McAuliffe takes the indie route

30 July, 2014 by Don Groves

Callan McAuliffe in Beneath The Harvest Sky.


After Callan McAuliffe landed roles in two studio films, Flipped and I Am Number Four, several years ago, the teenager says he naively expected a glittering Hollywood career would ensue.

That’s now how the actor’s career has panned out but he shot four indie movies around the world in the past 18 months, working with Samuel L. Jackson, Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson.

“I am no A-lister,” the Los Angeles-based McAuliffe, 19, told IF today on a visit to Sydney as a national ambassador for UNICEF promoting children’s rights. "I would rather be a working actor than a mega-famous star. 

“I have to audition for every role but when you get the job, it’s very rewarding. I’ve been very fortunate, with a bit of luck and hard work. I have done some diverse movies, although some are not my type of movie."

Beneath The Harvest Sky, a coming-of-age drama shot in northern Maine by directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, will have its Australian premiere at the Possible Worlds Festival in Sydney on August 9.  McAuliffe and Emory Cohen play teenagers who plan to escape their small hometown to start new lives in Boston, funded by harvesting potatoes and drug smuggling.

He went to South Africa to shoot Kite, director Ralph Ziman’s live-action adaptation of a graphically violent anime by Yasuomi Umetsu, with Jackson and India Eisley.

McAuliffe plays Oburi, best friend and protector of Sawa (Eisley), a trained young assassin who seeks her father’s killer with the help of a mentor (Jackson). He marvelled at Jackson’s ability to keep fellow cast and crew entertained with jokes in between takes.

Kite premieres in the US on DirecTV on August 28, followed by a theatrical/VOD release in October 10. The actor thinks that’s a sensible approach, reasoning, “It’s not the most accessible film in the world. The platform will make it easier for audiences to discover the film, especially those who like watching people get blown up by electric dildos.”

He shot Jon Wright’s Our Robot Overlords in Belfast and the Isle of Man with Kingsley and Anderson, playing a guy who escapes house arrest in a world ruled by robots and heads off in search of his father. He enjoyed working with Kingsley, whom he describes as “bit reserved; he keeps to himself,” and with Anderson. He added, “It’s a good old-fashioned British film, a lot of fun."

Filming Hacker took him to Hong Kong and Bangkok, cast as an intelligent and amoral computer genius who joins an underground network of computer-based criminals known as DarkWeb in an effort to uncover the identity of the org’s master hacker.

Co-starring are Lorraine Nicholson (daughter of Jack) and Daniel Eric Gold. He found working with Russian-born director Akan Satayev, who used one of his producers as a translator, an “alien experience.” But he says the film turned out well, noting, “I got to act my heart out, yelling and swearing a lot.”

The actor almost had to re-invent his career in 2012 after setting aside a chunk of the year to shoot Paradise Lost, an adaptation of John Milton’s classic epic poem, in Australia with director Alex Proyas.

McAuliffe was rehearsing his sword-fighting scenes with Bradley Cooper when the US producer Legendary Pictures pulled the plug. He spent two days that year shooting Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

He’s honoured to be a UNICEF ambassador, joining Geoffrey Rush, Tara Moss, Jimmy Barnes, The Wiggles and Morris Gleitzman in events that celebrate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

McAuliffe, who has changed agents twice, from WMA to UTA and now with CAA, heads back to Los Angeles in a week or so, and more auditions. “LA is not my favourite place although I have a lot of friends there,” he says. “There is an air about it which isn’t for me in the long run.”