THE CHOSEN ONE. Alden Ehrenreich got off to a flying start with his role in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Tetro’. Shortly thereafter, he was dubbed the next Leonardo DiCaprio. By Refa Koetin and M. Berlian
Photo above: Suit and vest by Emporio Armani
Born 1989 in Los Angeles, Alden Ehrenreich grew up in a family that was exposed to show business quite a lot. His uncle worked on the long-running TV show Days of Our Lives and his mother, despite constantly warning him about the dangers of child acting, encouraged acting as a productive pastime.
It didn’t stop there for Alden. He enrolled in the theater program at the renowned Crossroads School to study acting and in 2005 made his first professional acting appearance as a guest star on the TV show Supernatural. Later, he was hand-picked by Francis Ford Coppola to play a key role in Tetro, and has once again been singled out for a major role in the 2011 film Twixt alongside Val Kilmer and again directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
In 2012, he’s slated to be in another potential blockbuster called Stoker, produced by the legendary Ridley Scott and starring alongside A-Listers Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Nicole Kidman. People are calling him a consummate thespian with comparisons to other greats of past and present. Here, he takes time out to give DA MAN some insights into what he’s doing and show off his modeling skills.
DA MAN: What can you tell us about your journey in showbiz … we’ve read stories about being discovered by Steve Spielberg at a party. How did that go down?
Alden Ehrenreich: When I was 14, my friend Gianni and I used to create little short films to make ourselves laugh. A friend of his cousin’s asked us to make one for her bat mitzvah. We made this movie about me trying to sneak into her house because I was so in love with her and then she rejects me and I roll in the grass crying. It’s very ridiculous. They had it playing on a loop at her bat mitzvah and apparently Steven Spielberg saw it and thought I would be good for a film he was making at the time, so we were called afterward to have a meeting at Dreamworks. The movie didn’t happen but Dreamworks set me up with an agent. When Gianni and I showed this little movie to our moms before the bat mitzvah, they both said that we looked like fools and shouldn’t let anyone see it.
DA MAN: Are you still studying at NYU or have you finished up?
Alden Ehrenreich: I am not in New York anymore but I’m finishing my last year at NYU through independent study credit and a screenwriting private lesson.
DA MAN: Now that it’s not your first time working with Francis Ford Coppola, did you find shooting Twixt easier for you in terms of really grasping what he wants out of your character?
Alden Ehrenreich: I don’t think it was easier. I find it more challenging to play a supporting character because you have so much less guidance from the script. With a lead, you can explore more dimensions of someone because you see them in many different circumstances. In regard to knowing what Francis wants, Twixt is a different world from Tetro and comes from a different part of Francis’ imagination. Therefore, you’re learning a new language and feeling that out. I admire so much that Francis makes movies that are so varied (think Apocalypse Now to One From The Heart). He has embraced so many styles of storytelling in his career, explored so many different worlds. That’s much more exciting to me than directors who seem to make a movie in the same language over and over, though I enjoy those movies as well, like Wes Anderson.
DA MAN: How was it working with the likes of Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern and Ben Chaplin on set?
Alden Ehrenreich: Val is very, very, very funny and he’s friends with Vincent Gallo [who starred in Tetro], so their senses of humor are somewhat similar, though I don’t know Val nearly as well as I know Vincent. Ben Chaplin is also very funny and very warm and an extremely attentive listener. I enjoyed meeting them both a lot, as well as Bruce Dern who is an absolute legend, and a powerhouse. I’d been a big fan of Bruce Dern’s since I saw The Cowboys.
DA MAN: What sort of preparations did you go through for the shooting of Twixt?
Alden Ehrenreich: I tried a lot of different things to prepare for Twixt. Probably the only interesting story was that my character wears theatrical makeup all the time and is at odds with the town he lives in. While I was in New York, I bought some Halloween makeup, which smeared a lot when I put it on and looked very grotesque. Then I walked out into the West Village and walked around all night and it was fascinating. Having all this extreme makeup on completely liberated you from a certain type of permanent self-consciousness about appearance that I didn’t even realize was such a constant hum in the back of my mind. I was basically a freak to everyone I walked by and that was it. Some people were sort of shocked, some people came up and talked to me, one guy even tried to get me to design mannequins in his clothing store. But it was a wholly different way of interacting with the world of strangers around you.
DA MAN: Tell us about your character in Twixt and how you were able to grasp the essence of your character Flamingo.
Alden Ehrenreich: I’m not sure how I connected with it. I tried many different things, tried to get an understanding of where he was coming from.
Sweater by Burberry Prorsum
DA MAN: A handful of movie industry pundits have dubbed you ‘the next Leo DiCaprio.’ How do you feel about that?
Alden Ehrenreich: The Leonardo DiCaprio thing is flattering because he’s a really good actor and handsome. I do wish people were able to have a more specific conversation about actors, and everything else for that matter—take a little time to come up with some specific adjectives rather than immediately compare it to something that’s already happened. That holds us back as a society, don’t you think? I also think there’s a big difference between saying ‘He has the [similar characteristics] of this person’ and ‘He’s the new this person,’ which just doesn’t say a whole lot. What are you supposed to think or do with that? It’s not exciting, as an audience member, to hear there’s a new version of an actor who I can still go see in a movie.
DA MAN: What do you think is the primary factors that make or break a script?
