You've heard those Hollywood overnight success stories. Sometimes they originate in England. 18-year-old cutie Ed Speleers had only acted in school plays when his audition DVD was noticed by Eragon director Stefen Fangmeier. The production was on the edge of shutting down since no young actor had impressed the fimmakers as worthy for the leading role in this sword and sorcery epic film based upon the Chris Paolini series of novels about a teen farm boy and his dragon. Ed, evidently just blew everyone away and was hired practically on the spot. Ed was in town recently enjoying his first trip to Hollywood. He was even thrilled just to look out his hotel room window and see the famous Hollywood sign.
The young blonde Brit is on an early whirlwind tour that introduced him to members of the press. Luckily (cuz we rock) TeenHollywood got to sit down and chat with the hot young actor at the trendy Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills recently. Okay, this guy is adorable! Maybe it's the blue eyes, or the scruffy blonde hair or the cute newsboy cap he's wearing. Nope, it's probably that accent and, oh yeah, the smile.
We learned that Ed's last name is Belgian, how he feels about the young Hollywood party scene, music he likes, girls he'd date, American actors versus English and what it's like to befriend and ride a dragon that just isn't there! Oh, and that he's only marginally technically challenged. He has a Playstation and plays "Grand Theft Auto" but... "Blackberry? Isn't that fruit on a bush? I'm still trying to get a laptop!" Put up a poolside chair and join us... TeenHollywood: Tell us the story of how you got cast as Eragon.
Ed: I think it was a bit of luck dyeing my hair blonde two weeks before the audition [laughs]. My drama teacher put me forward. I went up for an audition in Hammersmith and met the director Stefen Fangmeier and the producer and got a warm vibe coming out of the audition and I was feeling good about myself but not thinking I was going to land a role like this. Then, they said they'd send me a script and sent me along to a second audition and I started thinking 'this is exciting'. I heard nothing. I was biting my nails for about ten days and the next thing I knew my dad phones me to say 'you've got the part'. TeenHollywood: What was on your audition tape that impressed them so much? Just some video of your school plays or something?
Ed: I don't know. When we got to Hungary, the acting coach was showing it to me saying 'this is what you do and what you don't do'. I saw a couple of other auditions and I was the only one who held a script. Maybe that was the key. There was nothing on there from school productions and I hadn't done commercials or television. This is the first professional job. But, acting, I've basically been doing since I was, I think, three years old. My first major part was Puck in "Midsummer Night's Dream". It was on that stage when I thought, 'this is something I'd like to pursue'. Acting was one of the few things I could really concentrate on. I loved doing sport but I didn't really like studying, but acting is one of those things, if I had a rehearsal for four hours, I was quite happy. A lot of my friends I was acting with, after a couple of hours were 'can we head in now?' But I was happy to be there. TeenHollywood: For Eragon, they had to teach you sword fighting and dragon riding?
Ed: Well, we couldn't track any dragons down but we did a little sword training. About three weeks before production they had me in the gym over an hour every morning then two hours sword fighting, two hours on a horse and two hours archery and three hours acting classes every day. I actually loved it because it was all a new experience for me. I'd ridden horses before but not to that extent. The swordwork, I now, on my own time, weird a Samurai sword in my garden and I'm looking forward to learning new tricks in preparation for more of this, if we get it. We're thinking ahead.TeenHollywood: Was there anything surprising you discovered about the character?
Ed: I found him to have so much heart and soul. Because he's so earthy and that makes him sensitive I think. He's someone from the land, he's used to having animals. He's actually got this immense sensitivity and that's why he grows. Provided that my performance was all right and Sephira's [the dragon] was all right, it should show this sort of clear love, friendship and family and everything. They clearly have a lot of passion for one another and sort of determination to make sure each being survives I guess.TeenHollywood: Cool. Are you living in the states now?
Ed: I'm living in London I hope. Or, trying to get back into London but the prices are ridiculous. I just moved back in with my mom. TeenHollywood: Hey, it's good to save your money.
Ed: Got to make it first. TeenHollywood: What was the first thing you bought when you learned you got the part?
Ed: A large round for me and my mates. I haven't really bought much actually. Bought a few things for my mom but nothing special. I bought my first car but again, it's nothing amazing. It's perfect for me but it's nothing amazing. I haven't really got money to spend.TeenHollywood: We understand you've read the books. How close was the script for this first movie to the book?
