Actor Alexander Pettyfer spoke Tuesday afternoon about his early film experiences and his method to choosing which roles to audition for to about 30 students on the Tempe campus.
He entered the room with a shy smile on his face and took a moment to explain his nerves. His admitted that anxiety affects him during movie promotions.
His sense of humor lightened the atmosphere and he gradually relaxed. Pettyfer answered inquiries about how he got into acting.
His first major role was in 2006 as protagonist Alex Rider in the British spy movie “Stormbreaker,” based on the well-known book series by Anthony Horowitz.
Despite his skills, acting was never an intentional career choice for Pettyfer. He intended to become a race-car driver. The actor remains a racing-enthusiast, and he owns a variety of sports cars.
“I qualified for an F1 race, and they sent the letter to my house,” Pettyfer said. “I got an audition that same day, so my mum ripped it up. I ended up getting the movie — that was my first film.”
Pettyfer still travels to attend F1 races.
His interest in film stemmed from a visit to Universal Studios in Hollywood when he was 11. He spoke of his experience near the tower lot where “Back to the Future” was filmed and how that surreal moment inspired his desire to be in the film industry.
Pettyfer was ambivalent to which role; he simply wanted to be a part of the industry.
“As a grip or a cameraman,” he said. “I just wanted to be a part of making movies.”
He loves films that are passionate and genuine. Pettyfer emphasized that actors should have personal integrity in their own work and the roles they choose to play. When asked about his process for selecting roles, Pettyfer joked that he begs for roles.
He explained the roles need to interest him because he wants to learn more and be better. Versatility should be an actor’s prerogative.
“If I can’t bring anything to a movie,” he said. “Then I won’t do it.”
He talked about working with directors Lee Daniels (The Butler) and Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike). Pettyfer explained how the projects required different mindsets and presented different challenges for him as an actor.
Pettyfer briefly went into the difficulties of established-studio versus independent-studio film making. He also mentioned that his latest movie, “Endless Love,” was the hardest film for him to do.
“Romance is external,” he said. “All of my past roles have dealt with internal and physical conflict.”
Pettyfer found it challenging to emote to that degree and keep it honest.
He went on to explain the cultural differences between his birthplace and America. Pettyfer joked that Americans were friendlier and warmer to strangers than in the U.K.
A student inquired about the overseas move to Los Angeles, and Pettyfer explained that he is good at living with nothing. He talked about living on a friend’s leather couch for six months at only 17.
“Endless Love” premieres Feb. 14.
Reach the reporter at Stephanie.Tate@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @StephanieITA