Spielberg’s future leading hero speaks Ready Player One, the challenges of reenacting the Stanford Prison Experiment and working with Terence Malick at the age of 11.
At the age of 19, Tye Sheridan has worked with more reputable filmmakers than several actors do in their entire career.
Terence Malick (The Tree of Life), Jeff Nichols (Mud), David Gordon Green (Joe) all saw potential in Sheridan’s abilities as young actor in Hollywood, a stroke of good fortune that has since earned him the role of Scott “Cyclops” Summers in recent blockbuster X-Men: Apocalypse and the lead in upcoming Steven Spielberg adaptation Ready Player One.
Before that, the Texan was part of the ensemble in The Stanford Prison Experiment, a big-screen reenactment of the study that saw students assume the role of a prisoner or prison guard under the inspection of psychology professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971.
We spoke with Sheridan about the ‘authentic’ on-set atmosphere of such a film, his new opportunity to work with Spielberg and joining the X-Men franchise.
Was there a strange atmosphere on set considering you were all playing characters who themselves were playing roles?
Sheridan: I think the atmosphere was quite authentic actually. The environment that we created was – we actually went to Stanford and took measurements of the actual halfway and the classrooms where it took place and they built this stage in front of the studio. It was very claustrophobic. I think we had 12 cast members on set at all times. It was very real.
Did you escape into the role more than you believed you could?
Sheridan: Yeah, I think so. IWhen watching the film, [you see] these guys aren’t taking it seriously, it’s kind of a joke, then one thing leads to another. It quickly escalates and hte movie’s just relentless; it never really gives you a moment to come up for air. So it was quite similar when were shooting it. There were moments we’d joke around but it was easy for me to go to that [darker] place because it was environmentally very true to what was on the page.
You’re 19-years-old and have already worked with so many incredible actors and directors. Have you always had a love of film and envisioned yourself one day working with these people?
Sheridan: Not always. I didn’t really grow up watching a lot of films. I grew up in the middle of Texas in a very rural area so we were always outside fishing or playing a sport – we were never in front of a TV watching films. There are still a lot of classics I haven’t seen. I think my passion for cinema really started when I was on the set of Mud and my third film Joe. That’s when I really started to fall in love with the art of filmmaking.
Do you seek advice from the actors and directors you work with?
Sheridan: Yeah absolutely. That’s what’s been so special about my career: I get to spend quality hours offset or behind the camera with incredible directors, actors or producers. It’s nice to just have a conversation with them and ask them questions; you’ve just got to get out your pen and paper because there is so many people you can learn from. I’m so fortunate to work with all these people.
When were you first star on set between takes thinking this is crazy, this is happening?
Sheridan: What’s weird is I don’t think I ever had that feeling until I was on the set of X-Men [Apocalypse]. I think that’s the first time I was like “Holy crap, this is strange.” I think it was just the whole thing of being part of a [big] cast and walking around the set; it all just hits you like a load of bricks.
Was joining the X-Men franchise an easy decision for you?
Sheridan: Oh man, absolutely. I was late to the franchise; Days of Future Past was the first X-Men movie I saw. To me, it’s rare because of all the superhero movies, it’s kind of the only one that… All superhero movies are stories about underdogs, but in this one, you see people deal with real world issues and problems that we can relate to so we really invest in characters that we really care about emotionally. I feel like X-Men is probably the arthouse franchise of that genre.
You’re about to start shooting Ready Player One in London. Working in a Steven Spielberg film must be exciting.
Sheridan: Yeah, it is. I’m really looking forward to the summer. I can’t wait to get on set and ask questions.
Your family must be so excited that you’re joining the likes of Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks in the ranks of ‘Steven Spielberg leading man.’
Sheridan: Well, I hope so. But my family are supportive; I wouldn’t be here without them. It’s funny, when I found out I’d got Ready Player One, my sister was texting me and she was asking me how my day was. I said ‘Yeah, I’ve just heard some really exciting news.I just found out I’m gonna be shooting this new movie and Steven Spielberg is directing it’ and she went ‘Who’s that?’. I said, “Are you kidding me? Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T.’ and she goes, ‘Oh yeah, I know that guy.’ My sister’s probably the only human being on this planet who doesn’t know who Steven Spielberg is. I was like, ‘Okay, how was school..?’
The Stanford Prison Experiment is out now in cinemas and on digital download. It’ll be available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from 27 June.