[laughs] What's it like? I don't know. It's not tangible, really. Anything you say here is kind of weird. It's just the way that it is.
I'm being cheeky, but seriously, you've achieved a high level of success at such a young age. At 22, I certainly didn't know what the hell I was doing. Do you feel like you won't even be able to process some of these experiences until later?
Yes, most definitely. It's been a whirlwind couple of years, a very exciting time. I feel like I'm in the height of living, and I'm just absorbing everything. That's one thing that I'm addicted to at this point, having those achievements and raising the standard. That's the best part of it all is that it's growing, and there's still room to grow.
But I'm sure there are some added pressures that come with fame, like with your appearance. I imagine you're forced to look absolutely fabulous just to leave the house, while the rest of us can unashamedly run errands in any grubby old thing.
Yeah, there are small things you definitely miss. [laughs] The thing about it is if you comment on it, or talk about the negativity around it, it's not really comprehensible to anybody. It's one of the weirdest things to talk about with friends or family or anyone, to be honest.
There are little things you have to forgo. If you walk around in sweatpants and don't shave or shower, or look a bit sleepy, there's a high probability that there are going to be rumors out there that you're on drugs or starting some sort of spiral downhill. So I've always tried to look my best, and look clean when I go outside. I think I owe it to everybody to show up well-groomed and put in a little effort. It's the least I can do.
This film seems like a logical first step in transitioning to, for lack of a better term, an adult career. How self-conscious are you in planning out what you would like to do next, or five years from now?
You know, that's a question I've been getting a lot recently. It's like this is a chess game: "What are your next three moves?" Everybody wants to know, as if I'm looking that far down the line, or have some kind of strategy. But it's really not the case at all, man. It's more like surfing. I'm just riding it, not planning anything. I'm trying to follow my heart.
My judgment of what is a good film is developing over time, especially the more I work with great directors. I think the transition will come naturally, and I want it to come that way. I'm not going to calculate five moves to fame. To me, success is not victory. I'm trying not to let it become something that ever influences my decisions. In my mind, I'm not successful.
If you could pick any actor's career of today or yesteryear, whose would you most like to emulate?
I guess Johnny Depp. Someone told me recently, "You should be like Johnny Depp and do something to change your image, something dark and messed up so people take you seriously." I don't think that's what he did at all. He found a brilliant creative partner and mentor in Tim Burton, collaborated and came up with fantastic characters and great movies. I think that's where I am right now, searching for that mentor. Not that I could ever try to copy those guys.
That's the other hard thing about choosing an actor to follow, is then you get categorized: "Oh, he wants to be Tom Cruise." I would love to come away with the originality that they all had in their careers. If I could achieve something down the road, it would be to [have people] say, "Hey, he tried a lot of different things. He mixed it up." That's what I admire about those actors.
Speaking of mentors, your character finds one in Orson Welles. How familiar were you with his work, and what do you appreciate about him that you didn't know before?
I knew about "Citizen Kane" and "War of the Worlds," just your basic Orson story that everybody at some point reads in a history book, or is forced to study. He was summed up in one quote in textbooks: "I began at the top and have been making my way down ever since."
He's been written off in that way in our culture, and that's really disappointing because at the beginning of his career -- well, in 1937, in "Me and Orson Welles" -- he was a fascinating, brilliant, ambitious, young, talented star. He was changing the face of radio. He raised the bar for Broadway. In this chapter of his life that we explore in the movie, he's absolutely vibrant. That's what I really learned, is about the ambition and passion that was young Welles.
How much did you delve into his work for research?
To be honest, most of what we studied for the film -- what we looked at as far as material -- was very specific to 1937. Most of Welles' work that you would watch in film, or hear in radio, is far after we began the story, years later. He's only 22 at this time, which is my age, which is ridiculous. It makes me realize how little I've actually accomplished.
What was unique about your collaboration with Richard Linklater that you've never experienced with other directors?
I have a sense of pride now working with Rick that we made a movie that's not typical in any way. It wouldn't have been made if it wasn't for a lot of hard work, and that's Rick for you. He's a renegade filmmaker and I love his philosophy to film. Whatever is going on in his head, you want to be a part of it, and Rick gave me a pretty big gift by sharing a lot of that knowledge.
He's very meticulous with the environment that surrounds the actors, and in making sure that it feels genuine. We weren't trying to act of the period. We weren't talking with accents or anything like that. He wanted us to have fun and play and bring life to this era. In the past, when it's been done, it could sometimes be a bit stuffy. That was a cool lesson that he taught me, is that no matter what's happening, let it live. You can't force anything.
I can imagine the benefits, but what did you like least about working in a period piece?
I like my pants pretty low on my waist -- I invest in nice boxers, you know? [laughs] It was the most fascinating feeling in the world to wear my pants buttoned at the belly button for the entire run of the film. It really put your head in the period. It's just weird, how style has evolved. We used, for the most part, all authentic clothing, old stuff. You know the life that has gone on in the clothes before you. You can feel it, you can smell it. Some guy who's probably no longer with us wore this when he was a kid. Although the clothes were very itchy, and I've grown to love cotton, I think I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In this ridiculous, tabloid-influenced society we live in, what do you think the biggest misconception is about you?
I don't know, it's hard to talk about that without exacerbating the problem. I know this doesn't clear up any misconceptions, but all I can say is I'm just trying to live my life as a young actor, and all the rest is pretty much B.S.