Callan McAuliffe is just like any other teenager. He enjoys playing music, spending time outdoors, and going to the movies. Oh, and at almost 17 years-old, the up-and-coming actor has been named one of the 11 Faces to Watch in 2011 by Australian magazine Encore, an International Ambassador to Australia (Baz Luhrmann and Olivia Newton-John are two others), won the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award for survival skills (in the Australian Outback, no less) and has worked on films with the likes of Rob Reiner (Flipped), Steven Spielberg, Baz Luhrmann, and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby). While his day-to-day activities might be a little more extra-ordinary than that of other teenagers, Callan is a down-to-earth individual who is just as excited about flying around in a motion capture suit as he is just hanging out with his friends back home.
How did you get into acting? Did you always want to do it?
No, I didn’t, actually. It’s an interesting story. I always wanted to do something in the field of biology. Working in the field with animals and wildlife, things like that. But I also wanted to buy a dog, as well as a few musical instruments. I needed to earn extra money. I decided to join a talent agency, to go out on commercials, and ended up buying a dog and a few instruments after I filmed ads for companies like Kelloggs, Telstra, and Kantong noodles! This led to more auditions, and I ended up as a regular guest in several TV series, followed by a short film which won a lot of awards, including The Crystal Bear in Berlin. At that time I was just continuing with school and enjoying ad hoc opportunities for film.
Then, through a friend of a friend, I was recommended to my American manager. We just flew out to meet him and basically took it as an opportunity to take a holiday. When we got there, I got a couple of auditions, the first being for Flipped. After I got that, I started taking the whole thing seriously.
Have you studied acting in school?
I did a bit of drama in school, which wasn’t necessarily acting so much as a theatrical and social experience. It was always fun. But no, I haven’t studied acting the way I’m doing it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a lot comes down to luck in the end. It comes down to timing and placement and where you are and who you’re with. I am someone who tends to watch TV and films and also just people, and without thinking about it, some of the character traits I see in life can end up in a role I have done or may do in the future. This works for me. I am always open to lessons or one-on-ones should a director want a particular accent changed; in the case of Paradise Lost, I take classes and train in martial arts, sword skllls, and more.
What is it about acting that you love the most?
Definitely being on set interacting with different people. The complex equipment and special effects. I haven’t been on set where there was a bunch of horrible people. I have been really fortunate to work with great directors, both as people as well as extreme skills in their craft. So far, I have had only pleasant experiences, thus that’s my favorite part — the actual filming process.
Who are your heroes in the acting world?
Hmmm… I usually go Johnny Depp just because of the difference in characters he plays. I suppose that’s a really important bit, as well, is the spread. Subtle roles and a bunch of wacky characters, as well. That’s how I see acting: being someone more than yourself.
What are your dreams for the future? Anyone you would you like to work with?
I’m working with Leo DiCaprio on The Great Gatsby. I met with him a couple times in production. I don’t film with him, of course, as I am the young Jay and thus my scenes are a different timeline. He is immensely talented, so just being in the same film as him is a great honor. My goal is to continue to work with talented people so I can absorb or learn from them through their talent and work ethics.
How are your family and friends dealing with your success? Do they miss you or do you have down time to go out and live your life still?
Well, I’m currently in Australia now. That gives me an opportunity to see all my mates again. They don’t really care what I do as long as I am enjoying myself. They’re just like, “Go ahead, go ahead and do your acting thing! When you come back we’ll see you then.” It’s kind of nice to have friends like that. And as far as my family, they are all very happy and very proud.
Had you read The Great Gatsby before being cast in the movie?
I read it in school as a school project. I didn’t like it as much as I do now. I have read it a number of times since that school project, I think twice, and then of course with the film I read it again. So I am all for encouraging reading a book again if you didn’t like it in school.
Have you filmed your scenes in The Great Gatsby yet? How is it going?
I’m about to. I’m all the way through pre-production. I’ve got my blue contact lenses fitted and blond hair and should be going quite shortly.
Can you give us any insider info?
No. You know, as I said, my role is quite small, so I haven’t been on set to see if any scandals are going on. [laughs]
Are you excited to start work on Paradise Lost this year?
Of course. It’s fantastic. I’ve always been interested in that stuff. Being able to attach myself to wires and fly around in a motion capture suit. So it’s going to be an interesting challenge.
What has been the best advice given to you so far?
Nobody’s really given me any advice. I guess the best advice has been “Don’t do drugs.”
I hear that very soon you will be named Youngest International Ambassador to Australia. Congrats on that.
Thank you! Yeah, it’s fantastic.
What are the duties of an ambassador like that?
It’s an Honoree position which I share with a team of other Australians who are having a successful career outside Australia, be that sport or the performing arts. Baz Luhrmann, Olivia Newton-John, even the Wiggles are Ambassadors in a program titled “Friends of Australia.” Rather than load us up with work, the government wants us to keep doing what we do. So in an interview like this or on a red carpet or public occasion in another country, my own career allows me to raise awareness about Australia generally and tourism. There will be events I will be invited to attend internationally; however, the intention is not to overload my working life — just to be part of my life.
America has just recently met you, Callan; what is one thing we NEED to know about you but we might not know yet?
It’s weird because I’ve probably told everybody absolutely everything about me already… Well, I do play quite a few musical instruments. I tend to buy one after each job. For Gatsby I bought myself a violin! For I Am Number Four I bought a banjo. I also really enjoy photography, and my camera comes on location and is with me at all times. I guess one thing people might not know is I don’t actually like the city all that much. I much prefer the outdoors. I love camping and hiking and rock climbing and that sort of stuff.
What can the Daily BR!NK do for you?
If anybody goes to wolfconnection.org and clicks on the donate button, that would be very helpful. Wolf Connection is a non-profit organization for kids struggling, or abusing drugs, or they have a bad home life. It basically helps these people by giving them something they can love and take care of. The wolves are at these sanctuaries and they can come and groom and feed and play with them. They can give the wolves the attention and care that they themselves might not be getting at home. It’s also a wolf rescue program. There’s a really interesting story behind some of the animals. Two of the wolves were actually in a car crash. The entire family died, unfortunately, but the wolves ended up with this organization and are helping a lot of kids.
**The general public can also book a Saturday walk with the wolves and BBQ. Funds collected go toward the sanctuary.