"Super8"'s New Star Joel Courtney
Get ready for an awesome blast from the past as you join a group of 1979 teen filmmakers in the cool new Sci-Fi adventure film Super 8. A bunch of pals, probably much like you and your best buds, are shooting a zombie film in their neighborhood. Their “night shoot” is interrupted by a massive train crash which the kids get on film.
Imagine that you knew the crash wasn’t an accident and “something” pretty huge, pissed off and top secret has escaped from one of the wrecked box cars! Now some government guys and soldiers want your film and are threatening you while combing the town for the mystery escapee.
One of the teen film crew members, Joe Lamb, played by talented, 15-year-old Joel Courtney, starts piecing together the puzzle and it’s up to him and his friends to save their town and make sure the angry “visitor” can go home before more damage is done.
We’re in Beverly Hills with Joel and learning how he came to Hollywood to visit his older bro and go to a couple of auditions for commercials only to end up the star of a huge summer blockbuster for filmmakers Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams! Amazing… and so was making the film. Check out Joel’s story.
TeenHollywood: Okay there are a great group of best friends in the movie. The girl in the bunch is pretty Elle Fanning (Dakota’s younger sis). Are you guys all now buds in real life and do you all want to date Elle? …or is she like a sister?
Joel: (laughs) Yeah, we’re all pals now and wellllll (pause) we all pretty much love (Elle) like a sister. She’s just awesome.
TeenHollywood: Are you like your character Joe; making models, doing monster make-up, special effects and home movies?
Joel: I can’t draw or paint or do any make-up or artistic stuff to save my life. I just can’t but I really do like movies and I’ve made a couple of ridiculous ones with my friends but nothing like anything in the movie or like (director/writer) J.J. Abrams did when he was a kid.
TeenHollywood: If you aren’t that kind of artistic, how are you like your character Joe Lamb?
Joel: I brought a little bit to my character and made it more like me because J.J. said that if, in a scene, some of the phrasing or the words threw us, that we could like change them to make it more real. I think I did that a lot to make it more real but it was really good to start out with.
TeenHollywood: Do you think you might want to be a director when you grow up?
Joel: I would try directing but I’d probably stick with acting. I love acting.
TeenHollywood: The huge train crash sequence looks awesome. That had to be some stuff on set and some green screen?
Joel: Quite a bit of it was actually there on set. Everything flying through the air was fake. But everything on the ground was real. The train car sticking out of the ground was there. We stood on top of that.
TeenHollywood: Was anybody hurt running around all that metal and stuff?
Joel: Some people might have fallen down and there were rusty pieces of metal. I heard that some people had to go get tetanus shots. But, it wasn’t me.
TeenHollywood: Who was the big goofball on set, always cracking people up?
Joel: Gabe (Gabriel Basso who plays Martin). He would just crack these ridiculous jokes, like his bear joke. “There is this bear and he walks into a bar and says ‘I’d like to order a …(long pause) beer’. The bartender asks “Why the big pause?” “Cuz I’m a bear”. (we actually laugh). Stupid little funny jokes. But, when we needed to shoot, he could stop and get serious. He had some really bad jokes.
TeenHollywood: The movie takes place in 1979 before home computers and cell phones and Playstation or X-Box or Wii. Do you think, at their core, kids are the same then and now?
Joel: Yes. I think even if kids back then didn’t have i-phones and Wii’s and X-Boxes, we are a lot alike.
TeenHollywood: Yeah. Teens and kids still make their own movies. If you had one of those special alien “cubes” in the movie, what would you want it to shapeshift into?
Joel: Cool question. Maybe a slinky, one of old metal ones. I love slinkies.
TeenHollywood: What was actually there on set to represent the alien…like when it picks you up?
Joel: Nothing. They just said, “Kind of look in this direction”. It was weird because I just love green screen but it frustrates me a little bit because you are acting and there is nothing there but, when you see the movie, it’s all put in and it looks incredible. It was totally worth it talking to nothing.
TeenHollywood: Were you shown pictures of what the alien looked like early on or did you not know until much later?
Joel: Kind of. I was shown little stuff but not really anything much. Pretty much all they said was “This is a big thing from another planet”. That’s all I had to picture in my head and when I saw the movie, it was ten times scarier than what I imagined.
TeenHollywood: What is a favorite scene and which one would you really not like to shoot over because it was too hard?
Joel: Favorite scene is the one where we are sitting on the curb singing “My Sharona” (super popular song by The Knack, released in 1979) or the train scene. That was so much fun because we were running around so much. But, the “My Sharona” scene we were being so funny. I would shoot that right now if they gave me the chance. We actually had to learn the song and we’ve sung it already at the press day today.
A scene that I would not like to shoot again is the one where I have to yell at Kyle (Chandler who plays his dad in the movie). It was hard for me. At my house, if I talk back to my dad, I’ll be in big trouble. So, yelling at Kyle was “No!” and he’s a nice guy and I just don’t like yelling at people so that was hard.
TeenHollywood: Your character Joe is the guy who really starts piecing the mystery of the alien together. I read that you study logic at school. Are you a great mystery and puzzle solver?
Joel: Noooo. A Rubik’s Cube, I couldn’t solve one of those. My friend can do them in like thirty seconds and I can’t do them at all. I can’t wait to watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I have a set but haven’t had time to watch them, but in stuff like that my brother and I have these competitions to see who can figure out who did it and who can be right first. He usually wins but he’s incredible. He’s Josh, my older brother who lives up in Idaho. I have two brothers; one is in there making faces at me (indicates another room in the hotel).
TeenHollywood: You shot this in a tiny town called Wierton, West Virginia. Was everybody there just stoked to have a movie crew in town?
Joel: Everybody was so nice. After a month of us taking over their town, I’m so surprised they weren’t mad. I’m so glad they weren’t mad.
TeenHollywood: What would everybody do off set on in your spare time?
Joel: Well, when we were in L.A., we would go around and hang out. I hadn’t been in L.A. much but Gabe lived here. We got in trouble a lot at the hotels. We didn’t trash anything but we’d play capture the flag and tag in the halls. When it was me and Gabe against Ryan (Lee who plays Cary) and Riley (Griffiths who plays Super 8 filmmaker Charles), Gabe and I trashed them.
TeenHollywood: These teens in the movie are all into music of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. What bands or artists are you into?
Joel: I love that music! I like to listen to rock and light rap. When people are rapping and you don’t know what they are saying, that’s really annoying. I like Coldplay as a band and Bruno Mars as a single singer.
TeenHollywood: Good choices. Did your director J.J. ask you guys to watch cool ‘80’s movies like E.T. or The Goonies or Stand by Me or Close Encounters? This movie is so like those.
Joel: Not really. I had seen E.T. and Close Encounters because they were amazing classics but I hadn’t seen Goonies or Stand by Me and as soon as I saw those, half of the references that J.J. made on set made sense. Both groups of kids in those movies were so much like us. I saw Goonies and Stand by Me written all over our movie.
TeenHollywood: So whether you were a kid or teen in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s or now, you’ll get into this movie.
Joel: Oh yeah!