Ryan Lee – Super 8

June 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Interviews

His acting career may have started as just a fun activity to do during the summer, but now Ryan Lee is starring in one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

In “Super 8,” a sci-fi film directed and written by J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) and produced by Steven Spielberg (“E.T.”), Ryan plays Cary, one of six kids from a small town in Ohio who witness a terrible train crash that triggers a visit from the U.S. Air Force and a series of inexplicable incidents.

During an exclusive interview with me, Ryan, 14, talked about his experience meeting Abrams and Spielberg and why he’s always been interested in the sci-fi genre.

How did you get your start in acting?

I started back in 2006. One summer, my mom wanted us to get up and do something active. She didn’t want us to sit around watching TV. We started looking around online for camps and found an acting camp. A lot of people thought I would become an actor because I would love to go up to random people and make them laugh.

When did you meet filmmaker J.J. Abrams?

I met him during my second audition in L.A. I didn’t know he was going to be there until about a minute before I went in. I immediately started shaking. I had been auditioning for movies for five years and had never gotten nervous before. But it was crazy to think one of my favorite directors was going to be evaluating my acting.

How did you react when you found out you got a part in the movie?

J.J. called me into a room and told me. I tried to stay calm. I didn’t want to freak out in front of him. As soon as I got home I started jumping up and down on my bed.

Did you ever imagine you would be in a film of this scale?

I never thought something this big would happen. I always hoped it would. I’ve been waiting five years for a big break. I think this is definitely it.

What does it feel like being part of a film shrouded in so much secrecy?

There was so much secrecy they even gave me a fake script for the audition. I didn’t know it was fake at the time. But it’s awesome. I can’t wait for people to see the movie and get excited about what happens. It’s going to create so much hype.

Tell me a little about your character Cary.

There is a train crash scene in the film. Cary is the only one out of the group that is excited about the train crash. He’s a kid that always wants to have a good time. He’s like the spark of the group. He acts first and thinks later. He loves firecrackers. He’s love to blow things up.

Did you see any similarities between you and your character?

J.J. let us bring our own personality into our character. I really am like my character. I mean, I love fireworks, but I don’t use them as much as Cary does.

Were you interested in sci-fi before you landed this role?

Yeah, I’ve always been interested in sci-fi. There’s always been that thought in the back of my head that we can’t be the only ones in the universe. I’ve always been drawn to sci-fi and aliens. I think it’s a really cool subject.

Were you familiar with Steven Spielberg’s work?

I’ve seen a lot of Steven’s stuff. He’s also one of my favorite directors. I think his work is amazing. “E.T.” changed the film industry forever. He’s an inspiration.

Would he ever come to the set?

He was actually filming “War Horse” in England, so he wasn’t on the set all the time, but when he was he would always come and see us. He was a really cool guy. He always told us how good we were doing on the movie. I was a little intimidated at first. I mean, shaking the hand of one of the most influential men in the world is an experience you’ll never forget. But after that, he immediately becomes your friend. He’ll start talking to you about iPhone apps.

Super 8

June 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: J.J. Abrams (“Misson: Impossible III”)

As much as filmmaker J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) would have liked for his nostalgic sci-fi “Super 8” to convey as much enchantment as a Steven Spielberg-directed masterpiece like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” or “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it doesn’t quite reach that ambitious goal. Nevertheless, “Super 8” is not without its own small trove of delightful moments. Standing on its own as a less aggressive version of the Abrams-produced 2008 creature feature “Cloverfield,” the movie doesn’t have all the elements necessary to make it a true classic, but there are some admirable things it accomplishes, especially when the enthusiastic kids are at the forefront.
 
Set in the small fictional town of Lillian, Ohio in 1979, the film follows six friends who are spending their free time during the summer shooting a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera, a set piece not nearly important enough to warrant the title. At the center of the imaginative group of teens is Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), an innocent boy with a mop-top who is mourning the recent loss of his mother, butting heads with his deputy-sheriff father (Kyle Chandler), and fawning over Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), a classmate invited onto the no-budget set to give their George A. Romero-inspired project a more affectionate vibe.
 
The kids’ summer plans take a mysterious turn when they are witness to a catastrophic train wreck that takes place during a late-night shoot. Soon, bizarre incidents start occurring around town (dogs and appliances go missing; the U.S. Air Force shows up tight lipped). Although Abrams keep the audience in the dark for a majority of the film, we know something has escaped from the train’s cargo and is now terrorizing the town. The movie’s tagline – “It Arrives” – kind of confirms this isn’t a surprise visit from grandma.
 
Impressively capturing the ambiance of the era, Abrams embraces his young characters in the same manner as Spielberg with “E.T.,” Richard Donner with “The Goonies,” and Rob Reiner with “Stand by Me.” While the film’s script is short on the same emotional appeal as those timeless pictures (the father-son dynamic lacks authenticity), Joe and Alice’s puppy love is sweet enough and the lighthearted and humorous dialogue shared between the kid actors complements their realistic performances.

Lest we forget Abrams knows a thing or two about the action genre. If this movie’s train derailment doesn’t end up being the single best use of CGI this summer, special effects hounds have a lot to anticipate.