While at lunch, I had a chance to chat with Austin Stowell. Austin plays a pertinent role in the film as the handicapped young army veteran named Kyle. A role that could silence any talk about the above mentioned Free Willy comparison.
Austin is a graduate from the University of Connecticut who made the infamous trek out to Los Angeles about two-and-a-half years ago. He jumped into the acting world in high school and continued to receive outstanding reviews while attending college. After graduating, he spent some time working at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard, when arguably the most important question – career-wise – was posed to him by a longtime producer friend…
“A friend of mine from New York asked me what I want to do, and I responded with I want to make movies. He responded with, ‘Guess what? They’re not making movies on Martha’s Vineyard.’ Literally ten minutes later, I was packing my bags.”
Austin had one friend out in Los Angeles that said he could point him in the right direction. His first audition was for Secret Girlfriend and he booked it. So he went “1 for 1” and then received “9 million no’s” after that. Later he got on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and had that role for over a year. When Dolphin Tale came up and he left the show.
We began talking about what it’s like to work with such accomplished performers and how it went for him over the last three months…
“Morgan Freeman is a very giving actor. He would ask if I would like to run another a scene, and I would be like sure, I would love to! Ashley and Harry, they’re people, they kept it light. Harry’s a clown and likes to have fun. I have been able to stay clear of the Harry Connick Jr. prank show, but have seen the wrath haha.”
Regarding his character in the flick, Austin felt a strong connection to “Kyle.” The character is a state champion swimmer, that decides to joint the army, because he doesn’t have the money to pay for the Olympic training. He plans on using sponsorship from the army to pay his way to the Olympics. Life throws a curve ball and he gets hit by an IED and loses the ability to use his right leg. Austin relates for he also had a bad knee injury in high school that derailed his chance to play sports in college.
To prepare for the role, he met with the guys at the VA in Los Angeles and met with a guy named Roger at the local VA, who is an amputee. At this point in the discussion, the all-smiles Austin became very serious when describing his mind frame in taking on the “Kyle” character…
“It was very important to me to portray these guys honestly and to do them justice. I have two very good friends who are in service and my main goal is to have them watch the finished project and hear them say you did it right.”
Like the rest of the cast, Austin formed a bond with Winter, who he describes as being very aware of her surroundings and her life. Austin met the star prior to wearing the knee brace for his character. The first time he wore the brace, she checked him out and wondered why Austin was different. After she performed her eye-test, she moves onto the next thing, “Ok, you’re cool.”
Regarding his career, the greatest time of life has been happening these last three months working on Dolphin Tale.
“A dream come true. I’m just trying to hang on for the ride man. Everything happens for a reason, I have this opportunity to play Kyle for a reason and had the opportunity to meet everyone here, it’s all serendipitous.”
So who better to ask for advice in breaking through to the next level than someone who is currently finds himself in that very position. His candid thoughts…
“Physically and mentally you have to be in shape at all times. You never know when you have to step up. When you think you’ve done enough, do more. Work as hard as you can, meet people, the business is a lot about who you know. You have to be out there, putting yourself out there, at all times, It is a fine line to walk whether you are being pushy or assertive. It’s hard work. Of course, there are the cases when lighting strikes with people, like Matthew McConaughey,who get picked out of the bars in Texas. 99.9% of the time, the people we see worked for it. People like Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr. work everyday to continue the status that they have.”
In the end, Austin is a believer that you have to do what makes you happy at the end of the day. One must find their path, embrace it and be willing to fight the obstacles to get what they want.
Let’s talk about a few other people working on the set, who are just about to arrive at the same place as Austin. Specifically, the local folks. Local filmmakers are key components found in just about all major studio on-location shoots.
Part 3 coming soon…
(Winter…The star attraction)