Callan McAuliffe discusses his latest role in the upcoming sci-fi film, from producers Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay
Fifteen-year old Australian actor, Callan McAuliffe began to gain attention in Hollywood this summer with his role in director Rob Reiner's Flipped. The young actor will soon be returning to theaters next year in the new sci-fi film, I Am Number Four, based on the popular book. The movie is about nine infant aliens who are sent to Earth to hide from a group of enemy aliens. The nine aliens can only be killed in numerical order and with the first three already dead, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer, Beastly) has just learned that he is Number Four. Now to protect himself he must team up with his remanding group and a local teenager named Sam (McAuliffe), in order to unlock his secret powers and survive the alien attack. The film is directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) and produced by directors Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. We recently had a chance to speak with Callan McAuliffe about the new movie, his character, how he got the role and working with director D.J. Caruso. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, what was the audition process like for you to get this role?
Callan McAuliffe: Actually, I only read for it once. I did one read through. I did one audition for it and that was while I was in Los Angeles doing publicity for Flipped the Rob Reiner film. We didn't hear anything for about a week after that. Then we were in New York continuing the publicity for Flipped and we got the call. I had only done one five-minute audition, which was craziness. Yeah, so that was pretty much it. I read for Sam. It was one scene but it was crazy. We shot that in Pittsburg a couple of months ago and I think that was about a four-month process.
Since you mentioned "Flipped," can you talk about the differences between working with D.J. Caruso on this film, as opposed to your experience with Rob Reiner.
Callan McAuliffe: To me they are both fantastic directors, they're both fairly similar. They both know all the people they have on set and they bring all the same people. They employ the same people that they do on every film so everyone knows each other and everyone knows what they are doing. Most importantly, they were both very open. If I did something crap, they would tell me and they would tell me to try something else. If it was good, they would tell me and they would tell me to keep doing it. They were both just phenomenal. They are all very professional and very cooperative. They all know what they want.
Can you talk about DJ's vision for this film?
Callan McAuliffe: Every one just wanted the film dead awesome. I think that was the main objective here. Also, my character, I played it as the script said, as I thought it should be played, as D.J. wanted it to be played. So we would always be talking on set. We would always be in cahoots. I would be like "How's this? How's that?" He'd say things like, "That's great," or "that's not." So I guess if I was okay with it and he was happy with it, we would try it and if it didn't work, we would try something else. So we just ran through everything.
Tell us about your character, Sam. How do you interpret the role based on the script?
Callan McAuliffe: Well Sam is that outside kid who is picked on by everyone. I am not like that at school. I am not super-popular, but I have friends and people don't make it their objective to piss me off. Although with Sam, people bully him and eventually when he meets John (Alex Pettyfer), who is also an outsider in a very different respect, they bond. For me, it was easy. It was breaking from real life, but that is what acting is. So basically, it was reading the script, getting in touch with the character and just doing it. I can sympathize with Sam of course, but not because of personal experience, but because I can imagine how he feels.
Can you talk about the relationship between John and Sam?
Callan McAuliffe: As I said, John is an outsider in a very different respect than Sam, but Sam is an outsider because he is bullied and no one likes him. Because they are both outsiders they bond. In the beginning, John really doesn't want him and really doesn't need him there because John is trying to escape these ruthless enemies that are trying to chase him. He really doesn't need someone who he doesn't know, knowing his secrets. So, Sam sees him use some of his special powers and he sort of immediately presumes he is an alien. That is not good for John. So then John sort of has to take him on unwillingly and keep him there to make sure he doesn't go off and tell someone because it is really dangerous for him. People are hunting him. He doesn't know me so I could be one of those people who posts those things on You Tube or does something like that. I could give away his secret and then he would be dead. But the relationship progresses and eventually he really doesn't want me but he sort of sympathizes with me because he sees me get bullied. He doesn't need me there at the beginning but I do become of some minor assistance throughout the film.
Is your character a reluctant hero in a sense?
Callan McAuliffe: Yes a reluctant hero! Well, he wants to be a hero but he is not super adept to killing stuff. I mean he does help out, and there are a few things where I have to jump away and dive or shoot. There is definitely some intense stuff for Sam.
Can you talk about Sam's arc in the movie?
Callan McAuliffe: Definitely and you know his arc has only just begun. There are plenty of other books that come with this. If this does well, then hopefully we will keep going. But in this film he is definitely an outsider who is picked on, who is not popular and is hated by everyone. He believes in aliens and his dad is an ancient astrologist, if that's a word, so everyone in his family according to everyone else is weird, because of that he is very self-conscious and he is very to himself. But he does progress as he experiences these things with John and with Sarah (Dianna Agron). He sort of progresses and becomes a much stronger person, not physically, but mentally and emotionally.
You mentioned future films, is there a direction you would like to see the character go in possible sequels?
Callan McAuliffe: I have no idea what they are doing with the future books and stuff like that. I have only seen a few scenes and so far it looks fantastic. So if they can keep making them fantastic that would be nice.
We heard that the weather conditions shooting in Pittsburgh were kind of rough, what can you tell us about that?
Callan McAuliffe: Where I live in Australia is typically very hot, dry and beautiful. But Sydney is not. Sydney is all over the place in terms of weather. That is pretty much what Pittsburgh was like. It is all over the place. You can't tell what it is going to be. Is it going to be rainy or is it going to be sunny? Of course, that made it really difficult to plan a schedule for shooting around, but we got through it.
What sci-fi films do you really enjoy?
Callan McAuliffe: I think my favorite sci-fi film is definitely District 9 at the moment. I just thought that was fantastic.
Finally, you are Australian and there have been some amazing films to come from down under this year including "Animal Kingdom" and "Red Hill." Would you like to work on some Australian at some point in your career?
Callan McAuliffe: It is definitely fantastic. I would love to go do some Australian projects and go back to the homeland. It is all a very similar process as well, the filming experience and that sort of stuff. They definitely have some great films coming out.
I Am Number Four was released February 18th, 2011 and stars Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand, Jake Abel, Jeff Hochendoner. The film is directed by D.J. Caruso.