Daniel Dercksen talks to Troye Sivan, who delivers a powerful performance in the title role of SPUD.
Fourteen year old Troye Sivan hails from South Africa but lives in Perth, Australia. His beautiful singing voice and obvious acting talent made Troye the perfect actor to play John "Spud" Milton. Troye's burgeoning musical career has already seen him perform at many of Perth's most important venues, as well as professional performances that span several continents. In 2009, Troye was invited to Los Angeles to perform at a Gala Banquet Dinner for the Jewish community at an event in honour of the tragic 2008 Mumbai Massacre victims.In 2006, inaugural Australia's Idol winner Guy Sebastian heard Troye perform "Over The Rainbow" as one of the opening acts on Perth's Annual Telethon. Thrilled at what he heard, he and Troye spent a few minutes backstage rehearsing Sebastian's first Idol single "Angels Brought Me Here", which they performed together and received a standing ovation from the 2500-strong audience. As an actor, Troye played the lead in Oliver! at Perth's Regal Theatre, but his big break came in February 2008 when a successful audition landed him the role of "Young Logan" (Hugh Jackman's character at 12 years old) in the feature film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Wolverine, a 20th Century-Fox film, was released in May 2009. Troye is represented in all fields worldwide by The William Morris Agency, Active Artists Management (AU) and Group III Management, Inc.Acting and singing keep Troye's schedule full, but he can't think of anything he'd rather be doing!
Let's talk SPUD. SPUD seemed to have changed your life drastically?
It's been definitely in a positive way though. I feel so blessed to be a part of something like this, and I never would have thought that my first lead role would be in South Africa where I was born. After reading the books, I am so happy to be a part of it. I did my first audition then I read the screenplay and then I did my second audition and read the books. Then there was about seven months waiting while they were auditioning throughout South Africa. I am a big, big fan of the books - I have read the other two since then - I am still kind of in a way star struck by John van de Ruit because I love his books so much. They are probable some of my favourite books.
What initially attracted you to the books, then the screenplay and auditioning?
I think it was just the character of Spud in itself, and I thought it was a really good storyline. It was very real and it was very genuine. And the emotions that Spud goes through, it is so relatable, you feel for him. At the same time, as much as we are alike, we are very different. I also saw it as a challenge and my first lead role. Will I be able to deal with the shooting schedule? It all kind of just appealed to me and it felt like the perfect project to take my first step into the film industry.
Was it difficult to step into the shoes of Spud?
Yeah, it was. I think we are very different - like I said - I think it was a little bit difficult in the beginning, but after pre-production and a lot of rehearsals - we had accent and acting coaches - I think that helped a lot, but it was difficult because I think Spud, for me the hardest part was I am quite a quick thinker, I am a little bit more of an extrovert, whereas Spud is more of a passive observer. He will observe and then write in his diary, so he is very kind of introverted person. For me that was probably the most difficult thing to actually do. Whenever I found myself slipping I would just remember that Spud is a cautious person, so take your time, think things through, go write something down. Chill out and take things a lot slower than I would as Troy.
It seems in film today, that you have ordinary people turning into super heroes. If you take the character of Spud, and films like Precious, the characters change people and the world around them. Would you agree that Spud also changes people and the way they see things?
I definitely think so. I think it is difficult for Spud. As much as he changes other people, I think that what he really learns to do is to accept himself before he changes anyone else. He is constantly trying to fit in with the mould and that doesn't change anything because he is just being a follower. It is only towards kind of the end of the movie and the book that he is empowered and he has been through so much, and he has changed so much, and been on such a journey that he becomes a completely different person. He becomes proud of himself and as soon as he does that, that is when he starts getting accepted and that's when he starts changing others; as soon as he accepts himself for what he is.
Why do you think the character of Spud appeals to so many people?
I think because we all kind of imagine ourselves as Spud. I think John van de Ruit, in his writing, as much as we know so much about Spud, we always see things through his eyes, we never actually look on the outside looking at Spud. I think that people simply imagine that Spud is themselves. I think people can relate to him a lot of what he is going through. The emotion he goes through is so normal and so human, but to him it seems the biggest deal. I think we have all been though it and we all go through it, and to be able to see that put in a book and a movie, we automatically click and feel for the character and relate to the character.
If you say that you as a person are the opposite of Spud, which of the characters in the film do you relate to most when you were at school?
I don't think I am necessarily the opposite of Spud, if anything, I think it is Spud that I relate to most because I don't think I am closer to any of the other characters really.
You say you were more of an extrovert at school. Wouldn't that be closer to the character of Rambo?
I think the person who is kind of more out there probably is Rambo. I think I'd be a little less me than Rambo, but a little less overpowering. But in the sense that he is the most out there and confident in himself and I think that is something we share.
Was there a specific highlight working on the film?
The people. The people who worked on this movie, it was a fully 100% cast and crew, so on its own it made all of us click , and we all became a very tight unit of friends and colleagues and work buddies within the first two days of shooting. I'll miss them when I go back home and will be constantly be thinking about the next time when I will be coming back and see them again.
Was it intimidating working with John Cleese?
It was intimidating in the beginning, before I met him. The idea of working with John Cleese was intimidating. Actually working with John Cleese is one of the most incredible experiences that I think an actor can have. Just because he is the nicest guy, he is so learned and has been in the business for ages. The second I met him, all that intimidation, all those nerves, they went away and he made me feel right at home, like we were just two buddies working together. It wasn't really anything different to working with anyone else, except for the fact that he is so incredible.
Who is the Troye behind Spud, the actor behind the character? What do enjoy doing at home, when you are not in front of the cameras?
I love my computer, because I am in Perth, so far away from everything, working on my computer and surfing the internet. I love photography. It's difficult because I think I have a weird balance between being an introvert and an extrovert, being an out there person, but at the same time quite a quiet person when I am back home. I don't really take any glory. If anything, I shy away when people try and pump me up. I don't know … I guess I'm different to Spud because I am not as much an introvert as he is, and I don't document things, and I don't observe as much as he does, but at the same time I don't think I am Rambo, I don't think I am to that extreme. I think I am somewhere in the middle and that's what I am like when I am home.
Are you more a reader, or a film buff?
I'm a bit of both. I love reading. I absolutely love English, and writing and reading.
Your favourite book?
If I had to choose between Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter, I would go with Harry Potter. I love those books so much, they were my first novels that I read when I was younger. They have a special place in my heart. I find it difficult to watch movies without thinking of the behind the scenes stuff. I think that makes it a little bit more peaceful for me when I am reading a book than when I am watching a movie. I watch them with a different set of eyes now.
Your favourite film?
This year it would have to be Toy Story 3. I think Pixar did such a good job with that movie. And then probably, all time I loved Juno
Is it going to be difficult to get back to your normal life after the success of Spud?
I think the hardest part is going to be going back to school. I've got quite a bit of work waiting for me over there and it is always hard to go from such a high to such a low (laughs), going back to school and everything. At the same time I am always excited to catch up with my friends from Perth. In that respect I am quite excited.
What do you think South Africans will get from watching Spud on the big screen?
I hope that they feel proud that South Africa produced this movie, made this movie with a South African cast and crew. That they feel we did the book justice and I hope they go on a bit of a rollercoaster ride as far as emotions go. If I have it my way they will walk out of the cinema in tears but also have laughed throughout the movie.
And after Spud, anything waiting for you besides school?
I am going to the States for a couple of weeks. I've got a singing performance in Washington DC, singing with a big group of singers. Then I'm going to New York and then back to Australia and lots and lots of school work.
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