There's not much one can say as introduction to 14-year-old Alexander Ludwig, who's done a lot of commercials and small roles in movies like Air Bud
and Most Valuable Primate
, but hasn't done anything major until winning the coveted role of Will Stanton in David Cunningham's The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising
. Either way, playing a teenager who suddenly finds himself with amazing powers as he's sent on a quest to find a series of elemental signs that will help him face the evil agents of The Dark should be a huge boost to the young actor's career.
ComingSoon.net spoke to Ludwig on the set of the movie on a day when he was being forced to stay indoors due to allergies.
ComingSoon.net: Can you talk about getting this role and how that all came about for you?
Well, what happened was that I was in Vancouver and apparently they were looking around the country for someone to play this role and around like North America and some places in Europe. But they phoned me up and they said, "There's this audition coming. Here's the script. Read it and tell me if you like it and you can go out for an audition if you want to." So me and my mom went over the script and the second that I read the script, I swear it, I knew that this part was for me. I absolutely knew it. Ever since I've been a little kid I've always wanted superpowers, which is the coolest thing in the world. So I read the script and really loved it and I really, really wanted this part. You have no idea. I've never wanted a part more than this one. So when I first went out for the audition they kept calling me back and back and back and eventually, after like eight auditions, I was on the phone with the Vice President of Fox Casting and we went over the script and we went over my lines and I did it over the phone. It was really nerve racking. I'd never met him before and we were doing this over the phone which was so crazy. So eventually after that they called me down to L.A. So they flew me down and I had never lived in L.A. before for like a day or something. I mean, I've been to a lot of places, but never actually stayed overnight in L.A. and so that was a pretty cool experience, the first time being in L.A. and I was flown in by a studio. That was really amazing. I got there and they called me in for an audition, I think, the day after or the day of. So I came in and I was staying by Fox Studios and I had to have like three more auditions and then I waited a day. I was only supposed to be there for like two days and I ended up being there for like six days and I didn't have enough clothes and so me and my mom were shopping. Then eventually we were just waiting and waiting and it was so nerve racking. I was trying to keep my mind off of things. They called again and wanted to go over the script again on the phone in the hotel room and then suddenly the phone went on speaker, but on every phone in the whole room and so he started laughing and I was laughing so hard. I felt so embarrassed because it's the Vice President of Fox Casting and I'm laughing and I couldn't help it, but after that I experience I went back to the studios and ended up doing another audition. So I ended up doing like sixteen auditions of this part and I've never done that before.
CS: Were all these auditions by yourself or were you with someone else, playing off of them?
I was by myself and with Christian Kaplan. He played opposite me in every part. He's a fantastic guy and so that was really great. Eventually, one day I was in my room and getting changed into a new shirt to go to the meeting with my agents from ICM and my agent from Vancouver called. I was in the changing room putting on a shirt and my mom said, "Alexander, I'm going to put you on speaker phone" so she put me on speaker phone and my agent from Vancouver is fantastic, and I hear, "Alexander you got the part!" so I started screaming in the mall and I run out without a shirt on. I was screaming and dancing. It was hilarious and the best experience. I have no regrets ever since. I mean, any kid would die for this role. I'm so fortunate to be here and I'm having such a fun time.
CS: Have you read the books or know about them before this, or did you read the books after you got the part?
I had actually never ever read these books. I didn't even know that there was such a thing, and so when I found out that there was a series of books--and first of all I loved the possibilities and that was really exciting for me--but I actually tried to refrain from reading the books because I'm doing the movie from the screenplay and not on the book. I was just afraid that it would – there were a couple of changes in the story, big drastic changes.
CS: He's American rather than British.
Exactly, and he's fourteen and not eleven. So there were just some changes.
CS: Can you talk about the character and what you see as his journey?
My outlook on the character, and I'm playing Will and so Will Stanton is a thirteen year old boy who turns fourteen. On his fourteenth birthday he starts getting these weird powers. I think that Will is not a complete loner. It's not like he doesn't have any friends or that he's a complete...
(laughs) That's exactly what I wanted to say. I just didn't want to be rude, but he's definitely an outcast in the group. He just moved from a different place and he's not a very social guy, but through the whole movie he's discovering himself and what's going on inside of him and now there are all these new things that are happening to him and he starts experiencing these changes and not just physical changes. He is going through puberty which is what makes the dark manipulation so much bigger, but also the whole fact about him learning about himself and how he's slowly coming out the world and becoming a bigger person. Eventually he really understands himself at the end of the movie and he understands his purpose in life. He really just becomes a cool guy.
CS: Is it true that you played Harry Potter at one point for some promotions?
When I first started acting I was about nine years old. I had never been to audition in my life and my agent sent me out. It was just a commercial for "Harry Potter." That was the first thing I ever went out for and I got the "Harry Potter" commercial which was really cool, but I didn't play Harry Potter. I looked like Malfoy at that age and they didn't want me to look like that and so they just dyed my hair.
