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Exclusive: Alex Shaffer talks Win Win


Alex Shaffer discusses treasure-hunting, Sundance, and win-winning ...

'Win Win' (2011)

Alex Shaffer, the teenage lead of indie drama Win Win, has an amazing, Lana-Turner-in-a-drugstore discovery story. The story was written and casting agents were searching for a teen wrestler and placed an ad in a New Jersey newspaper. Alex didn't see it, but a friend from his wrestling team did, and encouraged him to audition. Even though Alex didn't quite fit the specifications in the ad, and hadn't acted (since a sixth-grade production of The Pirates of Penzance), he auditioned ... and the rest, as they say, is history. Alex not only managed to hold his own, but to shine alongside such respected actors as Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and Jeffrey Tambor. And shockingly, the success of the film and praise of his own performance doesn't seem to have gone to Alex's head at all - he was remarkably nice, and down-to-earth in our conversation (shortly after Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast).

So are you in Los Angeles now?
Yeah I am. Wait, why did I just tell you that, am I insane? No, I am in New Jersey now.

How did you guys do with the hurricane?
We actually did pretty well! My house is fine, we actually have a shore house, so we got pretty lucky. But all our power was out, so we stayed with my Aunt Kathy for a few days. I just got back to the house today and I cannot wait to go out on the beach with my metal detector!  I am telling you, I am a professional treasure hunter and I am going to find the jewels!

I saw Win Win, and I have to tell you, you were incredible. It's so hard to believe that was your first professional acting job! What are you looking to do next? Do you have any projects on the line?

I'm just kind of auditioning now, I've got a couple of things that I'm being looked at for, nothing really. I'm just kind of feeling everything out.

It seems really exciting, such a drastic change to go from high school in New Jersey, to Sundance, to movie auditions - such a gigantic life change. How do you find it? Is it what you expected?
It's kind of like, from the outside it looks like crazy. From the outside it's this crazy change. But if one of my friends on my wrestling team, was doing what I'm doing now, I'd be like 'Oh my god! What a change!' But for me it's just kind of the same. The same life, but different things.

Maybe from the outside it looks drastic, but from your point of view it's been more gradual?

Yeah, I'm kind of flowing with it.

What kinds of stuff are you interested in doing? Does comedy appeal, or are you interested in more dramatic roles?

Actually, comedy and drama do both appeal. I'm kind of on the fence with the two of them - maybe like more dramedies? I like the two of them together. Then you get to do a little bit of everything.

This was your first movie, so your first Sundance festival as well. Did you go there to promote the movie with everybody?

Yeah, I did, it was a lot of fun. I didn't really have a lot of expectations for Sundance, I didn't really know what was going to go on, or what we would do, but it was a lot of fun. Sundance was really cool! I just remember going there, and going to the first premiere of our movie, and it was really cool, it was an experience.

Absolutely! Plus, getting to see everybody's reaction to it and being right there, that had to be pretty incredible.

It really was nice. It felt good to have people laugh at a movie that you're in!

Were the other wrestlers in the film part of the same open casting call that you were in? Or were they cast separately?
I have no clue. I do know that some of the kids that were in the movie did audition for the lead as well, but some of them, not all of them, I think.

And what do you think was the message of Win-Win? As far as morality - was it - it's okay to bend the rules sometimes? Or - if you're a good person, you can bring it back?
I don't know. There are so many different ways to take it, and I think it's really meant to be taken in your own way. But in my opinion I think that more or less, it's based off of honesty. And when you lie, and keep lying, you're eventually going to get caught.

You worked with a lot of amazing actors in the film. Did they give you any advice, as someone who is new to the business?
They didn't stand over me, telling me to do things. But they did try to help me a lot and they did help a lot! Just from watching them. They were fantastic, and having a director like Tom, I just got hella lucky (my California terms).

Youve adopted the terminology - if you make your next film in Boston, you could be wicked lucky!
Hell yeah, I could!


See also:

Freddie Highmore talks Johnny Depp, stolen identities and The Art of Getting By...


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