Joel Courtney, 14, had realistic hopes. He simply wanted to spend the summer in Hollywood with his older brother Caleb (Sol, “Endurance 6: Fiji), take a few acting classes, maybe audition for a commercial or two – then return home to Moscow, Idaho.
He ended up cast in a film produced by Steven Spielberg.
It all started at The Playground Conservatory, a young actors’ studio in Century City founded by renowned acting coach Gary Spatz (New Mickey Mouse Club, Rosanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, the upcoming Judy Moody and The Not Bummer Summer). After a few classes, Joel was asked to audition for Super-8 (via Seattle-based casting director Patti Kalles). Gary knew Joel wasn’t quite ready – but prepared him as best he could.
April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg were in charge of casting. “They liked Joel as soon as he walked in the door,” Gary said.
But, again, without credits and craft they weren’t sure. So we started coaching him specifically for this role. And they kept bringing him back, callback after callback, all summer long. We had to get his acting chops up to the point where all involved would feel confident in trusting a lead role to a novice young actor. Eventually he got in front of JJ Abrams who gave him several of the big emotional scenes from the movie. Each time Joel was improving but he hadn’t yet convinced JJ. Several screen tests later, and after many more hours of coaching, Joel stepped up to the challenge and secured the part.
Mr. Spatz gives credit not only to Joel – but to Assistant Director of The Playground, Gayla Goehl.
Super-8 will be directed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Steven Spielberg, Abrams, and Bryan Burk for Paramount and Amblin Entertainment. The main cast includes Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Gabriel Basso, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, and Joel Courtney. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)