CS: What kind of powers does your character use and manifest in the film?
The powers that my character has is that he can light stuff on fire which is really cool. He summons great strength. He can move objects with his mind. He can travel through time, but the main thing that I wish he could, but it would ruin the whole story, is that he can't fly. He wants to fly in the movie too which I think is perfect because I would love to be able to fly. It would totally change the whole story though.
CS: What's been the best scene that you've done so far? There's been some water things and some snakes; did you enjoy doing that stuff?
There have been some absolutely incredible scenes that I've done. Just working with all of these experienced actors is just amazing. They're all so great and there are so many scenes that it's really hard to say. I can name a couple. Emma Lockhart, who plays Gwen, she's so fantastic and such a great person. We really have great chemistry. The Viking scene was absolutely amazing. The snake scene was really cool too. Once you find out that the snakes don't have venom, I'm not as scared as before. If I was by myself with a snake that had venom it would be a different story, but it was really cool seeing like a thousand snakes piled in this big pile and right before he says action there's a snake crawling through your leg and so you have to grab it and put it back into the pile. The water scene with Amelia Warner and Jonathan Jackson was absolutely fantastic. That was so much fun, getting to throw her over the railing and doing all of these stunts. I don't know. There are so many scenes. I also really enjoyed doing this really big emotional scene because I've never had a chance to experience that and to show that in a movie before, my emotional side, and I didn't really know before this movie – I knew that I could do it, but I just didn't know how to get into that moment. Fox got an acting coach for me who was absolutely amazing and he worked with me everyday. We would go in and work together in the car and he really taught me how to get into those moments. So I'm really fortunate to have him. I really enjoy doing that part because it really just juices you and when Emma Lockhart came on playing Gwen, that was just such an emotional, great scene to be able to show everybody the other side of my character.
CS: Is Gwen your love interest in the film?
She's my little sister! (laughs) Maggie Barnes is being played by Amelia Warner and she's the girl who manipulates me. She's part of the dark and I don't know that. That's why I think that puberty is also a really big part in this movie as well because, lets face it, if I wasn't going through puberty it would be more puppy love than love when I first meet Maggie. So that's a really big thing.
CS: What was your first day like on the set? Since this is something you've always wanted to do, that first day must have been unforgettable.
It was definitely unforgettable. I'll tell you that. The first thing that we were shooting on the first day that I came was a school scene with a ton of extras. I've been with a lot of extras, but when you have extras that don't speak the same language as you, it gets really crazy. I had met the director beforehand in preproduction, but when I first met him I was really nervous because you have to have a great connection with the director and you have to have a great connection with all of the actors because if you don't then they're going to have different ideas of what they want from you. So that's why I really loved David Cunningham because he's really open to suggestions and he really likes everything to be messy and wild and just natural. So I met with David and he was such a great guy. He left me a message because he's been in Romania for like nine months now or something like that, and I met with him and I met with Chris [Eccleston] and I met with all of the other actors. They were perfectly cast and exactly what I expected. I was so thankful to be with them. After that the first day came along and it was the school scene, and it was the first scene where it's the last day of school before winter break and I'm really pumped to get out, but it's just like, "Whatever. I'm an outcast." It's not depressing, but it's not exciting. All of my brothers and sisters are excited to get out of school and do whatever, so I'm walking down the hallway and I see Maggie for the first time who flips her scarf and starts walking and as I'm looking for her I see my sister. That's pretty much the first day. It got pretty crazy though because the language barrier is a big thing. Luckily, everyone has been so great and a lot of Romanians – I was really surprised by this – they all speak English quite well too, so luckily it wasn't that big of a deal, but with the extras of course it was hard to communicate with them because when you say one thing they interpret it another way. It's not their fault, but it's just what happens. We went to an American school in Romania and so they got as many North Americans as possible, but there were also some Romanians and some people from France. It just got crazy and the way that people perceived it was me being a kid, but not me being a kid that was bullied. So they thought that they were supposed to bully me because they thought that was my character. So as I walking down the hallway as they were shooting I started getting pushed and stuff and it was really fun and it worked with the scene. They were all, don't get me wrong, fantastic people, but it was just really, really funny to see that happen because it all worked in the scene. We had a great time.
CS: Ian McShane told us that when he met you, he told you you should forget all the acting coach stuff. Is that true?
Oh, when Ian first met me, what he said was true, but I'm pretty sure that he didn't mean it in that way. The coach is fantastic and he really helps me get into the moment and connect with the characters, but what he meant was that this was about he and I and no one else. No one is to come between us, that this moment is just me and Ian. That was really important and important to the movie, and what he meant was to not be anyone else, just be natural and be in the moment. He was just really trying to help me get into character and it was just he and I, eye to eye and really went through the moment together.
CS: So what do you make of Romania?
Well, like every country it has its ups and downs, but I'm having an absolutely fantastic time out here. People out here just have so little and they're giving so much. It's fantastic.
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