|Edward Speleers as Eragon (Photo: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)|
Scholastic News Online recently caught up with Edward Speleers, the English actor who beat out 180,000 hopefuls for the title role in Eragon. Here’s what he had to say:
What was it like growing up in Chichester, England?
Edward: I was a mixture of a country boy and a town boy, really. Chichester is a town on the coast of England and I grew up all along that strip of coast that Chichester branches out into. Sometimes I was living in a house in the country and sometimes I was living in a town.
How did you get started in your acting career?
Edward: I was about 3 years old and at nursery school when it all started. But I didn’t start properly acting until I was about 10. That was when I got my first part as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
You played Richard III in another school play. Are you a big fan of Shakespeare?
Edward: Well, I think Shakespeare is a big part of English teaching, so you’re learning it in English class anyway. But I think Shakespeare’s great. A lot of poets and writers of today might credit their inspiration to him. It’s always good fun to do a Shakespeare play and I’d love to get back into theatre again and do some stage work. But I enjoyed playing other parts as well, especially from American literature.
Do you have to do a lot of research for a Shakespeare play?
Edward: A fair amount. I think you should look at the history and what was going on at the time. A lot of information is given to you anyway, so the background’s already there. But I think it’s always good to bring your own ideas to the part when you play a role like that.
You beat out 180,000 applicants to play Eragon. How did you do that?
Edward: Oh, I have no idea. I think it was a fluke and a bit of luck that I got in there. Every time someone mentions that figure, I get quiet, scared, and very nervous. I like to think that maybe because I never had any professional experience before and had never been in front of a camera before, they saw something in me that was young and vulnerable which relates to the early days of the character. I think. I hope. I was never really told. I wouldn’t want to know the answer to that. All I know is I was overjoyed when I found out I got the part.
What was your favorite thing about making this movie?
Edward: That’s a tough one because to ask someone who’s a newcomer what their favorite experience was, it’s kind of tricky. There were certain aspects of it that were great. Working with some of the world’s greatest actors was a huge privilege. Little things like being able to jump on a horse and gallop through a river and then suddenly say a line and bring out a sword. Stuff like that was great fun. A [really] important part [of the experience] was being able to be part of such a huge, global team and have them be just like a family, because they treat you so well. It’s too hard to pick something that was so special because there were too many good moments.
What would your advice be to kids who want to get into acting?
Edward: If you have a passion for it, certainly get involved. It depends on the environment you’re in. If you’re in a place where you can be auditioning and there [are] a lot of good school plays, then get involved. And if you’re not, go to auditions and enjoy it more than anything. I think you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. If you’ve got a passion for it, you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and go for it.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Edward: I loved English. Drama was great, but that was more of a hobby and a passion for me. I loved English because I love literature and I love poetry. The thing about English is that you can express yourself in an exam and you can still do well as long as you can back up your opinion. I couldn’t get into math or science because they were too factual for me. Not that I’m an arguer, but I like to express myself and give my point of view.
If you weren’t into acting, what would you like to be?
Edward: Tricky question. I’ve wanted to be an actor for such a long time that I haven’t had anything else in my thoughts. I think my family would have quite liked me to be a lawyer. I don’t think that I would have been bored, but I think that I would have been too distracted by doing other things.
What are some of your favorite books?
Edward: I forget the author, but at the moment I’ve been reading this really great trilogy about Alexander the Great. He’s my favorite historical character.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Edward: When I was about 10 or 11, I did enjoy the Harry Potter books. My Dad used to read me things like The Hobbit before that. Those are some great books. I read a great book recently called Life of Pi. The character of Richard Parker is just brilliant. It’s so well executed.
Do you have a favorite actor?
Edward: There are so many great actors, but I really have a lot of respect for Johnny Depp. I’ve seen a lot of movies with him in it and, even if it’s a film that wasn’t as successful as you thought it would be, I’ve never seen him put in a bad performance. My favorite actors from history have to be Steve McQueen and James Dean.
Did you read the book before you auditioned for Eragon?
Edward: Yeah, I had read the book. It was a book going around my school anyway. And then the second one came out while I was filming, so I read [the first] half while we were filming, and the [second] half once we had finished. And then I reread the first one fairly recently.
Why is reading important?
Edward: I think it’s different for different people. But for me, because I’m not in school anymore and because I might not go to university, it’s important to be educated. You meet people all your life who are very different from you and it’s important to be able to converse with them, and I think reading is a tremendous way to educate yourself because you can learn a lot from authors. Obviously, you learn how to write better as well, but you learn different languages, different ways of thinking, and different opinions. So for me, it’s become my education.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Edward: I like going to see live bands. Live bands can be quite heavy, but I think it’s very relaxing at the same time because you feel so happy and chilled-out.
Last question. If you could invite three people, past or present, to dinner, who would they be and what would you serve?
Edward: Alexander the Great would be there. Steve McQueen and Johnny Depp would be there. The only proper thing I can cook is spaghetti Bolognese with all the proper ingredients so I would probably cook a huge spaghetti Bolognese. But I wouldn’t want it to be just those three people. I would want everyone else I know to come and meet them as well, so I would make it a big dinner.
Interview by Suzanne Freeman