When Charlie St. Cloud’s (Zac Efron) younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) dies in a tragic car accident, in which Charlie was at the wheel, the accomplished young man with a bright future ties himself to his small town life because of a promise he made. So, when Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew), a high school friend and gifted sailor, returns to town and catches Charlie’s eye, he begins to develop feelings for her and quickly discovers what it’s like to live again.
During a press interview for Charlie St. Cloud, actress Amanda Crew talked about what an honor it was to even be considered for the role, how she connected with her strong-willed character, what it was like working with Zac Efron and the importance of seeking out great roles. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: What was your auditioning process for this? Did you know that Zac Efron had been cast, when you went to audition?
Amanda: My agent sent me the script and was like, “This is an amazing script. You have to read this.” At the time, Zac was attached. I met with Burr [Steers], the director, first. Then, I got the call on my birthday that I’d be doing a chemistry read with Zac and was just like, “Oh, my god!” To be considered for the part was such an honor. So, I did the chemistry read and the screen test. It was a long process. And then, I got the call that I got it. I was actually in my agent’s office and I’ve got a photo of me, hunched over and crying. It was a dream come true.
What went through your mind when you got the part?
Amanda: Not a lot. I was so shocked and honored. You work so hard, and you have your ups and downs in this industry, and you question, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes?” After all that hard work, you have that moment of, “I earned this and I deserve this,” and you’re validated. It’s a great moment.
What did you feel like you connected with, in this character, and how did you adjust your performance for the moments when you are not actually there?
Amanda: What I was drawn to in the character was the fact that it’s really hard to find strong roles for girls my age. A lot of the time, it’s just the pretty girl who serves as the love interest, and that’s it. What I loved about this character was that she’s such a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants in life. She’s unapologetic about it. She has these goals and she’s going to go for it. I think that’s a great role model for girls. Even myself, I admired this character. She’s going to sail around the world by herself. She’s brave and ambitious. Burr and I did a lot of rehearsals and worked on that, before we started shooting. I do come across as very similar to the character, in that I know what I want in life. But, the part about the character I struggled with the most was the unapologetic part. I’m Canadian and Burr was like “Stop apologizing!,” and I was like, “I’m sorry! Okay, I’ll do it!” But, I came out of the film and carried some of the character with me, from this experience, in a positive way. I’m just trying to carry that strength with me, for the rest of my life.
Since you were shooting in the Vancouver area, where you’re from, did you show Zac and everybody around?
Amanda: A bit, yeah. I took them to some places. It’s cool being in your hometown, but with tourists because you find out things about the city that you had no idea about. It’s always nice being with Zac because people are more willing to show him different stuff, since it’s Zac Efron. We got to see some cool stuff. We all went up to Whistler, one weekend, and went zip lining. We were always trying to find something to do.
Did you try to keep track of the 16-year-old girl, Abby Sunderland, who tried to sail around the world by herself?
Amanda: Yeah. And, while we were shooting, her younger brother was doing it. She got lost. I admire anyone who can do that trek, especially at that age. It’s crazy. My sailing coach that worked on the film was telling me that these people who sail around the world have to be a little bit crazy to do it because you’re spending all that time by yourself. You’re not talking to anyone and there is a schedule. You sail for four hours, and you can sleep for 20 minutes, and then you sail another four hours, and that’s for weeks on end. That’s all you’re doing, and you’re eating dehydrated food. It’s so physically demanding, but also mentally demanding. I’m sure that would mess with you a little bit.
Did you talk to any young sailors?
Amanda: We had a lot of different sailing coaches and trainers on the set. One, specifically, was this guy named Sterling Ashcroft. He’s young, in his early 20’s, so he was great. He’d always be on set. The boat is their baby. It’s their home. They know everything about it, so they don’t just stand on their boat. They do stuff. He’d constantly check in with me, so that we actually looked like we knew what we were doing.
There is this romantic Sixth Sense aspect to this film, where you guys are hooking up on screen, but that’s not exactly happening. Did you have to carefully develop how you would interact with Zac?
Amanda: Burr would always remind us where we were coming from and what part of the story it was, and he would check in with us. We had it mapped out. I don’t know what Zac and Burr did. They had their own rehearsal time. But, with me and Burr, we had a lot of that mapped out. I can’t speak any more highly of Burr. He’s an amazing director, and I’m glad I had the experience that I did because he pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, in a positive and loving way. He could see what I was capable of and could tell if I wasn’t living up to my full potential. He’d push me to this really uncomfortable place, but you know that it’s out of love and it’s something positive. You just feel really safe with him.
Are you ready for a lot of girls and teens to be jealous as hell of you?
Amanda: So far, I’ve met a lot of Zac’s fans because they would be around the set. He has really great fans. I haven’t had any mean fans. They just want to know what he’s like and, thankfully, I have only amazing things to say about him.
What was it like to meet Zac on set, the first day?
Amanda: Well, I’d met him before because we’d done chemistry reads and screen tests. It’s so interesting. The first time I met him in the chemistry read, obviously he’s a good-looking guy, but I was never that girl that had his poster above my bed or anything. But, when I met him, all of a sudden, he has this effect on people. He’s a dreamboat. All of a sudden, I was turning into a 12-year-old girl and giggling. I was like, “Where did that laugh come from?” But, he puts you at ease so quickly. He’s just so down to earth. He is genuine, he’s humble, he’s normal and he has no ego. We did a lot of rehearsals before we actually started filming, which was great because we did build this great friendship between us. I think part of that is to do with the fact that he’s not this guarded guy, who’s like, “I’m God. I’m Zac Efron.” I didn’t know him before he had all this success, but I feel like the person I’m meeting today is the same person as before all the success hit him.
