It’s a busy time to be Archie Renaux. The 24-year-old actor pops into frame during rare downtime between photo calls and press screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival, the first major festival he’s ever attended. This trip contains a multitude of firsts for Renaux, including a taste of in-person fame. “I never, ever get recognized or asked for photos. Out here, it’s everywhere. It’s insane,” he says. With the premieres of medieval drama Catherine Called Birdy (September 23) and biographical war comedy The Greatest Beer Run Ever (September 30) at TIFF and numerous projects in the pipeline, he’s going to have to acclimate to the recognition.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever’s premiere is on the evening of our chat, and Renaux’s trying to absorb every ounce of enjoyment: “I’m taking it day by day. I’m just trying to not let the moment pass me by,” he says. In the film, he plays Tom Collins, one of the American soldiers in Vietnam that Zac Efron’s John “Chickie” Donohue comes across in his mission to deliver beer to the troops. The film—originally a book and then documentary, which Renaux was “quite obsessed” with—is based on a true story; the actor is visibly moved as he recounts meeting the real Collins.
“We did a one-on-one interview with each other. Honestly, one of the most special things I’ve done, he really opened up,” he says. While he admits he would have loved to meet the veteran pre-filming, carrying Tom’s story on his shoulders was a responsibility he embarked on “with lots of delicacy.” This role marks an important step in his career professionally, but also personally. “As he’s written in the script, he’s such a stand-up guy,” Renaux notes. “I realize that is the kind of man I want to grow up to be like. I know that sounds pretty corny.”
Renaux’s other TIFF venture, Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy, sees him play Edward the Monk, brother of the titular Birdy portrayed by “powerhouse” Bella Ramsey. This was the first project he undertook post-Covid lockdown. With strict protocols in place, it was an “odd experience” to only recognize everyone from the nose up. Renaux’s role may be small, but he’s practically fanboying over the fact he’s in a film beside Jamie Demetriou, who starred in his favorite comedy, Stath Lets Flats—“I can’t stress enough: You need to watch it!”
Renaux’s love for acting sprouted in school, but he was painfully aware of the industry’s unpredictability, “my parents made that very clear” he says. He ended up in a nine-to-five as an air conditioning engineer, following in his grandfather’s footsteps. “It took me doing an apprenticeship to realize I wasn’t happy,” he remembers. “Whilst I was young, I knew I had to try [acting].” His burgeoning acting career began with weekend acting classes. There, he was scouted by a modeling agency for a short-lived stint: “I wasn’t earning much at the time, so I was sold a dream. It wasn’t for me.” Landing on his feet soon after, his distaste for posing endures: “This is nice because it’s candid, but once you’ve got a camera in your face and sterile lights while having pictures taken, that’s when I’m like ‘this is weird’.”
With his career momentum building, he openly expresses a hunger for leading man material—and such a role is just around the corner, in Carlson Young’s rom com Upgraded as the love interest opposite Camila Mendes. He’s wary, though, of the compromise that comes with the spotlight. Mid-pandemic, Renaux became a father to a now two-year-old; he lights up at just the mention of his daughter. “It does make this very tough, I struggle a lot having to work away and not see her,” he explains. The Greatest Beer Run Ever was a real challenge due to time differences and Covid difficulties. A month proved to be “a very, very long time at [her] age.”
Recently, however, Renaux has been shooting closer to home for the second season of Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s young adult fantasy novel Shadow and Bone. Mal Oretsev is his most prominent role to date—a young soldier and best friend to Alina (Jessie Mei Li) who was revealed as one of the most powerful beings in this richly imagined world. While the actor is tight-lipped on season two, he reveals he’s particularly excited for the new cast additions: “everyone’s going to have some more characters to fall in love with—or hate. A few people hate my character. You can’t be everyone’s favorite.”
From his already flourishing filmography, the assortment of Renaux’s performances sees him transitioning from war soldier to fantasy hero to romantic lead. It’s a projection he wishes to maintain and the mark of a bonafide movie star in the making. “I am grateful to have constant challenges, and [grateful] that a lot of the stuff I’ve done has been pretty different, which is exactly what I want to do,” he says with a quietly confident grin. “I feel like I’m on the right track to where I want to be.”