Alden Ehrenreich: A script is a story. If you want to keep reading, then it’s a good story. Even in less traditionally narrative films, there has to be some form of story, some dynamism that moves you forward. Or else who wants to watch it? Characters are a big part of traditional stories, and conflict.
DA MAN: What can you tell us about other projects you might be involved in?
Alden Ehrenreich: I just wrapped Melanie Shaw’s debut feature, called Running Wild, which I’m really, really excited about, as well as a short film called Petting Zoo, which was made by Durga Chew-Bose. She’s a very interesting writer, who writes a lot about film for Interview magazine. This is her first film. I also just finished a play called As The Boat Approaches with Josh Margolin, written by Justin Kuritzkes and directed by Justin and Sam Alper. Sam is a playwright who wrote most of the shows for my theater group, The Collectin. Sam and Justin are both incredibly gifted writers, and Josh is one of the best comedic performers I’ve ever seen. In fact, he was signed to Brillstein Entertainment Partners after the show. I learned a lot from him about comedy. We’re in talks right now about producing that play at another theater soon. And then, I’m waiting for Stoker to come out, which is Park Chan-wook’s first English-speaking film, which I wrapped last month. Stoker is with Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman.
DA MAN: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Alden Ehrenreich: In five years, I hope that I couldn’t imagine now where I’ll be then.
DA MAN: You seem to keep a low profile. Is that intentional?
Alden Ehrenreich: If you have any ideas on how to be less low-profile, please let me know.
DA MAN: Are you into the ‘Hollywood scene’?
Alden Ehrenreich: I’m living in Los Angeles now, but I’m not into a ‘Hollywood scene.’ I have a great group of friends that I know from growing up here. A lot of us love Los Angeles—love, love, love, love Los Angeles—its history and its weird melancholy and its sparseness and its romanticism; a romanticism that comes solely from the movies. The whole history of the movies is so deeply imbedded in the entire city: the old Hollywood architecture or the hand-painted murals of Marilyn Monroe on carwashes and thrift shops. It unifies this huge city in a really fantastical way. I hate that many people—who have never even been here—associate Los Angeles only with the bullshit ‘scene’ that occurs around the movies, and don’t appreciate how magical L.A. can be. It’s the ‘dream factory.’
DA MAN: People have compared you to the likes of the aforementioned DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and even John Mayer. If you were forced to pick one celeb to be compared to, who would it be and why?
Alden Ehrenreich: I’ve never heard the John Mayer thing before, wow. I hate to be a bummer, but I would just like to be myself.
DA MAN: What’s the difference between working with the two Coppolas (Francis and Sofia)?
Alden Ehrenreich: Francis emanates grandness. He has the aura of a king. Sofia is soft-spoken and very sweet and has a nice, somewhat sarcastic sense of humor—maybe like a princess—though, they’re directing styles are similar. They are both extremely personable and the way that they direct comes from a very connected and intimate place. They both make you feel very comfortable, which is huge. Francis says that, as a director, you preside over a film set. The director’s disposition sets the vibe for the entire film. They both create atmospheres in which many surprises can happen.
DA MAN: We’ve read about this now-famous Catcher in the Rye audition you did for Francis Ford Coppola to win your role in Tetro, do you remember the passage you read?
Alden Ehrenreich: I read a passage where [the book’s main character, Holden Caulfield] talked about his brother who died, and how he used to write poems in green ink on his baseball mitt. I had never read Catcher in the Rye in its entirety, though I bought it on my 16th birthday. I read it on the plane to Buenos Aires [where Tetro was set].
DA MAN: Who are some other directors you hope to work with someday?
Alden Ehrenreich: Hopefully, a lot of people I don’t even know about yet.
DA MAN: You are part of a theater/film group called The Collectin; how involved are you with that these days, now that your film career has seemingly become a lot busier?
Alden Ehrenreich: The Collectin is a theater and film collective I’ve run with my friend Zoë Worth for the last few years. We conducted Sunday night workshops with around 40 actors, writers and directors from NYU. From these workshops we created five different plays that were written specifically for the strengths of the actors as they became apparent in the workshops.
DA MAN: What was the biggest motivation for you to pursue a career in showbiz?
Alden Ehrenreich: It’s a physical drive I’ve always felt that this is what I’m going to do.
DA MAN: What have you had to say ‘no’ to in order to make it as far as you have?
Alden Ehrenreich: I, luckily, haven’t had to sacrifice that much for where my career is now. I was able to have a full college experience, maintain a life within my own generation, a ‘normal’ life and still have a hand in my professional career.
DA MAN: Have you ever upset anyone while trying to keep your focus on your career goals?
Alden Ehrenreich: Luckily, so many of my friends are so talented and creative (often with a focus on film) that my personal and professional lives have felt cohesive.
DA MAN: Are there any movies or TV shows that you can point to, which definitively gave you motivation as a youngster to pursue a career in acting?
Alden Ehrenreich: Movies that have inspired me include The Godfather, Anatomy of a Murder, Midnight Cowboy, Five Easy Pieces and Hook.
DA MAN: Who are some of your favorite actors of yesteryear?
Alden Ehrenreich: I’ll name actors I like: Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Stewart, Ned Beatty, James Dean, Debra Winger, Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. Those are my favorites, the kind of performances I aspire toward.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Ashley Phan-Weston