With Burr being an actor’s director, what was the rehearsal process like?
Amanda: We did rehearsals for three weeks or so, before filming. We did various acting exercises, with me and Zac together, just to get comfortable and not be scared to take risks in front of each other, and falling on our faces. We did a lot of character work. He showed us a lot of old films, and gave us different actors and actresses to look at, with different techniques. He showed me a lot of Vanessa Redgrave’s work, and we watched different movies for different reasons to see this dynamic between this sort of love relationship. A lot of times, he’d just show us one scene or one moment. We did a lot of work with repetition and these actor exercises, where you just repeat back and forth. It was crazy, but it was like actors’ boot camp. We got free acting classes.
Does that make you more comfortable to be intuitive and in the moment on set?
Amanda: What was great about it was that we did so much work on my character, with the relationship with her father and all that history, so when I got on set, I wasn’t thinking about that stuff. You just know all of that. It’s all there, and that’s something I will carry with me, throughout the rest of my career, definitely.
Were there any funny moments that happened during filming?
Amanda: The sailing stuff was always a disaster with me. Zac picked it up really quickly, but I’m not very athletic. We did a lot of sailing training, and we had personal trainers to do a lot of weight training in the gym, but I’m a klutz. I had bruises all over my body, through the entire shoot, just from falling over. Before the screen test, a friend of mine who’s a professional sailor was like, “Come up to San Francisco. We’ve got this amazing boat and we’re doing a practice run.” So, I was like, “Sweet! Bikinis and champagne!” That’s what I pictured sailing to be, but it’s not. It’s a sport. My job was to run from one side to the other, which you would think is easy, but it’s not. I slipped and fell on the deck so hard, and had this massive bruise down my leg and arm. So, I showed up to the screen test, the next day, with bruises. They were like, “What happened?,” and I was like, “I went sailing. I swear, I’ll be good, if you hire me.”
How many sailing lessons did you have, before you actually started shooting?
Amanda: I don’t know. We were on the water every day, for at least three hours, then in the gym every day. I’m so glad that we did that because I never felt so physically strong. I was not just mentally connected to the character, but also physically connected, just because we had been doing all that work. Burr was always like, “When you’re doing your sailing training, don’t be Amanda sailing, be Tess sailing. Amanda sailing is, “Oops, sorry!,” and Tess sailing is like, “Yeah, this is what I’m doing, and I’m doing it wrong, but I’m doing it.” He was always just getting us to be in character.
Is there some part of Tess’ personality that you relate to most?
Amanda: Yeah, I definitely connected with the fact that she has goals and she set out to accomplish them. I’ve always been a very goal-driven person. That was definitely a part of her that I could connect with. I just have to work on the apologetic side because I’m Canadian. We apologize for everything.
Did you have a favorite location in Canada? Was there any location that you hadn’t been to before?
Amanda: We got to go up to Gibsons, which is an island off the coast, up there. We filmed some of the stuff on the boat outside of his cottage, and some of the sailing sequences were filmed up there, like when I surprised Zac with his boat and we go sailing. That was amazing. Usually, the sail boat was rigged to another boat and it’s all movie magic, but at one point, they were like, “Okay, the training wheels are off. You guys are going out in the water.” We’d never sailed together. We’d done our separate sailing. So, we sailed together and it was amazing. It was so windy, but we actually felt like we were doing it on our own. I think that was well-captured on film. But, it was mainly Zac telling me what to do because I had no idea. He was like, “Go right! No, your other right!”
Does the lack of good roles for young women make you back off and take fewer roles, in order to find those good roles, or at this point in your career, is it more important to be visible, even if it’s not in great roles?
Amanda: Everyone has different goals. For myself, I would rather take less roles and be working on films that I’m passionate about, that are going to challenge me and that I’m going to be growing from. I don’t ever want to take a movie, just for the sake of working. When I look for the next project, it’s always about, “Is it going to push me out of my comfort zone? Am I doing something different? Am I working with people who are passionate about what they’re doing?” At the end of the day, if I’m going to be bored on set, then I’m not gonna be happy. Life is too short to be doing work that doesn’t make you feel happy and fulfilled. I’d rather wait for the right project, as opposed to just taking whatever is handed to me.
What’s next for you?
Amanda: I finished a film in January, that’s an independent film called Repeaters. It’s a Canadian indie that was directed by Carl Bessai, who I’ve wanted to work with for a while. That was a really great experience because it’s a really dark role. I play a drug addict. I’ve always wanted to be seen in something like that, but hadn’t been, so it was a great opportunity and a great learning experience. Now, it’s just the patience game, waiting for the next thing that speaks to me. I’m just waiting for the right script to come along.
With all of the opportunities now on cable, would you be willing to do television?
Amanda: Television has changed. There’s obviously the generic shows, but on HBO and AMC, there are some really great series, so I’m not closed off to television. If there’s an amazing role with amazing people and a great story, I’d definitely be open to it. I did television a lot in my earlier years, so to do the high school student that’s just the pretty girl, I’ve done that before, so I don’t have any interest in that.
Was that what Whistler was about?
Amanda: Yeah. It was about the mountain and the people that lived there. It had a bit of a Six Feet Under meets The O.C. element to it. There was deceit, lies, sex, drugs and all of that.
Are you based in Canada still, or do you live in L.A.?
Amanda: I do live in L.A. now. I’ve lived here for a couple of years, but work keeps taking me back up to Vancouver. No complaints there.