Benedict Samuel has started shooting a US indie thriller in Los Angeles, his third US film in the past 12 months.

The NIDA graduate is among the ensemble cast of The Stanford Prison Experiment, the saga of 20 undergraduate volunteers who are offered a cash incentive to assume the role of either guard or prisoner for two weeks in a mock jail, all in the name of scientific research.

Things quickly escalate beyond the boundaries of reason and humanity. Based on Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s notorious 1971 psychological study at Stanford University, the screenplay is by Tim Talbott and P.W. Hopsidor.

Kyle Patrick Alvarez (whose film C.O.G. premiered in competition at the Sundance festival) is directing for producers Lizzie Friedman, Brent Emery, Brian Geraghty, Karen Lauder and Greg Little.

The cast includes Billy Crudup as Zimbardo, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, Johnny Simmons, Thomas Mann, Nick Braun and Gaius Charles.

Represented in Australia by United Management and in the US by WME and Management 360, former Home and Away regular Samuel has completed two US films. One is Robert Zemeckis' The Walk, a TriStar production which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt s as Philippe Petit, the French highwire artist who made the illegal wire walk between the World Trade Centre towers.

That was previously documented in James Marsh's Man on Wire. The screenplay by Zemeckis and Christopher Browne is based on Petit’s book To Reach the Clouds. Samuel plays one of Petit’s crew and Ben Kingsley is his mentor.

Before that Samuel starred in Asthma, the writing and directing debut of actor Jake Hoffman, son of Dustin Hoffman. Benedict plays Gus, a New York heroin addict who embarks on a destructive weekend bender.

The indie film, which co-stars Krysten Ritter, Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette, premiered last month at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Variety reviewer Guy Lodge was unimpressed with what he described as a “callow, shallow cautionary tale, which wears its influences on its artfully frayed sleeve and no closer than that to its heart.”

But Lodge was much kinder about Samuel’s performance, opining, “Blessed with the androgynous, jolie-laide features of a young Mick Jagger…Australian thesp Samuel has a rangy, compelling physicality that should serve him better in more generous vehicles.”

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