When we sat down for the roundtable interviews in support of DreamWorks Pictures' I Am Number Four, McAuliffe was just a day away from turning 16. Although he had no special plans for his birthday (McAuliffe said he was going to catch up on his sleep), talking about his role in what could become a film franchise for DreamWorks Pictures is not a bad way to spend the days surrounding your birthday for any up-and-coming actor.
Callan McAuliffe I Am Number Four RoundtableWhat was it like to do the action? You don’t have to do much of it but you do get into it a little.
Callan McAuliffe: "I do get into it a little bit. I get to do a little running, a little falling over. I did get to finally shoot someone, which I was really looking forward to. That was fantastic. I enjoyed myself."
Did you take the gun home with you?
Callan McAuliffe: "I wish I could have. I should have bought it because that would have been fun. I think they had three of them because they were pretty technical guns. They had a prop version, which was just sort of a styrofoam gun which we used during rehearsals in case I fall over and snap it. Then we had the real deal, which had a real, I think it was a 12 gauge inside it so that they had the shape of it and then had a mold around it which made it look like an alien gun. It had lights in it and everything. So that was pretty intense. It was pretty heavy as well."
Did you fall down?
Callan McAuliffe: "I did fall down once, yeah. During the scene when we're running away from the big giant scary flying monster thing I had the big heavy gun so I did fall over. I tripped, rolled a few times, popped back up and I was like, 'Ahhh,' and fell over again. After we got a successful take, DJ called everyone over to the monitors and we all watched me falling over in slow motion. It was good. It should be in the bloopers."
How were you in high school? Were you geeky like this guy?
Callan McAuliffe: "I wasn’t really geeky. In terms of the high school hierarchy, I was very much in the middle ground. You have the really popular guys, you have the nerdy guys, and then you have the people who really don’t care - and that was me. I wasn’t really picked on or anything like that."
Were you into drama?
Callan McAuliffe: "I've never really liked drama. Don’t tell my drama teacher because he’s the most lovely guy I’ve ever met and a huge support and definitely helped me out. I’ve never been a really big fan of theatre. I don't know why. It’s so much for effort. It's much more difficult for me than stage acting just because of the pressure that’s piled on you and you have to learn the entire performance by heart. Whereas you get plenty of takes when you’re in front of the cameras."
Sam has kind of a tough home life, which you see little bits of. How is it to play those scenes where you're just trying to keep it together?
Callan McAuliffe: "It’s no different from playing any other scene, really. It’s a matter of reading the script and getting in touch with the character, learning the lines and then doing it as DJ wants me to do it, as the script wants me to do it, and how I feel I should do it. The preparation I do basically is I read it the night before and I go through it."
What was actually there when the dog was turning into something other than a dog?
Callan McAuliffe: "It was a dog. The dog was just sitting there just smiling really pleasantly at me. I felt really awkward because this dog was just going, 'Hello,' and I was like, 'Awwww!'"
What did DJ Caruso tell you to do? Did he tell you to look terrified?
Callan McAuliffe: "I just had to look terrified. Yeah, yeah. He got me from different angles just looking at this dog. The dog was fantastic."
Had you read the book before shooting?
Callan McAuliffe: "I didn’t read the book until after the movie because we were told there might be a few differences here and there. I didn’t really want to get out of touch with the character. I did read it and enjoyed it. It was great."
Are you signed up for the sequel?
Callan McAuliffe: "I don’t know. I don’t know if there will be a sequel. We’ll have to see if people like it and then we'll see how it goes. It would be great if there was a sequel. I had a real great time working with these guys. I would definitely, definitely do it again."
We know the movie is a thriller but how important do you think the relationship aspect is to making the whole thing work?
Callan McAuliffe: "It definitely, definitely needs to be there. I Am Number Four definitely borrows from a whole bunch of genres and has a whole bunch of different themes throughout. And I think if it was just one stale two-dimensional thing then it would be kind of boring. And I think they did a fantastic job. I mean you never really know how the film's going to turn out when you’re sitting there filming it, but I saw it a couple of days ago and I was completely blown away."
Are you ready for all the attention you're going to get from young girls after seeing this?
Callan McAuliffe: "No. I think they're going to be looking at Alex [Pettyfer], won't they?"
By the end, like you said, you shoot the gun, you run, you're kind of cool.
Callan McAuliffe: "A shooting gun automatically means girlfriend."
So nobody has told you to watch out for girls now because you’re going to get attention?
Callan McAuliffe: "No. I’ll just stay inside."
How does DJ Caruso compare to your Flipped director Rob Reiner?
Callan McAuliffe: "DJ was amazing. They are both fantastic guys and they both have really different atmospheres on the set. DJ created this amazing atmosphere of when he called, 'Action!,' everyone would just shut up and do their thing. Everyone worked professionally. As soon as he called, 'Cut,' everyone would be happy and cheerful and fun and rainbow unicorns. And it was a fantastic set to be on. I really enjoyed myself."
You and Alex both have accents in real life, but you have to play Americans. How's that to handle?
Callan McAuliffe: "Yeah, there’s Teresa [Palmer] who is also Australian and we’ve got Alex who's British as well. But Teresa got to keep her Australian accent. I had to do an American but, you know, I don’t mind. Americans are okay."
How did you get involved in acting? Callan McAuliffe: "My school was very sports-intensive so you commit to a team, you go play against other teams on the weekend. If you can’t play, then they’ll kick you out of the team so that someone else can have a go. It's good sportsmanship. During a game of basketball I dislocated my kneecap, couldn’t play sports anymore on the weekend, I needed to find something to do. I joined an agency and I guess I forgot to leave the agency, and kept getting sent stuff and it worked out."
What is the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award?
