Only four of the Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch were able to make it to the 21st annual Hamptons International Film Festival but those who did came together to participate in an engaging panel discussion about their experience with the art and craft of acting.
Held on Saturday, October 12, at the First Presbyterian Church Session House, actors Dane DeHaan, Scott Haze, Brie Larsen and David Oyelowo gathered for an hour-long chat with Variety Executive Editor and panel moderator Steven Gaydos. Before introducing the four actors, Mr. Gaydos remarked that the emerging talents were in good company; former Actors to Watch/Rising Stars at HIFF have included Emily Blunt, Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rooney Mara and Jessica Chastain.
“People see the names and they say ‘right, that’s a good choice,’ as opposed to ‘duh, of course,’” he said about the criteria for selecting the next breakout stars.
For Ms. Larsen—whose mother moved the two of them to Hollywood with only $700, when the budding actor was 7 years old—her big break came via a fake Barbie commercial for Jay Leno. It was such a crowd-pleaser that the late-night talk-show host commissioned several more.
“I had been turned away from every real Barbie commercial at that point,” Ms. Larsen, whose notable credits include “Short Term 12” and “United States of Tara,” recalled. “I acted the shit out of that fake Barbie commercial.”
Mr. Oyelowo said that he got into acting for an age-old reason: to impress a girl. The Oxford-born and Nigeria-raised actor said that he was obsessed with his pastor’s daughter.
“For a full year all I looked at was her cascading hair as she worked the overhead [projector],” he recalled.
The man who stole the show in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and acted in “Middle of Nowhere” got his big chance when his crush invited him to take part in a theatrical, he said, adding that all his prayers had been answered. He soon learned that she was more interested in finding boys to fill parts than she was in him, however.
“You learned early on that people in show business were deceptive,” Mr. Gaydos remarked.
“Yes. Devious,” the actor quipped.
Mr. Haze, who worked on four films last year alone with his friend and fellow actor James Franco, said that acting is all about “accessibility to opportunities.” His notable roles include “Child of God”—for which he lived in a cave for months in order to get into character—and “As I Lay Dying” and he’s currently shooting “The Sound and the Fury” in Mississippi with Mr. Franco.
He grew up loving Brando and Pacino, quoting dialogue from “Carlito’s Way” and “The Basketball Diaries,” he said. He chose to take classes at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting because his idols did. Classmates included a few famous actors who continued to study, or teach, after their big breaks.
“Mark Ruffalo and Benicio del Toro were there. I had watched ‘The Usual Suspects’ before that and thought ‘that’s really interesting,’” he said of Mr. del Toro’s performance. “And then he’s here in my class.”
Not exactly star-struck but definitely impressed, Mr. Oyelowo and Mr. DeHaan worked together on Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” They are both featured together in the first moments of the film.
“I was terrified,” Mr. Oyelowo said, drawing a comedic “me too” from Mr. DeHaan.
“I think we were wearing Hessian underwear. There were all sorts of nether region problems,” he joked about the detail to historical accuracy on the period film.
The actor then related an experience he had in working with Daniel Day-Lewis and superstar Tom Cruise in two separate films on the same day.
“It was 24 hours and I went from Daniel Day Lewis and Steven Spielberg on ‘Lincoln’ to a car chase with Tom Cruise on ‘Jack Reacher,’” he said. “The movie star’s movie star and the actor’s actor. They are very different, but not a lot of taking it for granted did I see.”
Mr. DeHaan, who starred in HIFF’s Opening Film, “Kill Your Darlings,” just got his acting start five years ago. His big break, he laughed, was the History Channel’s “The Influenza Of 1918.” Since, his career has taken off—he’s racked up an impressive resumé, working with Mr. Spielberg and director Atom Egoyan, starring in “The Place Beyond the Pines” with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes and he recently wrapped filming on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
The disarming actor, who has been lauded for captivating audiences in his various roles, credits finding his acting center to his three years at the immersive performing arts Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania and one at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
“I loved acting school. I would’ve stayed there forever if I could,” he said. “It was a safe environment, a wonderful safe place to explore and start to find your voice as an artist.”
Fans might also notice that he played Trip, a young roadie for the heavy metal band Metallica, in “Metallica Through the Never” and “Metallica: Amped for IMAX.” He was humorously asked by Mr. Gaydos, “Is Metallica your James Franco?”
“When Metallica calls you, you can’t say no,” he replied, holding a straight face.
Laughing, the audience was in the palm of his hand.
Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch who were not in attendance included: Jack Huston, Michael B. Jordan, Tatiana Maslany, Lupita Nyong’O and Léa Seydoux.