Garrett Hedlund has been scarcely seen onscreen the past few years, but the 26-year-old Minnesota-born actor will be impossible to miss as the star of Disney’s holiday tentpole release “Tron: Legacy.”

Hedlund, whose credits include “Troy,” the feature film version of “Friday Night Lights,” John Singleton’s “Four Brothers” and the fantasy film “Eragon,” signed on to “Tron” after seeing test footage put together by director Joseph Kosinski to convince Disney an update to the 1982 original could be done well.

“It was something that I thought was going to be incredibly new and revolutionary, especially working with 3D cameras,” Hedlund says. “It was a whole new step, a world of unknown, and I wanted to go down that road.”

Hedlund plays Sam Flynn (the son of Jeff Bridges’ character from the first film), whose search for his missing father leads him to a virtual computer gaming world. Acting in the film required a balance of injecting energy and fun into the action sequences while injecting humanity and emotion into the story’s more serious themes.

Hedlund jumped immediately from the sleek, neon look of “Tron” into Shana Feste’s “Country Strong,” playing an up-and-coming country singer who helps revive the career of a fallen star, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Hedlund put in months of preparation, immersing himself in country music, moving to Nashville and learning to play guitar and sing.

“There’s 100% focus on the work and the practice and trying to get there. No way do I want to fake it,” he explains.

He similarly threw himself into researching the role of Dean Moriarty in Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic “On the Road.” Currently shooting, Hedlund was cast in 2007 and started reading and traveling while Salles assembled a cast that includes Sam Riley, Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen.

“Walter really felt strongly about only making the film that he wanted to make,” Hedlund says. “It’s such a small group, and it’s the closest thing to a guerrilla shoot that you’ll ever see.”

LUCKY BREAK: Landing a role in “Troy” right out of high school. “Once I had known I had gotten it, I never had such a combusting emotion of disbelief.”
FAVORITE FILM: “‘Being There,’ with Peter Sellers. Good ol’ Chauncey Gardner. You gotta love him.”
THE CAREER I’D LIKE TO EMULATE: “It’s not a career I want to emulate but a work ethic. … There’s a lot of actors who inspire the hell out of me. It’s the unpredictables, the guys who are sort of continuously pushing the boundaries and working their asses off and striving to give the greatest performances they can on each particular project.”

Where you’ve seen him before: If Garrett Hedlund has done his job right, you might not realize it’s the same person playing all of his roles. This farm boy from Minnesota prides himself on portraying very different characters in each of his films: Brad Pitt’s beloved, hot-headed comrade in “Troy”; a Mormon virgin in “Georgia Rule”; the youngest of four siblings avenging their mother’s death in “Four Brothers”; the bald, tattooed gang leader terrorizing Kevin Bacon in “Death Sentence.” Hedlund will probably lose much of his anonymity when audiences see him as Sam Flynn, opposite Jeff Bridges, in “Tron: Legacy,” opening in December. But as the deep-voiced 26-year-old says, “In terms of the projects I’ve done, I’ve never worked on a project I’ve been offered. I’ve had to work for each film I’ve been a part of.”

“Tron” challenges: Hedlund endured two months of training in hand-to-hand combat on motorcycles to play Sam. The $60,000 light-up costume he wore took dozens of fittings and special care while on set. “Once you’re in the suit, it’s pretty fantastic,” he says. “But it’s this step-by-step process of getting a suit completely custom-fit to your body in every way. The suit’s got to be a part of you, so it’s very precise. It was a whole new experience for me, because my wardrobe up until that day was usually jeans and a shirt or something like that.” Kneeling and other simple movements, he adds, meant being “very delicate on the suit.” But the most challenging part of the job for Hedlund was acting in an elaborate environment that wasn’t totally rendered on set: “You’re in this computer world, so your wheels are always turning; you’re always trying to figure these things out and look two steps ahead of you. You’re also dealing with a lot of blue screen, dealing with things that you can’t see at that point.”

Other upcoming projects: Currently, Hedlund is in New Orleans shooting his dream project, Walter Salles’ film of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road,” alongside Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, and Kirsten Dunst. He plays Dean Moriarty, a self-destructive character based on Beat figure Neal Cassady. The actor says shooting the film, which comes out next year, has been even better than he imagined. In “Country Strong,” due out in January, Hedlund plays an aspiring country singer from Nashville, opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Leighton Meester. To convince director Shana Feste that he had the pipes to play Beau Williams, he took her to a karaoke bar in Los Angeles. “We went to a place that I thought for sure was going to be packed, but we got there and the lights were on and there were only three other people in there having drinks,” recalls Hedlund, who selected Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” for his audition song. “I was like, ‘Oh, shit.’ It was a rough one.” But apparently it sounded good to Feste.

Breaking in: Hedlund has been grooming himself for acting stardom since he was 15 years old, when he began reading the trades and calling his favorite film companies, agencies, and management firms asking to be seen. Before graduating from high school early and moving to Los Angeles in 2002, he flew himself back and forth from Arizona to L.A. for “about 25 auditions,” he says. “I had to do this whole mission for one shabby audition, and everybody else got to wake up and spend $5 in gas. I realized, ‘Everybody else in the room sort of looks exactly the same as me; how can I set myself apart?’ Well, I guess I can try and be smarter than everyone. So that whole year I just kind of read any book I could get into my hands. As soon as my mom would go to bed, I’d put some instant coffee in a cup and try and finish the book before sunrise, and then go back to high school. Novels were giving me a lot more detail than any script I was given would give, those little details. If you’re wearing this hat because it fits this personality—’Oh man, I should do that in the next audition. I should wear the clothes that this character would wear and go in more prepared.’ ”

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16 Oct, 2010

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 16th, 2010 at 12:59 am and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch: Garrett Hedlund”

Comment by marymoon
In October 16, 2010 @ 7:04 am

I´m so happy that the industry is taking notice of him as a serious actor, not just as a hearthrob anymore! He´s going to explode next year when On The road finally comes out. He and Sam Riley are going big after that, they will make history with that movie! I´m really proud of him!


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