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Fast Chat with Ed Speleers
By Joe Amodio
Special to Newsday
December 17, 2006
Riding an escalator isn't quite as thrilling as riding a dragon, but as long as he's headed upward, that suits British actor Ed Speleers just fine.
Speleers, 18, is making his feature film debut in "Eragon," an action-packed fantasy about a lad - Eragon - and his dragon, Saphira. The film, which opens Friday, also stars Jeremy Irons (as Eragon's noble mentor), John Malkovich (a tyrannical king) and Robert Carlyle (a sorcerer). The tale is based on the bestselling book by Christopher Paolini, the first in his three-part trilogy. So if this flick does even moderately well, count on seeing more of Speleers, and his fire-spewing comrade.
Before "Eragon," Speleers had acted only in school plays. Though it's no wonder filmmakers plucked him from obscurity, what with those keen features and shock of blonde, the kind of genetics that send teen and tween girls overturning magazine kiosks in search of the latest issue of "Tiger Beat." Sorry, girls, he's got a girlfriend - they've been together a year. Though he's eager to find a flat in London, he currently lives in the south of England, splitting time between his mom's place and his dad's (they're divorced). Earlier this month, Joe Amodio grabbed lunch with Speleers at the Hudson Hotel in Manhattan.
So your career is taking off. Your parents must be proud.
Yeah, they really take an interest. But with this industry everybody thinks that I should be getting together with [my parents] all the time.
Who thinks that?
My mum. She's like, "Why don't you take me to meetings?" I say, "Does Toby take you to his business meetings?" Just because it's an acting job parents think they should look into everything. Which is sweet. But to have your family involved in your career choices could cause all kinds of problems. Though now I'm gonna completely contradict myself, because my brother and I started a production company together.
So working with your brother - that's OK.
He's passionate about it. He has a law degree, but he's always wanted to work in film. Our dream is to do pictures where he directs and I star.
I have two half brothers - they're like full brothers, really, we're close. My family situation - I ... [he chuckles]. I love my parents, but between them they have seven marriages and six divorces. But it stands me in good stead.
Where did you go to school?
I went to boarding school. Because of "Eragon" I never quite finished officially.
You didn't complete final exams?
My A-levels, yeah. But right now I've got an opportunity - I've got to grab the bull by the horns and literally go for it. I'm not gonna give up. I'm determined.
What's that tattoo on your inner wrist?
It's a star, and the five points represent my five best friends.
Hey, it's your "five," like in those cell phone commercials.
[Laughing] Yeah, We've all got them. Well, one guy still hasn't - I think he's a bit scared. But he's gonna have to get one.
What made you so sure you wanted to be an actor?
We had a school play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The whole of the cast was about 12 or 13 and I was 10. I took on the role of Puck and just loved it. I was like, 'Mum, I really want to be an actor.' And she's like, 'OK, go for it.' I tried to do as many plays as I possibly could at school.
I heard you were rehearsing a school production of "Hamlet" when you got the "Eragon" audition. Were you playing H?
Yeah, I was H. And my school drama teacher said, look, this movie audition has come up and you should go. He's always been supportive. If I was ever in trouble at school he'd tell the powers that be that I was actually worth keeping. [He chuckles.]
So you're a troublemaker?
I'm an English schoolboy, and occasionally, possibly, when I was 16 or 17, I might've been found ... having a beer when I probably shouldn't have been. [He smiles.] There's no English schoolboy in the world between 15 and 18 who wouldn't have done the same.
Getting the lead in this film must've been like a dream come true.
I was pumped up all the time. There were times that were chaotic, when we were knackered. But you'd have to be mad not to have a good time jumping on the back of a horse and gallivanting around with Jeremy Irons.
Had you ridden horses before?
A little. But Jeremy taught me a helluva lot. He's been riding since he was 7. He fell in love with his horse - he had a gorgeous Fresian, a stallion, huge strong neck. Nutter. Absolute nutcase. It was beautiful the way it moved, but looked a little bit loopy.
So you and Jeremy Irons got along.
He was a father figure in some respects. [We play] mentor/apprentice, and I think that's what was going on. He took me under his wing. He's a remarkable guy. I mean, his credentials speak for themselves. What I love about him is that despite the fact that he's got an Oscar, and has done some fantastic performances, we still don't know anything about him.
Because he keeps his private life to himself.
It's his acting that speaks volumes, not his personal life. That's the same for most of the cast. They're real actors.
Not bad company to keep.
I want to be my own man, but I want to be like them. And in 40 years have a conversation with a guy who says, "Y'know, Ed, you've done all right." I don't need to be one of the best actors of all time but just for people to go, "I respect you. You've given some good performances."