I loved one of his first movies, The Last Picture Show. Crazy Heart was also amazing. I was as big a fan as anyone else going in to meet Jeff and so it was a dream to be part of this movie with him.
Matt: Meryl Streep is in the movie as well but we see a lot of her as a hologram. Were there any scenes were you acting alongside each other?
Brenton: We shared a few. The process is quite technical. They shoot with me in the shot and they shoot with Meryl in front of a green screen later and they connect it using computers in post- production. We’d reach together off screen and few had a few scenes together but like you said, she shot a lot of that stuff on her own.
Matt: Did you get the chance to spend a lot of time with Jeff and Meryl Streep off the set? I can imagine they’d have some amazing stories and wealth of knowledge to share.
Brenton: The truth is that there was only on set for this movie. I didn’t have much time to walk off set. Everyone was working so hard on this for so long. In the snippets of spare time that we had, we’d grab a guitar, strum for 5 minutes and then go back to the scene. I also took a few photos with Jeff. He’s a great photographer and he takes beautiful photos on set so he would teach me a little about cameras and shooting on film.
Matt: And you’re working here with Phillip Noyce who’s done everything from Newsfront and Rabbit Proof Fence to The Quiet American and Salt). It’s such a varied career. How does he work on set?
Brenton: He’s one of the best directors that I’ve worked with and maybe will ever work with. He’s so passionate, energetic, and he’s full of love. What I mean by that is that he knows how to extract a real performance out of you. I felt like he already knew me. The director of photography, Ross Emery, myself and Phillip Noyce are all Australian and so we know how daunting it can be to enter a big Hollywood movie. It was good having him on my side in a way.
Matt: During the early scenes of this film I was reminded of The Hunger Games and Divergent. These are all films based on novels set in some kind of dystopian future with super-controlling governments and told from the perspective of rebellious teenagers. Just a coincidence?
Brenton: They’re becoming quite popular. There are more books and films being produced on this genre. I don’t know the answer as to why we’re seeing more than that but I think young people today are quite aware of the world. We can research anything at any time we want using our phones. The connection with The Giver is that it’s funny to imagine what life would be like without a phone and without the freedom to know what is going on with the world.
Matt: So where are you living these days? Do you have to make a permanent home for yourself in Los Angeles?
Brenton: Back and forth. I’m kind of the road at the moment.
Matt: Has your life changed a lot over the past few months in Hollywood? Do you get more scripts being sent your way? Do you get noticed in the street?
Brenton: When I first came to Hollywood, I said to my agents – “send me everything whether they be good scripts, bad scripts, half-written scripts.” It gave me a great idea of what was in the town at the time. Now, I think they’re saying “we’ll just send you a few scripts” because there’s a lot more coming which is great.
Matt: And as someone who has studied acting and clearly has a love for film, what are your favourite movies? Which directors would you love to work with?
Brenton: Phillip Noyce was one. I saw a movie recently called Boyhood and it’s my favourite film of the year and I’d love to work with Richard Linklater on something somewhere. At the time of watching the movie, I was frustrated and tired but it brought me out of my own world and I learned to love those characters. That’s the magic of cinema.
Matt: I’ll finish up by asking what you’re currently working on? When are we going to see you next on screen?
Brenton: October 16 is the release of Son Of A Gun, a movie I shot with Ewan McGregor in Perth. I’m really excited and proud of that. At the beginning of next year, Helen Hunt is releasing her new film, Ride, which she wrote, directed and starred in. That was a dream come true. It was amazing to make. Sometime in 2016 you’ll see Gods Of Egypt. We finished shooting about a month ago in Sydney and there’s a huge CGI element to the film and they’re in post production right now trying to create a lot of the backdrops and a lot of the action sequences.