Wandering Jack

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After star turns in 'What Richard Did' and 'Dollhouse', young Irish actor Jack Reynor got a call from Steven Spielberg. TARA BRADYcatches up with him during filming in the US

It’s a Saturday in Midtown Manhattan and Jack Reynor, Ireland’s busiest 20-year-old, is enjoying a short Thanksgiving break away from the cut and thrust of the movieverse. Fortunately, the much-lauded star of the much-lauded What Richard Did has enough relatives in the area to make it a family affair: “My grandparents came around the other day,” says the young actor excitedly.

“And my uncle and his wife live here. So we were able to have our own sort of Thanksgiving thing. It was great, especially after spending the last month in LA where you’re going home on your own every night.”

He feels at home Stateside; he was born there, after all: “I think Dublin people have more in common with Americans than they do with English people,” he says. “We fit right in. There’s no big culture change.”

Reynor was a pre-schooler when his family returned to Co Wicklow but he retains certain memories of Colorado, where he was born. “I have bits and pieces: like snapshots. I went back a couple of years ago and there would have been buildings I kind of knew or streets I recognised.”

He returns to the continent of his birth triumphantly, as Ireland’s “next big thing”. In September Reynor’s titular turn in Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did wowed critics and industry folk at the Toronto International Film Festival. He was snapped up by the US talent agency, WME.

“I had tried going to LA before but nothing clicked for me. This time I got to LA and walked into WME and everybody knew me. It was an absolute, honest-to-god dream.”

If Reynor sounds like his feet haven’t quite touched the ground in 2012 that’s probably because they haven’t. Steven Spielberg has just cast the youngster in The Delivery Man, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn, The Avengers’ Cobie Smulders and Chris Pratt.

“I’m having an amazing time,” he says. “Vince is a lovely guy. Chris Pratt might be the loveliest guy I’ve ever met. I’m really good friends with all the other people on set. We’re hanging out on our hotel mezzanine every night, looking across the city.”

Away from the set, he has been hanging out with glittery types such as Elementary star Lucy Liu, who Reynor first met in Toronto. “We got on like a house on fire once we started chatting,” he says. “So we’ve met up for lunch and stuff since. We’re kind of mates now. Which is weird. It’s all amazingly weird.”

Have we lost him already to the Hollywood machine? Not quite. Right now he is doing strange and crazy things in Kirsten Sheridan’s experimental home invasion movie, Dollhouse.

The film sees five urban tearaways break into a suburban Dublin home and make for the medicine cabinet. Director Sheridan worked without a script on a project that marries improvisation and social experimentation.

“When I turned up the others were already shooting together for a week,” recalls Reynor. “On my first night they had no idea I was coming into the house. I was wondering, who are these nutcases? And they were well suspicious and pissed off about me. It was the most intense experience. We didn’t know what was happening day to day. You couldn’t tell when someone was genuinely pissed off and when they were in character. As far as Kirsten was concerned, none of us could know anything.”

How does one prepare for such a role? “You cheat,” laughs Reynor. “I got very good at finding things out that I wasn’t supposed to know. They used to call me Wandering Jack. I’d be hanging around doors and listening just to find out something, anything, about what was happening the next day. Just so I could be a little bit prepared for it.”

Dollhouse was Reynor’s first major film role – he shot What Richard Did after that – though it’s not his first time on set. Growing up in Wicklow he was, he reckons, an “insane movie fan”, an obsession that first attached itself to Bruce Willis in Die Hard. “I used to watch a ridiculous amount of movies every night,” says Reynor. “Die Hard got me into the whole thing. I think I was seven. I had a taped copy which had been on RTÉ1. I would watch that movie three times in one day. It was mad.”

Not long after, in 2000, Reynor and his family were extras on director Kevin Liddy’s Country. For the rest of the clan it was just some fun and the novelty of a film shoot in their locale; for Jack, it was a way to cajole his way into the limelight.

“I was goofing around the set after school one day and I walked up to somebody and said, ‘Is there any chance I could be in this?’ And they sent me over to wardrobe. The director called me over to do a close up and once the camera was on me, this is all I want to do now.”

Before Lenny Abrahamson and Sheridan came a-calling, Reynor was best known for that earworm milk ad with the dancing skeleton: “Do you remember the one? ‘Them bones, them bones need calcium’?

“Yep. That was my claim to fame until I was 18. I’d be going ‘yeah, I’m going to be actor, I’m going to be an actor’ and everybody ripping the piss out of me singing that song.”

What kind of cocksure nine-year-old begs his way onto a film? Reynor does have an antecedent. His uncle Paul played Harry Molloy on Fair City. Still, Reynor the younger suspects his chutzpah comes from his mother, the human rights activist, Tara O’Grady.

And more precociousness: he has already shot a documentary on the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (Bravo), the organisation his mother founded to help protect rights and democracy in the Middle Eastern kingdom. “If I’m brave, 99 per cent of it comes from my mother,” says Reynor.

“She’s the bravest person I know. She’s inspirational.”

Dollhouse is on release

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