Shakespeare Readied Eragon Star
Ed Speleers, the 18-year-old English actor who plays the title role in the upcoming fantasy film Eragon, told SCI FI Wire that his lead parts in school plays helped prepare him to take on his first role in a movie. They included the title roles in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Richard III at his private British boarding school, Eastbourne College in East Sussex.
"I had the lead roles in those plays, and they were pretty intense. They were tough," Speleers said in an interview. "People in the U.S. say that it's a pretty big deal to take a role like that, but it's really a very English thing to do. We always do Shakespeare, and those are definitely the big ones."
Speleers took what he learned in his school plays and so impressed director Stefen Fangmeier that he beat out 180,000 others to win the coveted role of the young dragonrider in the movie based on Christopher Paolini's best-selling novel. Eragon is Speleers' first film-acting job and also marks the feature-directorial debut of Fangmeier, who built his career as a movie visual-effects supervisor.
"I really enjoyed Hamlet, and it's nice to play someone who's really crazy with Richard III," Speleers said. "Of course, they both are a little crazy, aren't they? They are crazy in different ways. Hamlet is a sad guy. I enjoyed doing them, really. And did they help me [with Eragon]? Yes. ... They also helped with the professionalism of the work. Of course, at such a young age, I have not had the experiences that these characters have, and certain things I could not understand and certainly couldn't do, because I don't have the emotional memories to understand it. But Hamlet, especially, helped me get to some emotional moments, and I used it when doing some scenes in Eragon."
Speleers began acting at the tender age of 12, when he played Puck in a school production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Because of the filming of Eragon, Speleers said that he has had to delay taking his English school exams. But he added that he does plan to go back to school.
Eragon, a 20th Century Fox film, also stars Jeremy Irons, Djimon Hounsou, John Malkovich and Robert Carlyle. It is scheduled to open Dec. 15. —Mike Szymanski