Ed: It's got everything the book means. What you feel after reading the book, you'll feel having seen the movie. Obviously, like any movie and any book, if you were to film every page, we'd be watching the movie for four days so things have got to change slightly but the ethos of the story is there and everything that's important in the story is there and the characters, it's all there. I have a good vibe about it. Although I haven't seen much of the movie, what I have seen, I'm a happy bunny. TeenHollywood: What was important for you to keep true about the character?
Ed: Well, the whole essence. It's about the learning curve, the coming of age and portraying this character who is in this stage between manhood and boyhood. He's in that no man's land I guess. I had to portray that with the added pressure of becoming a dragon rider which doesn't happen to many people. I tried to keep him nice and natural and the earthy character that he is and take him from being a vulnerable, wide-eyed character to becoming an heroic figure. TeenHollywood: Did you get to see footage of yourself with the dragon?
Ed: I've just seen finished images of the dragon. I haven't seen much, just a few things. With developing the dragon, I was performing against an orange tennis ball most of the time which is fine but tricky. I've since spoken to Christopher [Paolini, the author of the book] and explained how I imagined Saphira [the dragon] myself to act with. I imagined her as a mixture between my best friend and my mum and he said 'that's exactly what it is'. To hear him say that made me feel good. TeenHollywood: You were filming some in Hungary. What did you do off-set in Hungary for fun? You were only 17.
Ed: Yeah but I'm English [grins]. I had my dog with me, Rupert, my German Shepherd and we used to find great woods and great places to take him and the food there was great. I used to spend a lot of time going up to the castle on the Buda side and just sitting up there overlooking the city reading my script. I did a lot of walking around the place, going to museums and galleries and a few spas. Budapest is one of the most amazing places. TeenHollywood: What was the biggest shock for you when you made this first big feature film?
Ed: How bloody slow it all is. I'm used to being on the stage, a hour and a half, bang, bang, bang. [With a film] It's ten hours into a shoot, you've got two lines done. But it's something I've learned to appreciate and it's fine but it was bizarre to start with. I had the cast and crew around me to make sure I didn't get too stressed out about it and that I kept fresh and still had energy throughout the day. TeenHollywood: Are you struck by the lack of modesty that a lot of young American actors have out of the gate? You are pursuing acting and they are pursuing being famous.
Ed: Some of the young American stars, are they actually stars? But, having said that, there is a lot of great young American talent out there like one of the guys I worked with Garrett Hedlund, in my eyes that's a star. Someone who can actually act and I've never seen him in a paper or magazine or anything about Garrett has a DUI. Even if he has, you wouldn't know about it. TeenHollywood: Are you getting prepared for all the kids and fans asking fan things?
Ed: As long as they're not trying to hit me with swords. I'll embrace anything like that. TeenHollywood: What kinds of music are you into?
Ed: Oh, I could be here all day. John Butler Trio, Bedouin Soundclash, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Kinks, Arctic Monkeys, Beautiful Girls.TeenHollywood: Are there actors that you would aspire to be like?
Ed: I'm a big fan of Johnny Depp and a big fan of Christian Slater's early work. He's in one of my favorite movies "True Romance". I like Matt Damon. I like Christopher Walken. There are loads of people I like, Heath Ledger. TeenHollywood: How have your friends back home reacted to your success?
Ed: They give me a hard time every now and then, 'could you bring us some free clothes back or some free swords?' But yeah, my friends and family just give me the utmost support. I come from a family where my parents are separated and even still they don't see eye to eye on a lot of things but, when it comes to me, they have. They've really come together over what I'm doing so I can't thank my family and friends enough. TeenHollywood: When did reality hit, 'holy s**t, I'm on this huge film'?
Ed: There was a distinct moment for me when I was in Slovakia, when I was on top of this mountain at 2,000 feet up overlooking the Slovakian woodland and mountains with Sienna Guillory who plays Arya, just me and her [he grins and laughs and wiggles his eyebrows], uh, with just this helicopter just going around and around us taking great shots all the time, I just looked at her and thought 'F**k, I'm making something huge here. This is unreal'. I was literally standing on top of the world and felt on top of the world at that moment.