At ten years old, Tye Sheridan was cast in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life—and his life completely changed. Now, the 19-year-old Texas-native has been to the Cannes Film Festival, successfully auditioned for Steven Spielberg and played a superhero in X-Men. Thanks to his prolific performances in films by Malick, Jeff Nichols, and David Gordon Green, he is featured in W’s Royals portfolio as the new Indie film hero, alongside the legendary Ethan Hawke, who has worn that crown ever since Dead Poets Society thanks to roles in Reality Bites, Before Sunrise, and Boyhood.
What was your first audition?
My first audition was for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. These casting directors came through Texas, and they recruited somewhere around 10,000 kids to come and audition for this movie. They sent me a letter in the mail, and I went and auditioned for this movie. And I kept getting called back again and again, and then I finally ended up booking a role.
How old were you when this happened?
I was 10 years old when the audition process started. I'd never done an audition before, so I had no idea what they were like. But it was very much like improv stuff in the audition. A lot of times they just had me play around with other kids for 20 minutes, and then they just run around with a video camera and just taping all of us. So I think the process was a bit unique, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Wow. And where were you born and raised?
I was born in this little, tiny town called Palestine, Texas. And I was raised just south of there for the majority of my life, up until I was about 15 or 16. Then I started traveling and working quite a bit.
And when you started doing the movie, did you immediately get the acting bug?
Yeah. I knew. I was 11 years old when I finished Tree of Life, I was definitely interested and intrigued by filmmaking, but I don’t think it was until my second or third film that I really started to fall in love with the art of cinema.
And was that Mud?
That was Mud or Joe, around there, working with Jeff Nichols and then David Gordon Green. Those guys really inspire me and then turned me onto filmmaking.
Where was Mud filmed?
In Arkansas, about an hour southeast of Little Rock, in this small town called Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is the duck hunting capitol of the world, if you didn’t know that already.
I did not. Did you hunt?
I did not. The day I wrapped the movie, it was opening day of duck season. I actually deer hunted when I was there, but I didn’t have a chance to duck hunt. I remember the morning I left, I was in the car and you could just hear, like, the Fourth of July or something. All these guns were just going off because it was opening day of duck hunting season.
What happened when Mud wrapped?
I went straight back to school. Immediately back to my public school I grew up in. I think I missed a whole entire semester my freshman year in high school [filming Mud]. And then I completed the rest of the year. And then the following year, I did David Gordon Green's movie, Joe, and then the same thing happened. I missed the beginning of the year. When I came back, for some reason, my grades weren't recorded, so my GPA was really bad. And then, I didn’t have a chance to take the SAT, so now getting into college is quite a struggle.
Are you trying to go to college?
Yeah, I'd love to just go to school. It's just hard to find the time. But even just for a semester or something would be amazing. I just want to have that experience while I'm young, and I'm just hungry to learn. I have such a strong desire to be in a classroom and have that college experience.
Did you go to the prom?
I didn't. I never went to prom. I went to an eighth grade dance. I think I took my cousin to the eighth grade dance. Not in a weird sexual way though, but as, like, "Oh, let's go together. It'll be fun, because I don’t like anyone, and you don’t like anyone. We'll just have each other."
So you just finished X-Men?
We wrapped X-Men. We were shooting in Montreal, Canada, which I love. I was there for five months. I love Montreal. I love the people.
You speak French?
I don’t speak French. Not fluently anyway. Not even close to fluent. I don’t know why I said that. I speak very little.
What's the name of your character?
I play Scott Summers, or Cyclops, a guy who shoots lasers out of his eyes.
All of that's done green screen, right? So you had to pretend you were shooting?
A lot of it is done green screen. My lasers are done in post, so in the film I basically just take off my glasses and then stare at someone really intensely. At times it's hard not to laugh. I feel like everyone else's superpowers are cool because they get to do stuff with their hands. Like, Magneto's stopping metal. And then Storm is creating a storm, and then I'm just, like, staring at someone really intently and growling. Quite weird.
And what movie are you making in London now?
I'm shooting a movie called Ready Player One. Mr. Spielberg is directing. And I'm really excited and couldn't be more excited, actually.
What was that audition like?
Going into audition for Ready Player One, I knew that Mr. Spielberg was gonna be in the room. And I told myself before going in I just to be grateful for the opportunity. Just to go on, and shake his hand, and to audition in front him was an experience alone, which was phenomenal. But, then like, a month later, and [my agents said], "All right, you're going to London to work with Steven Spielberg. It's unbelievable. It's not really a reality yet. I don’t think it will be until I step on set.
Do you have a favorite Steven Spielberg movie?
I love all his films, Minority Report. I love E.T. I love Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I love Saving Private Ryan. You look at his resume, and you look at his credits, and it's just mindboggling how one after another, back to back to back is just a hit. It's super inspiring. That'll be incredible to work with him and to gain as much advice as I can.
And do your parents come with you on set?
My parents come to visit sometimes, but they don’t really know anything about the film industry. My dad's a UPS driver, and my mom owns a small hair salon. My mom used to travel with me when I was a lot younger, but I think since I was about 17 I’ve been working alone. But, my parents always come and visit for, like, a week or two. I was doing a movie in South Africa. This was February of last year, 2015. And my folks came for a week all the way to South Africa to see me, and that was cool, but they were on set for, like, 10 minutes, and they were like, "Okay, well, we've seen this before. We're going to go explore Cape Town." And so, they just left me. I didn’t see them for the whole entire week while I was working. They were just roaming around South Africa.
What movie makes you cry?
Inside Out. The first time watching Inside Out was a very emotional experience. There's something about animation that allows you just feel like a kid watching it, and so you feel like you're allowed to cry. But even then, I think it was all about timing when I saw it, and also the movie's incredible, and it's all about embracing your emotions.
Who do you have a crush on in the movies?
I love Natalie Portman. Not only is she an incredible actress, but I think she's very pretty. I love Black Swan, the Aronofsky film. I love his work. And then I like Rachel McAdams. I don’t know what I saw Rachel McAdams in first, but I don’t think it was Mean Girls. I love her in To the Wonder. The first time I watched it, I stopped, started it over immediately, and watched it again.
What's your favorite love scene in a movie?
Maybe a scene from Badlands, where they're walking down the river, and I think they've just made love for the first time. Badlands and then my favorite rom-com, my guilty pleasure movie, would be Crazy, Stupid, Love. I remember when that movie came out. I just watched it over, and over, and over. I was obsessed with Ryan Gosling in that movie and how he talked to girls.
I hope you didn’t try copying him.
No, no, no, no I didn’t. But I really respected the character. I just love the relationship. I love the contrast between Steve Carell's character and Ryan Gosling in the film. And the way all of the love stories are just intertwined. At the end of that film, I just think you're sucked in, the ending is so powerful. Each character's arc is so good.
Have you done the Dirty Dancing move as a result of seeing that movie?
Oh, no. I couldn't do that. Have you seen my arms?