D.J. Caruso has directed Shia LeBeouf in “Disturbia” and Al Pacino in “Two for the Money,” but he had some especially ambitious plans for 20-year-old Alex Pettyfer in “I Am Number Four,” the sci-fi action movie that opens Friday.
“I didn’t do much research, but D.J. made me watch films like ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ We really wanted to capture the vulnerability” of his character, John Smith.
“Number Four,” with a script written by “Smallville” duo Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” Marti Noxon, presents Pettyfer as Smith, an Earth-bound alien who is being hunted down by some malevolent enemies in bad need of dental work. The film is based on a “memoir” of the same title by the author Pittacus Lore; we are assured that the stories are just a retelling of actual events — although we have also heard that Lore is a pseudonym for mere-human writers Jobie Hughes and James Frey. Either way, Pettyfer said he was not bound by the character as it appeared on the page.
“I think the difference between the book and the film is that John doesn’t have much knowledge of where he’s from,” Pettyfer said. “I think that makes him more curious and the audience curious as well. I never read into it too much. I just figure that John, even though he’s an alien, is just a normal guy who’s an outsider — which makes him an alien and have this alien quality to him.”
Though he is a loner type, “Glee’s” Diana Agron was easily able to help make up for some of the character’s purposeful isolation as Sarah, a high school photographer and love interest. Pettyfer definitely enjoyed the experience. “She’s amazing. She brings that great old-school movie-star quality to the screen. She’s a pleasure to work with.”
Another co-star that audiences seem enamored with is a protective beagle that, in the film, is named Bernie Kosar. There were five dogs that played Bernie Kosar, with one temperamental actor, Scout, in the job of lead dog.
“He could do the sit and the roll and the paw, but he did not want to run. He was this old-school actor that didn’t want to run. So when they had to do any running, he was like ‘Bring Alex on or bring Adam on. I’m not doing it.’ “
Unlike the pooches, the actors did have to run. And dodge. And fight. The star said it was easy to cite the most memorable stunts. “I think jumping and doing a backflip off the waterfall,” the English actor said.
The action in “I Am Number Four” may have had CG components, but it was also quite physical. There was a lot of wire work and Pettyfer trained for months in Parkour, saying that he didn’t even see a green screen.
“D.J. has this quality of making things very, very real. Everything that we did was practical. I didn’t do any CGI. Everything was practical or doing things like Parkour.”
Pettyfer has been busy. He’s also co-starring in the upcoming “Beastly” with Vanessa Hudgens and has been doing press for “Four.” Which led to one of his more strange encounters. “I went on a radio station and they called him! They called Bernie Kosar! I’m English, so I’m not a big follower of American football, but I assume that’s huge.”
– Jevon Phillips
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