Exclusive: SUPER 8’s Ryan Lee Interview
J. J. Abrams’ thriller SUPER 8, about a group of kids who witness a train crash while shooting a zombie movie and then realize something much bigger is going on when their small town plunges into chaos, comes to theaters on June 10. The closer we get, the more I can’t wait to see exactly what kind of monster is beating down that train car door, and it turns out I’m not alone. At least one of the movie’s teen stars, Ryan Lee, is just as anxious to see the whole film as the rest of us, and that’s usually a pretty good sign that the movie will be as great as we hope.
Daemon’s Movies talked to Ryan about what it was like shooting Super 8, what we can expect from his character Carey, and what’s next for this talented young actor.
The more trailers I see for ‘Super 8’ the more impatient I am to see the whole movie.
Ryan Lee: Yeah, I know. The first moment that I found out I’ve been like, ‘All right. What’s it going to look like onscreen?’ I can’t wait.
How much of the film have you seen so far?
Ryan Lee: I’ve seen twenty minutes, twenty two minutes–the same twenty-two minutes some reporters got to see, I think. That’s all I’ve really seen. J. J. [Abrams] just really wanted it to be a big surprise for us whenever it comes out.
What was it like auditioning for this? Did you even know what you were auditioning for?
Ryan Lee: Oh, no, not at all. I didn’t know that it was ‘Super 8’ until I got the part. The first time that I auditioned, back in Texas, was on tape. They said that the script was about me and this other girl doing our math homework, fighting about her going out with another boy or something. It was something crazy like that and it had nothing to do with ‘Super 8’.
Every time that I’d go into an audition it’d be for a different character that had nothing to do with ‘Super 8’. It was really crazy. I didn’t know right up until I got the part that it was ‘Super 8’ and Steven Spielberg was attached. I started literally freaking out.
What was your reaction?
Ryan Lee: I tried to stay calm. I didn’t want to freak out in front of J. J., but you could see my legs shaking. I was jumping up and down and smiling at him. He goes, ‘Well, do you want the part?’ I go, ‘Yeah, of course.’ Then I got home and I was jumping on my hotel bed for like twenty minutes.
How hard has it been to keep everything so secret?
Ryan Lee: It’s so hard. One of my friends has been saying, ‘What’s the movie called? What’s the movie called,’ and I had to say, ‘I can’t tell you, but once it comes out you’ll know.’ They all know now what it is because of the commercials and stuff. So it feels a little bit better now, but back then, if I would’ve told somebody, I swear me and my mom felt like there were tracer darts all around us and people were going to bust through the windows and tackle us. It was pretty top secret.
So, tell me about your character Carey–at least what you can without spoilers. Is he really a firebug?
Ryan Lee: Yeah. He’s the really crazy pyromaniac of the gang. He loves to blow anything that he can get his hands on up. He’s also the cameraman who’s filming the zombie movie with the kids. He’s really, really daring and he’s the one who wants to have the fun time in the group, not be so serious all the time. He’s also actually, if you’ve seen the commercials, the only one in the group who’s excited about the train crash. He’s not scared at all. He’s just really, really pumped that it happened, like, ‘Whoa. That was awesome.’ He’s really a funny character. J. J. let us bring our own personalities into the character. So I’m a lot like Carey. I can relate to him in many ways besides blowing things up. I love fires. I love the fourth of July, but I don’t do the crazy stuff he does.
I heard that you’re quite a lot of the comic relief in the movie, right?
Ryan Lee: Yeah. It’s pretty cool because I got to play comedic and drama. There’s a lot of dramatic parts where Carey has to be serious for once, and even though he hates that it’s pretty fun.
What was it like shooting the train crash scene?
Ryan Lee: It’s every teenager’s dream, or at least it’s mine, to jump through explosions and to do it in front of J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg and on a movie set, that was the coolest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It was really fun because we got to do our own stunts. So we’d have to act like there was a train about to fall right in front of us and have to dodge it, things like that. It was a really cool scene.
Did you know what the creature on the train was going to look like while you were shooting the film?
Ryan Lee: Oh, no. I still don’t know what it’s going to look like. J. J. really wants us to be surprised and he wants us to literally be scared whenever we see it. It’s really cool. I can’t wait to see it.
I don’t know if that’s awesome or cruel of him hold that back from you guys –
Ryan Lee: I think it’s really awesome because we were like, ‘Oh, come, J. J.’ I kind of want to see it now, but I think whenever I see the movie it’s just going to make it all that much better.
How much did Steven Spielberg hangout on the set of ‘Super 8? Was he around a lot or just once in a while?
Ryan Lee: He was around for a little bit, but he was also filming a movie in England, I think. It’s called ‘Warhorse’. He was actually filming another movie and so he tried to make as much time as he could. Whenever he was there we all really cherished it and it was really cool to see him.
So much of ‘Super 8’ has to do with the friendship of Carey and the other kids. Did you all hit it of right away?
Ryan Lee: Let me tell you, I don’t really like the kids. I’m just kidding. No, no, no. We’re definitely lifelong friends. We talk all the time. We realized that even though I’ve been friends with my friends here in Texas for eight years now I hung out with those kids more for those sixty three days and gotten to know them better than any of my friends here. So, we’re definitely, you’d say, best friends.
What was your favorite part of shooting ‘Super 8’?
Ryan Lee: I liked all of it. Every day was a treat to wake up. Getting this film, a lot of train crash scenes, or one scene where we were in a car and we were escaping a train crash. As you know we had to get out of there pretty fast and so hauled fifty miles an hour in reverse and a hundred twenty going forward. That was probably one of my favorite scenes because I’ve never gotten to drive that fast in that car. It’s just stuff like that. It’s really fun.
How crazy has your life been since doing ‘Super 8?’ How much has it changed?
Ryan Lee: I mean, I haven’t gotten to Justin Bieber status yet, but it’s definitely changed. I had to be home-schooled for this. So every time, every couple of weeks or something when I go see my friends at school everyone starts screaming. Like the whole cafeteria will up and roar. It’s like I’m in a stadium or something. It’s a really cool feeling and I like it, knowing that all your friends are still there with you. That’s pretty much it so far, but I guess that’s pretty drastic.
Are you working this to get great auditions now or are you taking a little break?
Ryan Lee: I’m definitely trying to ride this wave out while my name is out there. I’m definitely trying to get auditions and stuff. I’ve been auditioning.
And you have some other projects coming out, too. What’s ‘The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy’ about?
Ryan Lee: That’s basically about how the Legend of Hell’s Gate got it’s name. It’s at Possum Kingdom Lake. It’s a complicated story, but once you see it you understand that it’s about how that lake got it’s name and everything that happened around there. It’s a really cool story.
What’s next for you now, just press for the film at this point?
Ryan Lee: I’m focusing on that and school and as soon as ‘Super 8’ stopped filming I got a roll with Samuel Jackson and Luke Wilson. That was called ‘Meeting Evil’. I had one scene, but to do it with Samuel Jackson, it was really cool.
Tell the truth–are we really going to be blown away by Super 8??
Ryan Lee: Of course! I was literally jumping out of my seat during that train crash. I was trying to contain it, but it bobbled up to the point where I couldn’t help myself anymore. I was jumping when I saw the train crash and that’s only twenty two minutes of the film. So, how cool is the rest going to be?
Super 8 will be released to theaters Friday, June 10, 2011.
You can read all our Super 8 coverage here.
(Photo: Josh Madson)