He may not be a household name yet but Tye Sheridan has– in recent years– become a force to be reckoned with. He co-starred in Tree of Life in 2011 and had a breakout performance in Mud (2013) starring opposite Matthew McConaughey, no rx an actor who has often been underestimated for his craft. This year, troche Sheridan stars with Nicolas Cage, another underestimated actor, in the drama Joe, which hits theaters today. Not only do Cage and Sheridan share the screen in Joe but they also star alongside an unknown and previously homeless actor named Gary Poulter, who died shortly after filming.I recently had the opportunity to talk to Tye about working with big name actors and his relationship with Poulter, who was living on the streets when he was cast.
Check out a slightly edited transcript below.
You started out in The Tree of Life but how did you originally get into acting?
I’d done a few class plays in second grade but after that, I had no acting experience up until The Tree of Life.
When did you originally know that you wanted to get into acting?
I always had a feeling that that’s what I was gonna end up doing. Something in film or entertainment.
Let’s talk about Joe for a couple of minutes. First of all, congratulations on the movie. I didn’t realize that Gary Poulter [who plays Sheridan’s father in the film] wasn’t an actor.
No, he’s not.
Can you tell me about your experience with him? I know he recently passed on.
Yeah, we shot the movie in November and October and he passed in March so he didn’t make it quite long enough to see the final cut of the film. He was a really talented actor and going to work everyday with someone who was a non-actor kept you on your toes and was really exciting.
Did the director tell you he was hiring a non-actor? I know he was homeless for a while so how did you originally meet Poulter and get to know him?
I think originally he came in and he read for a role that was really small and then read for a role that was a little bigger and then [director David Gordon Green] had a crazy idea [for Poulter] to come in and audition and be my Dad and he did great so they cast him in the movie.
You guys have a very intense relationship in the movie. What was your relationship with him offscreen?
It was good. We were really good friends and he was such a great guy. Really smart and so talented. It’s heartbreaking to think that a man with such talent was living on the streets for a majority of his life and could’ve had a really great career.
How’d you hear about the news of his passing?
David sent out an e-mail to everyone informing us but I think we all knew he wasn’t doing too well at the time. When we were filming, he may have had lung cancer.
Was there any hesitation on set about him about the fact that he was a non-actor or the fact that he was homeless and nobody had a long-standing personal relationship with him?
At first, yeah. They were like, “He did a really good reading for the father role but is this guy gonna be responsible enough?” What they did was for five to seven days in a row, they had him come to a certain place at 7:30 in the morning and leave a sticky note showing that he was in a good state of mind… and he was responsible enough to get to work on time. He passed the test so they ended up casting him and I don’t think anybody questioned it after that.
How do you stay grounded as a young actor today?
Well, my Mom travels with me everywhere I go. I live at home with my parents and they’re very supportive of what I do.
You’ve worked with a lot of big name actors like Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and Matthew McConaughey. What did you learn from each of them?
It’s always really exciting to find out you’re gonna be working with…that stature because you know they’ve been doing this for a really long time and they know exactly what they’re doing. There’s always notes to be taken and things to be learned from them.
In regards to this movie, did you learn any specific lessons from Nicolas Cage? Did he teach you something specific about either the craft or just surviving in the business?
It’s not really his job to tell me or teach me things. It’s my job to pick up things from him. It’s always smart as a young inexperienced actor to take notes from someone…
Was there something about the Southern feel to these movies that appealed to you?
For a while, it was the only thing I was getting [cast] in. People may have seen me in Tree of Life and a little bit of Mud maybe and they are like “Oh, he can only do Southern roles”….I enjoy being in Southern movies and I feel like it represents my lifestyle and my background.
You’ve talked about how you’ve never been in big-budget movies. So what are you looking for in a script where you’re like ‘I want to do this movie. I have to do this movie.’
I think they are great character-driven stories.
Does something stand out about the characters you’re playing or is it mostly the story that stands out?
It’s mostly the story and being able to work with David. Being a fan of his work… really drew me to this movie.
Do you eventually want to get into bigger budget movies or do you really enjoy the indie more story-driven films that you’ve been doing?
I enjoy character-driven movies but also, I’m just a sucker for a good story. I might do a studio movie sometime if it’s the right one.
If you had a choice of any career you wanted to emulate, whose career would you choose?
I think Matt Damon has had a really cool career or Leonardo DiCaprio because they both started really young and kept [it going] by doing really good films.
I heard that your favorite actor is James Dean. Is that still accurate?
What stands out to you about James Dean?
There’s just something about him. There’s a quality to him that just draws you in. When you’re watching him onscreen, I can’t just take my eyes off him. There’s just something about his rebellious side. That rebellious character he always played was very appealing.