While eighth-grader Andreas Sheikh of Concord was in the Galapagos
Islands last month measuring tortoises with a team of classmates as part of a scientific study, he had no idea that the “good news” his parents said they had for him when he returned was that he had won a role in a movie.
And not just any movie. The role for which Andreas auditioned in February is in
a Wes Anderson film staring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances
McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinton. Andreas, who will play a 13-year-old Boy Scout, is to be in nearly half of the 22 scenes. The film, Moon Rise
Kingdom, will start shooting in Rhode Island this spring, and is set to open in late 2011 or early 2012.
Anderson is the writer and director of the Oscar nominated movies The Royal
Tenenbaums and The Fantastic Mr. Fox; he adapted the latter film from a Roald Dahl story.
Fenn receives notices from a number of casting companies in the Boston area,
according to Kirsten Gould, the school’s drama coordinator. Her department reviews the notices and refers casting information to students whom they feel might fit the description of the characters being sought. The boys’ families decide whether to pursue the opportunity.
Over the years Fenn students have appeared in commercials and in films
including School Ties and a remake of Lord of the Flies. “Our audition policy is,” Gould said, “if it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing lost.” Andreas, she noted, is “enthusiastic, energetic, and a risk taker on stage. He has fine acting instincts and understands characters so well that he requires little direction.”
Andreas has acted in a number of Fenn productions, most recently in Fiddler on the Roof. Andreas explained that he was one of about 1700 young people to show up at the first round of auditions in Boston. He tried out with his brother, Alexander, a fifth-grader at Fenn, and as part of a group of 15 boys he was asked to read and then to talk briefly about his favorite subject (English) and sport (wrestling.) The boys did not possess the professional head shots and resumes of most of those auditioning.
“We brought our school photos,” Andreas said with a grin that revealed his gleaming braces. “Shocked,” he said, to get a call back, Andreas, an articulate, polite, and confident 14-year-old, went in alone the next time, and had to perform three scenes from the script in front of the casting director and the camera, with only moments to prepare. For one of them, “I had to pretend to load powder into fireworks,” he said, clearly relishing the memory. But Andreas still didn’t feel he had a chance.
“I was told there were kids in New York and Los Angeles who were called back, too,” he said. So when his parents told him he had won the role, he was astounded and thrilled.
Anderson and the casting director, Doug Aibel, said her son had “stage presence” and that he was able to “navigate seamlessly between scenes, finishing in a single take,” according to Annalisa Campanile, Andreas’ mom. “This is sure to be an enriching and exciting experience for him,” she added.
Moon Rise Kingdom, set in the 1960s in a small New England town, is about two
young adults who fall in love and run away. The town leaders, suspecting foul play, set out to search for them. Among those looking for the two are a Boy Scout leader, played by Norton, and several of his young scouts, including Andreas.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Andreas declared, shaking his head. “I never dreamed I would
be in a Hollywood movie!”