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Q&A with Ed Speleers

Sunday, December 17, 2006

By Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Scarlett O'Hara. Harry Potter. Eragon.

All were pivotal movie roles that were cast only after exhaustive searches. In the case of "Eragon," moviemakers knew they had found their lead when English newcomer Ed Speleers auditioned for Eragon, a Dragon Rider, even as he was preparing for a school production of "Hamlet."

Ed Speleers
The movie, which opened Friday, is a fantasy adventure based on the Christopher Paolini novel. It's set in a kingdom called Alagaesia, where humans, sorcerers, monsters and mighty dragons roam.

Eragon and Saphira, a dragon with the voice of Rachel Weisz, lead the forces of good in a battle against the armies of an evil king, played by John Malkovich.

The cast also includes Jeremy Irons (Speleers was a fan, particularly of "The Mission" and "The Man in the Iron Mask" as Eragon's mentor, Robert Carlyle as a sorcerer, Djimon Hounsou as a rebel leader and Sienna Guillory as a beautiful warrior.

The 18-year-old took a few minutes to talk recently during a publicity stop in Philadelphia, one of seven American cities he was visiting in 10 days. At that point, neither he nor the PG had seen the finished version of the movie.


Q: Word on the Internet is you were picked out of 180,000 applicants?

A: That's not true. I have no idea. I can't believe that can be true. ... There were a few other guys when I was in there, yeah.


Q: Did you know you nailed the audition when you were finished?

A: I knew that there was a friendly atmosphere in there toward me, but I didn't think I did that well.


Q: Up until this point, had you done anything professional or had it been mainly school productions?

A: Just school productions. That's all I've ever done, really.


Q: What was your biggest role until the movie came along?

A: In school? Probably Stanley Kowalski [in "A Streetcar Named Desire"] -- that was the toughest.


Q: How much of the movie did you act against a blue screen?

A: Obviously, a large chunk because Saphira's a lead character, so anything I did with her was shot against a blue screen [which gives animators a blank slate].


Q: What did they do to help you understand what would be inserted in later, via the effects?

A: They gave me a tennis ball and a couple of concept drawings. Later on, when we did the dragon riding, I saw how it would look on the screen when I was actually riding her. But for the most part, there was not much there. It was all in development.


Q: You and the dragon communicate without talking, telepathically ... would they play her voice so you would be able to hear it?

A: No. We hadn't decided who was going to be the voice. It was only cast recently.


Q: You spent a fair amount of time with Jeremy Irons?

A: Jeremy and I worked closely for a few months. He helped me out a ... lot as an actor and as a person. [He offered advice] about composure, he taught me little tricks and said I must get professional training.


Q: In terms of the attention you would be facing once this movie came out, did he give you any advice on how to handle that?

A: What do you say to somebody when it's about to get crazy? I don't think there is any way of preparing yourself for anything like that. We didn't dwell on stuff like that anyway.


Q: It seems as if some of these scenes might have been very physical for you -- fighting with swords at one point?

A: I did a lot of sword-fighting and horseback riding training. I was in the gym quite regularly, boxing and all sorts of things to get myself fit. I enjoyed the physical side of it because I've always played a lot of sports. It was almost a way for me to take my mind off things.


Q: For people who are familiar with the book, what will they find when they see the movie?

A: I think the book fans are going to like it because the meaning of the story is there. ... It's a coming-of-age story all about friendship and striving to help each other in order to defeat evil and try to become heroes.


Q: It seems you're getting a bit of the teen heartthrob treatment. Is that something that makes you comfortable, uncomfortable or a little nervous about, if people want to start following you around with cameras and see who you're dating?

A: As far as I know, it hasn't started yet. If it happens, then it happens. It's not something I focus my life around, and I think you can avoid having your life run like that as well.


Q: What has been your favorite movie so far this year?

A: I was a big fan of 'The Last King of Scotland.' I thought that was a great film. And I was a big fan of James Bond as well. I think he's [Daniel Craig] the best James Bond we've ever had.



11.2.07 12:49