If you haven’t heard of Tye Sheridan, it’s somehow both reasonable and ridiculous. His filmography is full of obscure thrillers on the one hand—images of rural, apocalyptic bardos that unnervingly resemble our everyday world—and on the other hand his first film, Tree of Life (2011), was helmed by Terrence Malick. His new clout is old school—he didn’t get famous online, nor did he require the industry- standard Disney stamp of approval. Maybe such an anomalous career kick-start points to something greater, but whatever it is, it’s taken him from unconventional indie to stratospheric blockbuster.
This summer, you won’t miss him as young Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth installment of Bryan Singer’s epic series. From there, believe it or not, things get even bigger for Tye Sheridan. He was cast as the lead in Spielberg’s upcoming sci- action ick, Ready Player One, slated for a 2018 release. Yet he remains faithful to his art house roots, portraying the son in Rodrigo García’s Last Days in the Desert whose family encounters Jesus Christ (Ewan McGregor) on his way back to Jerusalem before being crucified. After all is said and done, he still won’t even be able to legally buy a drink.
His speech is apt for the big screen: soft- spoken, choosing his words attentively. His spry, infectious enthusiasm is countered only by hushed utterances that sometimes trail off altogether—a debonair reserve, seemingly antithetical to caricaturized notions of Texas natives, but a few minutes in Sheridan’s presence and you quickly grasp the often overlooked charm and grace of the South.
Are you a McConaughey-level Texan?
Absolutely. Most of my family is still there. I guess I’m a southern boy at my roots. It’s nice to get back home when I can. I love living in Austin—living in a really hip city— but still being close to my family.
How was working on Last Days in the Desert?
The crew was amazing, and really small. I was working with [cinematographer] Emmanuel Lubezki who just won an Oscar for the third time in a row. It was my second time getting to work with him. It was shot out in Borrego Springs, not far from the Salton Sea, and it looks like Mars. The landscape was just incredible. The film is simple in its nature, yet very complex in terms of its content.
The fact that it’s not only about Christ, but it’s about the father-son relationship.
It’s almost like the ultimate father-son story. I really enjoyed working with Ewan McGregor—nicest guy. Some of my favorite stuff in that film are when Ewan’s having these scenes with himself, he’s basically seeing the Devil [whom he also plays] and there are these really complex steadicam shots where you see two Ewan McGregors in one frame.
Are you and your father close?
Super close. We usually talk everyday on the phone.
What kinds of things do you guys do together?
We like to hunt and fish. It’s tough because he’s a UPS driver, and he has to put in a year in advance to get a vacation. So, to have that fall into sync with the free time in my schedule is next to impossible.
Were you raised in a religious home?
I was raised Christian, but we didn’t go to church. We did things like pray at the dinner table, but it wasn’t forced.
What spoke to you about Ready Player One?
I was shooting X-Men in Montreal for four or five months, and I had some time on my hands. My agent sent me this Spielberg script and I thought, oh my god, what a cool opportunity. I mean, I’ll never get it, but I can’t wait to audition. I read the script and remember just becoming absolutely astonished, and so intrigued by the story and how they were going to execute the lm. I sent in an audition tape. My agent called back and goes, hey, I think they’re going to pass on you, they want something different. Then a few more weeks go by, and I get a call from my agent, and he tells me that Spielberg caught the trailer to A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), which is a comedy. In my initial audition, Spielberg thought I had played it too heavy, but when he saw this trailer he realized that maybe I can do something a little lighter.
So had you not done that comedy—
Exactly! If I wouldn’t have done that film, and he wouldn’t have seen that trailer, would I have even gotten a second callback?
What was it like confronting the apocalypse in the X-Men?
It’s not only about the X-Men confronting the apocalypse, and Apocalypse himself, but we get to see the young X-Men, their origins, what made them who they actually are, and who we know them to be from the previous films. So, it’s really an early examination of character development. When we meet my character [young Scott Summers] he hasn’t discovered his mutant powers yet. To get to see where these iconic characters came from was really special. There are few franchises that hold up, especially with as much time as the X-Men franchise has spanned over. I’m so grateful and honored to be just a small part of that.