Callan McAuliffe: "The Duke of Edinburgh is basically being recognized for achieving something be it either charity or outdoors or something like that. At my school, I was lucky enough to go to a great private school and we went to a place called Glengarry, which is out in Kangaroo Valley in Australia. It’s about an hour and a half from Sydney, and we for half a year we basically did camping, hiking and outdoor stuff and things like that. That was fantastic and we automatically got the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh for that. I’m hoping to go to Africa sometime this year to do the Silver."
What do you have to do for the gold, go to Antarctica?
Callan McAuliffe: "That’s the exact same thing someone in the other room said. They said, 'Do you have to go to Antarctica?' and my response was, 'You have to sleep with the penguins in Antarctica!'"
How grueling was it?
Callan McAuliffe: "It was pretty tough, actually. There’s this thing called the 24-hour Rogaine which is where there were no teachers or instructors or anything. It was just groups of kids went out and looked for markers with 20 kilograms on their back for 24 hours non-stop. You didn't stop or anything like that. You just kept walking and looking for these markers over this ginormous area. That was pretty incredible. Then there’s things like the Three Day Hike where we went out and hiked straight through the bush for three days. That was amazing."
Have you graduated now or are you in school?
Callan McAuliffe: "I’m still doing school. I’m doing long distance education for the vocationally talented now."
Do you still live in Australia?
Callan McAuliffe: "No, I live here now. I moved here as of two months ago with my mom, so we’re still settling in but we’re doing well. Actually, we are right next door. We walked here."
Is there a big UFO society in Australia like there is here?
Callan McAuliffe: "No one uses cars in Australia, we all use UFOs. I can’t imagine it being any bigger in Australia than it is here."
Do you have your equivalent of Area 51? Is there some equivalent in Australia?
Callan McAuliffe: "I don’t think so."
Did you do any alien research?
Callan McAuliffe: "No. You sort of know what it's all about. You know what aliens are. I’m from Earth. I really didn’t have to do that much research. No."
Are you like Sam at all in any way? Is there anything you can identify with?
Callan McAuliffe: "He’s a guy, I’m a guy. He likes video games apparently and I like video games."
What’s your favorite video game? Halo?
Callan McAuliffe: "Halo, there you go. I love video games. I’ve already said that I love the outdoors so now I don’t sound like a nerd. I’m not really that similar to Sam, but that’s what acting is all about. It’s about breaking away from yourself and playing someone else. Look at me sounding like an actor!"
Dianna Agron stars on Glee - are you a Gleek?
Callan McAuliffe: "I did enjoy it. I watched a few episodes of Glee out of respect to Dianna after meeting her and it was fantastic. I really did enjoy it. I don’t religiously watch any TV shows, really, except for Man vs. Wild." Do you sing?
"I haven’t really since my voice broke."
Dianna Agron was a big photographer and she mentioned that it was a big element of the movie that drew her to it, and you said you liked it as well. Is that something you could bond with offset?
Callan McAuliffe: "Definitely. We always talked about that and it was great to hear someone else interested in photography. It’s a shame 'Sam' wasn’t interested in photography. You do see some pictures on his phone though in that scene, those pictures of me making stupid faces. But that’s about as far as Sam’s photography talent goes."
In the production notes Teresa Palmer says Alex Pettyfer is a practical joker. Did he do anything to you on the set?
Callan McAuliffe: "No, he didn’t. I’ve heard a lot about that, a lot of people have been coming up going, 'What practical jokes did Alex hit you with?' He didn’t hit me with anything."
Callan McAuliffe: "I know, 'Damn, I didn't get joked on!' But he was a very funny guy. He was hilarious, and he's great."
Every project for young adults is being compared to Twilight, even if it has nothing to do with vampires and werewolves. How is this not like a Twilight movie?
Callan McAuliffe: "In the sense that you have the guy coming from somewhere else falling in love with the person who's not from somewhere else, that is the only similarity. I mean, the story is so incredibly different in terms of the sequential killing and it's now Number Four's turn and that kind of thing. It’s a completely different atmosphere. It is not at all like Twilight."
Director DJ Caruso is not a teenage guy, so did you change your character at all being that you still are a teenager and know what’s going on? Did you put anything new in or change the dialogue?
Callan McAuliffe: "I did do a bit of improvising and stuff like that. And we often when we changed some things around for me, if I felt like something needed to be changed... But definitely I always went to DJ and said, 'What do you about this or what about this?’ and he’d tell me if it was sh-t or if it was good. We definitely had that relationship where he’d allow me to have leeway with the script."
What was that gunk that got all over you when you opened that locker?
Callan McAuliffe: "That was ink, not blood."
Was it easy to get off? Callan McAuliffe: "No, I think we did four takes of that in the end. It was like a bloody operating table where they sat me down on this bench and the fantastic makeup people came in with these paintbrushes delicately painted so it matched every time. They painted it on my face. And sometimes it would miss - like when you opened the locker the mechanism would miss and we’d have to do it again. Then there would be all the in between shots where I’d have to have my face already red, so that’s when they’d have to paint me. And all the clothes changes as well. When it dried, it went pink so they’d have to scrap it off and then paint it back on. So that was pretty intense."
If you’re going to go out with somebody, what must they never do or they'll piss you off?
Callan McAuliffe: "They must never look superficial. I hate it when I see girls walking around with their Chihuahuas in their handbags or like tons of makeup on with long painted nails and all this eye makeup and everything. It's ridiculous."
You're in the wrong town.
Callan McAuliffe: "Oh, it happens in Australia too."
Do you know what your next movie is?
Callan McAuliffe: "There are a few things lined up here and there, which I can’t really talk about, I’m sorry. We are still settling in, just moving in and I’m doing a whole bunch of schoolwork. I guess I’ll be doing auditions here and there as well."
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I Am Number Four hits theaters on February 18, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.